Did Packard Motor Company Make Pocket Watches?

Did Packard Motor Company Make Pocket Watches?

A study into the history of American manufacturing will likely lead you to the doorstep of Packard Motor Car Company. A leader in American automotive manufacturing in the early 1900’s, Packard set the standard for luxury cars in the United States. Studying Packard will inevitably lead to the topic of timepieces as well. 

Packard Motor Car Company, Beginnings

Packard Motor began as a response to a terrible customer experience that its founders had with a competitor‘s car. The year was 1898 and James Ward Packard had just purchased a brand new Winton Motor carriage for $1,000. From August of 1898 to June of 1899, James Ward made multiple complaints to the Winton Motor company and visited the company‘s headquarters on numerous occasions. Allegedly, during one such complaint, the company’s owner Mr. Winton answered James’ concerns with “if you’re so smart, maybe you can build a better machine yourself.” It seems like James responded with “challenge accepted!” 

In 1899, James Ward partnered with his brother, William Doud, in an automotive manufacturing endeavor. Together, with the backing of financier George Lewis Weiss, they founded Packard Motor Car Company and began producing high-quality automobiles. The Packard brothers were no strangers to industry, as they were business owners in the incandescent lamp / electrical business. Their work in the electrical business gave them an advantage on the electrical components in vehicles.  By year 1903, Packard Motor had finished production of 400 total cars. 

The Packard brothers started the company in Warren, Ohio, but in 1903 moved to the automotive capital of America - Detroit, Michigan. They led Packard Motor Car Company until they began to ease off the gas in their business endeavors a few years later. In 1909, James resigned as the company’s president but his replacement, James Alvan Macauley, didn’t let Packard Motor miss a beat. Under Macauley’s leadership, Packard became the top luxury automotive designer and producer in the United States. 

Later Years

While the first half of the 1900’s brought 2 world wars and the Great Depression, Packard was able to stay afloat. Its strategy during the Great Depression was to begin selling mid-priced vehicles in addition to their standard luxury line to appeal to a broader customer base. Shortly after the Depression, Packard was one of countless U.S. manufacturers who converted their production processes to make war machines and engines. The company continued to thrive until it attempted to take over fellow American carmaker Studebaker Corporation. After an unsuccessful takeover attempt, Packard made its last car in 1956 and officially closed shortly thereafter in 1958. Recently in 2019, attempts are being made to revive Packard under the name Packard Motors. 

Packard Meets Timepieces

A discussion of Packard - specifically James Ward Packard - would not be complete without discussing his passion for fine timepieces. Packard procured an incredible collection of pocket watches (this was before wristwatches gained popularity) which included pieces most collectors could only dream of seeing, let alone owning. Some noteworthy timepieces in his collection included a Patek Philippe grand complication with a chronograph, minute repeater, perpetual calendar and grande and petite sonnerie. Although it had more complications than most watches today, the watch was from the year 1905! Another top timepiece from Packard’s collection was from about a decade later - a 1916 Patek Philippe with 16 complications.  Patek Philippe was not Packard's only beloved brand but he did have multiple phenomenal pieces from the watchmaker.  The final timepiece he purchased was also a Philippe, which he bought in 1927.  That watch was a 2-sided astronomical masterpiece with a rotating celestial map of 500 gold stars.  Packard unfortunately only used the watch for a year as he passed away in 1928.

Speaking of timepieces, Packard had various pocket watch manufacturers customize watches for Packard Motor Car Company employees at milestone anniversaries.  While these pocket watches are treasured and rare, many of them are still in existence today.

Written by Jordan Roberts, aka "The Watch Writer"


Empire State Library Network (ND). The Packard Company In Brief. Retrieved from https://nyheritage.org/exhibits/packard-family-legacy-innovation-and-philanthropy/packard-company-brief

Packard Motors (2024). Making History Again. Retrieved from https://packardmotors.us/pages/about-us

Cheung, F. (2021). Scholars: James Ward Packard. Retrieved from https://www.blackbird-watchmanual.com/manual/scholars/james-ward-packard/  

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