The Waterbury Clock Company

The Waterbury Clock Company is another of the original American clock companies that appeared on the scene in the New England area in the mid 1800’s, 1857 to be exact. It was founded as a subsidiary of the Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Company which was a manufacturer of brass in Waterbury, Connecticut and was associated with the Jerome Manufacturing Company in the 1850's. The nearby Ansonia Clock Company of Ansonia, Connecticut was also a subsidiary of a brass manufacturer. Both the Waterbury Clock Company and the Ansonia Clock Company were established to be major users of the parent company’s brass production.

Since Waterbury was set up as a corporation by design rather than evolving from a home-grown clockmaking business, management needed to find individuals who were skilled in clockmaking. They hired the now-famous Chauncey Jerome who had his own clockmaking business to be in charge of manufacturing the clock cases and his brother Noble Jerome to oversee the manufacturing of the brass clock movements. Waterbury produced a large variety of clocks with the styles of the times, typically shelf and mantel clocks . One antique clock price guide lists over 400 models of Waterbury clocks. The company enjoyed such rapid growth that in 1873 a new factory was built, and by the 1890's they were making over 20,000 clocks and watches daily.

In addition to producing a varied line of clocks, after 1890 Waterbury expanded to the manufacture of pocket watches. The watch division became successful due to a business arrangement with the mail order catalog business of R. H. Ingersoll & Brother. At about the same time, it also started a business relationship with Sears, Roebuck & Company selling clocks. By 1915, the Waterbury Clock Company was the largest clockmaker in the United States.

However, businesses change. In 1922 the Waterbury Company absorbed the bankrupt Ingersoll business. In just another 10 years, the once profitable Waterbury Clock Company was close to bankruptcy itself as the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. In 1932 the company reorganized as the Ingersoll-Waterbury Company. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoon character helped keep the company afloat as the Mickey Mouse wristwatch proved to be a popular item. The company added electric clocks as well.

During World War II, the Ingersoll-Waterbury Company was devoted to manufacturing in support of the war effort. Investors from Norway bought the company in 1942 and built a new plant in Middlebury, Connecticut. In 1944, the company name was changed to United States Time Corporation. Shortly after the war ended, United States Time Corporation introduced the Timex wristwatch. The early days of television were populated by commercials featuring John Cameron Swazey demonstrating how a Timex watch “could take a licking and keep on ticking.”

According to a press release from Yahoo! dated July 10, 2001, the Timex Internet Messenger is the first watch that can receive Internet e-mail, weather reports, news, and sports scores on demand and almost anywhere in the United States. To quote the press release, 'From the revolutionary timepieces of the early 1950's that brought inexpensive, dependable wristwatches to the general public, to the most recent innovation, the Timex Internet Messenger, the Timex name is synonymous with helpful innovation. Timex Corporation, headquartered in Middlebury, Connecticut, is the largest selling watch brand in America.'

Unfortunately the press release ignores the legacy of the founders and employees of the original Waterbury Clock Company. But those of us who are interested in antique American clocks hold the Waterbury Clock Company dear.

You can add a Waterbury to your clock collection without even leaving your house. See what eBay has available now:

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