Railroad Watch Standards

Circa Early 1900s


Prior to 1893 there was no nationwide railroad watch standards. After Webb Ball presented his guidelines for railroad watches, many American watch companies set out to produce pocket watches to meet those standards. Soon most railroads had a list of pocket watch models that were "approved for railroad service".

Below is a general set of common specifications that were widely in place by 1908.

Examples of Standard Requirements:
railroad watch circa 1893
Pocket watches should be:
American made 18 or 16 size

Fitted with 17 or more jewels
Temperature compensated
Adjusted to 5 positions
Lever Set
Timed to +/- 30 sec/week
Fitted with a: Double roller, Patented regulator, Steel escape wheel
Have plain white dial with: Black Arabic numerals, Each minute delineated
Open face
Configured with the winding stem at 12 O'clock

One important regulation pertaining to approved railroad watches was the requirement that they be "inspected" on a regular basis, usually quarterly. Employees were directed to submit their pocket watches to various local inspectors, who would then ascertain that each individual watch conformed to the timing accuracy standards set forth by the railroad.

Because this system was adopted the American watch manufactures produced a far superior watch to those prior to 1893.




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