American Railroad Watches

Watch brands with roots in North America
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koimaster (Online)
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American Railroad Watches

Post by koimaster » February 2nd 2022, 12:28pm

Tool watches are often perceived as simply “tough” watches. What are often overlooked are the watches that were truly “tools”, built with a meaningful purpose. Perfect examples of such watches are railroad watches. With accuracy and reliability being paramount, these both pocket and wristwatches were introduced in the mid-1800s to maintain safety on the railroads and ensure that trains were arriving and leaving on time. The story of railroad watches is definitely one to be aware of, as these watches contained some of the most accurate movements produced in their time – still accurate by today’s standards – and in our eyes are ultimately the first true “tool watches”.

As mentioned in Shane’s article from last week, these railroad watches go back to as early as 1850, when a small English watchmaking company in the heart of Boston, William Bond & Son, was commissioned by the Pennsylvania, Boston, and Providence railroads to produce over 50 pocket watches, from brands such as Barraud & Lund. In addition to the British watchmakers based in the United States, American watchmaking was also emerging elsewhere. New companies like Dennison, Howard, & Turdling, Elgin National, and The American Watch Co. were supplying their own watches to the Pennsylvania Railroad to supplement the need for accurate timekeepers.

Accuracy and precision always needed to be maintained in railroad watches, as the slightest deviation away from railroad time could cause potentially fatal accidents. Just think about it, prior to time standardization, you could have an engineer on one side of the state setting his time according to the sky as he sees it, and another engineer on the opposite side of the state doing the same. By the nature of the sky being different as you move East to West, the inaccuracy of a watch’s movement will only exacerbate the miscalculated scheduling. To top it off, for a time, trains ran both ways on a single track, making accurate schedules all the more important.

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smellody
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Re: American Railroad Watches

Post by smellody » February 2nd 2022, 3:50pm

I've never defined "tough" as the paramount attribute of a tool watch but rather the specific function the watch was intended to be a tool to. Examples:

Montgomery dialed pocket watches- trains and keeping them on time
Submariner- diving
Yachtmaster II- sailing
Milgauss- nuclear reactor and other work around magnetics
Daytona- auto racing 🏁
SubaquaHomer- preventing Cheetos stains from one's wrist
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