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?