Chapter 1. Origins (Mozart Watch Co., New York Watch Co., Hampden Springfield)
Chapter 2. Dueber (The move to Canton - Vretman - Liquidation)
Chapter 3. Amtorg (Armand Hammer's role in the USSR's purchase of Hampden)
Chapter 4. Made in the USSR (Hampden technology starts the Soviet watch industry)
Chapter 5. Manheimer Watch Co. (resurrects the Hampden Watch Co. name)
Chapter 6. Clinton Watch Co. (buys Hampden Watch Co. later Hampden Corporation)
Authors Watch Archive
Chapter 1. Origins
It is necessary to start in 1864 to discover the origin of the Hampden Watch Co. The seed was sown by a man who, in the end, would not have any actual association with Hampden he was Donald Joaquin Mozart. He was born in 1818 in Italy and emigrated to the US with his parents aged three. According to Mozart specialist Jon Hanson, his father was a watchmaker in Italy before emigrating to the US where he carried on his trade in Boston Mass.
At the age of nine Donald was enticed on board a vessel, lying at Boston harbour, by the promises of some bright shells. For seven long years he sailed around the world until he eventually managed to escape and return home. When he did get back no trace of his family could be found and despite his many efforts to find them all proved futile.
Don began spending most of his time experimenting, developing and inventing watches. Sometime between the birth of Florence and Anna he abandoned his jewellery business and moved to Bristol Connecticut, via New York, where he planned to manufacture a clock of his own invention. This was a complicated clock, on which he held several patents. In the end it turned out to be a failure due to manufacturing difficulties and he moved back to New York. He did however attract the attention of some backers and the Mozart Watch Co. was organised in the spring of 1864 in Providence, Rhode Island, the incorporators being mostly wholesale and manufacturing jewellers. The company was founded on the basis of a Mozart designed, 18 size, three wheel watch known as the "Three-Wheeled Mozart".
|Legendary Three-Wheeled Mozart Watch. Courtesy of Jon Hanson|
|© 2012 Richard D. Dickerson. All Rights Reserved.|
The Mozart Watch Company would soon move to Springfield, Mass., and eventually change it's name to the Hampden Watch Company (see later).
Don moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he proceeded to organise a new "Mozart Watch Company". The capital stock was two hundred thousand dollars and the incorporators who joined Mozart were local Ann Arbor businessmen. W. A. Benedict C. T. Wilmot, W. W. Wheedon, A. J. Southerland and Charles Tripp. Mozart was made Superintendent; a factory was rented and machinists hired to build the necessary machinery. The movement was the same "three-wheeled” one which he tried to have the Mozart Company, of Providence, introduce. Obstacles of various kinds began to present themselves and the progress of the work did not please the stockholders. Nearly three years had elapsed since the organization of the company and again there was no fruits to show for the labour and money expended. Funds began to run short and in the winter of 1870 the stockholders decided to sell out if a buyer could be found. Some thirty odd movements were finished at this time, all of them given to stockholders and friends; none were placed on the market.
At this time the “Rock Island Watch Company” was organized in Rock Island, Illinois and after an inspection of the Mozart Watch Co. machinery they decided to purchase it. The price paid for the plant was $40,000 plus $25,000 in stock of the new company and a note for the balance. No available site could be found for the factory at Rock Island and accordingly the town of Milan, some seven miles below the city, was selected as a fitting place for the factory. The watch movement chosen for the Company was somewhat like the Mozart movement. After the machinery was moved to Milan and placed on the floor of the new building, the stockholders came to the conclusion that it was not just what they wanted. Accordingly they refused to pay the notes for $15,000. The Mozart Company sent a representative to Milan to sort things out, which resulted in the return of the machinery to the Mozart Company and the payment of $5,000.
In 1874 the “Freeport Watch Company” was formed in Freeport, Illinois, with capital of $250,000 by some ‘businessmen’ (draw your own conclusions) from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Freeport, Illinois. Part of the old Mozart plant was purchased for $51,000; $1,000 cash and $50,000 in stock in the new company. A brick building was erected in Freeport, 40 x 100 feet and the machinery moved into it. This company never manufactured many movements as the factory was burned down on the night of October 21, 1875 and the building and contents were a total loss. The company were insured for $30,000.
Mozart had had trouble managing his affairs and had ceased his connection to this business by this time. He returned to Ann Arbor and the jewelery trade where he tinkered with a new watch design. This watch movement wound itself for a days operation by being opened and closed five times. But he was said to have lost his mind completely when he took the watch to pieces and later couldn't fit all the parts back together again. He was taken to Kalamazoo Hospital but despite treatment he was deemed incurable and was moved back to Ann Arbor. Prof. O. W. Stephenson, in his "History of Ann Arbor the First Hundred Years", wrote that Mozart died at the Washtenaw County Poorhouse and Insane Asylum, on Thursday March 15th 1877, of what was called at the time "congestion of the brain". 1877* is ironically the same year the Hampden Watch Co., was reformed out of the remnants of Don Mozart's original watch company.
|Washtenaw County Poorhouse and Insane Asylum. Image courtesy of Bentley Historical Library.|
*1877 was also the year Kintaro Hattori set-up what was to become Seiko, in the Ginza area of Tokyo, heralding the start of the Japanese watch industry.
Time to return to the story of the original Mozart Watch Company which we left earlier in this chapter. At the time we left three things were happening... Don Mozart departed - The move to Massachusetts - The name change to the New York Watch Company. In 1867 the company purchased two buildings and a piece of ground in Springfield and moved the machinery there. The site was between modern-day Van Horn Park and Wait Street on the north side of Armory Road. The buildings consisted of a large boarding house and a large building which had previously been occupied as a machine shop. The company was reorganized and the capital increased to $300,000. The former president and secretary retained their offices; George Walker was elected as Treasurer and O. P. Rice became business manager. The following year James H. Gerry, who had been in the employ of the United States Watch Company, was secured and placed in the position of superintendent (as this was just a year after Mozart was replaced by L. W. Cushing, I'm not sure if Gerry was employed as a replacement for Cushing or if they both worked there at the same time).
|From an 1880 Springfield map with kind permission of www.historicmapworks.com|
The factory was destroyed by fire, April 25 1870, but many of the machines and part of the material was saved. The company then cleared away the debris and moved the boarding house into the position previously occupied by the factory. It was re-modelled and in about three months the factory was in operation again. The first movements placed on the market were known as "The Springfield", "John L. King," "Homer Foot,” "No. 5," “J. A. Briggs,” ”H. G. Norton," and "Albert Clark", many of these names being company officers. In 1871 the company placed a size-18 full plate movement on the market.
The factory did well until the year of the economic panic of 1873 when they began to fall behind. They finally pulled through 1873 and 1874 by reducing the number of employees but in 1875 they decided to close the factory.
The stockholders reorganized under the name of the New York Watch Manufacturing Company but this did not last long, for within eight months the factory was again closed.
|Old & New factories|
In effect the Hampden Watch Co., virtually succeeded the old company. Homer Foote was the first President, and Chas. D. Rood, Treasurer and Business Manager. H. J. Cain was made superintendent. The old movement of the New York Company was re-modelled and the factory opened in the summer of 1877. In 1881 a new brick building was erected, 40 x 100 feet, with three stories a basement and a central tower. The factorys power was generated by a ninety-horse power steam engine, situated in a building at the rear of the main structure. The company turned out fourteen grades of movements, all full-plate with the exception of the " State Street" which was a size-16 three-quarter plate with gilded steel. The capacity of the factory was 400 movements per day and 400 people were employed. For the first time since 1872. Charles Rood and this new management team allowed the company to prosper and by 1885 it was paying a 10% dividend and had accumulated a cash reserve of some $100,000. That year it attracted and accepted a takeover offer from one of it’s case supplier Mr John C. Dueber, of the “Dueber Watch Case Company” Newport Kentucky.
Newspaper clipping of Charles Rood. Sometime after the Dueber take over, and the factory’s move to Canton, Cain and Rood would move-on to make an important contribution towards founding the Hamilton Watch Company. Charles Rood made his fortune as President of the Hamilton Company from 1894 to 1896 and again from 1900 to 1910 but lost it trying to manufacture recording equipment.
Chapter 2. Dueber
John Carl Dueber was born in Netphen (Öbernetphen) Germany in 1841 and emigrated to the United States at the age of 12. Greg Farino's (who's Great Grandfather Philipp Klaus worked for Dueber, at both Newport and Canton) recent research into the Dueber family has unearthed documents showing Dueber arrived aboard the steamer Herder from Bremen, Germany, with his parents Johannes & Katharina (Schmitt) and his sister Pauline on October 20th 1853. He was listed on the ships records as Johannes Dueber, the same name as his father.
The Dueber family finally settled in Cincinnati Ohio. After leaving school John Dueber became apprenticed to one of the best watch case makers in the area. His training lasted for a period of five years. According to various reports he eventually raised enough capital from his father-in-law and from making wedding rings, in his own time, to enabled him to found a watch case workshop, across the Ohio river in Newport, Kentucky. The Dueber Watch Case Company was incorporated in 1876, the same year the Gruen Watch Company was founded back across the river in Cincinnati.
John C. Dueber described himself as 5' 10½" tall, with a high and round forehead, greenish brown eyes
slightly aquiline nose, round face, medium sized mouth. Photo similitude © author
He was married at an early age to Mary Daller who was a local Cincinnati girl. The Dueber's would have four children, Joseph, Albert, Estella and Pauline.
In the early years of American watch making the then small number of companies made both cases and movements. As the industry developed separate companies were formed to make either cases or movements exclusively. The case factories used mass production techniques and multiplied faster than the movements manufacturers and soon there was overproduction of cases. The watch case manufacturers banded together and formed the infamous ‘Watch Case Trust’. Trusts were agreements between business competitors, selling the same product or service, regarding pricing, market allocation and agreement not to compete within each others geographic territories etc. John Dueber was opposed to trusts and refused to join. As a consequence he was subjected to a boycott which made trading very difficult. Dueber was faced with two alternatives (1) Buy a watch company, to enable him to sell his cases as finished watches (2) Submit to the trust. In 1885 he bought the Hampden Watch Co.
By 1885 his watch case business annual turnover had grown to some $1.5M, despite facing opposition from the trust; but he had outgrown his Newport factory and had no opportunity to buy land to expand the plant or accommodate the newly acquired Hampden company, which continued to operate from Springfield, Mass. Dueber let it be known around the North Kentucky, South Ohio area that if a city or town could raise $100,000 in 'gift money' he would move the combined Dueber-Hampden companies, with some 1,500 to 2,000 employees. Which with added families members would mean a 7,500 to 10,000 increase in population. When the city’s leaders of Canton heard about John Dueber's offer they wasted no-time in promoting their city.
Canton is the county seat of Stark County in northeastern Ohio, approximately 60 miles south of Cleveland and 24 miles south of Akron. It was founded in 1805 on the West and Middle Branches of the Nimishillen Creek. Incorporated as a village in 1815, as a town in 1834 and as a city in 1854.
The Canton Board of Trade had recently been organized by Louis Shaefer and Charles Dougherty and they now set out to raise the $100,000 needed to secure the factory. In just three months the full amount was in place. Twenty prominent leaders had guaranteed $5,000 each and the banks advanced the cash against their guarantees.
John C. Dueber was invited together with his eldest son, Joseph C. Dueber and a party of 40 associates and assistants, to a large meeting in Canton. The meeting was held at the Opera House in June 1886, with 1,500 attending. The Dueber’s were told that in addition to the gift of $100,000 by the citizens of Canton, 20 acres of farm land would be given on which to site the factory buildings (later a further five acres would be donated for additional parkland to surround the factory). A congratulatory telegram was received from local Congressman William McKinley, later to become a personal friend of John Dueber and more importantly the 25th US President. The city council also agreed to a railroad spur running into the factory grounds from the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Work started on the new factories on October 14th, 1886. The plans called for two buildings for the two separate companies - the Hampden Watch Works to the south - the Dueber Watch Case Works to the north. The buildings had a combined frontage of 1,140 feet, almost twice as long as the large factory of their great rivals Waltham. The buildings were the last word in watch making architecture and were drawn up by Akron architects George W. Kramer and F. O. Weary. The park grounds surrounding the buildings brought a new note of impressive distinction and beauty to Canton's buildings, skyline and landscape. The central parts of each building served as offices and rose to 142 feet in height, the equivalent of 12 story skyscrapers. The turrets on the wings were 100 feet high and the steam-engine stack rose 150 feet. The most majestic landmark was the tower with the great clock, with its four faces, which kept time for the next 60 plus years.
Between 1886 and 1888, whilst John Dueber erected his factory, Canton busily built houses to provide homes for the hundreds of workers and their families, who were to come from Springfield and Newport.
The factory building operation got a set-back on the May 27th, 1888, when a terrific rainstorm and cyclone hit the south wing of the Hampden building (see photo below) and leveled it into a mass of ruins. The just completed wing, was 230 feet long, 30 feet wide and 3 stories high. Nobody was killed, or injured, but there was no cyclone insurance in place and the company had to absorb the $15,000 loss and several weeks of time. While John Dueber was looking over the ruins with his architects, 18 year old Ira Augnst approached him and asked for a job. Dueber engaged him on the spot. He was the first Canton citizen to be employed by the company and he continued working there for 41 years advancing to become a Master Watchmaker. He was also one of the 23 members of staff who would later go Russia.
Two special trains brought the first contingent of 250 Hampden workers from Springfield, early in August 1888. A big banquet was organized for the workers and members of their families. On the program, addressing the 560 guests, was Dueber’s friend Congressman McKinley.
The Hampden Watch factory began operations in August 1888, a year earlier than the Dueber Watch Case Works. By the end of the first year the Hampden factory was employing 1,000 persons, and turning out 600 watches a day.
The company declared an 8 per cent dividend in February 1890. Net assets of the two companies were reported as $609,000 in January 1891, with liabilities of $612,000. John C. Dueber and his family were the sole owners of both companies. Hampden watches enjoyed a trade reputation of being the highest grade on the market. Hampden watches vied with Hamilton watches in popularity with railroad men, an important benchmark of the era. John Dueber had chosen wisely when he bought the Hampden company, where the skill of the watch workers was amongst the highest in America.
In August 1892 the beautiful landscaping about the buildings had been completed and the business was running at the rate of $3,000,000 a year. Hampden watches with 14 karat special filled cases and 17 jewel movements, said to have been the first on the market, commanded a high price because of their intrinsic value. Hampden brought out the first 23-jeweled watch movements in the US. Altogether the company brought out seven different sizes of watches, only one of which was discontinued. Karl Krumm (one of the 23 who later went to Russia) jeweled them all.
Despite the watch business flourishing John Dueber still had to operate in the face of the watch case trust, but after the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890 John Dueber brought an anti-monopoly suit for $950,000 damages against The American Watch Trust for its alleged conspiracy to boycott his products. The combined capital against Dueber was about $10M. At that time the capital of the Dueber Watch Case Co. was $2M and of the Hampden Co. $0.2M. The courts decided against the Watch Trust in 1893 and the boycott was called off in 1895.
In 1896 a suit was brought against John Dueber by the Waltham and Elgin companies for infringing on the Colby Patent for pendant (stem) set watches. When the lower courts ruled against Dueber he carried the case to the District Court of Appeals before Judge Howard Taft (another future US President) and there won a reversal of the decision of the lower court.
|The examples are diverse in content and reflect a bold, confident company at its zenith.|
When cycling became the rage, John Dueber added bicycles to his production in a special adjoining building next to The Watch Case Works in 1896, continuing about five years until the space was needed. His bicycles were reported as 'the best in town' with the Dueber Special costing $85.
People took bike excursions around the city and surrounding countryside. Members of the “Century Club” were admitted when they had completed 100 miles within 24 hours. Bike racks were provided for workers at the factory, at stores and schools.
There were of course some other prominent Ohio citizens capitalizing on the national bicycle craze, the Wright brothers opened a repair and sales shop in Dayton in 1892 (the Wright Cycle Exchange, later the Wright Cycle Company) and began manufacturing their own brand in 1896. Wilbur kept time with his Hampden Railroad pocket watch, whilst Orville carried a Rockford Railroad pocket watch. They also used a Sun stopwatch.
|Wilbur checks his watch at Le Mans|
John Dueber’s two sons both followed him into the company. The younger son Albert M. Dueber would eventually be the last Dueber to run the company. The eldest son Joseph had shown great promise as an executive and businessman and was being groomed to take over the business but sadly he fell ill and died suddenly in 1900, a blow both to his father and to the future prospects of the company.
On September 6th 1901, John Dueber's friend President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz. Dueber was chosen by the McKinley family to act as an honorary pall bearer at his state funeral. The photo below shows him (seated far right) with the other bearers.
|Image courtesy of the Peninsula Valley Historic & Education Foundation|
That same year* John Dueber travelled to Europe with his younger daughter Estella, where together they visited his native Prussia. When he and his daughter returned to Canton, they were met at the station by a crowd of 3,000 people and a band. Following his return he sent a clock to be put in the church tower at Netphen. During World War II the church was bombed, but the tower and clock were unharmed.
*There is evidence this was possibly in 1903: Greg Farino research found a copy of Dueber's 1903 passport application.
Albert Dueber, who since 1901 had been Vice-President and who also operated part of the time as a travelling salesman, became President of both the Hampden & Dueber companies; he was 33 years old and would head the company for another 18 years.
John Dueber had achieved much, but he had also been fortunate as the majority of the time he built up his company coincided with a buoyant and expanding period in the watch industry in North America.
By 1905 capital in the Dueber & Hampden companies had been reduced from $2,000,000 to $500,000. Great changes for the watch industry were on the horizon, many companies would consolidate, many would fail. By the start of the 1920s only 17 of the 44 companies, listed in Robert H. Ingersoll & Brothers 1919 ‘History of American Watch Making’, were still operating. This was the environment Albert Dueber inherited. And from 1907 to 1925, some 18 years, he set a conservative course for the Dueber & Hampden companies, capitalizing on many of the principles laid down by his father and to his credit he managed to kept the organizations afloat. Perhaps what we would today call downsizing, although judging from the staff photo (see factory collage above), taken in 1913, the organization was still a significant employer at that time.
Another major shift in the industry was the transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. Not easy for concerns that had built their reputations on the former. Looking at the wristwatches produced at Canton, it’s apparent they are small pocket watch movements, re-cased with a wrist band. It is most likely that Hampden suffered from an inherent conservatism that believed wristwatches would be a passing fad. And by the time they realized they would replace the pocket watch in popularity, it was already too late. The opportunity to develop a modern wristwatch movement to compete with the rejuvenated Swiss, had gone. In all truth both the capital to finance such a project and the expertise to accomplish it, were probably both beyond the company’s resources. Perhaps, the drive needed to bring it off was also missing - maybe that would have been the destiny of the dynamic Joseph Dueber, had he lived. What we do know is that by the early 20’s companies like the Clinton Watch Co. of Chicago were springing up and capitalizing on the trend of importing advanced, modern, low cost and reliable Swiss wristwatch movements. Ironically it was the Swiss who were almost put out of business by the emerging US watch industry only 50 years earlier.
When Jacques David, of the Swiss Company Longines, attended the 1876 American Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia (the same year the Dueber Watch Case Co., was incorporated) he reported his astonishment at the disparity of watch manufacturing technology then existing between US and Swiss companies. The American mechanized system was far in advance of Swiss ad-hoc methods, in that it brought together the entire production of watches under one roof, employing standardized machine-made parts made from improved machines and tools. In his opinion American chronometers of that time were better than the best the Swiss were able to construct.
I have a Dueber Hampden movement (see below) that was made in Switzerland. Henrick & Arnold (Hampden Watch Co. NAWCC 1997) catalog the ladies 21/0 size model ES358 with an imported movement made by the Venus Watch Co. of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland and sold as the "Lady Grace" and I believe mine matches their description. There is no reference to the date of production and I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can say if these date from the Albert Dueber or the later Walter Vretman era.
|My Dueber-Hampden "Lady Grace" with a Swiss movement|
In 1923 Albert Dueber merged the case making and watch companies as The Dueber-Hampden Watch Co., with a capital of $1,000,000. He continued as President and Treasurer of the merged organization. Despite this the company’s fortunes continued to decline and eventually it was sold, in September 1925, to a group of Cleveland businessmen, fronted by Walter Vretman.
|Grace Vretman's share certificate|
The end of a 40 year era but I'm not going to make a separate chapter for the Vretman period; in effect the company only changed it's officers. Vretman became President; Fred G. Gatch, Vice-President; L. W. Wickham, Secretary; R. E. Rhyan Treasurer. The purchase price was $1,551,000.00. A price equal to the debts less $65,000 which was set as the commission for the sale. The assets were written up on the company’s books at $2,338,298 and offset by 8,000 new shares of non-par stock issued to the promoters in addition to 2,000 shares issued to the selling company. No new capital was invested. Such methods of financing inevitably led to receivership and two years later, in 1927, that is precisely what happened.
Raymond W. Loichot was appointed Receiver by the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. After working out the inventory and selling the assets, all operations ceased in 1930, 42 years after they began.
The machinery and tools were sold to the Amtorg Trading Corporation, one of Soviet Russia’s buying agencies in the US, for $329.000. This amount was within $65,000 of the appraised value of the equipment, which would eventually fill 28 rail cars.
The land assets were appraised at $528,886.00 and buildings at $483,388.00. At a public sale the mortgagee, Albert Dueber, who was the sole bidder, bought the plant in for $720,000.00. Eventually, the great former watch factory would be divided between the Dueber heirs and the Cally-Wyl Co.
For a time after the great depression it was partly used by the Progress Works Administration. This report says...
“David died of tuberculosis at Molly Stark Sanitarium in 1930. The circumstances could not have been worse, since the Great Depression had already started and the family had little money or resources. After David died, Esther went to work for the PWA, sewing in the old Deuber-Hamden [sic] building which had been a watch factory early in Canton's history. The old buildings were located along the creek that ran through the park near Tuscarawas Avenue, old Route 30. She did sewing, but my mother does not recall what types of items they made.”The sale of Dueber-Hampden ended 50 years of Hampden as a “Manufacture d'horlogerie”. From now on the name would be used on assembled watches and movements mainly from Switzerland.
|Today it is no more, demolished, sliced through to make way for an interstate highway.|
Canton is in Stark County, Ohio, which was so named after the American revolutionary hero General John Stark: John Stark's wife was Elizabeth "Molly" Stark. Hence Molly Stark movements
William McKinley was the Canton Congressman, later to be the Governor of Ohio and eventually the 25th US President. McKinley's signature was engraved on the plating of movements bearing his name.
Chapter 4. Amtorg (acronym of Amerikanskaya Torgovlya)
I debated long and hard about retaining a separate Amtorg chapter. The company and Armand Hammer, the man who established it, have been the subject of conspiracy theories, propaganda and mis-information. For those reasons it was difficult to separate fact from fiction and to know what to include. I decided to heavily revise my original post and retain it. Amtorg is such an interesting organisation and one which played a pivotal, if short, role in the story of Hampden watches.
The history of Amtorg dates back to 1921 when Dr. Armand Hammer, who had just graduated from medical school at Columbia University, went to Moscow to present himself to Lenin with a cover letter from his father Julius. Julius Hammer was an American socialist and acquaintance of Lenin who he first met in Stuttgart in 1907. Armand was hoping to get the $150,000 his father, who owned Allied Drug Inc, was owed by the Soviets for smuggling drugs to them during the blockade the west imposed on the Soviet Union. This aside, Lenin took the opportunity to discus long-term and highly lucrative business arrangement between Hammer and the Soviet Union.
|Lenin has written in English "To comrade Armand Hammer from V. I. Ulyanov (Lenin) 10th November 1921"|
The Amtorg Trading Corporation was based at 165 Broadway, N.Y. and also known simply as Amtorg (Амторг). It was set up by Armand Hammer to assist Soviet import and export firms seeking to conduct foreign trade in the US throughout the Communist era. It was the first Soviet trade representation in the United States when in May 1924 it was formed by the amalgamation of the Products Exchange Corporation (1919) and Arcos-America Inc (1923). The latter was the US office of All Russian Co-operative Society. One of the Soviet's, who helped Hammer set up Amtorg, was none other than Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder and first chairman of the Cheka (the first in a succession of security organizations). He was working, under-cover, as the head of the Concessions Commission.
Amtorg was the representative of the Soviet governments Concessions Committee in the United States and was empowered to negotiate concession agreements. The vast undeveloped resources of the Soviet Union, and the lack of finance & facilities to exploit them, led the Soviets to set up a Concessions Committee to open up selected industries for foreign participation. As a rule the concessions ran for a limited period of years. One conspicuous recipient of such concessions was Armand Hammer and his family, he was given various concessions such as the A. Hammer Pen & Pencil Co.
The controlling share of Amtorg's stock was held by the Foreign Trade Bank in Moscow, while the remaining shares were held by Centrosoiuz (a Soviet consumer cooperative) and by two officers of the corporation, both Soviet citizens. The Amtorg Trading Corporation was the defacto USSR embassy in the US in the early years before Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Government, thus allowing them a permanent embassy in Washington, D.C. It is alleged to have served as a front for the GRU and OGPU spying operations in the US.
According to historian John Earl Haynes... From day one Amtorg included a contingent of NKGB and GRU officers. One of its early senior staffers was Fiodor M. Ziavkin, a Cheka officer in 1920 and there is every reason to believe he remained a Chekist. Basil Delgass, an Amtorg vice-president who resigned in 1930 when recalled to the USSR, later testified to Congress at length on Amtorg’s role as a cover for industrial and technical espionage as well as conducting a legitimate trading agency. The American employees of Amtorg were, with only rare exceptions, members of the American Communist Party or one of its affiliates. Given the nature of the American Communist movement, these American employees would have assisted Amtorg’s Soviet intelligence officers with enthusiasm.
The FBI tracked Amtorg's operations throughout the Soviet period and into the present time. According to Rachel Verdon's book “Murder by Madness”... In 1985 Robert Hannson was given the job of overseeing “Project POCKETWATCH” the FBI's monitoring programme for Amtorg. There is no reference as to why "Pocketwatch" was chosen. Hannson was of course later convicted for being a Soviet agent.
Clearly Amtorg was a double edged sword but perhaps one of the most reliable testimonials, regarding the trading role Amtorg played, came from Stalin's former secretary Boris Bazhanov. In 1931 he fled into exile in Paris and wrote "Amtorg is a trade mission that does trade".
Mr A. Vladiminsky, was Amtorg's head commissioner for the factory purchase. He was based in the Amtorg New York office but also spent much time in Canton supervising the packing operation.
I have no evidence that Armand Hammer, his brothers Victor and Harry, or his father Julius played any part in the negotiation with Raymond Loichot during the Dueber-Hampden purchase. Indeed, in 1929 Amtorg signed a very famous deal with Henry Ford and the President of Amtorg, at that time was, Saul G. Bron.
Armand Hammer was named after the "Arm and Hammer" graphic symbol of the Socialist Labor Party of America,
He died of cancer on December 10, 1990 in Los Angeles,California.
Contrary to some versions of events, there is no evidence whatsoever of a Hammer Watch Company or Amtorg Watch Company operating in the US, or the USSR.
Perhaps the 21 workers from Canton had a better experience in Russia than others from America. The following is taken from a review of Tim Tzouliadis's book "The Forsaken".
When Amtorg advertised for help in American papers in 1931, they got over 100,000 applications for slightly over 10,000 advertised jobs. Thousands of American citizens who, during the Depression, sought employment and a better future in the “worker’s paradise” built by the Soviets after the 1917 revolution. All kinds of Americans joined the exodus. Some of them were ethnic American Communists who wanted to help build socialism. The majority, however, were average Americans who could not help but be tempted by the offers coming from Moscow: Skilled workers were promised paid passage, jobs at high pay, paid vacations, and free medical care. The flood of immigrants included not only steelworkers and auto-assembly-line workers but also teachers, clerical workers, dentists, and doctors.But all was not as it should be according to the review.
Chapter 4. Made in the USSR
The USSR may not immediately spring to mind as a source of consumer goods. Nevertheless, the Soviet era produced many fine and technically sophisticated timepieces during the 80 or so years it existed.
It is important to distinguish between the Soviet Union/USSR and Russia because some Soviet factories were outside modern day Russia. Post Soviet (1992) watches say ‘Made in Russia’ - 'сделано в России' - on the dial: Ones made prior to 1992 said ‘Made in USSR’ - 'сделано в СССР'.
In Imperial Russia, prior to the 1917 October revolution, watches were assembled from finished parts, mainly imported from Switzerland. Watch manufacture in Russia didn’t extend back as far as other comparative nations. It was also more profitable to assemble watches in Russia because certain tax barriers, against completed watch imports, were in place at the time. Some local workshops produced wall clocks and alarm clocks.
Notable watch makers were Paul Buhre and of course Karl Fabergé. The latter designed exquisite clocks and watches like the pocket watch pictured upper right & centre, who’s movement incorporates the Imperial Eagle. This watch does not bear the name Fabergé, but only two imperial jewelers had the right to stamp the Imperial Eagle on their creations, Buhre and Fabergé. Paul Buhre watches were all marked with his name Павел Буре, see picture right three down.
The Swiss watchmaker Heinrich Moser had established himself in St. Petersburg by 1828 and his company H.Moser & Co. flourished because his watches were of a very high quality. Three years after Heinrich Moser died, in 1874, his wife sold the entire Russian trading operation to its Managing Director, Herr Winterhalter. The contract of sale stipulated that all successor companies must continue to operate in perpetuity under the registered brand name of Heinrich Moser & Co.
After the October Revolution the remains of the Buhre, Fabergé & Moser watch businesses became a part of the “State Trust of Precision Mechanics” or "Гострест Точная Механическая Обработка", or simply "Гострест Точмех" (Gostrest Tochmekh), along with the remnants of the other watch enterprises, workshops, warehouses of watch parts and half-finished products. By 1926 the warehouses had been depleted of stock, so the critical need for timepieces was met by direct production from Gostrest Tochmekh. They began importing whatever components they could acquire on the international market and finishing the timepieces with internally manufactured "Гострест Точмех" signed dials. Such production continued into the early 1930's.
V. G. Bogdanov’s book about the history of the Soviet watch industry details the change from assembly to production. He writes that in March 1927, after heading the Trust of Precision Mechanics for 5 years, Andrey Mikhaylovich Bodrov raised the question of the need for the proper organization of watch production in the Soviet Union. His perseverance and persistence led the Council of Labour and Defense to listen. The issue was debated for almost nine months until December 20, 1927 when the Council issued a directive “about the organization of the production of watches in the USSR”. It would organize factories for the production of 500 thousand pocket watches and 500 thousand large clocks.
The factories were to be in line with those in Switzerland and the USA.
|Andrey Mikhaylovich Bodrov|
By April 1928 the management of the Trust of Precision Mechanics adopted this approach and in October 1928 they set up a commission to look into and purchase the necessary equipment from Europe. Bodrov & Sarkine from the Trust, together with Professor Zavadsky of the Leningrad Institute of Fine Mechanics and a the Swiss trained watchmaker Vladimir Osipovich Pruss, made up the commission.
They planned to visit Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, France and Switzerland, however, at this time none of the European watch companies would agree to collaborate with the USSR. The Soviets believed this was because the Europeans would be deprived of the large potential watch market in the Soviet Union. The reason was more likely due to the reputation the Soviets has gained for taking stock and parts, after the revolution and not paying for them. Indeed the Swiss had refused to let the commission enter the country.
|1927 Council of Labour and Defense directive (added translation courtesy of Alexey Kobtsev)|
Part of the commission was then sent into America where they visited around 21 precision engineering plants, including 8 watch factories. At the beginning of 1929 at a meeting with the Amtorg Trading Corp., which had located the factories and planned the US visit, Andrey Bodrov reported that the manufacture of watches in America was at a considerably higher level than in Europe. In contrast to the half-amateur European method of the production, America was almost fully automated. Bodrov proposed to purchase America equipment for the production of watches, however he was concerned in case Moscow would say they had "purchased junk”. In the end the report back to Moscow was more or less reduced to the following: “it is better to have something, than not to have anything”.
We leave Bogdanov’s book now, but it does contain further interesting information about the 2nd MWF (Slava). If like me you rely on interpretation by on-line translators, then persevere, it’s worth it; a link is in the appendix. The cartoon on the left is taken from his book.
Finding the now bankrupt Dueber-Hampden and Ansonia Clock Co., plants up for sale the Soviets, through Amtorg, purchase the patterns, machinery, tools and stock. These acquisitions were the embryo that helped to establish an impressive industry that still flourishes to this day.
Some sources site the LIP collaboration as the foundation of Soviet manufacture, but it wasn't until 1936 (when LIP had financial problems back home in France) that Fred Lipmann signed a deal with the USSR to export technology and parts. This was some six years after the start of Type-1 (Hampden) production by the FSWF in Moscow. LIP's modern designs no doubt highlighted the shortcomings of the aged Hampden pocket watch technology, nevertheless, the Type-1 was the first watch to be manufactured in the USSR. It was robust, repairable, accurate and reliable. Furthermore the Type-1 lasted until the 1980's in one guise or another.
In April 1930 the steamboat with the American equipment aboard left for Russia. Twenty-eight freight cars full of machinery and parts were transported from Canton to Moscow. At about the same time the building of the 1st State Watch Factory (FSWF) was started as a ‘top-priority’ project. The main block was built on the previous location of a Tobacco Factory called “Krasnaja Zvevda” (Red Star) in Voronczovskaja Street, Moscow (see photos below). Work commenced in February 1930 and was finished by June 1930. Installing the main equipment was finished by September 15 of 1930.
|Factory under construction in 1930.|
|1st State (later Moscow) Watch Factory - Kirov|
|Picture courtesy of Ralph Goodenberger Canton, OH. (his grandfather is 3rd left on the back row)|
Three Soviet workers had travelled to Canton to help pack and label the boxes. Samuel Zubkoff who was a watchmaker by trade, Alexander Breitburt and Percy Dreyer.
Each Canton man, who was originally a foreman or above, would head-up a Moscow department to train the Russian workers. For example C. C. Wilcox, was head of the flat steel screw department, at which he had worked in Canton for 41 years. Karl Krumm had been responsible for jeweling all the Canton movements. All the Americans reported that they were well looked after and that all their expenses were met. They were given pay even when they were too ill to work and free hospital treatment, neither of which they enjoyed in Canton. Each worker was said to have been paid around $4,650 and provided with a cook and a waiter. One of the party, Ira Aungst (the first Canton boy to have been employed by John Dueber), was very impressed by the speed that the Russians picked up the skills, especially the women. German was the most common language spoken between the US and Russian workers. The Soviets would have been happy for any American to stay after their one year contracts were up (and a six month extension for some six men) but at Soviet pay rates. All returned to the US.
|1940 Type-1 15j Pocket Watch|
The project was completed on October 1st, 1930 and the First State Watch Factory (Первый Государственный Часовой Завод - 1ГЧЗ) came into being. By November 7th the Public Commissariat for General Engineering (HKOM) ordered the manufacture of the first 50 pocket watches. These watches were presented at a ceremonial meeting in the Revolution Theater, now known as the Bolshoi Theater. Interestingly, some movement plates of these early watches were still stamped "Hampden Watch Co. Canton, OH", as the old US stock was used-up. These watches are very collectible today, but beware it's a relatively simple task to put a size 16 Dueber-Hampden watch movement into an early Soviet Type-1 case.
The first wristwatches produced were in effect converted pocket watches and I am yet to discover why copies of Dueber-Hampden wristwatches using a No. 400 size or 5-0 size movement (a scaled down Type-1 pattern) were not made for distribution. These watches were much more like a modern wristwatch is style and size. Mark Gordon's "USSR Time" site shows 'trial pieces' made up from Canton and Moscow stamped movements. So smaller wristwatch designs were considered and by all accounts rejected. The one attempt at a re-designed Type-1 wristwatch is the rarest watch in my collection. Mark Gordon refers to 3 in his collection as a Type-17 'Boys Watch'. I would guess that not many were made as it was not long before modern LIP movements and post war German movements became available.
Although I drift off the Hampden trail a little during this chapter, it is the Type-1 design movements that carries through the Hampden connection. Right up to the 1980s this movement has survived and is easily recognizable as a twin bridge Hampden pattern Size 16 model 5. The Type-1, or K-43 when placed into a case, initially comprised of a 15j pocket watch for governmental use and a 7j wristwatch (later 15j) for the Red Army. In addition a 7j pocket watch and a ladies 15j wristwatch were produced for general sale.
My NAWCC friend Wojtek, from Przemys Poland, has a good explanation of the designations Type-1 & K-43... Type-1 is the designation of the movement and the name speaks for itself. K-43 is the designation of the completed watch, where K is the abbreviation of "kарманные" "pocket" in English and 43(mm) is the diameter of the movement. Placing the Type-1 movement into the wristwatch 'Saucepan" case did not change the designation, these watches are still referred to as K-43's.
At about the same time the Soviets purchased the Dueber-Hampden equipment and tools, it also purchased the bankrupt US clock maker Ansonia Clock Company. In November 1930 The 2nd State Watch Factory (1945 - The Second Moscow Watch Factory & 1958 - Slava) was founded also in Moscow. It initially made wall clocks and alarm clocks but from 1935 the factory began production of pocket watches with Type-1 movements in them.
|KIROV postage stamp|
The name change heralded a crucial time in the history of the factory as the reconstruction of the enterprise was perfected. Production of pocket watches (called Kirovskies) increased to 450,000 pieces. In addition the production of special clocks for cars and airplanes began. Watches produced during the 1940's were commonly used by officers of the Red Army. Watches with distinctive engravings were given by the army as a form of reward.
As the Axis army closed in on Moscow, during the Autumn of 1941, the factory was hurriedly evacuated to the city of Zlatoust, in the province of Chelyabinsk, close to the Yural Mountains. The installation started in November and was completed on Christmas Day. Throughout the war the factory produced timing devices including, tank clocks, aircraft clocks and chronometers, gun camera clocks and naval chronometers. By the end of the war the factory was said to have produced more than 300,000 such devices. 92% of Tanks and 98% of Aircraft were fitted with Zlatoust clocks.
By 1943 the Red Army was on the offensive and the Moscow factory was re-established. At the same time State was replaced with Moscow to form the 'First Moscow Watch Factory (Kirov)' title. The Zlatoust factory continued to produce for the military alongside the manufacture of pocket watches, stopwatches and according to an article by Sergey Klimakov ‘The Cheliabinsk Worker’ the legendary "Vodolaz"191-ChS watch for Soviet Navy Divers. A very large watch who’s diameter (without the crown) is about 60 millimeters and which weighed 250 grams. Production of these unique watches was stopped in the first half of the 1970s.
An important component of watches are their jeweled bearings. Initially these were imported but a more local supply was not difficult for the Soviets to source as there was a well established industry in Russia. The Petrodvortsovy Watch Factory had originated from a lapidary workshop in 1801. The factory had produced articles from semi-precious stones and had made decorations for the Tzar's Winter Palace and the Peterhof fountains during Imperial times and after the revolution it helped decorate Lenin's Mausoleum and the ruby stars for the towers of the Kremlin. By 1932 it was renamed the State Factory No. 1 of Fine Technical Stones, or TTK-1, and in 1935 it started to manufacture jeweled bearings for the watch industry. By 1940 the importation of jeweled bearings had ceased.
By the end of the 1940's there was a gradual phasing out of the Type-1 movements, the legacy of the Hampden purchase in 1930. I have a Type-1 Pocket Watch from the Zlatoust Watch Factory made in the third quarter of 1958, possibly on of the last of the Type-1 pocket watches (see archive).
USSR Time’ web site has plenty of examples of other Type-1 watches coming from factories located around the Soviet Union so Dueber-Hampden machines and tools may well have been distributed to those sites. Upper right below. 1940' 50's clock. Lower right. 1980's clock. Compare them with the Type-1 1940 movement above. The final chapter in the Type-1s history is well illustrated by these clocks from my collection. Both are stamped with the Zlatoust Watch Factory logo, the lower one being the stopwatch logo.
|Interestingly the lower right clock has a fused bridge like the size 16 1923 Hampden movement shown on the right.|
Mark Gordon's definitive collection has a 1980s clock, like the lower one above and he lists the movement as a "15 Jewel caliber 3016 (Type-1 related)". Alexey Kobtsev (Soviet-Rarities) explained that the first two calibre digits, 30**, specify the movement size in mm, where mine is larger than 30mm being 43mm and according to Soviet/Russian calibres specification the last two digits, **16, indicates an automatic movement, with central seconds hand, date display and shock-resistance; mine clearly do not have any of these features. Alexey also says that 1940's & 1950's Soviet pocket watch movements were often generically said to be calibre ChK-6 (also known as ЧК-6 or YK-6 or Cheka 6 or pocket-watch 6).
|The white translucent glass is not adequately captured by photographs|
Henry B. Fried an eminent watchmaker and horology lecturer reported seeing Dueber-Hampden machinery being used in China in 1986. This report is often sited but the brief content fails to say which city, factory or company and even what the equipment was being used to produce.
By the end of the 1940's watchmaking in the USSR was moving on and the old Dueber-Hampden machines and tools were also moving on. Well established watch manufacturing facilities, like the First and Second Moscow factories, would benefit from a new era of machines and tooling. As part of the reparations the Soviet Union imposed on Germany after the war, it took watch making equipment, tools, etc. The Glashütte factories lost almost all their machinery. This was relatively new equipment, so the Soviets were now able to produce some of the most modern movements of the time and with a high class finish. What equipment and skills remained in Glashütte could be commandeered at any time by the Russian sponsored government of East Germany. All the famous watch manufacturing companies of the little town of Glashütte, such as Lange, Kurtz, Assmann, Muehle, UFAG, UROFA and many other small workshops were forced to join the 'Glashütte Uhren-Betriebe VEB'.
LIP engineers and technicians supervised the installation of a factory at Penza near Moscow and trained Russian engineers. Over the years many Lip type movements appeared... The Lip R26 was called “Pobeda” meaning Victory and first released in 1945. The Lip R43 was called “Zim”. In 1950 the assembly of Pobeda watches was switched to a conveyor belt automated system which not only increased the output, but also improved quality. By 1951 the annual total output of watches at the factory had reached half a million and by 1955, 1,100,000 pieces. In 1969 Lip were invited back to bring the Soviet technology up to date and later in 1972 a deal was agreed giving the Soviets fresh technical assistance. This cooperation lasted until 1975 when Lip went under.
With the end of the Soviet Union the old factories were re-organized, in 2000 the Volmax organization is formed by ex-Poljot employees. Today the company sells watches under the Aviator, Shturmanskie & Piljot brand names.
Soviet watches were exported to over 70 countries including, USA, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong & Greece.
Soviet clock & watch factories
• 1st (State) Moscow Watch Factory- Первый Государственный Часовой Завод - Since 2000 known as Volmax selling Poljot, Shturmanskie & Aviator branded watches.
• 2nd (State) Moscow Watch Factory – Второй Часовой Завод - The old factory building in Moscow has recently been demolished but the Slava company continues to produce watches.
• Tschistopol Watch Factory - Чистопольский часовой завод - Christopol - the Chistopol Watch Factory, Vostok, started back in 1942 when the 2nd Moscow Watch Factory was evacuated from Moscow to a little town located on the River Kama.
• Petrodvorets Watch Factory – Петродворцовый часовой завод - Saint Petersburg - following the collapse of the Soviet Union the Raketa watch factory struggled in the new market economy of Russia and ceased production in the mid 1990s. However, there has been a recent resurgence of the company and production has started once again.
• Maslennikova Watch factory – Масленникова Завод имени, Samara - Often referred to as ZIM (Zavod Imeni Maslennikova). The factory struggled following the collapse of the USSR and has since closed with the loss of jobs in the local area.
• Pensenki Watch Factory - Пензенцкий Часовой Завод - Penza - The Penza watch factory was formed in 1935 under a governmental order.
• Serdobsk Watch & Clock Factory – Сердобский Часовой Заво - Following the war, production was devoted to clock manufacture, particularly cuckoo clocks.
• Uglich Watch Factory – Угличский Часовой Завод - Manufacture of Chaika and Volga watches in the town of Uglich 120km north of Moscow. The city has a branch of the Scientific Research Institute of the Clock and Watch Industry.
• Zlatoust Watch Factory – Златоустовский часовой завод - Zlatoust - Set up when the FSWF evacuated from Moscow in the war. Continued to produce Pocket & Stop watches amongst others.
• Luch Watch factory - Луч Часовой Завод - Minsk - Since 2004 the Minsk Watch Plant has operated to the ISO 9001 quality standard.
Extract from the SEKONDA web site... "Sekonda is a British brand which was established in 1966 to offer a collection of mechanical watches which were manufactured in Russia [sic]. With extensive marketing support and superb customer service Sekonda quickly became a household name. The introduction of the quartz movement saw manufacture moved to Hong Kong and this enabled Sekonda to introduce more fashionable styles. This combination and continued marketing support led to Sekonda becoming the best selling watch brand in units in the UK in 1988, a position that is still held today."
Chapter 5. The Manheimer Watch Co. (Hampden Watch Co.)
In 1930 with Amtorg’s agreement, use of the Dueber-Hampden name was assigned to the Receiver. He transferred it to some former employees who set up The Dueber-Hampden Service Department in Canton. Part of the agreement with Amtorg had been for the Soviets to export parts back to Canton, but this did not become a reality. The Service Department was owned by the Anderson Bros., two former Dueber-Hampden employees and was operating out of the Zinninger Building until the early 1940's.
Registration of the Hampden name was abandoned, in effect it ceased to be used in 1923 when the Hampden and Dueber companies were amalgamated. The best explanation of how the name came back into use is found in James W. Gibbs book. When Gibbs compiled the original Hampden Story in the very early 1950's, he wrote to the Hampdem Watch Company of Chicago IL,.
"We were put in touch with the Hampden Watch Company of Chicago, Illinois. Mr Arthur E. Manheimer, the President, wrote to me that when the machinery, equipment, inventory and materials were sold to Russia in 1930, good-will and trade marks were not sold. The trade name Hampden having been abandoned by the Dueber-Hampden Company, three companies, including his own, applied for registration of the name or a similar sounding name for jewelry items. His company subsequently made contact with the other two companies and acquired all of their right, title and interest in the name Hampden, which his company has been using since 1939. Their application for registration of the name in connection with watches was perfected in 1940".Information about the Manheimer Watch company is thin on the ground but research led me to the transcript of the 'Lowenthal v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue' court case which provided a comprehensive account of why the Hampden name was rescued. The transcript states (and I paraphrase)...
The Manheimer Watch Company during the end of the 1930's to early 1940's was engaged in distributing American manufactured watches under franchises from the Hamilton, Elgin and Waltham watch companies. It was well established and had an outstanding reputation. In the spring of 1939, Waltham changed its method of distribution in a manner which led Arthur E. Manheimer to believe that it would lose a large percent of the volume of its Waltham business. To meet this situation, on May 6, 1939, he organized the Hampden Watch Company, an Illinois corporation, as a wholly owned subsidiary of The Manheimer Watch Company. Hampden was to import Swiss watch movements and sell them to customers which the The Manheimer Watch Company expected to lose as a result of the change in Waltham's merchandising policy. By the fall of 1939, it became evident that The Manheimer Watch Company would be in danger of losing its franchise with Waltham should its connection with it's new subsidiary, and its activities be discovered. So Arthur Manheimer, the then President, decided he would separate the Hampden Watch Company and sever his connections with The Manheimer Watch Company.
|Arthur Manheimer Patent 1932|
Arthur E. Manheimer was born in Kansas City on the 14th of April 1888; he graduated from Harvard College in 1909 and gained a Law Degree from the Harvard Law School in 1912, after which he practiced in Chicago. In 1917 he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Signals Reserve Corps and served in France, during WWI, as Supply Officer for the 415th Railway Telegraph Battalion. After the war he returned to Chicago and practice law for a few years before purchasing part of the family business, the Manheimer Watch Co. As previously stated he formed the Hampden Watch Company in 1940 and ran it for 17 years. He sold out in January 1957 to Hyman Wein owner founder of the Clinton Watch Company, also of Chicago. Clinton would eventually change it’s name to Hampden in 1995; but more on that later.
Arthur Manheimer was past President of the National Wholesale Jewelers Association. He was also an active member of the Alliance Française and a supporter of the World Federation for World Government. He died in December 1957 after a short illness.
Either through Manheimer or Wein, Hampden watches have been produced from the 1940s up to the present day and distributed via their companies Chicago offices. Hampden branded watches, from the Manheimer & Clinton era's, have been fitted with Swiss, German and French movements. Some of the Clinton era movements are stamped Clinton Watch Company some Hampden Watch Company. Clinton, Douglas and Wolbrook watches, also from the Clinton stable, are fitted with a mixture of these movements, the majority being 17 jewel Swiss ones.
|Manheimer era Hampden watches 1950.|
Chapter 6. The Clinton Watch Co. (Hampden Watch Co.)
The Wein family, formally Weinzieher, originally emigrated to the US from Russia but it’s a little unclear how many of the family travelled with the head of the family, Hersh Wein, and how many arrived later. Hersh Wein had a large family that would diverge and go on to form important branches of the North American watch industry. Nevertheless, the foundations were established in 1904 with the incorporation of Weinstrum Watches, who became the authorised dealership of “Abra Swiss Watches” and were situated at 93 Nassau Street, New York City. Later the concern would be known as Wein Brothers. Hersh (or Hirsch) left a number of his sons and sons-in-law in the business. Family lore had it that the larger family enterprise broke up due to fighting among the wives.
|Hersh Wein and family|
Monya Wein moved to Switzerland and during WWII helped to keep the family businesses alive by scrounging enough movements and parts to send back to the families in the US and Canada. Monya’s son is Boris Vansier the artist.
Rose Wenger, nee Weinzieher, and her husband went to Montreal and in 1923 started Wenger Ltd. owners of the Cardinal Watch brand. The current President is Myer Wenger the great-grandson of Hersh.
The Canadian Wenger Watch Company (Wenger Ltd.) are not affiliated with Wenger Switzerland or their sister company Victorinox. Wenger Switzerland did not start producing watches until the late 1980s.
Morris Wein (seen above sitting on his father’s knee) would become the founder of Marathon Watch in Montreal Canada in 1939, which is run today by his grandson Mitchell Wein (family pronunciation ‘ween’).
One brother moved in New York and another went to live in Los Angeles.
Photo by permission of Joseph Wein
Last but by no means least there was Hyman Wein, pictured right, (family pronunciation ‘wine’), born in 1888 in city of Kiev, then a part of the Imperial Russia Empire, today the capital of the Ukraine. He was 34 years old when he emigrated to the US with his wife Susan, also known as Sasha. He had formerly been an officer in the Russian Army and had witnessed the horrors of the pogroms following the revolution.
Between 1920 and 1922 as many as 30,000 Russian soldiers, aristocrats, professionals and intellectuals left the Soviet Union and settled in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago. These immigrants were White Russians, named for their opposition to communism.
He founded the Clinton Watch Company in 1922, Clinton being a county in Illinois and an area in Chicago. The company were like many others of that time ‘watch designers and assemblers’ who bought-in movements, dials and cases and put them together in their workshops.
Involvement in community projects runs through the three generations of the Wein family who figure in the chapter. The Wein Family Foundation, set up by Hyman in memory of his wife Susan in 1946, remains in place today and makes charitable donations to a wide variety of good causes (approx. $250,000 in 2009).
Hyman Wein began a watch repair school for immigrants. Alfred Blum, who worked at Clinton and was well known in Chicago as “The German Watchmaker” taught there on a voluntary basis for two years in the late 1930’s. After finishing his regular job with Clinton at 5 p.m., he would teach from 6 to 9 at night. The school catered for the disabled and for war veterans.
Hyman’s son Irving L. Wein, born 1925, grew up in Hyde Park on Chicago's South Side and at age 16 enrolled in the University of Chicago. He spent two years in the U.S. Army in Europe, as a member of the 8th Armoured Division. He also studied at the Sorbonne in France and the University of Geneva in Switzerland; afterwards he returned to Chicago to finish his degree and join the family business.
Photo by permission of Joseph Wein
One of his earliest ventures was to set up the Josan SA company in Neuchatel, Switzerland in the 1960s. He assembled watches there for the next 20 years. Following on from this in the 80s he opened a watch factory in St. Croix, in the US Virgin Isles (the name St. Croix became a Hampden Corp., brand). Irving Wein was a leading lobbyist to the US Federal Trade Commission in connection with watch movement assembly in the US Virgin Isles. He sought markings clarification, arguing that it would improve the domestic industry. From the late 1950s watch companies got involved in watch assembly in the islands and it is a fascinating adjunct to the story of the US watch industry. Hampden closed their factory there in 2008, leaving just one other company still operating.
In 1981 Irving acquired Benrus after that venerable old American brand had gone through some troubles. The company had been sold in 1967 to Victor Kiam, of Remington Razors... Victor Kiam was made famous by his advertisement "I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company". By the mid to late 70s Benrus Incorporated was a diversified manufacturer of a number of consumer products. An attempt to consolidate all the various manufacturing enterprises under one roof proved to be a much more expensive move than anyone calculated and was the final blow to the company which subsequently filed as bankrupt in 1977. The company passed through several hands before it came under the ownership of the Wells Benrus Corporation; it to ultimately ended in bankruptcy (Victor Kiam being the largest shareholder and creditor) and was purchased by Clinton in 1981.
The Benrus brand was sold to catalogue showrooms and mass merchants until the sale of the business in 1995 to Bernie Mermelstein of M.Z. Berger & Company, with headquarters in Long Island City, NY,. M.Z. Berger also, separately, acquired the Trade Marks of three other old American watch companies, Elgin, Waltham and Gruen.
Clinton had changed its name to Benrus in 1981 but following the sale in 1995, the name was changed again, this time to it's current one, Hampden Corporation. In light of the subsequent Monica Lewinsky scandal, this choice proved to have been an astute one; for a long time the name Clinton may not have immediately evoked thoughts of fine timekeeping. Pity in a way because a President William Clinton model would have been in keeping with the Dueber-Hampden President William McKinley model.
I was interested to know what wristwatch Irving wore. His son Joe said that his father wore a variety of watches, “Oddly, (or perhaps not) he never fell in love with any particular watch. He’d wear one of our newer models, or whatever was lying around”. I asked Joe what watch he wore "Haha – right now I’m wearing one of Mitchell’s watches... a Marathon" he told me.
My collecting interest finishes with the demise of the mechanical watch and what more apt way to finishing than to draw your attention to Electric Watches. I am lucky enough to have three, two Hampden & one Clinton in my collection. Electric watches should not be mistaken for Quartz watches, whilst both are battery powered, electric watches have jeweled mechanical movements. I am grateful to top enthusiast Paul Wirdnam who provides details of the watch movements on his website at Electric Watches. In addition to containing excellent information generally he also catalogues his own Clinton and all but identical Baylor (the latter has no connection to Clinton or Hampden) models.
The third generation, Joseph H. Wein, took over the business when his father died in 2002, continuing his family’s ownership of the Hampden name. An association that has lasted for nearly 60 years, greatly exceeding the 40 years it was owned by the Dueber family.
Joe Wein was born on January 5, 1961 in Chicago, he grew up in the family business and learned all the traditions that had guided it throughout its long history. When it was his turn to take the reins, he is said to have questioned everything. He applied modern economic principles and forward-thinking process innovation, an approach that has ensured Hampden continues to be successful. A proud statement on the company's web page (below) declares Hampden to be the "oldest privately owned watch business in America".
Joe & his wife Michele Sackheim Wein, also carry on the family tradition of supporting community organizations and have won awards for their work.
|Michele & Joe Wein alongside a modern ceramic Hampden watch|
These watches belong to me and I am pleased to recommend watch collecting as an affordable hobby, indeed many were bought for less than a tank of fuel for my car. I acquired them from Auctions, Jumble (Yard) Sales, Antique Shops and on-line and of course Ebay.
But before you dip your toe in that water, why not join an online watch community like... 'Watch-U-Seek' or 'The Watch Forum', or a specialist horological site like the NAWCC or the BHI. Here there is help recognizing genuine watches from homages, fakes & frankens (composites) and on distinguishing good dealers from bad.
First & Seconds rows: Canton Hampden watches, circa 1900 - 1927
Third. Forth & Fifth rows: Soviet Type-1 Hampden pattern watches, circa 1930 - 1980
Sixth, Seventh & Eighth rows: Hampden watches from the Manhiemer & Wein era's, circa 1940 - 1980
All efforts have been taken to contact copyright owners, where contact has failed such release is solicited.
These links are either the sources of material or just great horology (alphabetically)...
- Abbott. Henry G. The Watch Factories of America.
- Arnold. Robert F. & Hernick. James L. Hampden Watch Co.
- Bogdanov. Vladimir G. Artical in Russian: On Time - clocks of orbiting space stations
- Cook. Russ. Collection of Soviet & Russian Watches http://russrussianwatches.blogspot.com/
- Dueber Hampden in Canton http://www.zion-canton.org/centennial-history.pdf
- Dueber-Hampden Watches 1889, by Unknown. Broadcast April 3, 1949. Horological Library
- Engel. Joseph, Ex. Director. Canton Preservation Society.
- Epstein. Edward Jay. http://www.amazon.com/Dossier-Secret-History-Armand-Hammer /dp/0786706775
- Gibbs. James W. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Springfield-Moscow-complete-Dueber-Hampden-story/dp/B00070ZNRS
- Gordon. Mark. http://www.ussrtime.com
- Gurcaglar, Aykut http://www.arteorientalis.com/sovietwatches.html
- Hanson. Jon. http://www.americanhorologe.com/Mozart/Mozart.aspx
- Horrisberger. Lee. http://dueber-hampden.blogspot.com/
- James. Kevin. The Watch Guy. http://thewatchguy.homestead.com/pages/BENRUS.html
- Jansson. Maija. Shared Memory: John Hampden, New World and Old
- Kenney. Kimberly A. Canton: A Journey Through Time.
- Kobtsev. Alexey. http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Soviet-Rarities?_rdc=1
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- Blair. Harry. Mr Horology. The Life & Times of Henry B. Fried
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- Watkins. Richard. Jacques David American and Swiss Watchmaking in 1876
Last up-dated Thursday 11th July 2013
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