|Prices from||Vintage pieces only|
|Famous for||Introduced the Curvex wristwatches for men, which used curved movements inside the curved case|
Formerly one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States, the Gruen Watch Company was formed in 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 1935, Gruen introduced the first “Curvex” wristwatches for men. The Curvex is the company’s most famous design. Expanding on the then-current fashion for long, rectangular wristwatch shapes, the Curvex watches were curved to wrap around the wearer’s wrist. The biggest innovation of the design was to place a curved movement inside the curved case, allowing the watch to be thinner and more curved, and allowing the movement to be larger, more durable and more accurate than would have been possible if a smaller, flat movement was used. A year later, Curvex models for women were introduced.
During World War II, the Time Hill factory stopped making watches and instead worked exclusively for the U.S. military, manufacturing gauges and instruments for aircraft, ships and submarines. The company also made precision gauges used for delicate surgical instruments and for radios and other electronic equipment. During WWII, some watches were still manufactured at the Precision Factory in Switzerland and imported.
It was during and shortly after WWII that many American watch companies began to lose market share to Swiss imports. Many American watch companies began to move manufacturing to Switzerland in the 1940s and 1950s, while Gruen, who had always manufactured watch movements in Germany or Switzerland, launched the ’21’ series of wristwatches (named for their 21-jewel movements) which were entirely made in the United States.
The Gruen family sold their interest in the company in 1953, and the firm was broken up and sold in 1958. The watch manufacturing business was moved to New York under new ownership, and manufacturing was done exclusively in Switzerland.
Did You Know?
In its early years, Gruen only sold pocket watches, as at the time men considered wrist watches too feminine! While a variety of factors helped shift consumer tastes, Gruen did more than perhaps any other watch company to make the wristwatch popular.