E. HOWARD & CO. WATCH MOVEMENT PRODUCTION FIGURES

BY HAROLD VISSER (AZ) AND CLINT GELLER (PA)

(with the invaluable assistance of Mr. Robert Rolfe)

Last Revised:  6-1-03

Based on the surviving watch movement production records of E. Howard & Company now at the Smithsonian Institution, it has become possible to develop more accurate introduction dates and production totals for most of the movement models produced by that firm between 1858 and 1903. Some of the production records have not survived, including those for the divided plate keywind models, also known as Series I and II; the K size movements; and the 1890 N size (Series IX) movements. The Model 1862-N (heretofore "Series III") records also are incomplete, as the data for S#'s 8,920 through 17,011 are missing. Nevertheless, a sufficient number of highly accurate introduction dates now have become available to establish a new, chronologically based nomenclature for Howard watch models in place of the imprecise "Series" scheme first proposed by Small [1] and later refined and popularized by Hackett [2], Townsend [3], and others. The new scheme is summarized in Table 1, which is an extension of the research begun by Clint Geller in Reference [4], some of which was presented at the NAWCC 2002 Seminar in Boxborough, MA. More precise beginning and end dates, and revised production totals that take into account blocks of serial numbers in the middle of runs that never actually were finished, are provided in Table 2. (It is noted that in Table 1, the lowest, or "first" serial number for each model is given, whereas in Table 2, the earliest completion date for each model is given, which may correspond to slightly different serial numbers than those given in Table 1.)

         Table 1.   Defining Features and Introduction Dates for Howard Watch Models

Date        S-H-T*    Size**     First S#       Layout                   Features

Reed's Barrel Movements - Keywind only

1858           I            N           132              Divided Plate          6 pillars; Plate types A, B, C, & Oa

1858           II          N            1,801           Divided Plate          6 pillars; Plate types D and Ea

1859(?)                   N            1,101           Bar Style                 Side Lever; Helical Hairspring

1862-K                   K            3,001           ¾ Plate                    Partly covered Reed's Barrel; Separate Pallet Bridge

1862-N      III         N            3,301            ¾ Plate                   includes first nickel-plated movements

1863                        I             3,401            ¾ Plate                   Figure-8 Cut-out

Steel Protective Barrel Movements*** - Keywind and Stemwind

1869           V           L           50,001           ¾ Plate                   Hunting Case; Came SW/PS, KW/KS and  SW/LSb

1871c         IV          N          30,001           ¾ Plate                   Hunting Case; KW/KS and SW/PS

1874          VI          G          100,001          ¾ Plate                   Hunting Case; KW/KS and SW/LS, only going barrel production model

1883c        VII          N           200,001         ¾ Plate                   Hunting case; SW/PS only, hereafter

1884        VIII         N           300,001          ¾ Plate                  Open Face

1890c        IX         N           400,001          ¾ Plate                   Gilded, Unadjusted (Hound) grades only

1891          X          J             500,001          ¾ Plate                   Nickel finish only, hereafter

1893-HCc,d VII       N            226,201          ¾ Plate                   HC Ball Model, 17 jewels, Breguet HS

1893-OFc VIII      N            307,401          ¾ Plate                   OF Ball Model, 17 jewels, Breguet HS

1894          VII       N            228,001          Split Platee              17 jewels, Hunting Case, Breguet hairspring

1895-N      VIII     N            309,001          Split Platee              17 jewels, Open Face, Breguet hairspring             

1895-L-HC  XI      L            600,001          Split Platee              17 jewels, Hunting Case, Breguet hairspring

1895-L-OF  XII     L            700,001         Split Platee               17 jewels, Open Face, Breguet hairspring        

*  Howard used his own unique letter sizing system, where A was one inch in diameter.  Movements appeared in sizes G, I, J, K, L and N, which correspond approximately to the standard sizes 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18.

** S-H-T stands for Small, Hackett, Townsend, per References 1, 2, and 3.

*** except for Model 1874, going barrel ladies' watch.

Notes:

a: For an explanation of divided plate types, see Geller, Reference [5]
b: Prescott movements only in this model were lever set.
c: Models 1871, 1883, 1890 and 1893-HC are all N Size, hunting case models. Some or all Model 1871 movements, and all movements of the later models are stemwind. However, their production runs are documented separately in the factory records. The Model 1883 is really just a continuation of the Model 1871 production in a new serial number range, but we will follow Small's and Townsend's lead and designate them as "different" models. Movement S# 49,999 was completed on September 20, 1883, whereas movement S# 200,001 was completed only nine days later on September 29, 1883. The Model 1890 is distinguished from the 1871/1883 model by a small difference in the top plate layout. However, it was made only in gilt, unadjusted ("hound") grade.
d: An additional run of 4 otherwise identical HC movements was finished for export in 1903 with S#'s 250,001 through 250,004, but these did not carry the Ball private label. All Ball model movements were "Grade 9."
e: A "split" plate is distinguished from a "divided" plate in that the divided plate layout consists of a single plate for all the train wheels (i.e., the "train plate") and a separate barrel plate, each of which rests on three pillars. Contrarily, in the split plate layout the plate that carries the barrel arbor also carries the center wheel, and both plates are hogged out, rather than resting on pillars. Upon its introduction, the factory records describe the split plate design as the "New Model," or as "New Style." Split plate movements were nickel, SW/PS with 17 jewels in raised gold settings, Breguet hairspring, Reed's whiplash regulator, and adjusted to isochronism, temperature and 6 positions. These movements generally came with double sunk dials, almost the only Howard movements ever so equipped.

          Table 2.  Production Periods, S#'s and Totals for Howard Watch Models

Model

Start Date/S#a

End Date/S# a

Total Production b

1858-A,B,C,D,E&O

12-10-58/132c

1863/2,999

(2,750c)

1859 (helical)

1859/1,105

1863/3840

(30)

1862-K

1862/3,001c

1862/3,090

(90)

1862-N

12-62/3,301

4-71/26,600

(23,201)

1863  (I Size)

2-63/3,401

9-63/3,802

102

1869 (L Size)

9-69/50,001

3-94/70,300

20,200d

1871 (N Size)

2-71/30,001

9-83/49,999

19,999

1874 (G Size)

1-74/100,001

2-93/105,200

4,650

1883 (N Size HC)

9-83/200,001

8-94/226,800c

26,800c

1884 (N Size OF)

5-84/300,001

3-94/308,600

8,420

1890 (N Size HC)

(1890)/400,001

(1895)/(405,000)

(5,000)

1891  (J Size OF)

(8-6-91)/500,001

(4-18-99)/(501,400)

(1,400)

1893-HC (Ball Mdl) 4-7-93/226,201 4-30-95/226,222e 22e
1893-OF (Ball Mdl) 4-15-93/307,401 5-8-96/308,450 200

1894

11-94/228,001

7-03/230,100

2,080

1895-N

3-95/309,001

8-03/310,000

850f

1895-L-HC

9-95/600,001

11-03/601,150

1,150

1895-L-OF

7-95/700,001

1-04/701,330

1,330

a: The lowest/highest S# is not always the first/last to be finished.
b: Production totals in parentheses have been estimated without benefit of factory records.
c: See Reference [5].
d: The Model 1869 production total has been reduced by 100 movements in order to account, approximately, for the many early movements listed in the records as having been "destroyed," or "spoiled."
e: Does not include the run of four plate "Grade 9" movements beginning at S# 250,001, all finished and damascened like HC Ball movements, with 17 jewels, and Breguet hairsprings, but signed "E. Howard & Co., Boston, U.S.A." See Reference [6].
f: Production total reduced for some S#'s not made.

* Dates and production totals in parentheses are estimates made in the absence of factory records.

Previously thought to have been introduced in 1860 or 1861, the factory records reveal that the first plate N Size (Model 1862-N) production movement, S# 3,301, was finished in December, 1862. Regular batch lot production of this model ended at S# 26,600, although at least one higher S#, 27,580, is known.

All known surviving I size (10 Size) movements bear serial numbers from 3,401 to 3,500, and were finished in the same month, Feb. 1863. However, the records indicate that two additional I Size movements with S#'s 3,801 and 3,802, which may have been duplicated on N Size movements, were finished in September, 1863. This model previously was thought to have been introduced in 1861 or 1862.

The first L (roughly 16) Size movement was finished on September, 1869 and the last recorded L Size movement, S# 70,300, was finished on March 1894, and has been designated the Model 1869. (An L Size movement with a top plate and the pillar plate of a split plate (Series XI) movement, also was finished with S# 800,001 [6], but the surviving factory records make no mention of this.) The N Size Model 1871, which included the first stemwind and pendant set N Size movements, as well as the first solid nickel N Size movements, began with S# 30,001, finished in February, 1871. This model was produced continuously for 23 years with minor evolutionary changes until August, 1894. In September, 1883, after S# 49,999 already had been finished, a new block of serial numbers was assigned to the same model, beginning at 200,001. These later movements have been referred to as "Series VII." In keeping with Small's practice in Reference [1] of designating these movements differently than their earlier brethren, we designate them here as the Model 1883.

It will be a surprise to most that the Ladies' G Size movement, thought to have been introduced roughly cotemporaneously with the N Size Model 1871, actually was introduced in January 1874. Although serial numbers for this model, which begin at S# 100,001, run as high as 105,200 (finished in February, 1893), the total production figure for this model is only about 4,650, because numerous ten-lots never were finished, or were "destroyed." Of the 4,650 G Size movements, only approximately 80, rather than 100, were key wound and set, because one ten-lot never was made, and another may have contained all or some stemwind movements.

The last recorded S# number in the range between 200,001 and 300,000 is that of 17 jewel, Grade 10 split plate movement S# 226,800, finished in August, 1894. The Model 1884 (SER.VIII) open face N Size movement had a total run of 8,420 and was produced from May 1884 through March 1894. The last serial number in this run that is recorded in the factory records is 308,600. Production totals for all the 17-jewel split-plate Models 1894, 1895-N, 1895-L-OF, and 1895-L-HC, have been revised downward compared with previous estimates in the literature [3,7], both because significant blocks of serial numbers within the runs never were made, and because some runs ended earlier than previous information had indicated. The Model 1894, the N Size hunting case split-plate "New Model," as it was listed in the factory records, was made from November 1894 through July of 1903, but its production ended at S# 230,100, rather than S# 231,000 as previously supposed. This earlier termination point, together with the fact that many serial numbers prior to S# 230,100 never were made, leads to a production estimate of approximately 2,080 - nearly a third lower than Townsend's estimate of 3,000 [3] derived from much more limited information. Similarly, the production estimate for the Model 1895-N, an open face version of the of the Model 1894 split plate is revised downward by 150 movements because numerous serial number blocks never were finished. Total Model 1895-N output was only 850 movements, produced from March 1895 through August 1903. Quite a few of the earliest N Size split plate movements are listed in the factory records as "Grade 8," rather than Grade 10, indicating that they were adjusted only to temperature and isochronism, but not positions. However, we speculate that all split plate movements were engraved "Adjusted," whether or not they were adjusted to positions. If not, a sufficient number of Grade 8 movements are listed in the records that some split plate movements without the "Adjusted" marking would be known.

The L Size split-plate Models 1895-L-HC and 1895-L-OF, also were produced in smaller numbers than previously suspected. For instance, the model 1895-L-HC (Series XI) hunting case model had a total production of 1,150 movements, from September 1895 through November 1903, almost 25% fewer than previously published estimates. Similarly, total Model 1895-L-OF (Series XII) production totaled only 1,330 movements, made from July 1895 through January 1904. Previously, the estimated total production of each of these models had been 1,500 [3,7].

Subsequent to the cessation of regular watch movement production in the spring of 1904, a small number of N Size hunting case movements were finished over a sixteen year span from 1904 to 1920. Exactly eight movements were finished in 1904, one more in 1905, another in 1906, four in 1907, one in 1910, and finally at least two and possibly as many as five more movements were finished in 1920. These stragglers all are finished as "Grade 9," a designation otherwise restricted to the limited-production 17-jewel plate Ball Models (which were all fully adjusted and had Breguet overcoil hairsprings). All of these late movements apparently had at least 17 jewels, and at least one had 21 jewels. They apparently were made to order for waiting customers, since each watch was sold on the same day it was finished.  

References:

1. Gerit Nijssen, "The Watches of E. Howard & Co.," transmitting a previously unknown original manuscript written probably in the 1950's by Dr. Percy Livingston Small, with additional information and annotation by Gerit Nijssen, and technical notes by Clint Geller. NAWCC BULLETIN, Vol. 36, No. 292, October 1994, pp. 563-593.

2. F. Earl Hackett, "The Numbering of Howard Watches," in the June 1958 Watchmaker's Journal.

3. Colonel George E. Townsend, E. Howard & Co. Watches, 1858-1903, Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, 1982.

4. Clint B. Geller, "The Development of the E. Howard & Company Three-Quarter Plate Watch Movement: 1862-1875," to be published.

5. Clint B. Geller, "The Origin and Evolution of the E. Howard & Co Divided Plate Keywind Movement," NAWCC BULLETIN Vol. 42, No. 324, pp. 17-45, February 2000.

6. Clint B. Geller, "Some Unusual E. Howard & Company Watches," NAWCC BULLETIN, October 1997.

7. C. Shugart and R. E. Gilbert, Complete Price Guide to Watches, 2003 Edition.