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Three Affordable Vintage Watches From a Historic American Brand


August 9, 2019 Watches By Photo by Watch Steez

While now a relatively obscure name, Gruen was once among a club of notable American watch makers. The company’s history goes back to making pocket watches in late 1800s under the name Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company, founded by a Swiss-trained German immigrant in Ohio. Gruen went on to have success in wristwatches like the Curvex and even share movements with Rolex in its fascinating “doctor’s watches.” At one point, in the 1920s, Gruen was the largest watch company in the United States in terms of total sales.

Like so many watch makers of the time, however, Gruen didn’t survive into the modern era — at least not as an American company, and it ceased to be family-owned after 1953. While manufacturing later moved completely to Switzerland, this wasn’t too a big change for the company since it had always used Swiss and German movements, including those from its own factory in Bienne, Switzerland. The Swiss factory continued operation until 1977 and was later bought by Aegler (now part of Rolex). The three watches below all contain Swiss movements, but they each represent a different decade in the American company’s history, from the ’50s to the ’60s, and finally from the 1980s equipped with a sourced ETA movement.

Gruen Precision Day-Date

What We Like: From the 1960s, this is from the era during which Gruen was no longer based in America or family-owned, but was obviously still making some beautiful examples. There are plenty of Gruen Precision dress watches out there, but this one has a cool alpha-style handset, day and date display, and a range of other aesthetic touches that come together in quite an attractive way. The manually wound movement inside is the Gruen 512CB, and it’s housed in a 34mm gold-plated case.

From the Seller: Mint original condition overall with only light signs of wear; sharp case is completely unpolished with some light patina developing on the gold plating.

Gruen Moon Phase Calendar

What We Like: This Gruen Moon Phase Calendar watch feels relatively modern in some ways, made in the 1980s, but also has some interesting features not often found in today’s watches. First of all, it’s powered by the Swiss ETA 2895 automatic movement, based on the 2892, offering a moon phase at 6 o’clock and a pointer date. Its attractive blue dial and typeset suggests another era, as does the 33mm sizing of its steel case.

From the Seller: In beautiful cosmetic condition and great working order.

Gruen Veri-Thin Precision Guildite

What We Like: With a hand-wound movement from the Gruen factory, this little field-style watch takes us back to the 1950s. However, the movement dates to perhaps earlier, when the brand was family-owned and American. Measuring 32mm wide, the case is a reasonably slim 10mm thick, though perhaps not enough to merit calling it “very thin.” It still has a neat look and offers a way to get some interesting history onto your wrist. (Keep in mind that the dial has been restored.)

From the Seller: Original dial restored and in excellent condition; signed movement in excellent condition.

These 1920s Watches Were Made Especially for Doctors

This is a tale of two watches: the Rolex Prince and its more affordable American counterpart, the Gruen Techni-Quadron. Read the Story

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