This Cincinnati Watch Company would like to thank and honor The original Cincinnati watch company,
"D. Gruen, Sons & Company", commonly known as "Gruen".
Gruen was one of the first precision mechanical watch companies in the United States. In fact, Gruen trademarked the word "Precision" for use on their watches alone. From 1874 to 1958 Gruen revolutionized the watch industry; several times Gruen patents changed the watch-making world.
READ: The most definitive article on the history and evolution of The Gruen Watch Company can be found here, by Paul Schliesser
Gruen helped make the wristwatch popular playing an instrumental role in the transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. Wristwatches at the time were considered jewelry for women prior to WW1. The WW1 soldier boys found the function of having your hand's free timekeeping convenient, and life-saving.
Gruen's commitment to making movements thinner helped make the transition to wristwatches possible by making the mechanism small enough to realistically wear on your wrist.
Dietrich Gruen Awarded First Patent in 1874
In 1898 the company was officially relocated from Columbus, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio. Newley formed D. Gruen, Sons & Company. Gruen originally occupying space in the Johnson Building on Fountain Square, the very heart of the city. The busiest, bustliest, loudest, crowdest part of the city at that time. Gruen & Sons, a part of the success of early Cincinnati, posted up and assembled watches in an office building on Fountain Square downtown Cincinnati to start.
Image courtesy of webmaster Don Prout at http://www.cincinnativiews.net/fountain_sq_looking_east.htm.
The Johnson Building is the building in front of the tallest building on right. The horologists at Gruen would have looked out their window and seen a busy modern 20th-century city.
Downtown Cincinnati is in the Ohio River valley. Early industrial production and Cincinnati's lesser-known pork processing factories created a haze and of course a smell that hung in the Ohio River valley. Prosperous individuals & companies that could, took the opportunity to rise above the smell and the smoke in the valley by moving up the hills that surround the Ohio River Valley.
((Cincinnati is known as the "City of Flying Pigs" Due to our city's early pork processing history. Sexy, no. But it fed our town & Country in the frozen Winters.))
In 1913 Fred Gruen built his dream workshop guild on a hill overlooking downtown Cincinnati and called it "Time Hill". In need of clean space & a quiet place for the horologists to assemble mechanical Precision timepieces Gruen built his new headquarters after the "Medieval guild halls he had seen in Belgium". Where only the best could even enter. Source: Paul Schliesser http://www.pixelp.com/gruen/1917.html
The photo below is part of an amazing gallery of photos of Time Hill dated 1917 from Gruen Wrist Watches.com. Gruen Wrist Watches .com is a valid effort of documentation of Gruen's illustrious watchmaking history. Thank you Gruen Wrist Watches .com Their Chart of Gruen Movements is amazing and helped me identify Gruen's American Made movement type, number, and year.
Now the home of the Lighthouse Youth Academy, high on a hill overlooking the Ohio River sits the famous Gruen Watch Makers Guild known as "Time Hill". A structure built strategically for expert horologists dedicated to durability and "Precision" watchmaking. Dietrich believed that everything built should be built beautifully. His education in Glashutte, Germany likely inspired their love of design, beauty, art. Something that suited Gruen well with constructing the slim movement women's watch designs.
Time Hill provided the inner wealth of inspiration for the horologists and jewelers. The grounds consisted of pleasant paths down a hillside to benches with overlooks of downtown; providing a tranquil yet beautiful esthetic for the jewelers working calmly inside. An amazing opportunity for watchmakers who for the first twenty years worked out of offices in the heart of downtown at Fountain Square.
The Gruen Watch Co. was a family business started by Dietrich & Fred Gruen, then George: D. Gruen joined and they officially became the "D. Gruen, Sons & Company"
Fred Gruen was trained in Glashütte, Germany. At the beginning of the formation of D. Gruen and Sons, Dietrich and Fred designed their own watch movement. Fred traveled to Glashütte to have their movement manufactured by Assmann in Glashütte (Source: http://www.pixelp.com/gruen/1894.html)
Part of the deal required that Fred stayed on in Glashütte Germany for one year to educate and train the watchmakers there in American factory engineering and processes. At that time the old world watchmakers would essentially make all of the components of a watch in different homes; this resulted in watches where the same part in each watch was slightly different.
Where American production of making each part the same allowed for swappable parts and greatly reduced production times. It meant that when a watch needed to be fixed a replacement part can fit in precisely, a new replacement part did not have to be forged.
Art, Beauty, Function, & Practicality
Dietrich Gruen believed that everything worth doing should be done beautifully. This insistence is a truism of mechanical watches, they do not simply tell time; they are mechanical works of art whose elements enrich the other until the whole mechanism comes alive and has its own personality. Its own flavor.
We are the proud owners of the above Precision Gruen Watch assembled in Cincinnati at Time Hill in 1950. The movement in it, the 335, was built in Cincinnati at the same time in Gruen's short attempt at making movements in Cincinnati, Ohio.
On the right side of the picture above you see the American-made movement made by the Gruen Watch Company in Cincinnati around 1948-50. They were the 335C and had "Cincinnati, USA" engraved on the movement as seen in the image above.
After receiving special permission from the Swiss Government to either have the machines needed to make the movement or to replicate the machines, Gruen rented space from the American Playing Card Company in Norwood, Ohio to house the movement-making machines.
Fred Gruen dealt directly with individual jewelry stores, Like Rich's, in Covington, KY! This was quite different than most watch sales at the time as Gruen sold the watch put together. At the time jewelers would buy the parts and assemble them in-house. Rich's is no longer there pictured in Covington, KY below, but the sign still is!
Making the movement smaller, rectangular and curved Dietrich Gruen was dedicated to making a watch thinner than the pocket watch turned sideways as it was at the time.
He created the "Veri-thin" Movement, a revolutionary movement designed to be half as thin as the bulky watches of the day.
The Gruen Watch Company played a vital role in The War effort by transforming their production lines from watches to instrument panels the Allies needed to fight World War 2. They made sensitive flight instruments and dashboard panels.
Gruen was able to sell the Pan American after the war but during the war The Gruen Pan American was an American Airforce issued Pilot watch of WW2 to some degree. How much I do not know. See in the advertisement below that Gruen states "...Naturally government requirements get first call on our production of Gruen Pan American watches... and civilians may not find them at their jewelers today."
We have heard different stories about Gruen watch production during WW2 but believe it was difficult if not impossible for Gruen to source the parts they needed to assemble the watches in Cincinnati due to German Atlantic blockades. It appears Gruen's marketing efforts were in effect to try not to fall out of the mind of the consumer during the time Time Hill was repurposed for the war effort.
Here is a real advertisement for The Pan-American from during the years of America's involvement in WW2.
The photo below is from a Government video, one of those old WW2 propaganda-sounding videos in B&W. The video talks about the pilots getting ready to fly, they sync their watches, they show close up on the watches and one of them is this Gruen 24 hour timepiece.
24 hour time was how the military tells time and many other countries around the World. A Pilots watch will have the 24 hour time while having an emphasis on the seconds, or counting down the seconds. Air pilots and bombers had to keep countdowns precisely to ensure accurate placement of bombs and maintaining flight coordinates. In the film the pilots coordinate their time pieces and each pilot's watch is shown close up.
Ladies Mechanical Watches
Gruen made phenomenal ladies' watches. The perfect fit for a company whose vision it is to make the movement smaller. They succeeded in smaller and curved, and rectangular; Gruen took the round movement of pocket watches and made them thinner, rectangular, and curved. Perfect jewelry.
Here is the Cincinnati Watch Company's Gruen lady's watch.
The Cincinnati Watch Company is a watch company built on the shoulders of giants. Dietrich, Fred, & George Gruen had a giant impact in the evolution of watch culture and design. We are honored to have a rich horology history in Cincinnati. We are grateful for Paul Schliesser and his incredible documentation of the history of Gruen. As well as Gruenwristwatches.com - like the work of these historians The Cincinnati Watch Company keeps our watch-making spirit alive in a city that honors design, architecture, makers and function.
The definitive article on the history of Gruen Watch by Paul Schliesser
High Resolution B&W photos of Time hill in Cincinnati.
Finally, to learn more about Gruen and Cincinnati's rich horological history please visit the American Watchmakers Institute Museum at https://www.awci.com/