Waterford's history is really a continuation of the history of the Schwinn Paramount. The Paramount, Schwinn's crown jewel, set the standard for American bike building for most of the latter 20th century.
Most of the Paramounts were built in Schwinn's Chicago factory. When that factory closed in the early 1980's, Schwinn decided to build a facility dedicated not only to crafting bikes of legendary repute but also to innovation and design. Marc Muller, a young builder from Chicago, had been selected to lead this effort. The factory, located in Waterford, Wisconsin, was opened in 1981 to very limited production, which grew dramatically throughout the 1980's. The operation, known as Paramount Design Group (PDG), developed a wide variety of innovations in bike design, such as vertical dropouts, single-bend chainstays, OS tubing, dedicated tri bikes, full suspension bikes and so on.
In the early 90's, Schwinn itself was sold off, but Marc Muller and Richard Schwinn decided to purchase the factory equipment and continue building those lengendary bikes. For the first year and a half, the new business, Waterford Precision Cycles, continued building Schwinn Paramounts. At the same time, it developed its own Waterford designs, starting with the 1200 road racing bike, but flowering into the wide range of designs, such as sport touring and full touring models..
At the same time, Waterford continued to make its competitive mark. Less than two years into the new business, Waterford and Criterium rider Jeanette Norris earned its first national championship. In less than five years, Richard Widmark earned Waterford's first world Championship and we now have dozens of national championships under our belt including the 1999 USAT Professional Women's Triathlon Championship and the leading triathlete of 2003.
Waterford supplemented its own brand with an extensive private label business, that is, buiding bikes for other brands. Paramounts were the first example of this, but during the first year, Waterford also began building BMX bikes for Standard Byke Company, developing expertise in TIG-welding. Waterford earned other customers, including Rivendell, Heron, Salsa, among others.
In 1998 and as part of an expansion into a second building to accomodate the booming BMX business, Waterford introduced the Gunnar line of bikes, economical TIG-welded bikes which in the intervening decade have established their own reputation for design, craftsmanship and long life.
In 2002, Waterford revamped its philosophy, adding the 33-series and 14-series technologies plus introducing its make-to-measure program, which it continues to today.
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