In the mid-19th century, Americans changed the paradigm of watch manufacturing and repair by developing a system of interchangeable watch parts. This was the beginning of mass manufactured watches and the rest of the watchmaking industry soon followed America's lead. But where did it all start? Where are the original watches that started this manufacturing revolution? At their June 2, 2019, auction, Jones & Horan will offer the Howard Davis & Dennison #3 pocket watch, which is arguably the most important American watch ever seen at auction.
Howard Davis & Dennison #3.
Before this innovation, if a watchmaker received a watch for repair with a broken wheel, a new wheel would have to be manufactured from scratch. There were no replacement parts that would just work straight away. The company we know today as Waltham was largely responsible for this major development. Waltham went through many name and ownership changes throughout its history and at one point was known as Howard Davis & Dennison. I spoke with American pocket watch expert, John Cote, to learn more about the background of the Howard Davis & Dennison #3.
Howard Davis & Dennison #3 movement, 8 day autonomy, double barrel. The going train is fully jeweled, with a lever escapement and uncut brass balance.
Cote explained that the Howard Davis & Dennison #3 is not the first U.S. Made watch, but is definitely the ancestor of all factory made American watches: "It is the first watch produced by The Warren Manufacturing Company, which was the forerunner of both the Waltham and Howard watch companies. It is essentially the first Waltham watch." Cote mentioned that 17 serial numbers were reserved for these early 8 day watches, but likely only 3 were made. "These three, serial numbers 1, 2 and 3 were given to the founders of the company, Edward Howard, Aaron Dennison, and David Davis. The one coming up for sale is number 3, which is believed to have been the watch owned by David Davis."
This watch will likely attract the attention of every collector of American watches. Will it set the record for an American watch sold at auction? We will see on June 2nd. The estimate for this lot is $80,000 to $160,000. For more information on Jones & Horan's June 2, 2019, sale, visit their website.
Photo credit: Jones & Horan


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