Gruen Sons & Company, Cincinnati, Ohio 1898

Gruen Sons & Company, Cincinnati, Ohio 1898

This Cincinnati Watch Company would like to thank and honor The original Cincinnati watch company,

"D. Gruen, Sons & Company", commonly known as "Gruen Watch Company".

Gruen was one of the first precision mechanical watch companies in the United States. From 1874 to 1958 the Gruen family revolutionized the watch industry. Truly, they were partly responsible for making the switch from pocket watches to wrist watches; several times Gruen Watch Company patents changed the watch-making world, including the thinner movements needed to wear a watch on the wrist. 

READ: The most definitive article on the history and evolution of The Gruen Watch Company can be found here, by Paul Schliesser. Most of the data listed below comes from this excellent speech given by Gruen family member. 

From the Pocket to the Wrist

Gruen helped make the wristwatch popular playing an instrumental role in the transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. Wristwatches at the time were considered jewelry for women prior to WW1. The WW1 soldier boys found the function of having your hand's free timekeeping convenient, and life-saving.

Gruen's commitment to making movements thinner helped make the transition to wristwatches possible by making the mechanism small enough to realistically wear on your wrist.

  • Dietrich Gruen Awarded First Patent in 1874
  • Prior to Gruen Dietrich ran The Columbus Watch Company which was located on High St. across the street from the Capitol building in Columbus, Ohio.
  • 1874, the year of Dietrich's first patent, is roughly considered the first year of the Gruen Watch Company. (Paul Schliesser's research.)
  • Gruen teamed up with his son Fred and moved to Cincinnati in 1898 purchasing the Queen City Case Company.
  • The Gruens' designed a watch movement. They took it to Glashütte to have it built. They built it and young Fred Gruen stayed on for a year to teach new American production techniques.

In 1900 Gruen Was Located on Fountain Square in Cincinnati

In 1898 the company was officially relocated from Columbus, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio. Newley formed D. Gruen, Sons & Company. Gruen originally occupying space in the Johnson Building on Fountain Square, the very heart of the city. The busiest, bustliest, loudest, crowdest part of the city at that time. Gruen & Sons, a part of the success of early Cincinnati, posted up and assembled watches in an office building on Fountain Square downtown Cincinnati to start. 

Image courtesy of webmaster Don Prout at

The Johnson Building is the building in front of the tallest building on right. The horologists at Gruen would have looked out their window and seen the grand fountain at Fountain Square, the center of Cincinnati since our inception, and at the turn of the Century, a large busy modern city.

Gruen Watch Cincinnati Location at Fountain Square Before to Time Hill
In 1900 Gruen was located on Fountain Square in Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Literally the center of the city when Cincinnati, Ohio was one of the largest cities in the World at that time. 


Time Hill in Cincinnati 1913

Downtown Cincinnati is in the Ohio River valley. Early industrial production and Cincinnati's lesser-known pork processing factories created a haze and of course a smell that hung in the Ohio River valley. Prosperous individuals & companies that could took the opportunity to rise above the smell and the smoke in the valley by moving up the hills that surround the Ohio River Valley.

((Cincinnati is known as the "City of Flying Pigs" Due to our city's early pork processing history. Sexy, no. But it fed our town & Country in the frozen Winters.))

In 1913 Fred Gruen built his dream workshop guild on a hill overlooking downtown Cincinnati and called it "Time Hill". In need of clean space & a quiet place for the horologists to assemble mechanical Precision timepieces Gruen built his new headquarters after the "Medieval guild halls he had seen in Belgium". Where only the best could even enter. 
Source: Paul Schliesser

 Must See Photos of Gruen's Guild Hall, Time Hill

The photo below is part of an amazing gallery of photos of Time Hill dated 1917 from Gruen Wrist Gruen Wrist Watches .com is a valid effort of documentation of Gruen's illustrious watchmaking history. Please take the time to view the images now. We'll wait right here. ... ... ... Great. Glad you're back worth it yes! 

Thank you Gruen Wrist Watches .com Their Chart of Gruen Movements is amazing and helped me identify Gruen's American Made movement type, number, and year.

Gruen & Sons Watch Company in Cincinnati Ohio USA called Time Hill


Now the home of the Lighthouse Youth Academy, high on a hill overlooking the Ohio River sits the famous Gruen Watch Makers Guild known as "Time Hill". A structure built strategically for expert horologists dedicated to durability and "Precision" watchmaking. Dietrich believed that everything built should be built beautifully. His education in Glashutte, Germany likely inspired their love of design, beauty, art. Something that suited Gruen well with constructing the slim movement women's watch designs. 

Time Hill provided the inner wealth of inspiration for the horologists and jewelers. The grounds consisted of pleasant paths down a hillside to benches with overlooks of downtown; providing a tranquil yet beautiful esthetic for the jewelers working calmly inside. An amazing opportunity for watchmakers who for the first twenty years worked out of offices in the heart of downtown at Fountain Square.

Dietrich Gruen Brought Old-World Watchmaking To Cincinnati, USA

The Gruen Watch Co. was a family business started by Dietrich & Fred Gruen, then George: D. Gruen joined and they officially became the "D. Gruen, Sons & Company"

Fred Gruen was trained in Glashütte, Germany. At the beginning of the formation of D. Gruen and Sons, Dietrich and Fred designed their own watch movement. Fred traveled to Glashütte to have their movement manufactured by Assmann "a respected watch firm at the time, "originally started by Julius Assmann in 1852 with help from Adolf Lange (founder of A. Lange & Söhne)."
- Source:

Part of the deal required that Fred stayed on in Glashütte Germany for one year to educate and train the watchmakers there in American factory engineering and processes.

At that time were old world watchmakers would make each watch part by part until each watch was complete. Interchangeble parts was initiated in Germany by Fred Gruen as that was why he stayed there for a year in trade in part for making their movement. 

Where prior to that a watchmaker in Glashutte would make a whole watch, from al of the parts, every aspect of the watch each part would be different from one to one. 


Where American production of making each part the same allowed for swappable parts and greatly reduced production times. It meant that when a watch needed to be fixed a replacement part can fit in precisely, a new replacement part did not have to be forged. After Gruen, families would make one part, and the watchmaker would then come around to them and pick up the next piece for assembly. 

Did Gruen give assembly line production techniques to A Lange Son in 1890's? It appears so. 

Gruen moved the needle their entire existence. 

Art, Beauty, Function, & Practicality

Dietrich Gruen believed that everything worth doing should be done beautifully. This insistence is a truism of mechanical watches, they do not simply tell time; they are mechanical works of art whose elements enrich the other until the whole mechanism comes alive and has its own personality. Its own flavor.

The Gruen Watch Company: American Made Watch Movements

Gruen Watch Entirely Produced in Cincinnati, Ohio. USA

The 1949 Cincinnati fabricated watch & movement.

Gruen Briefly Manufactured Movements in America 

Below is the Precision Gruen Watch manufactured and assembled in Cincinnati at Time Hill in1950.  The movement in it, the 335, was manufactured in Cincinnati during a short window of time Gruen made an attempt at making movements in Cincinnati, Ohio. USA. 

On the right side of the picture above you see the American-made movement made by the Gruen Watch Company in Cincinnati around 1948-50. They were the 335C and had "Cincinnati, USA" engraved on the movement as seen in the image below..

Movement made in Cincinnati Ohio USA by Gruen Watch Company in 1950


Special Permission from Switzerland to Manufacture in America

After receiving special permission from the Swiss Government to either have the machines needed to make the movement or to replicate the machines, Gruen rented space from the American Playing Card Company in Norwood, Ohio to house the movement-making machines. 

Read More about Gruen American made watch movements and where they manufactured them here.

Gruen Watch Company: "America's Choice Since 1874"

Fred Gruen dealt directly with individual jewelry stores, Like Rich's, in Covington, KY! This was quite different than most watch sales at the time as Gruen sold the watch put together. At the time jewelers would buy the parts and assemble them in-house. Rich's is no longer there pictured in Covington, KY below, but the sign still is!

Game Changers

Gruen Was one of the first companies sell directly to jewelry stores. Again changing the watch industry decade after decade. They set industrial rules still in play today. 



Covington, Kentucky horolgy history, A Gruen wholesaler

The Veri-Thin by Gruen

Making the movement smaller, rectangular and curved Dietrich Gruen was dedicated to making a watch thinner than the pocket watch turned sideways as it was at the time.

He created the "Veri-thin" Movement, a revolutionary movement designed to be half as thin as the bulky watches of the day.

Gruen During WW2

The Gruen Watch Company played a vital role in The War effort by transforming their production lines from watches to instrument panels the Allies needed to fight World War 2. They made sensitive flight instruments and dashboard panels.

Gruen was able to sell the Pan American watch after the war but during the war The Gruen Pan American was an American Airforce issued Pilot watch of WW2 to some degree. How much I do not know. See in the advertisement below that Gruen states "...Naturally government requirements get first call on our production of Gruen Pan American watches... and civilians may not find them at their jewelers today."

We have heard different stories about Gruen watch production during WW2 but believe it was difficult if not impossible for Gruen to source the parts they needed to assemble the watches in Cincinnati due to Germany's submarine Atlantic blockades. It appears Gruen's marketing efforts were in effect to try not to fall out of the mind of the consumer during the time Time Hill was repurposed for the war effort.

Here is a real advertisement for The Pan-American from during the years of America's involvement in WW2.

advertisement in a magazine for Gruen's Pan American Watch



The photo below is from a Government video, one of those old WW2 propaganda-sounding videos in B&W. The video talks about the pilots getting ready to fly, they sync their watches, they show close up on the watches and one of them is this Gruen 24 hour timepiece.
(Update: I never found a Gruen that actually was military issued or purchased at an PO. It makes sense that some actor blog would have one of the few they had to sell to the public. Their marketing team working overtime to keep them relevant in todays watch discussion while not having watches to sell.

Gruen in military instructional video

24 hour time was how the military tells time and many other countries around the World. A Pilots watch will have the 24 hour time while having an emphasis on the seconds, or counting down the seconds. Air pilots and bombers had to keep countdowns precisely to ensure accurate placement of bombs and maintaining flight coordinates. In the film the pilots coordinate their time pieces and each pilot's watch is shown close up.

Ladies Mechanical Watches

Gruen made phenomenal ladies' watches. The perfect fit for a company whose vision it is to make the movement smaller. They succeeded in smaller and curved, and rectangular; Gruen took the round movement of pocket watches and made them thinner, rectangular, and curved. Perfect jewelry.

Here is the Cincinnati Watch Company's Gruen lady's watch.

Gruen ladies watch

Retooling America Watch Industry after WW2
The American Watch Industry, like all American industry, was completed engaged in the efforts during WW2. We know that Gruen was assembling watches in the United States at Time Hill again in 1946 as this is the watch my Grandfather, Marine Tom Stegman, purchased upon returning home. 

It was this Thanksgiving that my Grandfather Tom Stegman's watch was found. Automatic called "Autowind" by Gruen the watch is was water resistant as well. There are no coincidences that the favorite styles of Gruen to emulate, Rick's favorite hands, were on my long gone Grandfather's wrist watch he bought after the war and wore everyday.

I am beyond words elated to have this, The WatchMaker Jordan will definitely be servicing this family heirloom. My Grandfathers were both Marines and survived the entirety of the war. 


1946 Gruen Autowind

The Cincinnati Watch Company is a watch company built on the shoulders of giants. Dietrich, Fred, & George Gruen had a giant impact in the evolution of watch culture and design. We are honored to have a rich horology history in Cincinnati. We are grateful for Paul Schliesser and his incredible documentation of the history of Gruen. As well as - like the work of these historians The Cincinnati Watch Company keeps our watch-making spirit alive in a city that honors design, architecture, makers and function.


The definitive article on the history of Gruen Watch by Paul Schliesser

High Resolution B&W photos of Time hill in Cincinnati.

Finally, to learn more about Gruen and Cincinnati's rich horological history please visit the American Watchmakers Institute Museum at

 The meaning of the building.

Time Hill was built as a GUILD HALL. Many people automatically say the building was built as a Swiss Chelet, but it more more brutal than that. It is a Guild Hall of the North woods. Large sturdy halls were people of the same passion can meet, and only the best could enter, or those allowed in. 

Think of the value of the science, the ability to learn from the masters of your trade, mathematical secrets that with little complications to the movement can track the movements of the sun and moon, day of the week, date,.

Gruen built his Guild on a hill outside of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio in 1913. The hill aside the area he purchased was locally called Goat Hill, or something close, sheep hill? Gruen played off of that and called his Guild Hall "Time Hill". 

Time Hill still stands today, just down the road on East McMillan St next to I-71 and the viaduct over Reading Rd. That's right, East McMillan is a viaduct over Reading Rd. at Time Hill.

Gruen contributed to watch movements, from pocket watches to wrist watches, and from wrist watches to curved wrist watches, Gruen's patents reshaped watch movements making them thinner and potentially smaller. 

Gruen watches were assembled at Time Hill until 1954. 

Currently, the non-profit organization Light House Youth and Family Services is headquartered at Time Hill.



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