The History of Tiffany & Co.

THE TIMES OF TIFFANY - A Watchmaking Tradition 1837–2015

Tiffany’s heritage as a premier watchmaker can be traced through a timeline of brilliant innovations that extends from its founding in New York City in 1837 to the present, with the new Tiffany CT60 collection, named for founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, who invented the New York Minute. The now-famous phrase originated with the unveiling of the nine-foot Atlas clock above his store at 550 Broadway in 1853. Generations of New Yorkers embraced it as their personal timekeeper and a symbol of the city’s energy and innovation. Today the clock graces the entrance of the company’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. 

Artistry and Innovation 

Tiffany & Co. began selling watches in 1847. Seven years later, Mr. Tiffany and Messrs. Patek and Philippe signed an agreement making Tiffany & Co. the first retailer in America to carry Patek Philippe watches. In 1874, Tiffany built a four-story, state-of-the-art manufacture at Geneva’s Place Cornavin. Here, Tiffany met the increasing demand for gold pocket watches with advanced movements that chimed the hour and quarter-hour; diamond-encrusted lapel watches and timepieces embellished with pastoral scenes in enamel, and mythic figures, floral motifs and fine scrolls engraved in gold. 

Tiffany pioneered a number of important watchmaking innovations. The Tiffany Timer, an early stopwatch introduced in 1868 was used for engineering and scientific purposes, as well as sporting events. In addition, the company received patents for advances in watch movements and hand settings. Renowned Tiffany gemologist George Kunz patented a luminescent green paint for numerals and hands. 

By the 1880s, Mr. Tiffany had become a world-renowned jeweler and watchmaker with a reputation for the finest craftsmanship and commitment to customer service. One aspect of that service was the weekly regulation of over 400 clocks in the homes of Tiffany customers, which began with the adoption of standard time in 1883. 

Leading the World 

The Tiffany Archives showcases masterpieces from Tiffany’s gold-medal exhibits at World’s fairs spanning two centuries. At the 1876 Philadelphia World’s Fair, Tiffany was honored for its jeweled watches. A centerpiece of its winning exhibit at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair was the American Wild Rose Lapel watch, a diamond and enamel creation by chief designer Paulding Farnham. Tiffany also received medals for watchcases and astronomical clocks at the 1893 Chicago Fair.

Tiffany’s exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair featured an astonishing array of elegant diamond and platinum cocktail watches, as well as timepieces in the striking “Cocktail Style” such as the Trapezoid wristwatch with tinted gold, geometric styling and ruby highlights. A Tiffany purse watch from the period influenced the Tiffany East West timepiece, introduced in 2015. The wristwatch’s crisp, rectangular lines are chic and of the moment. 

Two watches introduced in the 20th century were inspired by the country and city where Tiffany was founded. The Streamerica® watch reflects the gleaming forms and metallic surfaces of the 1930s American industrial design movement. An icon of style, the Atlas® watch was introduced in 1983 as a tribute to Tiffany’s great public clock. The watch’s three-dimensional, diamond-cut Roman numerals generate a sensuous play of light. 

The Best of Time 

Atlas® represents a seamless transition from historic to modern Tiffany design. The watch reigns in real time, along with new additions to Tiffany’s watchmaking legacy, including diamond cocktail watches ablaze with glamour and the new Tiffany CT60. Powered by hand-assembled Swiss movements, the collection captures the pulse of New York in the 21st century. The timepieces’ pure lines and charismatic aesthetic are based on a gold Tiffany watch given to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of many American presidents who purchased or received Tiffany watches. The inscription on the case back reads, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with loyalty, respect and affection.” Roosevelt wore the watch to the historic Yalta Conference in 1945. 

The Tiffany CT60 collection celebrates the master builders who boldly imagined the city’s future. Charles Lewis Tiffany was one of them. A man of skill and daring, he richly demonstrated that every second of a New York Minute holds the promise of greatness. 

TIFFANY & CO., T&CO., TIFFANY, STREAMERICA and ATLAS and are trademarks of Tiffany and Company and its affiliates. 

@tiffanyandco #tiffanynyminute

1837

1837

Charles Lewis Tiffany opens a store on Lower Broadway in New York City.

1847

1847

Tiffany begins selling watches.

1853

1853

Charles Lewis Tiffany installs a statue of Atlas holding a clock above the entrance of his store. It was one of the first public clocks in New York City.

1868

1868

Tiffany introduces America's first stopwatch, the Tiffany Timer.

1874

1864

Tiffany opens a massive four-story facility on the Place Cornavin in Geneva, Switzerland.

1875

1875

Tiffany & Co. is assigned its first patent for watch improvements, including watch hand settings, anchor escapement for watches and watch regulators.

1883

1883

With the adoption of standard time in New York City, Tiffany begins a weekly “regulation” of over 400 clocks in New York.

1893

1893

At the Chicago World's Fair, Tiffany takes home awards for its watch display.

1903

1903

Tiffany chief gemologist George F. Kunz patents luminescent paint. Numerals on watches are never quite the same.

1910

1910

Developments in speed and industry lead to smaller and more simplified wristwatches. Tiffany's Art Deco watches are declared the ultimate accessory for flapper fashions.

1939

1939

Tiffany features spectacular diamond cocktail watches in its “House of Jewels” exhibit at the New York World's Fair.

1940

1940

An ingenious folding purse watch is crafted for women on the go. Decades later, it will inspire the Tiffany East West watch.

1945

1945

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt receives a Tiffany watch as a birthday gift, which he wears to the historic Yalta Conference.

1972

1972

Gold bracelet watches with close fitting links of unusual shapes from the 1972 Blue Book.

1983

1983

The Atlas® watch is introduced, inspired by the Roman numerals of the famous Atlas clock.

1993

1993

Tiffany introduces the Streamerica® watch inspired by the American industrial design movement of the 1930s.

2009

2009 copy

Tiffany adds a white diamond cocktail watch to its collection, recalling glamorous evening watches from America's Jazz Age

2015

2015

Tiffany launches its newest collection of watches. The Tiffany CT60 was inspired by a watch originally sold by Tiffany in the 1940s, and given to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a birthday gift in 1945.