I stopped wearing a wrist watch about twenty years or so ago, maybe more. At about the same time I stopped using an alarm clock to wake up in the morning…which was pretty risky if you had to be at work at a certain time, and I did. I think I must have read an article on clocks running our lives or something. All you needed was to depend on your own internal clock to wake up at a certain time. You didn’t need the sound of an obnoxious alarm to start your day. And so I stopped using an alarm clock and still automatically arose at the proper time every day. It took a while to get out of the habit of picking up my arm and looking at my wrist, expecting to see a watch there. But I did. And I didn’t miss the alarm clock or wrist watch one little bit.
Recently, however, an old Gruen watch came into my life and my attempt to research it in order to place it for sale in my Etsy shop made me appreciate what a wonderful, amazing, beautiful thing it was.
This particular watch was worn; the gold case and crystal were scratched. The watch face said “Gruen Precision” and that was it. Well, how hard could it be to identify at least the time period that it was made? It was just a watch for Pete’s sake. (Who the heck was Pete, anyway?).
After looking at various watch related sites and scouring the internet for a Gruen Precision that looked just like mine, I realized it wouldn’t be that easy. I also realized that the only hope I had to identify it was to open the case. And that was definitely intimidating. How do you go about opening the back of a watch without damaging the case? Very slowly and very carefully. But the back was finally opened and all kinds of numbers and information was revealed. Making a positive ID was at hand, or so I thought.
The inside of the case stated it was “14K” not gold filled and not rolled gold. The maker of the case appeared to be “Solidarity”. There was a mark under the Solidarity name that said “14K Fine 585/1000”. And there was a number below that, “372748”.
The watch movement was marked “Switzerland”, “Gruen Watch Co. Precision”, “Fifteen 15 Jewels”, “Four 4 Adj. Temp.” and “624306”. I surely was armed with sufficient information now.
But I wasn’t. I was hoping to find a Gruen “style” number in the watch, and neither series of numbers contained a style number. I then read that some Gruen watches don’t have a style number. I think the number under the Solidarity mark is the case number and it doesn’t help me date the watch. Some sources say that in some instances your best chance is to look at old Gruen ads and hope to find an illustration of a watch that resembles yours.
The Solidarity Watch Case Company started in business in Brooklyn, NY, in 1885 and were well known for their solid gold watch cases. It appears they remained in business until the 1930s. They were organized by the Knights of Labor after a strike against the Brooklyn Watch Company for a shorter work week. The members were part of a group called the Solidarity Co-operative Association. The Solidarity Watch Case Co. became a thriving business and was the first in the industry to give themselves a paid half holiday on Saturday. Following is a Solidarity ad from a 1907 Scribner’s magazine:
But the ads weren’t helping much.
The page that follows is from a Gruen catalog. The round bezel “Bascine” is the closest I’ve come to the shape of my watch.
What I found interesting about this catalog page, in addition to the shape of the watch, is the heading “Silk Ribbon Wristlets”. My watch had two fixed “loops”, for lack of a better word, on either side of the watch. One seemed bent down a bit. See the following photo.
I found a patent for these side loops dated November 22, 1921. The designer was J. McGrevy. The side extrusions are curved a bit in this patent, just as mine were curved. The patent called them “ribbon loop for watchcases”. Up until this point I hadn’t really considered if my watch were designed for a male or female. The watch measured about 1 inch in diameter. Was my watch a ribbon watch?
Then I came across an ad in a 1921 issue of The Saturday Evening Post which showed a watch with the same angled numbers as my watch had. Up until this point, I hadn’t come across any watches with those same numbers. See the middle top watch in the ad below:
The numbers in the 1921 ad were the same as mine and the curved loops that were patented in 1921 were similar to mine. Maybe my watch dated to the 1920s? I don’t know for sure but I’m thinking 1920s or 1930s.
I do know that I have a deeper appreciation for watches now. Especially Gruen watches. They were way ahead of their time (ha ha, time, get it) and had some amazing designs. The “Curvex” was shaped to fit the natural curve of the wrist. And my personal favorite is the “Ristside” or driver’s watch. The watch is curved and set to sit on the side of the wrist that faces you as you have your hands on the driving wheel, so you don’t have to remove your hand from the wheel to look at the face of the wrist watch, you just have to glance in that direction. Brilliant or what?
To see this watch at my Etsy shop, please click here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/259155033/gruen-precision-solid-14k-yellow-gold