Vogue Watches

Cornell Watch Co. Aims To Put A Spotlight On American Watchmaking

If you’re going to revive an old American watch brand, partnering with watchmaker Roland Murphy is as good a place as any to start. The Lancaster, PA-based watchmaker is American watchmaking to many, so when Chicagoan John Warren decided he wanted to relaunch Cornell Watch Company, a 19th-century maker of pocket watches founded in his home city, he decided to reach out to Murphy. high quality replica watches

Paul Cornell founded Cornell Watch Company in 1870, a direct descendant of other great American watchmakers like Newark Watch Company and Boston Watch Company. There’s even a tie-in with IWC, as one of IWC’s co-founders came all the way to Chicago from Schaffhausen to help a struggling Cornell. Sadly, it didn’t work – the combination of the Great Chicago Fire and a financial crisis quickly shuttered Cornell by the mid-1870s. Warren’s fascination with Cornell began when he started collecting old American pocket watches at college in Chicago. He took notice of Cornell’s movements in particular, and the variation he saw in movement structure, jewel count, and even signatures. He became fascinated by Cornell’s history and when he realized the local connection, became determined to bring the name back. high quality replica watches

At first, Warren reached out to Murphy about making a custom watch inspired by Cornell’s old pocket watches just for a few family and friends. He thought he’d use RGM’s customization program to design a watch inspired by the beautiful enamel dials and movements of Cornell’s pocket watches. But after working with Murphy, Warren realized he might have something bigger than a friends-and-family project, and Cornell Watch Company was reborn. The result of the collaboration is the Cornell 1870 C.E., which pays homage to the original Cornell pocket watches. The inspiration starts with the Grand Feu white enamel dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands. The enamel is clean and rich as a fresh Chicago snow. Warren also lent me an antique Cornell pocket watch, and the resemblance is clear, though the 1870 CE obviously features some of the best of RGM’s modern craftsmanship. high quality replica watches

This also includes a new case design from Murphy, made of 316L stainless steel and measuring 39×11.3mm (10mm at case), and 48mm lug-to-lug. The case is nicely constructed, mostly brushed but with polished lug bevels and a polished bezel. The lugs are downturned a bit to make the case more wearable. I’m not saying it wears thick, but if the 1870 CE were a bit thinner, it’d truly stand out as a thin and elegant dress watch. Visible through the sapphire caseback is the 1870 CE’s micro-rotor Schwarz Etienne ASE 200 that’s been additionally hand-finished, tested, and regulated by RGM. It’s a technically solid movement with an 86-hour power reserve, spiral hairspring with flat Philips terminal curve, beating at 3 Hz. I grew up in the Midwest and have called Chicago home for the better part of 10 years now, so I’m an easy mark for Cornell’s story. I’m all too familiar with names like Elgin, Illinois, and Rockford on the dial. I see them in piles stacked taller than an average Invicta at flea markets and garage sales most weekends. Beyond that, these nondescript Main Street USA towns that adorn the dials are actual places to me, not abstract dots strewn amidst cornfield flyover country. Surely, the Swiss feel the same way when they see “Geneva” or “Le Sentier” on a dial – don’t take it for granted! But sentimentality only goes so far in watchmaking. And the 1870 CE is a well-crafted, nicely wearing watch that takes inspiration from these beautiful American pocket watches that are so sadly forgotten by the all-consuming modern “market.” Cornell isn’t the first to look to this era of American watchmaking for inspiration, but to me it’s one of the more successful in updating the aesthetic cues in a way that feels modern and thoughtful. So many other efforts feel clunky, squeezing a pocketwatch-sized idea into a too-small wristwatch. high quality replica watches

For Cornell, the hope is that the 1870 CE project is just the beginning of a larger effort to shine a light on American watchmaking. For example, $500 from each watch sold will go to the Horological Society of New York’s scholarship program to train watchmakers. Warren and I have spoken a few times about Cornell’s broader effort to create and compile a directory of American watchmakers, technicians, and component manufacturers to support existing and potential future American watch companies. From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, the United States made more watches than any country in the world, and many of its processes served as the foundation for the Japanese and Swiss manufacturers that now dominate watchmaking. The point isn’t to bring the States back to a place where it’s mass-producing and competing with the largest producers of watches – that’s not practical or realistic – but to support American watchmaking where it makes sense. This is something I’ve heard other watchmakers say: around the country, there is still a ton of manufacturing and craft expertise that can be applied to watchmaking – but identifying and promoting it can be difficult.

By launching with a Murphy collaboration, Cornell Watch Company has delivered a watch that highlights some of the best of American watchmaking’s past, present, and – hopefully – its bright future.