Blog: William EhrhardtCopyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved.
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This blog entry is part of my page about British Hallmarks
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William Ehrhardt: Watch Manufacturer
William Ehrhardt (1831-1897) was born in Germany and served an apprenticeship in watchmaking there. He came to England in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition. He worked for a time with Upjohn & Bright watchmakers in London
In 1856 Ehrhardt set up a company in Birmingham to make watches by machinery. This was before John Wycherley set up his factory in 1866 in Prescot, Lancashire, and before Aaron Dennison formed the Anglo-American Watch Company in 1871 in Birmingham, so Ehrhardt was one of the pioneers of watchmaking by machinery in England. Ehrhardt was not in England at the time of Ingold's doomed venture in the 1840s, and perhaps would not have been swayed by it anyway.
Ehrhardt chose Birmingham because it was away from the traditional centres of English watch manufacturing where watches were made by hand using craft skills and factory methods would be opposed, as Ingold had been. Ehrhardt wanted machine operators for his factory, not traditional watchmakers.
From 1856 to 1863 Ehrhardt operated from addresses in Paradise Street and Augusta Street in Birmingham. In 1864 he moved to Great Hampton Street, and an advert with this address in 1872 says that he has ... constructed machinery to make his patent keyless movement on the interchangeable system. In 1874 he built a new factory, Time Works, in Barr Street to increase production. It is thought that by this time Ehrhardt had produced 200,000 watches.
Ehrhardt was granted a patent, No. 6406 dated 1894, for improvements in the hand setting mechanism of keyless watches.
When William Ehrhardt died in 1897 his sons William and Gustav Victor carried on the business. In the obituary notice it was said that 500 watches were made per week with 400 personnel. Production peaked around 1900 when 250 persons were employed, including many girls who attended the machines, and 600 to 700 watches were made per week. The lower number of employees but greater number of watches made per week imply that Ehrhardt's sons had increased the productivity of the workforce by increased use of specialised machinery.
From around 1920 the company used the name "British Watch Company Ltd." on some of its watches, most likely hoping to gain patriotic support in the face of growing imports, a sign of the pressure on the few remaining English watch manufacturers.
The company survived until some time after 1924 so was one of the very last English watch manufacturers. By 1926 the Barr Street address was being used in adverts promoting Gustav Victor as a watch cleaner and repairer, but with no mention of watch manufacture.
The company used the two trademarks shown here. The winged arrow was registered on on 4 February 1878 and sometimes varies from the exact shape shown here. The tree was registered on 4 August 1911 and was used on watches that carry the British Watch Company name.
Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2017 all rights reserved. This page updated January 2016. W3CMVS.