Brief History: Columbus Watch Company

Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Columbus, Ohio

1874 - 1903

The Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company

The Columbus Watch Company. The small building at the rear (with the chimney)

housed the company's steam engine, which supplied power to the rest of the

factory via an elaborate system of belts and pulleys. A portion of the front building

is still standing.

The Columbus Watch Company was founded by Dietrich Gruen on December 22, 1874 in Columbus, Ohio. Gruen would later become founder of the Gruen Watch Company with his son Frederick. At first, the company finished movements imported from Switzerland, made primarily by Leo Asbey.

In 1882, the company attracted a number of new investors, and moved to a newly-built factory on Thurman Street, in the "German Village" section of Columbus. It was here that the company began to manufacture movements locally under the leadership of Gruen and W. J. Savage. Savage was the elder son of William M. Savage, one of Columbus' most prominent businessmen. The younger Savage sold his share in his father's wholesale jewelry business in order to raise investment capital for the Columbus Watch Company.

Columbus 18-size movementThe company's new movements were made primarily in 18-size, but Columbus also pioneered the development of the smaller and thinner 16-size movement. All told, Columbus produced 18s, 16s, 6s and 4s movements during their years of production.

In 1894, the company went into receivership and operated with new management. From 1894 until 1903, the company produced watches under the names Columbus Watch Company and New Columbus Watch Company. The "new" company produced primarily named grades such as the "Time King" and "Columbus King," "Railway King," "North Star" and "Champion." These new higher grade watches were issued with a special block of serial numbers, starting at 500,001 as shown below. Several models with 25 jewels were produced.

In 1903, the Columbus Watch Company was sold to the Studebakers and became the newly formed South Bend Watch Company. All machinery, production material, unfinished movements and most of the company's 150 employees moved to South Bend, Indiana to help in the establishment of the new company. South Bend finished many of the Columbus-signed movements in their early years, and examples of Columbus watches with dials made in the South Bend style may be found.


Columbus Watch Company

Columbus Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Total Production: Approx. 380,000 Watches

Year S/N
1874 1
1875 1000
1876 3000
1877 6000
1878 9000
1879 12,000
1880 15,000
1881 18,000
1882 21,000
1883 25,000
Year S/N
1884 30,000
1885 40,000
1886 53,000
1887 75,000
1888 97,000
1889 119,000
1890 141,000
1891 163,000
1892 185,000
1893 207,000
Year S/N
1894 229,000
1895 251,000
1896 273,000
1897 295,000
1898 317,000
1899 339,000
1900 361,000
1901 383,000
- -
- -

New Columbus Watch Company

Named Grades

Year S/N
1894 500,001
1896 501,500
1898 503,000
1900 504,500
1902 506,000

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.

In recent years, parts for Columbus watches have become very difficult to find. Some repairs are simply no longer possible. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your Columbus watch.