Elgin National Watch Company Observatory

The Elgin National Watch Company Observatory is a historic building in Elgin, in the U.S. state of Illinois. It was built in 1910 to serve the Elgin National Watch Company two blocks to the west. The two-story observatory provided data on time that was scientifically accurate to a tenth of a second. Manufacturers could then produce a more accurate watch. The observatory was an important part of the company's legacy, and they even changed their motto to reflect this. By 1950, the Elgin National Watch Company could no longer compete with wristwatch companies. The observatory was donated to a local school district and became known as the School District U-46 Planetarium/Observatory. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.HistoryElgin was first settled in 1834. In 1850, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad connected to the city, bolstering the economy. Fourteen years later, two employees at the American Watch Company decided to build their own watch factory with Chicago watchmaker John C. Adams. The National Watch Company was incorporated on August 18, 1864 with $100,000 in capital. Former Chicago mayor Benjamin Wright Raymond suggested Elgin as a location for the factory. The first watch model, named after Raymond, first reached retailers on April 1, 1867. Watches were a burgeoning industry, as the American industrial age demanded efficient timing. The watches were an instant success, and became so synonymous with its hometown that the company re-branded itself the Elgin National Watch Company in 1874. By 1907, the company sold over 600,000 watches—almost one-third of the market share—and employed 3,200 people.


312 Watch St
Elgin, IL


(312) 928-2478


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