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American System of Watch Manufacturing

From Academic Kids

Aaron Lufkin Dennison was inspired by the manufacturing techniques of the United States Armory at Springfield, Mass. The "armory practice" was mainly based on a strict system of organization, the extensive use of the machine shop and a control system based on gauges.

The American System of manufacturing by interchangeable parts meant much more than what was the standard practiced at the time in the rest of the world making: making a certain part under the roof of a factory, obtaining other parts by the piece from workers who live and thrive in their own cottages, for which they were paid at work rate, and buying the remaining parts in the market.

It meant the establishment of working facilities for the entire manufacture. It meant that everything was made on the premises, not according to the plans of ideas or methods of work of individual workmen, but under the direct supervision of a company's foreman, according to gauges the company furnished, under conditions of time, cleanliness and care which the company prescribed.

There was probably no greater industrial challenge, no line of manufacturing in the world demanding such a high grade of business and mechanical ability, and such unremitting care and oversight, combined with technical skill and individual dexterity and judgment as is indispensable in systematic watch making.

Waltham soon found out that it was necessary to invent, develop and build its own production machinery, special gauges systems adjusted to the smallest watch parts dimensions, new alloys & materials.

The chronology of production lessons at the Waltham Watch Company can be divided into three phases:

  • 1849-1857 learning and experimenting
  • 1858-1870 refining and gauging
  • 1871-1910 automating and factory organization

Source: American Pocket Watches, The Time Museum Historical Catalogue of, by Donald Robert Hoke, published by the Time Museum Rockford, Illinois, U.S.A.

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