Brief History: Illinois Watch Company
Including Illinois Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates
1869 - 1927
The Illinois Springfield Watch Company was organized in 1869 primarily through the efforts of J. C. Adams. The first company Directors were J. T. Stuart, W. B. Miller, John Williams, John W. Bunn, George Black and George Passfield.
John Stuart was a Springfield lawyer and former partner of Abraham Lincoln. John Williams was president of the First National bank of Springfield. William B. Miller was a local merchant. John B. Bunn owned a grocery business.
Though the first movements were produced in 1872, the company really didn't achieve full production until 1875. By serial number, the first watch made was the "Stuart" model, followed in order by the "Mason," Bunn," "Miller," and finally the "Currier. The first stem-wind watch was produced in 1875. The early Illinois models were key-wound and key-set and are quite collectible today. Illinois later produced an extensive line of extremely fine and accurate Railroad-grade pocket watches like the "Sangamo Special," "Bunn Special" and "Santa Fe Special" (just to name a few).
In 1879, due to financial difficulties, the company was reorganized and the name changed to the Illinois Springfield Watch Company. By 1885 the company name was changed yet again to the Illinois Watch Company.
Purchased by Hamilton
The Illinois Watch Company was purchased by Hamilton Watch Company in 1927, but continued to produce Illinois watches under Hamilton management until 1932 (the year the last "true" Illinois watch was made). Hamilton continued producing Illinois watches in the Hamilton factory until 1939.
The Illinois Watch Company produced watches under contract for several different brands, including Burlington Watch Company (Chicago, Illinois) which operated primarily as a mail-order business, and Santa Fe Watch Company (Topeka, Kansas). There is some question as to whether Burlington was actually a subsidiary of Illinois. Watches produced under the Burlington name include some very fine (including some railroad grade) watches, which are nearly identical to Illinois movements. Illinois also produced watches for the Plymouth Watch Company (Sears Roebuck) and the Washington Watch Company (Montgomery Ward).
Illinois Watch Case Company
NOTE: The Illinois Watch Company should not be confused with the Illinois Watch Case Company of Elgin, Illinois. The Illinois Watch Case Company was a major manufacture in the city of Elgin, Illinois. It manufactured watch cases under many brands, such as "Elgin Giant," "Elgin Pride," "Tivoli," "Spartan," and "Elgin Commander." The use of the name "Elgin" in their brand names, or marking the cases with "Elgin USA" has often lead people to believe that a watch was made by the Elgin National Watch Company when it was actually made by another manufacturer, or to think that a watch no longer has its original case because it is "now in an Elgin case."
Illinois Watch Company
Illinois Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates
|- Sold to Hamilton -|
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.
At Renaissance Watch Repair, we are experts in the repair and restoration of Illinois watches. We are also always looking for Illinois Watches to purchase. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your vintage Illinois watch.