Brief History: Illinois Watch Company

Including Illinois Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Springfield, Illinois

1869 - 1927

Illinois Watch Factory

Illinois Watch Factory

The Illinois Springfield Watch Company was organized in 1869 primarily through the efforts of J. C. Adams. The first company Directors were J. T. Stuart, W. B. Miller, John Williams, John W. Bunn, George Black and George Passfield.

John Stuart was a Springfield lawyer and former partner of Abraham Lincoln. John Williams was president of the First National bank of Springfield. William B. Miller was a local merchant. John B. Bunn owned a grocery business.

Though the first movements were produced in 1872, the company really didn't achieve full production until 1875. By serial number, the first watch made was the "Stuart" model, followed in order by the "Mason," Bunn," "Miller," and finally the "Currier. The first stem-wind watch was produced in 1875. The early Illinois models were key-wound and key-set and are quite collectible today. Illinois later produced an extensive line of extremely fine and accurate Railroad-grade pocket watches like the "Sangamo Special," "Bunn Special" and "Santa Fe Special" (just to name a few).

Illinois: A Great American Watch Since 1870

Illinois: A Great American Watch Since 1870

In 1879, due to financial difficulties, the company was reorganized and the name changed to the Illinois Springfield Watch Company. By 1885 the company name was changed yet again to the Illinois Watch Company.

Purchased by Hamilton

The Illinois Watch Company was purchased by Hamilton Watch Company in 1927, but continued to produce Illinois watches under Hamilton management until 1932 (the year the last "true" Illinois watch was made). Hamilton continued producing Illinois watches in the Hamilton factory until 1939.

The Illinois Watch Company produced watches under contract for several different brands, including Burlington Watch Company (Chicago, Illinois) which operated primarily as a mail-order business, and Santa Fe Watch Company (Topeka, Kansas). There is some question as to whether Burlington was actually a subsidiary of Illinois. Watches produced under the Burlington name include some very fine (including some railroad grade) watches, which are nearly identical to Illinois movements. Illinois also produced watches for the Plymouth Watch Company (Sears Roebuck) and the Washington Watch Company (Montgomery Ward).

Illinois Watch Case Company

NOTE: The Illinois Watch Company should not be confused with the Illinois Watch Case Company of Elgin, Illinois. The Illinois Watch Case Company was a major manufacture in the city of Elgin, Illinois. It manufactured watch cases under many brands, such as "Elgin Giant," "Elgin Pride," "Tivoli," "Spartan," and "Elgin Commander." The use of the name "Elgin" in their brand names, or marking the cases with "Elgin USA" often leads people to believe that a watch was made by the Elgin National Watch Company when it was actually made by another manufacturer, or to think that a watch no longer has its original case because it is "now in an Elgin case."


Illinois Watch Company

Illinois Watch Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Total Production: Approx. 5.7 Million Watches

Year S/N
1872 5000
1873 20,000
1874 50,000
1875 75,000
1876 100,000
1877 145,000
1878 210,000
1879 250,000
1880 300,000
1881 350,000
1882 400,000
1883 450,000
1884 500,000
1885 550,000
1886 600,000
1887 700,000
1888 800,000
1889 900,000
1890 1,000,000
1891 1,040,000
1892 1,080,000
Year S/N
1893 1,120,000
1894 1,160,000
1895 1,220,000
1896 1,250,000
1897 1,290,000
1898 1,330,000
1899 1,370,000
1900 1,410,000
1901 1,450,000
1902 1,500,000
1903 1,650,000
1904 1,700,000
1905 1,800,000
1906 1,840,000
1907 1,900,000
1908 2,100,000
1909 2,150,000
1910 2,200,000
1911 2,300,000
1912 2,400,000
1913 2,500,000
Year S/N
1914 2,600,000
1915 2,700,000
1916 2,800,000
1917 3,000,000
1918 3,200,000
1919 3,400,000
1920 3,600,000
1921 3,750,000
1922 3,900,000
1923 4,000,000
1924 4,500,000
1925 4,700,000
1926 4,800,000
1927 5,000,000
- Sold to Hamilton -
1928 5,100,000
1929 5,200,000
1931 5,400,000
1934 5,500,000
1948 5,600,000
- -

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.

At Renaissance Watch Repair, we are experts in the repair and restoration of Illinois watches. We are also always looking for Illinois Watches to purchase. Please contact us if you have any questions about the repair of your vintage Illinois watch.