Early Rockford Watch Company Transitional Designs: Stem-Wind & Lever-Set

When the Rockford Watch Company commenced manufacturing in 1876, the prominent American watch companies such as Waltham and Elgin had already introduced innovative stem-wind movements. By the next year, Rockford had adapted their standard 18-Size key-wind movement and was advertising transitional movements in each grade in addition to their essential line of key-wind movements.

Early transitional movements, based on the 18-Size Model 1, featured a rocking-bar winding mechanism and a sliding lever to engage the setting mechanism. The position of this lever was approximately at the :23 mark. Unlike other companies at the time, no patent applications were filed for this innovation.

Rockford #7238, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “B” [Movement]
Rockford #7238, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “B” [Winding/Setting Mechanism]

Interestingly, none of the known Rockford material catalogs even list the relevant parts for this mechanism. The “old style” is always correlated with the later swing-out lever design.

Rockford #7238, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “B” [Dial]
Rockford #10303, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “C” [Movement]
Rockford #10303, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “C” [Winding/Setting Mechanism]
Rockford #10303, 18-Size, Model 1, Transitional, “C” [Dial]

Despite Rockford’s eagerness to catch up to competition, the position of the sliding lever quickly became problematic. As the market moved toward stem-wind and lever-set movements, the watch industry began to standardize the lever location around :26. New cases were being manufactured with lever slot provisions that were incompatible with the Rockford :23 lever location.

As a result, Rockford modified the lever accordingly, humbly acknowledging the looming issues if they continued producing movements that would be difficult to case.

The following Rockford movement (#15243) exhibits how the company began adapting movements to this standard. Beneath the dial, provisions for the sliding lever are still evident and the yoke design is identical. However, a pivoting lever has been added at the standardized lever position.

Rockford #15243, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 11 Jewels [Movement]
Rockford #15243, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 11 Jewels [Winding/Setting Mechanism]
Rockford #15243, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 11 Jewels [Dial]

The Rockford Watch Company had showcased their agility in a changing market, desperately keeping up with the innovations of the larger watch companies. However, further adaptation would be required. Both the slide lever and the pivoting lever were difficult to use, and the industry was moving to swing-out levers that were easier to use.

Yet again, the Rockford Watch Company was forced to adapt to market forces to remain viable in the competitive market. The lever mechanism was redesigned, reforming the yoke to accommodate a new swing-out lever.

Rockford #123757, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 9 Jewels [Movement]
Rockford #123757, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 9 Jewels [Winding/Setting Mechanism]
Rockford #123757, 18-Size, Model 2, Transitional, 9 Jewels [Dial]

This modified design was utilized on the 18-Size Models 2, 3, and 5.

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