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Brief History: E. Howard Watch Company
Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts
December 11, 1858 - 1903

Edward Howard, undoubtedly one of the most respected names in the history of American horology, started the Howard Watch Company after the failure of the Boston Watch Company (1853-1857). His goal was to produce watches of the highest quality using interchangeable machine-made parts. E. Howard & CompanyWith his financial partner, Charles Rice, Howard moved the tools, machinery and watches "in progress" from the defunct Boston Watch Company to their Roxbury factory in late 1857. During their first year of operation, the machinery was retooled for the production of a new watch of Howard's design, and the remaining Boston Watch Company movements were completed. These movements were signed "E. Howard & Co." on the dials and "Howard & Rice" on the movements.

By the summer of 1858, Edward Howard produced the first watch of his own design, a watch that was entirely different from previous watches. The top plate was made in two sections and had six pillars instead of the usual four found in a full-plate watch. This watch also introduced the more accurate quick-train to the American market. Balances were gold or steel at first, and later bi-metallic compensating balances with gold screws were used. Reed's patented barrel was used on early watches, but by 1868, Howard patented a new steel motor barrel which replaced the Reed's barrels in Howard watches. Howard also introduced the first stem-winding watch in 1868, and was probably the first to market such a watch in the USA. The manufacture of key-wind movmeents was discontinued altogether by 1878. Howard was first to use the Reed patented micrometer regulator, and was the first to offer watches adjusted to six positions.

Sizes of Howard watches were designated using the Dennison system of measurement (see table below). By 1869, Howard had progressed from the "N" size movements (approximately 18-size) to the smaller "L" size movements (approximately 16-size). Howard dials were always made of hard enamel, and bore the name " E. Howard & Co., Boston."

Edward Howard retired in 1882, but his company continued to sell watch movements in grades and styles established by Howard until 1903. In 1902, the company transferred all rights to the "Edward Howard" brand name to the Keystone Watch Case Company (see below). Keystone manufactured a line of watches signed "E. Howard Watch Co., Boston, U.S.A." on the movement.

Howard Watch Company
Approximate Serial Numbers and Dates

Year
S/N
 
Year
S/N
 
Year
S/N
1858
2000
 
1873
130,000
 
1888
530,000
1859
2500
 
1874
175,000
 
1889
570,000
1860
3000
 
1875
200,000
 
1890
600,000
1861
30,000
 
1876
220,000
 
1891
620,000
1862
35,000
 
1877
240,000
 
1892
640,000
1863
40,000
 
1878
260,000
 
1893
660,000
1864
45,000
 
1879
280,000
 
1894
680,000
1865
50,000
 
1880
300,000
 
1895
700,000
1866
55,000
 
1881
325,000
 
1896
725,000
1867
60,000
 
1882
350,000
 
1897
750,000
1868
65,000
 
1883
374,000
 
1898
775,000
1869
70,000
 
1884
400,000
 
1899
800,000
1870
73,000
 
1885
430,000
 
1900
812,000
1871
77,000
 
1886
475,000
 
1901
825,000
1872
100,000
 
1887
500000
 
1902
840,000
 
 
1903
854,000

Be sure to use the serial number on the movement of the watch itself.
Do not use the serial number from the case.

Dennison Sizes

Howard Letter

Inches

A
1
B
1 1/16
C
1 2/16
D
1 3/16
E
1 4/16
F
1 5/16
G
1 6/16
H
1 7/16
I
1 8/16
J
1 9/16
K
1 10/16
L
1 11/16
N
1 13/16

E. Howard Watch Company (Keystone)
Waltham, Mas.
1902-1930

The Howard name was purchased by the Keystone Watch Case Company in 1902. There were no patent rights transferred, just the Howard name. The watches of the Keystone era are typically marked "E. Howard Watch Co. Boston U.S.A" and were sold as complete watches only i.e. they were cased and timed at the factory. These watches, dubbed "Keystone Howards" by collectors, are not as highly prized by collectors as the original E. Howard watches, though many were fine watches in their own right.

Keystone Howard (1902 - 1930)
Approximate Serial Numbers and Dates

Year
S/N
1902
850,000
1903
900,000
1909
980,000
1912
1,100,000
1915
1,285,000
1917
1,340,000
1921
1,400,000
1930
1,500,000

E. Howard & Co. was famous for high grade watches, regulators, and marine clocks. The E. Howard Watch & Clock Company was formed as a joint stock corporation on December 1, 1881 to succeed an earlier firm of similar name founded by Edward Howard (18131904). Howard, a clock making apprentice of Aaron Willard, Jr. had commenced business with David P. Davis, manufacturing high-grade wall clocks under the name of Howard & Davis in 1842. They also became known for their manufacture of sewing machines, fire engines and precision balances. About 1843, with a third partner, Luther Stephenson, they began to also manufacture tower clocks.

In 1857, David P. Davis left the firm and Howard & Davis was dissolved and was succeeded by E. Howard & Company. Both Howard and Davis had also been involved in watch manufacturing, somewhat unsuccessfully, since 1850, In 1857-8, Edward Howard finished and sold left over "Model 1857" material from the Boston Watch Co. under the name "Howard & Rice." In December 1858, Howard finally bought out Rice's interest and began manufacturing watches of a new design, signed "E. Howard & Co." While the company name changed several times during the firm's watch making history, all watches it made continued to be signed "E. Howard & Co." throughout, with only minor exceptions. The Howard firm established itself as perhaps the premier American manufacturer of luxury watches from 1858 into the 1890s.

On March 24, 1861 the clock and watch businesses were combined into one joint stock corporation, the Howard Clock & Watch Company, which failed in 1863. Thereafter, Howard formed a new company called the Howard Watch & Clock Company (transposing clock & watch) on October 1, 1863, which was successful for some years but was reorganized in 1881 after financial setbacks of a few years previous.

In 1881, Edward Howard sold out his personal interests and retired, leaving the firm to new management. This firm continued the manufacture of many clock styles, primarily weight driven wall timepieces and regulators of fine quality. Only two common wall models, #5 and # 10, were produced as stock items, all others being manufactured by special order.

Regular watch making operations ceased in 1903, when the Howard name in association with watches was sold to the Keystone Watch Case Co. Keystone purchased the defunct US Watch Co. factory building in Waltham Mass. (The US Watch Co. of Waltham is not to be confused with an earlier company of the same name in Marion, NJ.) There Keystone manufactured watches signed "E. Howard Watch Co." These watches were of new designs and unlike those of the original Howard company. Clocks were manufactured at Roxbury, a part of Boston, but in the early 1930s the operation was moved to Waltham, MA. A very small number of pre-existing Howard watches were finished in the Howard clock factory between 1903 and 1927.

A new firm known as Howard Clock Products was formed November 5, 1934 to succeed the earlier firm. Clock production was on the wane, but precision gear cutting business kept the firm profitable, particularly from government contract work. Production of smaller clocks ceased in 1957 or 1958 and the last tower clock was produced in 1964.

However, in 1975, Dana J. Blackwell, as a new Vice President of the firm, revived clock production, reintroducing several of the more popular models to the market. Movements in these later clocks maintained the high standards the Howard firm had become famous for and cases were made to very strict specifications.

Sadly, the older owners of the firm sold the business to a young seemingly successful businessman in August 1977. He eventually fired most of the firm's knowledgeable management and proceeded to drain it financially. By 1980, when the firm was at the verge of bankruptcy, the new manager was caught attempting to burn down the factory building. After a lengthy trial he was convicted, though never served any time in jail.

At the time of the arrest, the Federal Government stepped in and the Howard firm was placed under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. A manager was brought in by the bankruptcy court and after creditors were satisfied, the firm sold the clock making portion of the business to private investors who continue to offer Howard clocks.

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Ball History Benrus History Bulova History Elgin History Gruen History Hampden History Hamilton History Howard History Illinois History IWC History Longines History Rockford History South Bend History Waltham History Wyler History Star Watch Case

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