Complicated Watches Catalog
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Complicated Watches Catalog
Appleton Tracy Chronodrometer
Double Dial Chronograph
Split Chronograph with Register
Chronograph with 5 Minute Repeater
Chronograph with 5 Minute Repeater

Complicated Watches Catalog

Waltham alone among American watch manufacturers competed in the rarified market for complicated watches. Despite their high price tags, it is doubtful that the American Waltham Watch Company ever realized much, if any profit on these watches. Rather, they most likely were seen to serve a different purpose - to enhance the image of their manufacturer in the public eye, by suggesting that Waltham was the technical equal of their prestigious foreign competitors.

The first American-made complicated watch (i.e. one that does more than just tell time) to be produced was the Chronodrometer made by Appleton Tracy and Co., circa 1859. These watches were unique in their use of a sweep hand that revolved once every four minutes, along with a small seconds hand that revolved once every four seconds. The Chronodrometer, based on the 1857 model movement, had a button on the edge of the case that when pressed, activated a lever that stopped the balance. These watches originally were marketed for the purpose of timing sporting events such as horse races. Not many chronodrometers were sold, probably because of the inconvenience associated with having to reset to the correct time of day every time the balance was stopped.

In the latter part of 1877, the American Watch Company introduced their double-dial chronograph, which marked the beginning of chronograph production at Waltham. During the early part of 1881, the company began offering standard front-dial chronographs and split-seconds models, as well. These chronograph mechanisms, that had all of the functions one associates with a modern chronograph (start, stop, and flyback) were constructed according to the patents of Henry A. Lugrin of New York. All of the chronographs made at Waltham using Lugrin's patents are based either on the company's 14-size 1874 model movement, or the 14-size 1884 model. The basic movements were supplied to Lugrin at the Waltham building in New York, where he personally supervised the manufacture and attachment of the chronograph mechanisms.

Although the bulk of the chronographs produced during this period were based on Lugrin's patents, Waltham also produced some that were not. From the latter part of 1879 up through 1881, the company produced a center-seconds stopwatch that was based on a 17-size key-wind Hillside movement. These watches were made in limited numbers and were mostly intended for export to England. Also, from the spring of 1887 up through the summer of 1889, the company made a limited number of very high-grade and well finished chronographs based on the patents of Charles Meylan.

In the mid-1880's Waltham began to manufacture 5-minute repeating watches. The construction of their earliest repeating mechanisms was based on the patents of Georges Aubert. Later on, the company introduced a second repeating mechanism based on the patents of Charles Meylan. Whenever a chronograph complication is combined with a repeater, watches employing Aubert's repeating mechanism always have a Lugrin's patent chronograph, while those with a Meylan repeating mechanism always use Meylan's chronograph work as well.


1. Appleton, Tracy & Co. S# 14,575, Model 1857 Chronodrometer movement, circa 1859. Unlike other Model 1857 movements, Chronodrometer movements were also set, as well as wound from the rear. The time of day is shown on a small, eccentric subsidiary dial, while a timer runs off the center post. The sweep hand revolves every four minutes, while another subsidiary dial carries a second hand rotating every four seconds. Both the time train and the timer are together started and stopped by activating a button on the rim of the case. The dials of different Chronodrometer movements are signed in several different ways. That of S# 14,575 is signed "American Watch Co., Chronodrometer [the latter, in red]," and "Patent Feb. 8, 1859." The inconvenience of having to stop the time train in order to utilize the timer function, and the absence of a zero-return mechanism in the timer clearly contribute to the rarity of Chronodrometer watches today. S# 14,575 is in its original coin silver "A.T. & Co." case.

2. American Watch Company S# 1,059,618, circa 1877, gilded 14 Size Model 1874 movement with Lugrin's patented rear chronograph movement. The rear chronograph mechanism is framed by an annular dial with second indications. The movement is housed in an original 18K gold open face case embossed "A.W.Co.," that was made in the Waltham factory's own case department.

3. American Waltham Watch Company S# 2,719,958, circa 1885, Model 1884 14 Size nickel damascened movement, jeweled to the center, with split seconds chronograph mechanism. The dial, with center sweep chronograph hands and subsidiary 15-minute register is signed "A.W.W.Co. Waltham" in script. The gold case is stamped "C.W.C. Co.," for the Chicago Watch Case Company. 

4. American Waltham Watch Company S# 3,127,652, circa 1887, 14 Size Model 1884 nickel damascened movement jeweled to the center, with simple chronograph mechanism and 5 minute repeating mechanism. The complications were assembled to movements like this one in Waltham's NY Sales Office. The dial bears the 3-line script signature "A.W.W.Co., Waltham, Mass." The front lid of the original four-color 18K gold hunting case is engraved with the initials, "MJC," and the reverse is engraved "48'th NY Volunteers, Company B," with crossed rifles, a drum and American flags. The elaborate cuvette inscription reads: " To comrade M. J. Cummings, Chairman of Memorial Committee, by his G.A.R. [Grand Army of the Republic] friends, as a testimonial of their appreciation of his valuable service to his comrades individually, and the order collectively, and a mark of esteem for his many manly qualities which have so endeared him to his comrades. May 22, 1899." 

5. American Waltham Watch Company S# 3,793,257, circa 1887, 14 Size Model 1884 nickel damascened movement jeweled to center, with 5 minute repeating works ands split seconds chronograph mechanism. "American Waltham Watch Company" is engraved on a bridge above the top plate. Like the previous example, the repeat function is activated by a slide on the rim of the case, and the chronograph functions, including, start, stop, and flyback are activated by the side button on the opposite side of the case from the repeat slide. The dial is signed "A.W.W. Co. Waltham," and the watch has a 14K gold hunting case stamped "Waltham."