Manufactured in Switzerland by the Gruen Watch Company in 1929, this is a handsome, rare, well-cared-for, collectible vintage ladies' wristwatch, model 835/82, in excellent condition!
It features a fancy 14k whited gold filled 11/8" X 5/*" engraved rectangular case, excluding crown, that surrounds an Art deco subtle pinstriped silver engraved face with a small 3/8" dial with bold black hour and minute hands, numbers, and outer chapter.
The dial is in very good condition showing some very light patina from 90 years of service, the crystal has some minor surface scratches but is clear with no fractures, and the Swiss, 15 jewel, manual wind, Gruen Guild-A, movement, serial number 1779636, is running well and keeping very good time.
It has a 14K white gold filled snap-down back and is matched with a 1937 J.M Binder gold filled bracelet.
Stock Code: G-3
One of the most important and prestigious American watch manufacturers was the Gruen Watch Company, founded by a brilliant father-and-son team of horologists, Dietrich and Fred Gruen. Among the first companies to sell wristwatches, the Gruens split their manufacturing between two continents, exporting American technology to Germany and Switzerland, and bringing German and Swiss traditions of craftsmanship to America.
Dietrich was born in Osthofen, Germany, in 1847, and started his watchmaking career at age 15. In 1867 he went to America and settled near Columbus, Ohio. A hard-working young man, Dietrich was awarded his first watchmaking patent at age 27, in 1874. At 29 he co-founded the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company; the successful enterprise was soon building complete watches in its own 300-employee factory buildings.
Fred, Dietrich’s oldest son, was born in 1872 and followed in his father’s footsteps. In his youth Fred worked in his father’s factory, then was sent to Germany to study watchmaking. To graduate, Fred was given bars of metal from which he had to build working watch movements, designing and manufacturing all the parts.
In 1894, after an economic depression had forced them out of the Columbus Watch Company, Dietrich and Fred formed a new partnership. Fred’s younger brother, George, joined as business manager and treasurer, and the company was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it became the Gruen Watch Company.
Initially, Dietrich and Fred designed the watch movements in America and manufactured them in Germany. Later, they would build their own movement factory in Switzerland. Most Gruen watches have Gruen-made Swiss movements and were assembled and adjusted in the U.S. in American-made cases.
Pocket watches in the late 1800s were large and heavy. Throughout his career, Dietrich tried to make his watches smaller, thinner and more comfortable to carry in a vest pocket, without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. The 1904 Gruen VeriThin pocket watch was a major breakthrough; although it had the same major parts as a traditional movement, Dietrich managed to rearrange components to achieve a much thinner watch. From this point on, Gruen specialized in thin, elegant pocket watches.
Gruen was one of the first companies to make wristwatches – both men’s and women’s models were introduced in 1908, but the men’s models were a huge commercial failure; men at the time considered wristwatches effeminate and refused to wear them.
During World War I wristwatches were used by the military, and after this men started to accept the idea of strapping a watch to their wrists. Most manufacturers, including Gruen, were careful to call these ‘strap watches’, since ‘wristwatch’ still sounded effeminate to male customers.
Dietrich died suddenly in 1911. To honor him, Fred and George put their father’s name on the company’s most expensive watches.
In 1917 the Gruen brothers built a new headquarter outside of Cincinnati, Ohio and named it Time Hill. The building was inspired by Medieval guild halls, and became an important symbol. “It has always been our aim,” Fred said, “… to foster those ideals of the ancient guilds, of quality and craftsmanship; to make useful things in a beautiful way, under ideal surroundings. We believe in applying art to industry as exemplified in all of our activities, from building a plant whose style of architecture suggests craftsmanship, to making the watches most beautiful, with greatest accuracy obtainable.”
Wristwatches grew in popularity during the 1920s, but conservative American companies continued to make only pocket watches, while Gruen made both wrist and pocket watches. Wristwatches were still not considered appropriate for formal occasions, so Gruen ads tried to convince men that they needed both a wristwatch and a pocket watch.
In the 1920s and ’30s, rectangular watches were fashionable. Gruen was one of the first companies to design movements specifically for wristwatches; it made rectangular movements for rectangular watches, while most competitors still used small, round movements. Gruen’s movements were larger because they filled the available space, and the watches were sleeker because the case designs didn't need to disguise a round movement. This was carried even further in the famous Gruen Curvex. Curved watches became popular in the 1930s, and Gruen’s Curvex movement curved to fit the watch; Gruen’s watches could be thinner and more curved than competitor’s watches with flat movements inside.
In 1935 Fred Gruen, now 63 years old, became Chairman of the Board and Benjamin S. Katz was brought in as President of the Gruen Watch Company. In 1935, Gruen was about $1.8 million USD (roughly $36 million USD today) in debt; nervous stockholders and investors were behind the change. Fred would retire in 1940, but continued to sit on the board for the rest of his life.
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