William Wallace Dudley
in 1851 in St. John, New Brunswick Canada. He began his career as a horologist at
the age of 13, when he became an apprentice to a maker of ship chronometers in Canada.
Some years later after completing his apprenticeship, he moved to the United States
and joined the Waltham Watch factory in Waltham, Mass., where he was employed as a model
Dudley moved around from one
watch factory to another gaining knowledge and experience. He went to Springfield,
Ill., where he was connected with the Illinois Watch Company, and later moved to South
Bend, Indiana, where he joined the South Bend Watch Company as superintendent.
next move was back east to Chambersburg, N.J., to work for the Trenton Watch Company.
From 1906 to 1920, he was designer and superintendent of manufacture at the
Hamilton Watch Company, Lancaster, Pa., but left at the age of 69 to fulfill his dream of
establishing a watch factory. It is believed Mr. Dudley had seen the the M. Tobias
& Co. watch made in England with the two Masonic emblems in the balance cock.
Deeply interested in
Freemasonry, he was a member of both York and Scottish Rites, the Nobles of the Mystic
Shrine and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.
According to his daughter, he
started working on his first Masonic watch 15 - 20 years before he patented his design.
In 1918, Dudley started to work
on a Masonic watch with its bridge plate in the form of Masonic symbols (a slipper, plumb,
trowel, level, square, compasses, the Letter "G" and a Bible). These
emblem parts were machined by Brother Willis R. Michael. Dudley later applied for
and was granted design patents dated June 29, 1923.
George W. Adams and John D.
Wood, local retail jewelers and both Masons, became Dudley's partners. On May 20,
1920, they applied to the state of Pennsylvania for incorporation. The letters
patent were issued June 7, 1920. The amount of capitol stock of the corporation was
$5,000.00. Property was acquired at South West End and Maple Ave., Lancaster, Pa.
The original project of the company was to design and build a 14 size, 19 jewel,
14kt. solid gold watch, which is referred to as a Model 1, were being produced.
By 1923, the Dudley Watch Company, faced with dwindling sales and heavy competition from
other companies producing smaller watches, decided to go ahead with the development of a
12 size, 19 jewel, 14kt. gold filled watch, which was referred to as a Model 2,
Model 2 differs from its forerunner by having a silver colored Bible mounted, so as to
cover the bevel pinion which was previously exposed. This watch used the wheels and
escapement design from the Hamilton models. At full production the company employed
18 - 20 men including Arthur and Clifford Dudley, sons of the founder. As it was
primarily an assembly operation, the employees were all high-skilled watchmakers, most of
whom had worked in the Hamilton Watch Company. Those men with Masonic background
were given preference. Once production began, sales became the problem, and a
salesman named Bostwick started out on the road. The price of the watches varied
with the styles cases, top line ranged from $125.00 to $250.00. By late 1924, the
company was heavily in debt and management was trying desperately to find a solution to
its problem. On February 28, 1925, a petition was introduced in the U.S. District
Court in Philadelphia that the Dudley Watch Company be adjudged bankrupt, mostly due
because the new wrist watch had been introduced on the market. After leaving the
Company, Dudley was in serious difficulties. He had invested all his available
capitol in his brain-child and at the age of 74 found himself out of work and nearly
broke. He accepted a job at Hamilton Watch Company as a mechanic where he continued
to work until 1931, retiring at the age of 80.
On February 8, 1938 Dudley died
at Lancaster, Pa. Nearly 60 years after Brother Dudley's business was declared
bankrupt, his dream has come true and today his watches are considered very rare and its a
privilege to be an owner of a Dudley pocket watch. In the 15 years that Dudley
watches were produced in Lancaster, less than 2,600 watches of the Masonic design were