Brief History: Columbus Watch Company
Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates
1874 - 1903
The Columbus Watch Company was founded by Dietrich Gruen on December 22, 1874 in Columbus, Ohio. Gruen would later become founder of the Gruen Watch Company with his son Frederick. At first, the company finished movements imported from Switzerland, made primarily by Leo Asbey.
In 1882, the company attracted a number of new investors, and moved to a newly-built factory on Thurman Street, in the "German Village" section of Columbus. It was here that the company began to manufacture movements locally under the leadership of Gruen and W. J. Savage. Savage was the elder son of William M. Savage, one of Columbus' most prominent businessmen. The younger Savage sold his share in his father's wholesale jewelry business in order to raise investment capital for the Columbus Watch Company.
The company's new movements were made primarily in 18-size, but Columbus also pioneered the development of the smaller and thinner 16-size movement. All told, Columbus produced 18s, 16s, 6s and 4s movements during their years of production.
In 1894, the company went into receivership and operated with new management. From 1894 until 1903, the company produced watches under the names Columbus Watch Company and New Columbus Watch Company. The "new" company produced primarily named grades such as the "Time King" and "Columbus King," "Railway King," "North Star" and "Champion." These new higher grade watches were issued with a special block of serial numbers, starting at 500,001 as shown below. Several models with 25 jewels were produced.
In 1903, the Columbus Watch Company was sold to the Studebakers and became the newly formed South Bend Watch Company. All machinery, production material, unfinished movements and most of the company's 150 employees moved to South Bend, Indiana to help in the establishment of the new company. South Bend finished many of the Columbus-signed movements in their early years, and examples of Columbus watches with dials made in the South Bend style may be found.
Columbus Watch Company
Columbus Serial Numbers and Production Dates
New Columbus Watch Company
Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the case.
Can’t find your serial number in the table? Click here for an explanation and example of how to use our serial number tables.
Need help finding the serial number on your watch? Click here for instructions on how to identify and open most common case types.
In recent years, parts for Columbus watches have become very difficult to find. Some repairs are simply no longer possible. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your Columbus watch.