GRUEN 1960s PRECISION CHRONOGRAPH
Item description: Swiss manufactured post-1958 Gruen Precision Chronograph wristwatch. Polished stainless steel case with silvered starburst style dial with polished silver raised hour battons. Twin chronograph sub-registers. Circular chronograph buttons at the ‘2’ and ‘4’ positions. Reverse with polished screw-on style case-back. The calibre 770R movement with satined steel bridges and with brass wheels. Black lizzard strap with non-branded stainless steel buckle.
Case size: 45mm x 35mm
Condition report: Case in excellent to near mint condition with a near perfect polished and satin finish remaining (free from major scratches or other damage). Original dial with a nice ‘soft’ age patination. The movement clean and in working condition. The timepiece may have been opened, so it should not be used near moisture or water without being checked by a qualified watchmaker.
Background to Gruen: Gruen was one of the most important and prestigious American watch manufacturers founded by a brilliant father-and-son team of horologists, Dietrich and Fred Gruen. Among the first companies to sell wristwatches, the Gruens split their manufacturing between two continents, exporting American technology to Germany and Switzerland, and bringing German and Swiss traditions of craftsmanship to America.
Dietrich was born in Osthofen, Germany, in 1847, and started his watchmaking career at age 15. In 1867 he went to America and settled near Columbus, Ohio. A hard-working young man, Dietrich was awarded his first watchmaking patent at age 27, in 1874. At 29 he co-founded the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company; the successful enterprise was soon building complete watches in its own 300-employee factory buildings.
In 1894, after an economic depression had forced them out of the Columbus Watch Company, Dietrich and Fred formed a new partnership. Fred’s younger brother, George, joined as business manager and treasurer, and the company was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it became the Gruen Watch Company. Initially, Dietrich and Fred designed the watch movements in America and manufactured them in Germany. Later, they would build their own movement factory in Switzerland. Most Gruen watches have Gruen-made Swiss movements and were assembled and adjusted in the U.S. in American-made cases.
Pocket watches in the late 1800s were large and heavy. Throughout his career, Dietrich tried to make his watches smaller, thinner and more comfortable to carry in a vest pocket, without sacrificing reliability or accuracy. The 1904 Gruen VeriThin pocket watch was a major breakthrough; although it had the same major parts as a traditional movement, Dietrich managed to rearrange components to achieve a much thinner watch. From this point on, Gruen specialized in thin, elegant pocket watches.
In the 1920s and ’30s, rectangular watches were fashionable. Gruen was one of the first companies to design movements specifically for wristwatches; it made rectangular movements for rectangular watches, while most competitors still used small, round movements. Gruen’s movements were larger because they filled the available space, and the watches were sleeker because the case designs didn’t need to disguise a round movement. This was carried even further in the famous Gruen Curvex. Curved watches became popular in the 1930s, and Gruen’s Curvex movement curved to fit the watch; Gruen’s watches could be thinner and more curved than competitor’s watches with flat movements inside.
After the success of the Curvex, Gruen launched a series of Veri-Thin wristwatches. Like the Curvex, the Veri-Thin was developed to fill fashionable watch case shapes. In the 1940s, Gruen started building Veri-Thin completely in the U.S., setting up a new factory in the Cincinnati area.
After World War II, the American watch industry began to decline. Fred died in 1945, and his brother George died in 1952. During the 1950s the Gruen Watch Company developed serious problems, went deeply into debt, and eventually was broken up and sold. From 1958, only the Swiss Gruen factory remained, and they continued to manufacture watches under the Gruen name.
Special notes: n/a
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