Otay Watch Co
Research Notes

1883 Poster
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Web Horology

otay.jpg (234758 bytes)

Otay Factory Building

The Otay Watch Company was organized in 1889 by J. H. Guion, J. M. Hartley, and M. D. Hamilton, operators of a real estate office in San Diego, California and R. D. Perry who owned a large tract of land near Otay, California.  P. M. Wheeler was engaged as superintendent. The new company was land rich and cash poor. When the machinery from the American watch Tool Company arrived, there was no money to pay for it. Frank Kimball was induced to advance money for the machinery and tools, wages for the workman, plus other expenses. For this he was made general manager and the first watches produced, the "F. A. Kimball" model in gilt was named for him.

Otay 1045.jpg (111282 bytes) The first watches were produced in May of 1890. Production was slow and sales were even slower. In six months the company produced approximately 1200 watches but very few were sold. Frank Kimball advanced about $70,000. which yielded no return, and then refused to put any more money into the company. Operations ceased in November of 1890. In February of 1891 some of the watches and tools were sold at auction to pay for wages owed to the workmen. The remaining tools, machinery, and watches were claimed by Frank Kimball to partly cover monies owed to him. The remaining machinery, tools and inventory was "sold" to those involved in the formation of the San Jose Watch Company in Alviso, California; however, no money to my knowledge changed hands and Kimball received nothing.

SanJoseBldg.jpg (499468 bytes)
San Jose Factory Building

sanjose.jpg (91226 bytes)The San Jose Watch Company was organized in the spring of 1891 under the guidance of P. H. Wheeler and G. A. Penniman. The machinery tools and the remaining unsold watches of the Otay Watch Company were again "bought" from Frank Kimball, again no money changed hands. Enough money was raised form the stockholders to erect a wooden factory building at Alviso which is on the San Francisco bay near San Jose. The first watches were produced in November of 1891. They were of the same style as the Otay watches. The first ones were made for prominent residents of the San Jose area. Before commercial production began, a lawsuit was brought against the company by J. V. Devendorf, one of the stockholders, to collect $8944.15 owed him by the company. The San Jose Watch Company was unable to raise the money and the factory closed on December 1, 1891. Some, if not all, of the Otay watches and movements that had been shipped to Alviso along with the tools and machinery were distributed among the officers and stockholders of the San Jose Watch Company.

When the San Jose Watch Company closed, the tools and machinery reverted back to Frank Kimball but remained in the factory building at Alviso where they gathered rust, plus others disappeared while reportedly under guard. In 1893 A. H. Butler and P. H. Wheeler again "bought' the tools and machinery from Frank Kimball and (again) no money changed hands. The tools and machinery were then shipped to Japan in the summer of 1893; factory buildings were erected in Osaka and Kobe. Production of watches began early in 1895 and continued on into 1896. When and why the factories closed is unknown, as is the number of watches produced in Japan. The ultimate disposition of the machinery is shrouded in mystery. Frank Kimball lost all of the money he invested in the Otay Watch Company venture, as he was unable to collect anything from either the San Jose Watch Company or the Osaka Watch Company.