Early American Watches
Artistry, Workmanship & 18th Century High Tech!
Early pocket watches are works of art and were the highest-tech and most expensive consumer good that one could buy.
The vast majority of watches sold in colonial America were imported from Europe. Toward the end of the 18th century, when watches became more affordable to the growing middle class, more American makers with English (and Swiss) supplier connections were able to order their own line of watches from abroad with their name engraved on the watch.
However, like a number of European watchmakers, makers working in the colonies also utilized component parts and unfinished movements (rough movements or ébauches) to manufacture their watches. Surviving advertisements indicate that small-scale finishing of rough movements likely began in colonial America around the middle of the 18th century. A small number of American made/finished watches survive. They include watches made by Philadelphia makers Henry Voight and Robert Leslie, Norwich maker Thomas Harland, Providence maker John Cairns, and Massachusetts makers Wheelock & Morse and Luther Goddard (view a Goddard example in the NAWCC Museum). These makers and their watches are all part of the story of watchmaking in America. Incredibly, that story actually begins with the arrival of the first watchmakers from England over 300 years ago and the discovery of America's oldest watch.
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