The Massachusetts city that sold time to the world
I was late. Not too late, I thought, but later than I had allowed to catch a train at London’s St Pancras station, on which I had booked a non-refundable seat to Derby. Adrenalin pulsing, I ran to the gate and saw my train was there. But I couldn’t get on board: the train’s doors had been automatically locked at its scheduled departure time and the gate to the platform was barred.
“I’m only a minute late,” I implored to the guard, to no avail. One minute, give or take several seconds: just when did time become such a precise affair that a minute late is too late?
The answer lies across the Atlantic in the city of Waltham, Massachusetts, where, in the mid-1800s, the Waltham Watch Company not only put the US and its railways on time, it helped put the world on time, too.
答案就在大西洋另一边的城市――马萨诸塞州（Massachusetts）的沃尔瑟姆（Waltham）市内。19世纪中期，沃尔瑟姆钟表公司（Waltham Watch Company）不仅让美国国内铁路以及整个国家的活动准时运行，还让全世界变得准时了。
Though Waltham was a centre for several industrial and technological trailblazers C from the Boston Manufacturing Company’s textiles to the Metz motorcar C the city is known as ‘The Watch City’ and its seal sports the image of the Waltham Watch Company’s factory.
沃尔瑟姆市曾有多家行业领先、技术先进的公司。波士顿制造公司（Boston Manufacturing Company）的纺织厂以及摩托生产商梅（Metz）均位于沃尔瑟姆，但这座城市还是以“钟表之城”著称，这也体现在该市印章上的沃尔瑟姆钟表厂图案。
Until the mid-19th Century, watches were made individually using non-uniform parts manufactured in different locations C a process that was imprecise, time-consuming and expensive. As a result, only the wealthy could afford watches, and no two timepieces could be relied on to tell the exact same time. Then one ambitious company set up in Waltham and revolutionised the watch-making industry, using trial, error and ingenuity.
It all began when Aaron Lufkin Dennison, a Boston watchmaker with a keen, inquiring mind, visited the Springfield Armory in south-western Massachusetts. Inspired by the efficiency and precision engineering of armaments manufacture, Dennison set about applying the armory’s methods to watchmaking, adopting similar subdivision of labour and creation of interchangeable parts that could be used in the same watch model, just as they were in the same model of gun.
沃尔瑟姆的钟表制造业，要从有强烈好奇心、爱问问题的波士顿钟表匠丹尼森（Aaron Lufkin Dennison）到访马塞诸塞州南部的春田兵工厂（Springfield Armory）说起。丹尼森看到军备制造行业精准高效，深受启发，开始将军工制造方式应用于钟表制造行业，采用类似军工行业制造同一型号枪支的方法，对同一型号的钟表进行详细分工，制造可替换零部件。
With some wealthy investors convinced, Dennison set up the Boston Watch Company in the Boston suburb of Roxbury, before renaming it the American Watch Company and moving to Waltham in 1854, where its name would eventually settle as the Waltham Watch Company (WWC).
丹尼森说服了几位富有的投资人，随后在波士顿郊区的罗克斯伯里（Roxbury）成立了波士顿钟表公司。公司在1854年搬到了沃尔瑟姆，重新命名为美国钟表公司（American Watch Company），最后更名为沃尔瑟姆钟表公司（Waltham Watch Company (WWC)）并一直沿用下去。
Dennison had created the first American manufacturing company to use assembly line techniques for making timepieces. The resulting mass production reduced the cost of a pocket watch, while the precision engineering excellence resulted in the then-most accurate clocks and watches on the planet, putting everyone on the same time and creating a connected world that has marked similarities to that of the internet revolution. Dennison’s vision was to create accurate time measurement C the correct time, all the time C and he succeeded.
Waltham’s industrial history notably began in the early 1800s with Francis Cabot Lowell’s Boston Manufacturing Company, which literally copied English textile production to cut yet another tie with the old colonial masters and create American cloth.
沃尔瑟姆的工业化历程自19世纪早期罗威尔（Francis Cabot Lowell）的波士顿制造公司开始。该公司实际上复制了整个英国纺织品的生产流程，切断与旧殖民国的联系，并在美国制造布料。
The Francis Cabot Lowell Mill building now comprises artist lofts and senior housing, along with the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation (CRMII). Each May, The Watch City Steampunk Festival celebrates the Victorian steam driven-era, and the museum appropriately joins in. Among the museum’s industrial revolution artefacts, the section devoted to the Waltham Watch Company is a notable and permanent display.
罗威尔工厂（Francis Cabot Lowell Mill）大楼现在是艺术家公寓、老年人居所，以及查尔斯河工业与创新博物馆（Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation，CRMII）。每年五月，钟表城蒸汽朋克节（The Watch City Steampunk Festival）上都会举行维多利亚蒸汽驱动时期的庆祝活动，查尔斯河工业与创新博物馆也会适时加入。在博物馆的工业革命时期文物中，沃尔瑟姆钟表公司的展区则是引人注目且永久展出的。
“We have watches, of course, but also watch parts, tools and some of the very first machines ever made to manufacture watch parts,” said Bob Perry, the CRMII’s executive director. “It was effectively committing to interchangeable parts that was the Waltham Watch Company’s most distinctive innovation, and what made them the most important watch company of the 19th Century,” he added.
Some three-quarters of a mile along the Charles River from the CRMII, the Waltham Watch Company’s original factory on Crescent Street is where this all took place.
Nowadays, the Charles River is a recreational resource, not an industrial one, and its gushing waters still link the Cabot Lowell Mill and the Waltham Watch Company’s factory. I followed the Charles River Walkway from the museum’s main entrance, past the footbridge by the river’s bend where a waterfall impressed in its noisy, natural force, and into the Riverwalk Park where the Charles widens. Across the river from here is the Waltham Watch Company’s handsome factory, which still stands, good as new.
The long, turreted, red-brick building includes an Italianate central bell tower and walls of windows, the latter essential to light the watchmakers’ work benches before electricity. Now also loft apartments and businesses, a chic Italian restaurant anchors one end while at the other is the Waltham Watch Company exhibit, a CRMII satellite installation of instruments, timepieces, advertising posters and photographs of company workers of yore.
Modern-day Waltham is packed tight with homes and businesses, but a diorama of the Cabot Lowell Mill site at the CRMII shows the area in 1825 when only the Boston Manufacturing Company’s factories and newly built workers’ homes sat among farmland. In the 1700s, this bucolic setting encouraged wealthy Bostonians to build magnificent (and now open to the public) country retreats like Gore Place, the Lyman Estate and Stonehurst, the Robert Treat Paine Estate.
当代的沃尔瑟姆与家族、产业紧密联系。查尔斯河工业与创新博物里的罗威尔工厂透视图显示，该地区在1825年仅有波士顿制造公司的工厂以及一些农地间新建的工人住宅。18世纪，当地的田园氛围让富裕的波士顿人开始兴建如戈尔广场（Gore Place）、莱曼庄园（the Lyman Estate）和名为斯通赫斯特（Stonehurst）的潘恩庄园（Robert Treat Paine Estate）等宏伟的（现已对公众开放的）乡间宅邸。
And it was this natural setting that initially brought 19th-Century industry to Waltham: firstly, for that natural drop in the Charles River by the footbridge, which could be used for hydropower. Besides power though, Dennison’s meticulous precision engineering required clean air free of city soot. Such adherence to perfection soon trounced American watch-making competitors such as Elgin Movement, Hamilton and Illinois in both quality and precise time keeping.
“There was nothing like a Waltham watch for precision,” said Amy Green, PhD, CRMII’s resident historian. “The Waltham name, until the 1940s, had more cachet than any other watch. It was the iPhone of its day. Who wouldn’t want a Waltham watch?” she exclaimed.
查尔斯河工业与创新博物馆常驻历史学家格林（Amy Green）博士说："沃尔瑟姆表走时精准，无人能及。" 她解释说："直至20世纪40年代，沃尔瑟姆表比其他品牌的表声望更高。当时的它就是现在的苹果手机。谁不想要一块沃尔瑟姆表呢？"
Oddly, the American Civil War in the 1860s boosted the brand, when an affordable Waltham model became popular with Union troops. “In 1861, a watch movement, named the William Ellery, became known as the ‘soldiers watch’,” Green writes in her Trenches and Timepieces essay. It didn’t hurt that President Abraham Lincoln also owned Waltham watch. After years of trial and error that almost bankrupted the company, watch ownership had crossed socioeconomic demographics.
巧的是，19世纪60年代美国南北战争推动了这个品牌的发展，当时平价型号的沃尔瑟姆表在联军部队中流行起来。“在1861年，一款名为埃勒里（William Ellery）表的机芯非常出名，被人称为‘士兵表’。”格林在她的论文《战壕与时钟》（Trenches and Timepieces）里写到。即使当时林肯总统（President Abraham Lincoln）也有一块沃尔瑟姆表。经历数年的试验以及几乎使公司破产的错误后，不同地域和不同社会经济阶层的人都拥有沃尔瑟姆表了。
Affordable and accurate, the Waltham Watch Company became a world leader in timepiece manufacturing, so superior and successful that, according to Marty Cohen, a horologist and historian who helped create the CRMII’s Waltham Watch Company display, Swiss watchmakers were said to have sent spies to Waltham to glean information on its engineering and production. They failed and began making what have become known as ‘Swiss fakes’, Cohen explained: replicas that looked like a Waltham but didn’t work like one. “They tried to pass them off as Walthams and would even use dials that said ‘Walham’ or something that looked similar,” he said.
“By the 1890s, [the Waltham] was the most precise watch in the world,” Green said. “Every railroad on every line in the US had them to time trains. The level of precision meant greater safety. They remained the industry leader to be trusted.”
But as the industrialised world required ever more ways to synchronise time keeping, the Waltham Watch Company failed to keep up.
“They revolutionised and democratised watch making but remained committed to the fob pocket watch,” Green said. “Fob watches became more affordable, but became unpopular because it took time to take it out of the pocket, and the wristwatch rose.”
It was another war, World War Two, when the factory’s production was dutifully switched to support the military with precision instruments, that eventually proved the final nail in the Waltham Watch Company’s coffin C and, ironically, Swiss watchmakers had the last laugh.
“In the war years, no watches were made by Waltham for civilians,” Cohen said. “It was military watches and navigational instruments; gyros and other precision instruments. So, who supplied civilian watches during World War Two?” he asked. “The Swiss.”
Until the company’s demise in 1957, more than 40 million precision instruments, including watches, clocks, speedometers, compasses and time fuses, were produced at the Waltham factory. And they were produced on machines installed in the mid-1800s.
“After the war was over, the watchmakers at Waltham went to the board of directors and asked them to invest more money,” Cohen said. “The machines were worn; their tools were old. But the board was convinced the company already made the best watches in the world and said no.”
Bankruptcy befell the company; it was sold and operations moved to Switzerland. Still, those parts and instruments made long ago in Waltham remain revered. In 2013, Colorado-based Vortic Watch Company began making wristwatches using antique American pocket watch parts sourced from pawnshops and scrap piles. A Vortic Waltham was inducted into the CRMII's Waltham Watch Company exhibit in 2016.
沃尔瑟姆钟表公司最终破产，该公司被出售后，将生产转移至瑞士。尽管如此，沃尔瑟姆手表长久以来所制作的零部件以及工具还是得到了保留。2013年，科罗拉多州沃尔蒂克钟表公司（Vortic Watch Company）开始使用从当铺以及废料仓中收集的美式古董怀表部件制作手表。2016年，一只由沃尔蒂克制作的沃尔瑟姆手表正式成为查尔斯河工业与创新博物馆的沃尔瑟姆钟表公司展品之一。
“The Waltham Watch Company was one of the first to make pocket watches on a mass scale, but they were less concerned with trends and more interested in making the best,” said Vortic co-founder RT Custer. “The engineering is much better than a lot of the watches made today.”
In an interesting twist, three residents at the Watch Factory Lofts have bought Vortic Waltham watches. “We delivered each to the factory; shipping it back to the place where they were first made and coming full circle,” Custer said. “People don’t need a watch; we have our phones. I think of what we do as turning back time and taking these parts made 100 years ago and making them work again.”
Back on that day at St Pancras, when precision timing seemed a devastating incursion on my plans, the benevolent guard explained that without it the station would be in chaos. He kindly stamped my ticket, allowing me on the next train, with a polite warning: “Just don’t be late for that one.”