The American Watch Industry

The American Watch Industry
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19th Century
- Americans were becoming more "time-conscious" because of all the clocks that spread from railroads to business hours of factories, offices and shops.
- Personal timekeeping was more important than ever, but watches were still too expensive for the average American to own.
- American watchmakers set out to make a watch that any working American could afford.
- An American jeweled watch cost about $40 in 1850 decreased to $10 in 1880 because of production methods and competitive pricing.
- By the 1880s, one could buy a reasonably good watch for as little as three dollars, and within the next decade, models selling for a dollar became available.

- American firms also produced high-end watches. During the late decades of the 1800s, several firms began supplying the railroad industry with highly jeweled precision watches; and firms like Howard, Waltham and Elgin offered high-end items costing as much as $150. However, many firms, seeing the popularity of dollar-type watches, focused their energies on supplying the cheap market.

- The American watch industry went into decline after 1910. The recessions of the 1890s weakened the American industry, and there were industry-specific problems of overproduction and market saturation.
- Things worsened in the 1920s when the Swiss reentered the scene. They adopted machine manufacturing and learned modern marketing. Unlike the Americans, they had placed considerable emphasis on the wristwatch.
- Although watch production continued beyond World War II, by 1960 the American watch industry had narrowed dramatically in scope.