Waterbury Clock Company

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:35:02

Waterbury clock company clocks are collectible clocks that often feature brass detailing, which were made by a subsidiary of the brass manufacturers Benedict & Burnham, Waterbury Clock Company.

Background

The Waterbury Clock Company is one of several Connecticut based clock firms, which was established in the mid 19th century (1875). It began as a subsidiary of the brass manufacturers Benedict & Burnham (B & B).

Although B & B had no clock making experience, it viewed clock design as a way of artfully demonstrating the quality of its brasses. Over the years, Waterbury would become a leading manufacturer of clocks—by the time it closed its doors in 1944, it had made some of the most memorable American antique wall clocks and mantel clocks, as well as highly regarded clock movements and watches.

Because of Waterbury’s roots in brass, metal played a large and important function in clock design, sometimes used to make numerals and hands - underpinning the Waterbury aesthetic - but during its first few years of manufacturing the firm lacked an experienced clock maker and designer.

Chauncey Jerome and his brother, Noble filled this void. Before their highly anticipated arrival, the vast majority of Waterbury’s business had been in the sale of movements and cases for clocks made elsewhere. Under the direction of the Jerome brothers, however, Waterbury’s production grew rapidly, necessitating the building of a new production facility in 1873 for its growing number of products.

In the 1880s and early 1890s, Waterbury added non-jewelled pocket watches to its product line.

In the final decade of the 19th century, Waterbury was producing upwards of 20,000 clocks and watches a day, and was selling its output through Sears, Roebuck & Company and other retailers. By 1915, Waterbury was making more clocks than any company in the United States.

Throughout this period, Waterbury maintained a relationship with R.H. Ingersoll & Brother, a mail-order company. When Ingersoll fell on hard times in 1922 Waterbury bought the company—the combined firm was later renamed as the Ingersoll-Waterbury Company.

Waterbury was not immune to the effects of the Great Depression, but it managed to stay afloat with the production of the Mickey Mouse wristwatch, which was a huge hit (the head of Mickey rocks back and forth to click off the seconds in the alarm clock version.). In addition, Waterbury embraced changing technology and began producing electric clocks in 1932.

As many companies did during World War II, Waterbury shifted gears during the first half of the 1940s to support the war effort. During this period, in 1942, Ingersoll-Waterbury was purchased by a group of Norwegians, who built a new factory for their firm in Waterbury, Connecticut. They also changed the company’s name to the United States Time Corporation, the forerunner of Timex.

Collecting information

Waterbury clocks can be found in a vast array of shapes, sizes and designs. Brass is an important design feature, with clocks exhibiting detailed and elaborate brasses usually selling for more than their plainer cousins.

Price guide

As a general rule, attractive, brass heavy Waterbury clocks that are sold in fine condition can fetch between $50 and $200. Although not obscenely expensive, Waterbury clocks are much loved by many and some collectors chose to build up substantial collections of these varied and attractive clocks.

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