Watch Case Makers for Two Continents
class="lead_text"> Famous American and Swiss Watchmakers Use
Cases Made In Wadsworth’s Dayton, Ky. Plant
Gold is where you find it, but you don’t have to look very hard or very far to find it within the extensive plant of one of Kentucky’s unique and most substantial industries, The Wadsworth Watch Case Company of Dayton.
The precious yellow metal is, in fact, the stock-in-trade of this nationally known manufacturer of fine watch cases, compacts, cigarette cases, watch bands and kindred products. A visitor to the plant who shares the universal human respect for gold is apt to be surprised, however, at the matter-of-fact way in which glittering bars of the stuff are handled by those who work with it every day in fabricating hundreds of styles, sizes and shapes of the many items Wadsworth manufactures. But it’s all in a day’s work to the highly skilled craftsmen and artisans who do the delicate and intricate jobs required in the numerous operations.
Of particular interest is the great variety of processes through which the many items necessarily go. The visitor is quite likely to walk directly from a department equipped with the most modern mass production machines into one where such an ancient skill as hand engraving is still employed.
Expert designers and fine die-makers work closely together in planning and executing the frequent changes in styling required by the jewelry trade. And there is probably no industry in Kentucky that calls for so many different and complicated-appearing machines, and specialized tools and dies, as Wadsworth.
In the matter of watch cases, for instance, every conceivable type is produced, ranging from the heavy duty model used by the railroad engineer to the smallest wrist watch case for the ladies’ watches. The other articles are just as varied as to size, design and shape.
Watch cases are sold directly to leading watch movement manufacturers and importers. Some cases, especially designed for export, are flown from the Greater Cincinnati Airport in Boone County via air express directly to Geneva, Switzerland, for use by movement manufacturers. Thus, another Kentucky product finds its place in the world markets.
The various articles produced by the company’s jewelry division are sold to leading jewelers and department stores all over the United States, and in Canada. Distribution of these products is made by the Parker Pen Company of Canada. They also export to other British Empire markets.
Since much of the work is done in precious metals, primarily gold, it was necessary early in the firm’s operations to evolve efficient methods to make certain that all cuttings, filings, and polishing dust are recovered, after processing operations, to avoid loss.
In many departments, floors are covered with roofing paper, which is periodically removed and burned in order to recover any stray chips that might have become embedded in it. One wooden work bench, in use for a number of years, was burned, and the gold salvaged from it was found to be worth several hundred dollars.
The dust from all polishing wheels is caught in an elaborate suction system installed throughout a large part of the plant and passes through a huge precipitator in order to recapture any gold that is removed during polishing operations.
The Wadsworth Watch Case Company is a veteran in Northern Kentucky industry. It was founded in 1889 as a partnership between H. A. Wadsworth and his father-in-law, J. H. Stegeman. The partnership was changed to a corporation in 1892, and since that date has borne its present title.
It is interesting to note that the present executives of the company are sons and grandsons of the original founders. It is equally true that the second and third generation of many of the early employees are also listed on the company payroll. This fact, company officials assert, is evidence of, and in no small part accounts for, the fine relationship that has always existed between the man in the office and his partner at the work bench.
Wadsworth has grown steadily through the years. Payroll records of 1900 reveal a total of 261 employees, of whom 96 were hand engravers. Twenty years later the figure had reached the 600 mark, and in 1943 employment rose to a wartime peak of 1,350 persons.
The physical plant also has grown. Additions in 1918 and 1920 more than doubled the floor space. Another expansion was undertaken in 1945 when approximately 30,000 square feet were added by the erection of a new building in the rear of the original group.
At the outset of World War II, the company converted most of its facilities to the production of war materials. During that period its employees achieved the honor and distinction of receiving five separate“E” awards for excellence in production.
Over 100,000 precision military parts were manufactured from 1940 through 1945, and Wadsworth officials are justifiably proud of the firm’s contribution to the war effort.
One of the firm’s officials, Randolph L. Wadsworth, vice-presdient and treasurer, is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
from Kentucky Business, March, 1950