Brief History: Ingersoll Watch Company
Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates
New York, New York
1892 - 1922
Ingersoll: The Watch that Made the Dollar Famous
In about 1880, Robert Hawley Ingersoll and his brother Charles Henry, operating in New York as a mail-order business, recognized the need for an inexpensive watch that nearly anyone could afford, to be sold for around one dollar. Both the New Haven Clock Company and the Waterbury Clock company had already produced inexpensive "clock-watches" that could meet the need that Ingersoll anticipated, but they had achieved neither mass-market success nor widespread distribution. In 1892, Ingersoll placed an initial order for 10,000 watches from the Waterbury Clock Company, at a cost of 85-cents apiece, to be offered in their 1892 Ingersoll mail-order catalog at a price of $1. The Ingersoll clock-watch was also offered at the 1892 Columbian Exposition for $1.50, where it is estimated they sold 85,000 watches! The positive response prompted Ingersoll to return to Chicago for the World's Fair in 1893, where a new clock-watch with the World's Fair emblem stamped into the case was a huge success.
Manufacturing was carried out by contract with the Waterbury Clock Company and at two new factories owned by Ingersoll at Waterbury and Trenton, New Jersey. The Ingersoll company is credited with perfecting an efficient system of distribution which included uniform pricing at all retail outlets. By 1899, their production was 8000 watches per day, and in 1901 Ingersoll advertised that their watches were sold for $1 by 10,000 dealers across the USA and Canada. Their advertising slogan was "The Watch that Made the Dollar Famous."
Ingersoll purchased the Trenton Watch Company in 1908 and the New England Watch Company in 1914. In 1917, the company introduced the "Reliance," a higher-grade jeweled watch. In 1919, Ingersoll pioneered another innovation with the introduction of the "Radiolite" with luminous radium dial.
Ingersoll declared bankruptcy in 1921 during the post WWI recession. They were purchased by the Waterbury Watch Company in 1922 for $1.5M. In 1942, Waterbury was acquired by U.S. Time Corp, which continued to use the Ingersoll name.
To learn more about this interesting chapter in American Horology, be sure to read our article on Dollar Watches.
Ingersoll Watch Repair
Only the higher grade, jeweled Ingersoll watches, like the "Reliance," are really considered to be worth the cost of repair. The lower grade Ingersoll "Dollar Watches," while an interesting piece of American history, are generally not worth the cost of repair and restoration unless the watch holds significant sentimental value. We do not repair Ingersoll "dollar watches", but will consider accepting higher-grade Ingersoll watches for repair.
Ingersoll Watch Company
Ingersoll Serial Numbers and Production Dates
Total Production: Approx. 96 Million Watches
Note that this table should only be used to date non-jeweled Ingersoll "Dollar" watches. Higher-grade Ingersoll watches with jeweled-lever movements used their own serial number sequences.
Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the watch case.
Can’t find your serial number in the table? Click here for an explanation and example of how to use our serial number tables.
Need help finding the serial number on your watch? Click here for instructions on how to identify and open most common case types.