American "Best of the Best"

Thread: American "Best of the Best"

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  1. #1
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    American "Best of the Best"

    As watch collectors, we often look for superlatives, and I realize that this will always be a topic open to debate.

    So, with that in mind, I'm curious to know what folks around here consider to be the "best of the best" among American makers. I'm not going to define any specific metrics, but rather I'd like to see the respondents define those and defend their answers. I'm also not going to restrict this to any particular time period, as the different companies hit their strides at different points in their history.

    So, in that spirit, I'll kick things off with a couple of entrants sorted by company:

    Howard- "Edward Howard"-a high grade freesprung watch, sold on application and in a matching numbered gold case. Probably the highest grade made in America

    Waltham-this isn't so straight forward, but any "American Watch Company" grade product would be the top. My strong preference is for the 1872 model, which at the time was the best made in America. There's also the Riverside Maximus and Premier Maximus.

    Elgin-The 21j Convertible model was contemporary to the 1872 American grade model, and probably just as well finished(although my preference is still for the Waltham)

    United States Watch Company of Marion, NJ-the "United States Watch Company" grade, which sold for $450 in some configurations in the 1870s

    Illinois-Illinois never really made super high grade watches, but the Sangamo Special was their top 16 size grade. I was very impressed with the escapement finish on my Model 9 Sangamo Special.

    Hamilton-The 950B, for the combination of a highly finished, fully interchangeable 23j movement with the best quality Elinvar Extra hairspring.

    So, what are your all's choices?

  2. #2
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    Interesting. I tend to have a sharp turn from normal sort of mind and when I think of America's Best what comes to mind is the best of the American watch industry. And I don't consider any of the above companies 'best'.

    Only one American company has dominated the US watch market for almost a century - outselling all its competition combined. Only one American company still survives and flourishes: Ingersoll/Timex.

    Now finding their best watch, well, I'll go for some of the early electrics: innovative and durable and a good use of plastic
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  3. #3
    Member radger's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    We don't see many high grade U.S watches in the UK so I can't really give an informed opinion but
    I do like the look of the Howard watches from pics I've seen. The Howard with freesprung balance
    sounds like a cracker though and I wouldn't be surprised if that watch is the best that the US ever made.

    I have a part Waltham relic with "American Watch Co" on the dial but the quality is rather pedestrian.

    https://forums.watchuseek.com/f11/wal...ns-548360.html

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  5. #4
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    I am not sure which is the Americal "Best of the Best" but I am definitely sure it's not Ingersoll/Timex. While pedestrian watches have their place, their success over time reflects not their quality but rather the simple fact that in any society, there are always a hell of a lot more people with little cash than those with a hell of a lot of cash, that everyone still needs or at least wants a watch and that quality has its price! Therefore, cheap mass producers always have a better position in the market as long as they stay cheap and good enough. Heck, if Ebauches Bettlach had not stuck to pin levers in the early seventies but instead had quickly switched to cheap quartz movements, they would not have gone out of business within months.

    Hartmut Richter

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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    Quote Originally Posted by radger View Post
    I have a part Waltham relic with "American Watch Co" on the dial but the quality is rather pedestrian.

    https://forums.watchuseek.com/f11/wal...ns-548360.html
    Maybe I should have explained the "American Watch Company" grade a little bit better. For quite a while, "American Watch Company" was the corporate name of the large watch company located in Waltham. Most of the watches made by the company in this time period were fitted with dials signed "American Watch Company."

    The "American Watch Company" grade, however, is distinct in that the name "American Watch Company" is fully spelled out on the movement. At least among large size watches, this grade was only made in the 1859, 1860, 1868, 1872, 1888, and 1899 models.

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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    how about the illionois bunn special ?!

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    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    Quote Originally Posted by fireal View Post
    how about the illionois bunn special ?!
    The Bunn Special was the highest grade 18 size made.

    In 16 size, however, it was only the top grade in later years. The top grades were, at various times(and in roughly sequential order), the 179, 189, Diamond Ruby & Sapphire, and then the Sangamo Special.

    It's my opinion that any of these are a higher grade watch than the Bunn Special.

    No Illinois watch, however, was in the same category as the Edward Howard or American Watch Company grade.

  9. #8
    Member Eeeb's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    Did Ebauches Bettlach ever out sell ALL of its competition COMBINED??

    Does anyone think of Pierce Arrow, Marmon, Tucker or Cord when they talk of the best American automobile companies?

    Timex deserves more respect is my point... and a number of their early electrics were quite non-pedestrian, movement-wise at least.

    Of course the Swiss watch industry would be darn near dead if it were not for Swatch Watch... another fact WISes like to overlook. But I don't mean to spoil the fun, just add another flavor!
    "Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

    "The watch has to be surrounded by a history.
    You need more than just a great design. You need to create an atmosphere around the product.
    Who is the company behind it? Why are they using this material?
    People need to be able to identify the watch with themselves. It's based on emotion." - Ralph Furter

    ...that's just my opinion and I've been wrong before and will be again and might be now!

  10. #9
    Member radger's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    So we have two candidates for the best of the best American watch so far...

    1.The Iillionois Bunn special.
    2. Early Timex electric.

    I'm going to nominate this watch by Charles Fasoldt of Albany, N.Y.
    This watch is not mine, it was sold in auction in 2010 and I lifted the pics
    and info from the net. He must have sold a few of these as there is a patent
    on the coaxial chronometer escapement so it's definately inovative.
    To me, at least, it should win hands down for its downright beauty.

    I bet this watch is a superb timekeper having the coaxial double wheel chronometer
    escapement....show me a better American watch than this, I'm not a U.S collector
    but this one has to better than a Timex.




  11. #10
    Vintage & NAWCC Forum moderator Ben_hutcherson's Avatar
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    Re: American "Best of the Best"

    The Fasoldt is certainly a worthy choice, and one about which I'd completely forgotten. While I'll still stand by either the Edward Howard or the '72 American as being the highest grade(IMO), the Fasoldt does win a lot of points for its ingenuity and uniqueness.

    For further reading on Fasoldt, here is a write-up and a few pictures from Jon Hanson's collection

    http://www.americanhorologe.com/Fasoldt/Fasoldt.aspx

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