Brief History: E. Howard Watch Company
Including Howard Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates
Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts
December 11, 1858 - 1903
Edward Howard, undoubtedly one of the most respected names in the history of American horology, started the Howard Watch Company after the failure of the Boston Watch Company (1853-1857). His goal was to produce watches of the highest quality using interchangeable machine-made parts. With his financial partner, Charles Rice, Howard moved the tools, machinery and watches "in progress" from the defunct Boston Watch Company to their Roxbury factory in late 1857. During their first year of operation, the machinery was retooled for the production of a new watch of Howard's design, and the remaining Boston Watch Company movements were completed. These movements were signed "E. Howard & Co." on the dials and "Howard & Rice" on the movements.
By the summer of 1858, Edward Howard produced the first watch of his own design, a watch that was entirely different from previous watches. The top plate was made in two sections (split plate) and had six pillars instead of the usual four found in a full-plate watch. This watch also introduced the more accurate quick-train to the American market. Balances were gold or steel at first, and later bi-metallic compensating balances with gold screws were used. Reed's patented barrel was used on early watches, but by 1868, Howard patented a new steel motor barrel which replaced the Reed's barrels in Howard watches. Howard also introduced the first stem-winding watch in 1868, and was probably the first to market such a watch in the USA. The manufacture of key-wind movements was discontinued altogether by 1878. Howard was first to use the Reed patented micrometer regulator, and was the first to offer watches adjusted to six positions.
E. Howard is NOT the same as Keystone-Howard
In 1902, the Keystone Watch Case Company purchased the rights to the Howard brand-name, and subsequently produced a line of watches labeled ""E. Howard Watch Co., Boston, U.S.A." These watches are commonly called Keystone-Howards. For information on your Keystone-Howard watch, please see our Keystone-Howard page.
E. Howard Watch Sizes
Sizes of Howard watches were designated using the Dennison system of measurement (see table below). By 1869, Howard had progressed from the "N" size movements (approximately 18-size) to the smaller "L" size movements (approximately 16-size). Howard produced watches in sizes G, I, J, K, L and N, which corresponds approximately to size 6, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 respectively
Howard dials were always made of hard enamel, and bore the name " E. Howard & Co., Boston."
Edward Howard retired in 1882, but his company continued to sell watch movements in grades and styles established by Howard until 1903.
Modern, Battery-Powered "E. Howard" Watch:
If you have a modern, battery-powered "E. Howard" watch, your watch was definitely NOT made by the original E. Howard watch company. To the best of our knowledge, the "E. Howard" brand name is currently owned by Lacrosse Technology which sells several models of "radio-controlled" watch under the Howard name, often sold through ads in magazines. We recommend you contact Lacrosse for service questions about your modern E. Howard watch.
We're sorry that we can't help with your modern "Howard" watch, which was neither made nor sold by the original Howard Watch Company. We'd be glad to talk with you about the repair of your vintage mechanical Howard watch.
E. Howard Watch Company
E. Howard Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates
Total Production: Approx. 120,000 Watches
Howard serial numbers are a bit different than some of the other American manufacturers, in that they could have multiple production "runs" going on at the same time, using different series of serial numbers. As a result, one must differentiate the model of the watch in order to properly determine its date of manufacture. Also note that serial numbers were not always used sequentially e.g. SN 50,001 was produced before SN 30,001.
Our thanks to Clint Geller for his assistance with Howard production dates. For a much more detailed explanation of Howard production records, please visit the NAWCC Pocket Horology web site.
|Size & Layout|
|I||123||Size N (18s), divided plate|
|1858||II||1801||Size N (18s), divided plate|
|1859||N/A||1101||Helical Spring, very rare|
|1862||N/A||3001||Size K (14s), 3/4 plate|
|Size N (18s), 3/4 plate|
|1863||N/A||3401||Size I (10s), 3/4 plate|
|1869||V||50,001||Size L (16s), 3/4 plate|
|1871||IV||30,001||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate|
|1874||VI||100,001||Size G (6s), 3/4 plate|
|1883||VII||200,001||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate|
|1884||VIII||300,001||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate|
|1890||IX||400,001||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate|
|1891||X||500,001||Size J, (12s), 3/4 plate|
|1893||VII||226,201||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate,HC Ball Model|
|1893||VIII||307,401||Size N (18s), 3/4 plate, OF Ball Model|
|1894||VII||228,001||Size N (18s), split plate|
|1895||VIII||309,001||Size N (18s), split plate, OF|
|1895||XI||600,001||Size L (16s), split plate, HC|
|1895||XII||700,001||Size L (16s), split plate, OF|
Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the watch 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.
|E. Howard Watch Sizes|