Brief History: E. Howard Watch Company

Including Serial Numbers and Production Dates

Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts

December 11, 1858 – 1903

Edward Howard, undoubtedly one of the most respected names in the history of American horology, started the Howard Watch Company after the failure of the Boston Watch Company (1853-1857). His goal was to produce watches of the highest quality using interchangeable machine-made parts. With his financial partner, Charles Rice, Howard moved the tools, machinery and watches “in progress” from the defunct Boston Watch Company to their Roxbury factory in late 1857. During their first year of operation, the machinery was retooled for the production of a new watch of Howard’s design, and the remaining Boston Watch Company movements were completed. These movements were signed “E. Howard & Co.” on the dials and “Howard & Rice” on the movements.

E. Howard & Company

By the summer of 1858, Edward Howard produced the first watch of his own design, a watch that was entirely different from previous watches. The top plate was made in two sections and had six pillars instead of the usual four found in a full-plate watch. This watch also introduced the more accurate quick-train to the American market. Balances were gold or steel at first, and later bi-metallic compensating balances with gold screws were used. Reed’s patented barrel was used on early watches, but by 1868, Howard patented a new steel motor barrel which replaced the Reed’s barrels in Howard watches. Howard also introduced the first stem-winding watch in 1868, and was probably the first to market such a watch in the USA. The manufacture of key-wind movements was discontinued altogether by 1878. Howard was first to use the Reed patented micrometer regulator, and was the first to offer watches adjusted to six positions.

E. Howard Watch Sizes

Sizes of Howard watches were designated using the Dennison system of measurement (see table below). By 1869, Howard had progressed from the “N” size movements (approximately 18-size) to the smaller “L” size movements (approximately 16-size). Howard dials were always made of hard enamel, and bore the name ” E. Howard & Co., Boston.”

Edward Howard retired in 1882, but his company continued to sell watch movements in grades and styles established by Howard until 1903. In 1902, the company transferred all rights to the “Edward Howard” brand name to the Keystone Watch Case Company (see below). Keystone manufactured a line of watches signed “E. Howard Watch Co., Boston, U.S.A.” on the movement.

 

If You Own a Modern, Battery-Powered “E. Howard” Watch:

If you have a modern, battery-powered “E. Howard” watch, your watch was definitely NOT made by the original E. Howard watch company. To the best of our knowledge, the Howard brand name is currently owned by Lacrosse Technology who sells several models of “radio-controlled” watch under the Howard name, often sold through ads in magazines. We’re sorry that we can’t help with your modern “Howard” watch, which was neither made nor sold by the original Howard Watch Company. The Lacrosse Service Department can be reached at 800-346-9544.

 

E. Howard Serial Numbers and Dates

 

Year S/N
1858 2000
1859 2500
1860 3000
1861 30,000
1862 35,000
1863 40,000
1864 45,000
1865 50,000
1866 55,000
1867 60,000
1868 65,000
1869 70,000
1870 73,000
1871 77,000
1872 100,000
1873 130,000
Year S/N
1874 175,000
1875 200,000
1876 220,000
1877 240,000
1878 260,000
1879 280,000
1880 300,000
1881 325,000
1882 350,000
1883 374,000
1884 400,000
1885 430,000
1886 475,000
1887 500,000
1888 530,000
1889 570,000
Year S/N
1890 600,000
1891 620,000
1892 640,000
1893 660,000
1894 680,000
1895 700,000
1896 725,000
1897 750,000
1898 775,000
1899 800,000
1900 812,000
1901 825,000
1902 840,000
1903 854,000

 

IMPORTANT:

Be sure to use the serial number on the movement (the works) of the watch. Do not use the serial number from the case.

E. Howard Watch Sizes
Howard Letter Inches
A 1
B 1 1/16
C 1 2/16
D 1 3/16
E 1 4/16
F 1 5/16
G 1 6/16
H 1 7/16
I 1 8/16
J 1 9/16
K 1 10/16
L 1 11/16
N 1 13/16

E. Howard Watch Company (Keystone)

Waltham, Mass.

1902-1930

The Howard name was purchased by the Keystone Watch Case Company in 1902. There were no patent rights transferred, just the Howard name. The watches of the Keystone era are typically marked “E. Howard Watch Co. Boston U.S.A.” and were sold as complete watches only i.e. they were cased and timed at the factory. These watches, dubbed “Keystone-Howards” by collectors, are not as highly prized by collectors as the original E. Howard watches, though many were fine watches in their own right.

Keystone-Howard watches should not be confused with the Keystone Standard Watch Company which operated in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from 1886 to 1891 when it was sold to the Hamilton Watch Company.

Keystone-Howard (1902 – 1930)

Keystone-Howard Serial Numbers and Dates

Year S/N
1902 850,000
1903 900,000
1909 980,000
1912 1,100,000
1915 1,285,000
1917 1,340,000
1921 1,400,000
1930 1,500,000

 

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