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Men’s Watches – History you won’t learn in school

Men’s accessories are key to their style. Us dudes don’t have a lot of extras so we depend on a great jacket and watch to set our look off. My staple accessory is a ’70’s GMT Rolex watch. It’s the Coca Cola version in black and red. I got it about 8 years ago in a jewelry store in Palm Springs and it was a great deal – no matter how much it cost.

Back in 1880, though, the best deal on a watch was found in train stations. Yes, you read that right. In about 500 towns across the US the telegraph operators, who were located in railroad stations, were the go-to for a good deal on a watch. In fact, for about 9 years they sold more watches than all the stores combined.

It all began with Richard, a telegraph operator in Minnesota. One day a load of watches arrived and no one ever came to claim them. The manufacturer didn’t want to pay the freight back, so they asked Richard if he could sell them…and he did. He sent a wire to every agent in the system asking them if they wanted a good, cheap pocket watch. He sold the entire case in less than two days and at an amazing profit.

Then he ordered more watches from the company and encouraged the telegraph operators to set up a display case in the station offering high quality watches for a cheap price to all travelers. It worked! It didn’t take long for word to spread and soon the train station was the go-to place to buy a killer watch.

Richard hired a professional watch maker, Alvah, to help him with the orders. The business took off and soon expanded to other products. Richard and Alvah left the train station and moved their company to Chicago — and it’s still there.

YES, IT’S A LITTLE KNOWN FACT that for a little while in the 1880’s the biggest watch retailers in the country were at the train station. It all started with a telegraph operator: Richard Sears and his partner Alvah Roebuck! (Sears & Roebuck) Cool, right?

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