History of The Watch Factory
Until the mid 19th century, watch making was a cottage industry with watch parts being manufactured at different locations and then assembled together by hand. The process was imprecise, time consuming, and resulted in a product that was unaffordable for a majority of people. The Waltham Watch Company began its operations at the site in 1854 and, through innovation, introduced a system of interchangeable parts. The Company developed machinery that could make watch parts so precisely that they were interchangeable with one another. This innovation served to catapult productivity and place the Waltham Watch Company on the international forefront as the first company to mass produce a complete watch under one roof. This mass production led to relatively affordable prices and the accessibility of watches for a broader population. The Waltham Watch Company thus served to expand America and the World’s time consciousness.
The Property functioned as a watch factory until the 1950s. The First Republic Corporation of America purchased the Property in 1961 as a multi-tenanted light manufacturing and warehousing facility. Panametrics, a manufacturer of precision instruments, grew to become the largest tenant and occupied 75% of the complex before being acquired and relocated by General Electric in 2004. Since then, the Property has remained mostly vacant.
The complex was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The monumental character and historic significance of the Watch Factory is such that it adorns the seal of the City of Waltham.