Amassing vintage watches is a great way to add value to your collection and your overall style. If you happen to be a watch connoisseur, then you know this and have probably begun looking into obscure watch companies that offer high-quality vintage models.
Unfortunately, various vintage watches have gone the way of the dodo. However, they can still be found through a little persistence and patience.
Companies like Elgin, Enicar, and Lemania may not sound familiar to you. But trust us, they sell fabulous pieces.
One of the best vintage watch companies which has since fallen from the public eye is Gruen (now owned by MZ Berger). Though this company may no longer be producing new watches, their classics from the early 20th century remain spectacular.
In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about Gruen watches, as well as take a little peek at a few of the most important Gruen models you can find. Taking the time to research and find that right Gruen watch can add something special to your collection. It can allow many other watch collectors know exactly who you are.
As an immigrant from Germany, Dietrich Gruen began with a humble patent for a safety pinion and grew his company into one of the best watch companies of the early 20th century. In fact, Gruen was once one of the largest watch manufacturers in the United States.
The company went through many name incarnations until it went with Gruen in the early part of the last century. Many things stuck out about this brand, but chief amongst them was the production of their own patented movements in Switzerland. However, though Gruen built its movements in a small factory in Biel, Switzerland, they were an American company which had the rest of their manufacturing process done in Cincinnati.
Much like their first patent, Gruen’s safety pinion helped decrease the chance of marring in the inner movement in the event of a mainspring malfunction. In fact, Gruen helped introduce a lot of new technology to the watch world.
Though Gruen produced watches for both men and women, it seemed to find a more significant following with women. Perhaps it was because of their penchant for introducing new case shapes and overall designs, including the movements themselves.
At times, the movement itself precipitated a new design. Models like the Curvex or the Veri-Thin both came about via a desire to keep pushing the limits of watchmaking including the movement.
Gruen’s innovation and attention to detail ensured its watches’ popularity among wearers throughout the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Unfortunately, the company itself failed to regain momentum during the latter part of the 50s. Though it was purchased by other companies, none of them were able to keep it afloat. As a result, Gruen’s last factory was closed in 1977, and the company’s remaining watches formed part of collectors’ dreams.
Important Gruen Watches
Though there are many Gruen watches out there, including both wrist types and pocket types, the following are a few models that we think you should have a closer look at.
1. Gruen Curvex 1940’s
Though we centre on the 1940s edition of this amazing watch, it actually finds its origins in the 30s. Trends come and go. But in those decades, men and women loved long rectangular watches that curved with the contour of their wrists. The problem with this design was that the need for a flat movement limited the size of the watch.
Gruen, knowing that they wanted to fix this problem, worked on a solution to move things around in the internal casing. The company eventually came up with a curved movement that allowed them to offer larger models and thinner ones as well. These Gruen watches remained at the height of fashion well into the mid-50s, when the last model was produced.
- This watch features a case crafted in 14K yellow gold and measuring 24mm x 41mm
- Included in this watch is a lens that is crafted in acrylic domed crystal
- This watch has a silver-coloured dial and hands coloured in the same shade
- Powering this watch is a Curvex calibre 440 Gruen manual-winding movement
- This watch includes a strap measuring 16mm
$200 – $1300
2. 1974 Gruen Precision
Known as one of the first James Bond watches, the Gruen Precision is a nice elegant watch with a movement that may not be seen as modern. Nonetheless, it offers an innovative style that is simply spectacular.
This watch gained popularity when it was worn by Sean Connery in the film Dr. No in 1962, though it had been around for many years prior.
There are many varieties of this watch. Though we are centred on the 1974 edition, you can also try your hand with its earlier versions.
- This watch features a gold plated case with the following dimensions: 33.5mm x 41mm x 10mm
- Included also is a leather strap measuring 18mm
- This watch comes with a champagne-coloured dial
- Illuminated baton hands also adorn this watch
- Power reserve of up to 41 hrs. is provided by this watch
- A 510 calibre manual movement powers this watch together with 17 jewels
$300 – $2000
3. Gruen Pan American Pilot 24 Hr. Dial
This watch’s place in history was established firmly on the wrists of the Pan American Airways’ pilots.
In the early 40s, this watch was specifically for aviators. This remained even as the company ceased commercial flights and only flew exclusively for the military.
This watch became a great tool to ensure that pilots arrived on time at their designated locations. Once the war ended, Gruen decided to offer this model to the public as well.
With the launching of this watch to the public, Gruen released more models for both men and women to the market, each with different case designs to enhance its elegance.
- A bezel and back crafted with 10K gold bezel adorns this watch
- This watch comes with a stainless-steel case that is gold-plated and measures 33mm x 36mm
- This model’s watch face is dual-toned
- Powering this watch is a Gruen calibre manual movement (420SS)
- This watch’s dial comes with a clock in a 24-hour format
- A leather strap is used to secure this watch on the wearer’s wrist
4. Gruen Ristside Drivers Watch
Nowadays, we don’t have to worry about telling time while driving since most vehicles have a clock somewhere on the dashboard. But back in the 30s and 40s, this just wasn’t the case.
Back then, if you wanted to make sure you were on time for that very special date, you needed to check your watch. However, it was a hassle whenever you had to remove your hand from the wheel to check the time. With that in mind, Gruen Watches decided to design a watch whose case could be worn on the side of the wrist.
This model is a little harder to find as it did not have as much success on the market. In fact, only a limited number of models and quantities were made. The initial lot was produced in the late 30s while the next series wasn’t released up until the 50s. Very quickly, this model’s popularity and novelty faded, and it left the world as quickly as it had come.
- Adorning this watch is a gold-filled case which is Curvex-designed and measures 21mm x 41mm
- This watch’s dial is designed in a silver satin shade
- Glass crystal constitute the lens of this Gruen model
- Powering this watch is a Curvex Caliber 440 manual winding movement
- This watch features a strap measuring 7.5-inches
$300 – $ 2000
5. Gruen Veri-Thin
Initially only targeting pocket watches, it wasn’t long before the designers at Gruen realized that a slim design of theirs could be used quite effectively for wristwatches as well.
Looking for a way to stay with the fashion of the day and still give their customers a precision timepiece, Gruen Watches looked for a way to build slimmer watches. When you look at this model however, you might feel confused as to its actual slimness.
With a little inspection, you can see an optical illusion in that the centre of the watch is actually thicker than the sides.
- A leather strap measuring 18mm is included with this particular model
- This watch runs and is powered by a Gruen 410SS calibre manual winding movement
- This watch is distinct as it comes with illuminated watch hands
- This model’s dial is coloured in a shade of silver
- This watch comes in many variations
- Included with this watch is a steel case with the following dimensions: 32mm x 38mm x 10mm
$200 – $1500
6. The Carre
Designed at the height of the Art Deco movement, this small pocket/purse watch exemplifies this revolution with class.
Gruen released The Carre in 1931, and it wasn’t long before it became a big success. Its success didn’t last long however as it was released on the cusp of the Great Depression. Its last advert appeared in 1934. With that, the Carre was gone from popular fashion.
While it was still in circulation, this watch came in many variations with different metal finishes and designs. This was one of those timepieces which you could tailor to your style and allow you to make a statement. It can still do the same for any buyer, just like when it was released.
- This watch is powered by a manual-winding 15-jewel Gruen movement
- This model measures 1.25 inches when closed and 2.5 inches when opened
- This specific watch can act as a pocket/purse watch
- This model’s watch face is available in multiple metal finishings
- This particular timepiece is available in multiple variations
- Sliding side button is added to this model
These are just some of the amazing unique options available when looking for Gruen watches.
Where to Find Gruen Watches
Gruen Watches are no longer in production. Therefore, you won’t be able to find a website built by the company that can make it easier to locate any of the amazing pieces mentioned.
However, you can find many of the models floating around on sites like Amazon. There are also other great sites that provide not only a lot of information but also tips on how to find the right vintage Gruen watch for your collection.
Though these watches may be hard to find, it is not impossible. Besides looking at second-hand sites, you can simply Google the brand and find a wealth of knowledge and options for your perusal.
When thinking of building your collection, often you may ponder about the value of the watches that you amass.
In the case of the watches mentioned and other models from Gruen, what you are looking at is a nostalgia piece. Moreover, these are models that will bring you back into the early 20th century with ease. The unique innovations that are come with other similarly-unique designs make a Gruen watch a high-quality addition to your collection.
Though you can find these watches on the market at very low prices all the way up to a few thousand dollars, remember that the true value of this watch doesn’t lie in its price.
Gruen has brought to the watch world so much class, elegance, and innovation that any budding or seasoned watch collector should know its name by now. So, if you feel in love with the era of old watches and want a piece to showcase that, make sure to check out Gruen watches the next time you find yourself online.
If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to check out 6 Cool Things to Know About IWC Watches.