American Waltham Watch Company

Factory Historical Photos

The historical photographs presented on these pages are the work of Wm. A. Webster, a turn of the century photographer in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is believed that most of these photographs were taken in the early 1890's.

These remarkable images show the scale and sophistication of the Waltham factory, and provide a unique perspective on what was truly a "high-tech" manufacturing facility in its time. The next time you hold a beautifully-crafted Waltham watch in your hands, we hope these images will provide a better understanding of the skill, craftsmanship and good ol' Yankee ingenuity that went into its construction.

The text below accompanied Webster's portfolio of photographs.

Watch Factory Views

The American Waltham Watch Factory located at Waltham, Mass., is the oldest watch factory in the United States. The original buildings (view 1) were built in 1854 and first occupied in October of the year. By 1866 numerous additions had about doubled the size of the factory, and since 1876 it has been entirely rebuilt, the last of the original buildings being demolished in 1879. View No. 2 shows the present front of the factory, the main building being 646 feet in length. View No. 4 shows the factory as seen from the rear. The buildings if stretched out in a single line would extend nearly half a mile and contain about five acres of floor space.

The Power Plant consists of six steam boilers , 2 - 160 H.P. Steam Engines, 1 - 300 H.P. engine, and also 1 - 30 H.P. Gas Engine Gas works were put in operation in 1888 furnishing gas for fuel in about 40 furnaces, some of which are shown in Views 31 & 78.

There are three and one-half miles of work benches most of which are cherry plank two feet wide and two inches thick, 4,700 pulleys, 8,000 feet of wall rods, 10,600 feet main shafting, 39,000 feet of belting, ranging in widths from two inches to two feet. More than 200,000 gallons of water are used daily and the pipes for water, gas and steam aggregate about 24 miles in length. An ordinary watch movement is composed of upwards of 160 pieces requiring for their production about 3,750 distinct operations.

The capacity of the factory is about 2,000 watch movements per day besides large quantities of extra material, requiring the services of nearly 3,000 people and a great deal of automatic machinery. To enable the work to be done to advantage 125,000 complete movements must be in process continually. Over 5,500,000 watches have been made at the present time and are now being produced at the rate of one in less than twenty seconds. Views for Sale.

— Wm. A. Webster, Photographer, 111 Moody Street, Waltham, Mass., U.S.A

Index of Photo Pages

  1. Factory Views
  2. Dynamo Room, Switch Board, Gas Generator Room, Gas Purifier Room and Drafting Room
  3. Machine Department
  4. Full Plate Department, 3/4 Plate Department
  5. Metal Rolling Room, Punching Room, Tempering Room
  6. Main Spring Room
  7. Flat Steel Department: Office, Milling and Polishing
  8. Staff and Pivot Polishing Room and Turning Room
  9. Pinion and Wheel Cutting, Automatic Staff Truning Machines, Automatic Pinion Cutting Machines, Balance Making Room
  10. Automatic Drilling and Tapping Machines, Screw Making Room, Automatic Screw Making Machines, Automatic Roughing Machines
  11. Jewel Making Room and Escapement Making Room
  12. Hair Spring Making Room, Balance and Hair Spring Vibrating Room, Jeweling room
  13. Gilding Room and Nickel Finishing Room
  14. Dial Making Room, Dial Firing and Dial Painting Room
  15. Finishing Room
  16. Inspecting Room, Regulating Room, Temperature Adjusting Room, and Position Adjusting Room
  17. Packing Room and Repairing Room
  18. Carpenters' Shop and Paint Shop
  19. Counting Room, Superintendent's Office and Director's Office
  20. Dining Room, and Employee Boarding House