The History of Gruen Watches, Continued (Part 2)
Alright, so let’s pick up where we left off last time with the article about the history of Gruen Watches. Overall, the majority of Gruen watches are comprised of Gruen-made Swiss movement component pieces and were put together and had their fine tuning adjustments done in America, in U.S.-produced watch casings. Gruen’s signature and most notable feature of it’s Precision-grade movements is that they have a bare minimum of 17 jewels in them. Gruen time pieces that don’t bear the ‘Precision’ label on them are generally 15 jewel models and are less valued.
Talking to a watch experts, they’ll tell you that gold plating is without question the most inexpensive method of covering a watch casing because it results in the thinnest layer of the precious, coveted metal. In terms of the original Gruen company, it is believed that it did not produce any gold-plated watches at all.
The Gruen watch company was one of the very first to make watch gear movement components that were designed specifically for wristwatch style time pieces. For its square watches, it used square movements in a time when the bulk of its competition was slacking off and cutting corners by simply using small round pieces to accomplish the watch movements. If you repair vintage watches, you’ll notice this a lot in the early wristwatches!
Early in 1949, the Gruen family brought their first entirely U.S.-made line of watches to the world with the 21 jewel model of men’s watches that they called the Gruen 21.
Unfortunately for watch enthusiasts, original family owned and U.S. based Gruen Watch Company officially came to an end in the early 1950s–in 1953 to be precise–but Swiss manufacturing companies kept producing the watches under Gruen’s name until 1976. In that year of 1953 when the company really ended, Gruen’s president Benjamin Katz was forced to go into retirement following a massive scandal. The following year, the company purchased all of his shares and bought him out for a sum of two million US dollars. And as mentioned in the years that followed this, other companies continued selling time pieces under the strong and proven Gruen name, but the true Gruen watch company came to a complete end creatively and in its original business form in 1958.
Today, the Gruen trademark is under the ownership of a company called “MZ Berger” based out of the state of New York in America. This company used to make its watches in China and would sell them in the US through the various sales channels, and today it repairs various brands of old wristwatches. Interestingly enough, sometimes MZ Berger’s phone personnel aren’t clear on the fact that Gruen is one such brand!
Something to keep in mind about Gruen watches today, if you’re a collector of old watches: many of the watch price guides you’ll find on the market list inaccurate watch names and dates for a lot of their listed Gruen watches, so you can’t rely on them as much as you’ll have to on knowing experts: the enthusiasts who have been enjoyed and collected them for years and decades. These are beautiful watches and it’s sad to see their story and legacy fading from memory so quickly, so if you’re interested in learning more Gruen watches, you’re probably going to have to seek out the die hard collectors who have a passion for this once innovative watch company.