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The Priceless Possession of a Few, A supplement to the Bulletin of the NAWCC, Inc., by Eugene T. Fuller. Published 1974. Although long out-of-print, this is the most detailed early history of Gruen that I have found. The author's focus is directed primarily at pocket watches. The book covers the Gruen 50th anniversary watch (the "Priceless Possession" of the title) in great detail. I keep returning to Mr. Fuller's workthis is not only the most detailed early history, but the only one that is carefully footnoted and which includes a detailed listing of his sources. My original readings of this booklet formed the core of what I know about Gruen during the pocket watch era.
Historical Facts about the Development of the Gruen Watch Makers Guild, by Fred G. Gruen, manuscript dated 1940. One of the most important documents about early Gruen history. Robert D. Gruen and Fred's daughter Margaret left a copy at the NAWCC research library, and it was one of Eugene Fuller's primary sources for The Priceless Possession of a Few. Other than his father, Fred was the most important figure in Gruen history. Many of the dates he gives are inaccurateI would guess that he was writing from memory and that the manuscript was never
carefully edited. He was two years old when his father started making watches and 67 when this manuscript was written, five years before his death. He makes some interesting comments about working in a dark, smelly factory lit by gas and oil lamps. The only time this document has been published is in the back of the book Buckeye Horology, now out-of-print.
A Brief History of the Gruen Watch Company, by Robert
Dietrich Gruen. Published by KenRo Printing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana,
1991. This is a briefer history than Fuller's but covers a broader time
span, and is a very enjoyable read. I believe that this is now out-of-print.
The late author was a grandson of Dietrich Gruen, and spent his later
years trying to keep Gruen's history alive.
The Complete History of Watchmaking in America, by Charles S. Crossman. Printed by Adams Brown Company, Exeter, NH, published circa 1888. A series of articles about the various U.S. watch companies, reprinted from the Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review 1885-1887. The Columbus chapter is the earliest and most detailed history of the early Columbus Watch Company that I've found. It begins, "The company is an outgrowth of the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company, which was started in 1876 as a private enterprise, and consisted of Mr. D. Gruen and Mr. W. J. Savage, under the firm name of Gruen and Savage." This is the only source I've seen that includes "Manufacturing" in the original company name. The chapter ends, "The company is still in its infancy and has yet to make the greater part of its history, but so much as has been accomplished reflects credit upon those having the management of the company's affairs in their hands." This chapter was reprinted in the February 1888 Jewelers' Circular. My thanks to Sharon at the NAWCC Research Library for finding this book and article.
1922 Yearbook of the National Retail Jewelers' Association, compiled by Edw. H. Hufnagel and A.W. Anderson. Fred
Gruen's article, "The Watch Import Situation," contains information not only about the title subject, but a few clues about what was going on in 1922 at the newly-built Precision Factory.
The Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review, various issues. A number of small articles and notices about the Columbus Watch Company and D. Gruen and Son appeared during the 1880s and 1890s.
A Tribute to Business Character, by Elwood E. Rice. Published by Rice Leaders of the World Association, 1930. This small, very beautifully printed book commemorates an award given to Fred and George Gruen at the Cincinnati Club, to honor them for their "business character." To belong to the Rice Leaders of the World, a business had to be financially secure and must have conducted all of its affairs in an ethical manner. Among the companies certified by Rice, Gruen was singled out for this special award (the first of its kind) on the 10th anniversary of their acceptance into the orgianization. The book contains speeches by Dr. Rice, Fred Gruen and George Gruen. Fred's comments elsewhere in the site, about his philosophy behind the guild theme, are from his speech here. This volume is in the Rare Books department of the Cincinnati Public Library.
Columbus Illustrated, published by the International Publishing Company, 1889. This old book contains a photo of the Columbus Watch Company and a brief history of the firm up to that time.
The History of the City of Columbus, by Alfred E. Lee, published by Munsell & Company, New York and Chicago, 1892. This 108-year-old book contains biographies and engraved portraits of several prominent Columbus businessmen from the 1890s, including the bearded portrait of Dietrich Gruen shown on the 1867 page. The biography furnished some important details about Dietrich's early life, which I have not seen elsewhere.
Gruen Watches: A Special Collection, by Robert Dietrich Gruen. Published by the American Watchmakers Institute; no publication date. This small booklet contains photos and detailed descriptions of about 30 Gruen watches that Robert Dietrich Gruen donated to the AWI Museum, as well as a condensed company history. The collection covers 70 years and provides an excellent overview of Gruen's pocket watches. This book helped me understand many of Gruen's pocketwatches in a historical context, and provided many extremely valuable tidbits of information. I deeply regret that I was never able to speak or correspond with Mr. Gruen.
NAWCC Bulletins, published by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. Several Gruen
articles have been published; there are probably more that I've missed:
"The Gruen Verithin Pocket Watch," by Jack Goldberg; vol. 38/1 no. 300, February 1996. Mr Goldberg, both in this article and in correspondence, has been very generous with his Gruen knowledge, and has provided some of the photos used in these pages. He has also been compiling statistics on Gruen pocket watch models.
"An Early D. Gruen & Son Minute Repeater or Fishing in Heavy Seas," by Robert B. Lautner, vol. XXIV/5, no. 220, October 1982. This small article reveals that LeCoultre made the early Gruen repeater movements; however, these may have been finished by Assmann.
Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design, by
Edward Faber and Steward Unger. Published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
1996. ISBN 0-7643-0171-3. This book was very useful to help put Gruen
in perspective with its contemporaries, and I like this book very much.
This book contains the only history of the Bulova Accutron that I've
seen. On the negative side, the captions for many of the individual
Gruen watches contain incorrect information, and many of the Gruen watch
names and dates are incorrect.
Complete Price Guide to Watches, by Cooksey Shugart & Richard E. Gilbert. I referred to this book for information on several watch companies, especially Assmann and Columbus, as well as general information about pocket watches. The book incorrectly lists some long, curved Gruens as being Curvex models, and most of the dates given for Gruen watches are wrongsome by 20 years. Since this is the most commonly-used collector's reference book, these errors are unfortunate, but are typical of the misinformation about Gruen that is prevalent. The book correctly places Dietrich Gruen's early work in the Columbus Watch Company section, and starts the Gruen section with 1894.
Columbus is classified as American and Gruen is classified as Swiss, because Gruen movements were manufactured there, although Gruen was, of course, an American company. The Gruen pocket watch listings are very incomplete.
The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches: an Unauthorized History, by James M. Dowling & Jeffery P. Hess. Published by Shiffer Publishing Ltd. 1996; ISBN 0-7643-0011-3. This book provided information about Gruen's relationship with Aegler. I am indebted to both Mr. Dowling and Mr Hess, who corresponded with me on the subject. The authors do a good job of telling the story of the Rolex company as well as giving detailed information about the watches themselvesI've found many other watch books disappointing because they only did one or the other well.
Gruen Master Book Identification and Price Guide, Roy Ehrhardt, editor. Published by Heart of America Press, Kansas City, MO, "limited first edition" 1993. This book is a Xerox reproduction of one of the Gruen Company's scrapbooks, in which they pasted a small photo of each watch case style they produced. Each watch is numbered, but these numbers don't correspond to the Gruen case numbers, and the case numbers (which are engraved inside each caseback) are not listed. In the men's pocket watch and wristwatch sections, the Ehrhardts have made an attempt to make this into a Gruen price guide, replacing the original handwritten annotations with typeset labels. A very few watch model names have been added, but many of these are wrong. Even considering the age of the book, the prices seem completely arbitrary. Since the book doesn't date or name the watches, it is not an identification guideit's just pictures with no information. This book has been very helpful in my research, but I'd find it hard to recommend to the average collector. It does
show the bewildering array of models that Gruen offeredthere are over 1500 men's models, and even more for women. I've been using my copy as a place to record notes about individual watch models.
Wristwatches from Switzerland: Self-Winding Wristwatches,
by Heinz Hampel. Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 1997; ISBN:
0-8874-0609-2. This is an extremely valuable reference book that I would
recommend to any vintage watch collector with an interest in these watches.
It contains a historical overview of the development of the automatic
movement, then lists the calibres manufactured by Swiss companies. Most
listings include photos of a complete watch and movement, then a partially
disassembled movement. The book claims that Gruen was a Swiss company,
and the brief Gruen history is flawed, but I found the coverage of Gruens'
automatics to be very informative. Since Gruen's autos were built at
the Precision Factory in Biel, they are covered in this volume. There
is a companion book by the same author: Automatic Wristwatches: From
Germany, England, France, Japan, Russia and the USA.
A Worthy Company of Watchmakers, published by Gruen, 1918. This is a small hardback book which contains a brief history, a selection of watches available in 1918, and a small section on Gruen movements. Time Hill had just been built the previous year, and there are numerous drawings of the building in the book. It contains the earliest example I've seen of Gruen's official time line, which shows a continuous history back to 1874.
Gruen dealers' catalog. Much more than just a catalog, this large, leather binder was intended both for the jeweler's own use, and to be shown to customers. Originally published in 1929, my copy includes updates for 1931 and 1934. This catalog was an extremely important source of informationit has sections on the Gruen sales organization, sections on company history, a section showing
all the Gruen buildings, and an overview of Gruen's movements. It also contains a wealth of technical information from its era.
Gruen advertising and marketing materials. I've collected hundreds of Gruen ads, ranging from the early teens to the early 1960s, as well as store displays, boxes, postcards, etc. One thing I hope to do is get the correct names for popular Gruen watches back in usemost of these are forgotten, and many of the names seen in collector's books or in common use are wrong.
Patents. The downtown branch of the Cincinnati Public Library has very complete resources for researching patents. On an amusing note, many of the Gruen patents (and only the Gruen patents) in the annual patent almanacs have tiny check marks by themobviously, I'm not the first person to go through these almanacs looking for Gruen information. Because of the age of these volumes, it could have been as long ago as the 1930s that these marks were made.
Newspaper articles. Almost 200 stories about or related to Gruen have run in Cincinnati newspapers during the 20th century; I'm still reading these on microfilm.
The Research Library of the Cincinnati Historical Society. The collection contains some interesting Gruen material, including issues of the company newsletter.
NAWCC Research Library. Especially interesting are Robert D. Gruen's donation of a packet of assorted Gruen material and notes.
I have also collected or made copies of numerous miscellaneous printed pieces either from or about Gruensometimes even the most mundane bit of information, in combination with something else, can provide a clue. Much more work remains to be done!
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