Elgin pocket watches are on a class of their own thanks to the long-respected reputation carried by its name. Founded in 1864, the Elgin National Watch Company has been making beautiful timepieces worthy to be either worn everyday or included in treasured collections. Elgin has produced more than 60 million watches in the last 150 years.
Aside for being known as an enduring company that produces classic watches, Elgin is also known for the big role it played in America’s transition from agriculture to industry in the mid-19th century. watches were one of the first machines for which the public had a high demand so it was no surprise that a company devoted to manufacturing watches appeared in order to meet the public’s needs.
Elgin didn’t start out with that name when it was founded in August 1864 around the time of the end of the Civil War. Then, it was only known as the National Watch Company. It became the Elgin National Watch Company when the city of Elgin in Illinois was picked to be the site for the factory. To show the government’s support for the industrial age, the city of Elgin gave the company 35 acres of land on which the factory was built within just two years.
The founding of Elgin was largely influenced by the success of another similar company, the Waltham Watch Company which was based in Massachusetts. Several former employees of Waltham wanted to build another watch company within the US; this time, they wanted it to be in the Midwest. To achieve this goal, they teamed up with renowned Chicago-based watchmaker JC Adams in an effort to find inventors interested in their proposed venture. Benjamin Wright Raymond, then-Mayor of Chicago, was one of the first investors the team recruited. Because of Raymond’s political influence, a lot of investors came along their way quite easily.
Elgin made its first watch in 1867, and it was a BW Raymond railroader’s watch in size 18 and with a full plate design. The watch was named in honor of the then-Mayor of Chicago of the same name. Elgin then became known for producing high quality yet affordable watches, thanks to the usage of easily-repaired and replaced parts made by machines.
During World War II, Elgin shifted their focus from timepieces to precision instruments used in the military and defense industry, but the factory never really closed down until 1964, which was coincidentally its 100th anniversary. During this time, Elgin stopped making timepieces and moved on to bigger things such as engineering construction, among other ventures. Because of this change, Elgin dropped the name ‘Elgin National Watch Company’ and adopted Elgin National Industries instead as its official moniker.
Nevertheless, Elgin pocket watches still remain popular today. In fact, many people collect them because they’re not only unique and interesting, but they’re also considered vintage items that carry so much history with them. Also, there’s something satisfyingly nostalgic about hearing the tick tock of an old-school watch. It can bring you to another…time.