When I first moved to Croton-on-Hudson in 1986, I was roped into contributing a dollar to a raffle, and, lo and behold, I won a Croton Watch! It’s been a prized possession of mine all these years.
The Croton Watch Company had its headquarters and assembly plant at 35 South Riverside Avenue in Croton.
I’ve always wondered, though, how a watch company wound up in our wonderful little village by the Croton Dam, surrounded by the Croton River and Hudson River.
To satisfy my curiosity, I contacted Croton Historical Society, which led me to articles in the Croton Cortlandt News dated Sept. 15, 1963, and Jan. 19, 1978.
The newspaper clippings were a font of historical information about the company, which, they reported, was founded by Jacob Horton of Switzerland in 1878.
At that time, news of the new Croton Dam captured the world’s fascination. According to the articles, Jacob Horton looked at a map in the vicinity of New York City, took note of the Croton Reservoir, and said, “I’ll name it the Croton Watch Company.”
Soon followed the 1963 relocation of company headquarters and assembly plant to Croton-on–Hudson, with the watch parts still being manufactured back home in Switzerland.
Its 1963 product line ranged from an under-$20 timepiece to a diamond–studded wristwatch that would set you back $1,000 (equal to $8,500 today).
All that is what I gleaned from the Croton Cortlandt News.
However, according to another, presumably reliable, source, the watch company was founded not in Switzerland, but in New York City in 1878, and wasn’t known as Croton Watch Company until 1928.
What’s going on? Which tale to believe?
Here’s what I learned from the website of Croton Watch Company …
Within the Italian landscape lies a city, historically known for the intelligence, strength and physical beauty of its inhabitants: Crotone, a port city in Calabria, southern Italy.
Established in that same town, known for its art, architecture and fashion, Croton watches enjoyed a reputation in the region as “a quality product made by talented watchmakers.”
So, contrary to the urban legend spun in those 1963 and 1978 articles, the company, according to the website’s origin story, had its roots in southern Europe, not northern Europe, and settled in New York City in 1928.
In 1963, when the company had outgrown its New York headquarters, it decided to move to a different Croton, hugging the Hudson River, a sister city in name to the Calabria port city.
The South Riverside Avenue building now is occupied by NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group. Croton Watch Company was sold in 1991 to a New Jersey firm named Nationwide Time.
Their wide variety of Croton models for men and for women run from $700 to well over $1,000.
If your budget allows, maybe the time is right to consider buying one. That way, wherever you may roam, you’ll never leave Croton behind.
Pete Drexler is a retired CPA who enjoys studying the history of Croton-on-Hudson.