Year Established: 1854
Headquarters: Middlebury, Connecticut
Watch Category: Budget
Brand Accomplishments: One of the first American wrist watches and of course Indiglo.
World War I calls on Waterbury Clock
WWI artillery gunners needed a way to calculate and read time while still operating the big guns. The US Army asked Waterbury Clock Company to revise the Ingersoll Ladies Midget pocket watch. The redesign called for the crown to move to 2 o’clock, luminescence added to the hands and, lugs added for a wrist strap. The result was one of America’s first wrist watches. After the war, the civilian population snapped up these new watches. Unfortunately, Ingersoll did not survive the post-war recession and filed for bankruptcy. In 1922, the Waterbury Clock Company purchased the Robert H. Ingersoll & Bros company for $1.5 million. Below is an image of the Ingersoll Midget.
The Mouse came calling
After muddling through the post-war years and the depression, a weakened Waterbury Clock was saved by Walt Disney. Waterbury Clock signed an agreement with Disney to produce timepieces in 1930. The watches and clocks held the Ingersoll name. The Mickey products arrived at the Chicago World Fair in 1933.
Another war reshapes the business
In 1941 two Norwegians, Thomas Olsen and Joakim Lehmkuhl, took a controlling interest in the Waterbury Clock. Both men fled Norway as a result of the Nazi invasion. In America, they looked to start a business to help the wartime effort. Waterbury Clock became the largest producer of timers and fuses for defense products. In 1944 the company became the United States Time Corporation.
Post-war boom time
Lehmkuhl thought that an accurate, durable, reasonably-priced watch would be a hit with Americans. Wartime material innovations and automation helped bring Timex into existence in 1950. In 1956, famous TV adds testing the watches were produced. These adds are the origin of the tagline “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” The company bought Lacher & Co AG from Pforzheim, Germany (Laco) to get their electric watch technology. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, the US Time Corporation manufactured missile components such as fuses and accelerometers.