One of the most important and prestigious American watch manufacturers was the Gruen Watch Company, founded by a brilliant father-and-son team of horologists, Dietrich and Fred Gruen.Among the first companies to sell wristwatches, the Gruens split their manufacturing between two continents, exporting American technology to Germany and Switzerland, and bringing German and Swiss traditions of craftsmanship to America.Dietrich was born in Osthofen, Germany, in 1847, and started his watchmaking career at age 15.
Later, they would build their own movement factory in Switzerland. Pocket watches in the late 1800s were large and heavy.Most Gruen watches have Gruen-made Swiss movements and were assembled and adjusted in the U. Throughout his career, Dietrich tried to make his watches smaller, thinner and more comfortable to carry in a vest pocket, without sacrificing reliability or accuracy.The 1904 Gruen Veri Thin pocket watch was a major breakthrough; although it had the same major parts as a traditional movement, Dietrich managed to rearrange components to achieve a much thinner watch.To graduate, Fred was given bars of metal from which he had to build working watch movements, designing and manufacturing all the parts.In 1894, after an economic depression had forced them out of the Columbus Watch Company, Dietrich and Fred formed a new partnership.
Fred’s younger brother, George, joined as business manager and treasurer, and the company was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where it became the Gruen Watch Company.Initially, Dietrich and Fred designed the watch movements in America and manufactured them in Germany.A hard-working young man, Dietrich was awarded his first watchmaking patent at age 27, in 1874.At 29 he co-founded the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company; the successful enterprise was soon building complete watches in its own 300-employee factory buildings.Fred, Dietrich’s oldest son, was born in 1872 and followed in his father’s footsteps.In his youth Fred worked in his father’s factory, then was sent to Germany to study watchmaking.