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I got this Gruen today and hoped someone might be able to help I.D. it with a model name as I couldn't find it in my books. The marking in the case back is 335-900 and the mov't is a 335-R signed from Cincinnati. The case is 14K white gold.The diamond dial is in choice condition.
The thick crystal that was on it took all the abuse as the case never got a nick. My guess is early 50's but I really don't know.
So, these Cincinnati signed mov'ts were made in the U.S.?
I'd be grateful for any thoughts or comments.
a pic of the back
The 335 caliber 21 jewel (and the very rare 3351 with 23 jewels) were manufactured in Cincinnati (actually in the suburb of Norwood) beginning in 1948, and running through at least 1955. Gruen produced at least four different movements there, and I have documents indicating that they were planning much greater things, before they were waylaid by the death of Fred Gruen, a big scandal, lousy management and some incredibly poor decisions. They were hoping to bring most of their precision grade movement production into the US to avoid the increasingly high tariffs on Swiss movements that were being pushed for by Hamilton, Elgin and Waltham. The irony is that Gruen, which had used Swiss movements almost entirely since their Columbus days, was trying to move production into the US to compete, and ultimately, Hamilton, Elgin and Waltham all resorted to using Swiss movements to stay competitive.
The 335 model wristwatches were produced in three distinct phases. Those with the shield emblem on the dial are the second phase, being produced from roughly 1950 to 1953. Earlier models had a script "21" in enamel under the Gruen name. The last models, which I believe were just used to clean up left-over production, didn't have any special notation on the dial, some being signed "21 jewels" below the center, others having only the traditional Gruen "Veri-Thin" signature. It's interesting to note how much compatibility there is between the 430 series, the 335 series, and the 370 Curvex movements. Most of the train and setting parts are interchangeable, which was obviously an attempt to make production more efficient.
As to the name of these models, I have advertisements showing a 430 series watch with that same bezel being named the "Veri-Thin Elector". Some of the models kept the same name in advertising, regardless of which movement they use, but I've not seen an ad with that particular model and the 335 movement.
In 1949 (the date Gruen claimed as their 75th anniversary), they brought out a series of new watches named "Jubilee" and referred to in factory literature as Jubilee-1, Jubilee-2 and so on. I have price lists, but nothing with pictures. In 1952, they repeated this move with a series known as "Star-1", "Star-2" etc. I believe these were lower cost watches, and I think that the name may have been a tie-in with the adoption of Star Watch Case Co, as their primary casemaker (instead of Wadsworth, who was acquired by Elgin around this time).
Anyway, I think that your watch (I have one identical, just not as nice) is from the Jubilee series, and that it retailed in 1950 for $225. That's the only reference in my price list for a 14K with a 9-diamond dial. If that's not it, it would be close.
Whew...Like everything else with Gruen, answers are rarely simple.
For what it's worth,
You ended with "for what its worth"but I think your insights are valuable indeed!
Is there any census or consensus as to the number of American Gruen wristwatch movements produced in total?
The styling of this watch is pretty great I think , even though its not to my taste particularly. It seems somewhere between late Art Deco and early 50's tail fins.
Gruen and Bulova seem to me to have been following parallel business plans. Both have long watch ancestry that straddled the U.S. and Switzerland. They both decided to venture into U.S. movement manufacturing about the same time too.
Thank you for the excellent history lesson and observations Cary!
p.s.-I just reread your post and "got" the irony in the first paragraph. I can almost hear Darwin chuckling.
|IHC Life Member|
Thanks for the great information regarding the Gruens made in the USA.
About those four Gruen movements made in the U.S. ... , I'd like to know about these so I can be on the lookout for them. I've seen other Gruen movemnts signed Cincinnatti but, at the time, I was unaware any Gruen movements were produced here (U.S.).
Is there a reference you could recommend to learn about this? I've recently gone on a jag of accumulating ser. no. info from my Bulova material. This was spurred by the revelation that Bulova made automatic mov'ts in the U.S.(contrary to published reports that Elgin was the only co. to do so). Bulova actually made a ton of them.
A month ago I would've said that all Gruen mov'ts were imported. I've seen Cin. marked gruen for years and now I know why they're hard to find material for! Is anyone keeping a database of Gruen nos.?
My paradigm is shifting and I want a new source of info!
Gruen's plan was to build high-end, high jewel (nothing less than 21) movements in the US, attempting to compete with both the traditional American producers (who were using their influence with Congress to push for higher tariffs) and the newly popular Swiss makers (particularly Longines, Omega, LeCoultre and Rolex). American consumers were being inundated with new watch choices, and the higher jewel counts became de rigeur for anyone trying to sell in the upper price ranges. Think Lord Elgin, Waltham Premier and Hamilton 770.
As far as I know, the 335, 3351, 642 (a round 11 1/2 ligne 21 jewel 3-adjustment model) and a 21 jewel ladies model were the only ones produced in Cincinnati. I have a 1948 article with details of an ultra-modern production facility that Gruen was building, supposedly to open in 1950. I don't have anything that says that it actually was built. I do know that they went to great expense and effort to import machinery and experts from Switzerland to set up the 335 production line in rented space in Norwood. They had to prove to the Swiss that the exported machinery wouldn't be duplicated and end up undermining the entire Swiss industry. A few years later, most of this machinery was sold off as surplus.
The 335 and the 642 were also made in Switzerland, and they appear to be completely interchangeable with the USA versions. I'm not sure what the "R" designation means on some of the 335s. There is also a sweep-seconds version of the 335 produced in Cincinnati.
Gruen was highly popular at the time, and went from their highest sales ever in 1953 to being effectively out of business as an American manufacturer only 5 years later. Though they hung on for another 15 years or so importing complete watches (including some interesting complications), the classic era of Gruen ends in 1958.
Give me a little while and I'll scrounge up some photos of the 3351 and the 642.
That is amazing info and I will print it and save it (I do better with paper). I am still interested in how/where you learned all this.
I appreciate your comments very much!
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