In 1857, at the age of 17, Joseph E. Watts emigrated to Lawrence, Mass., from Cheshire, England seeking his fortune as a machinist. Just 17 years later Watts set up an independent machine shop, known as the Watts Regulator Company, to supply machinery parts and fittings to the local textile mills. In addition to his success at running his own business, Joseph Watts was extremely inventive—and he soon achieved widespread fame in the manufacturing world as the patentee and maker of steam and water pressure regulators.
During the early years, the company manufactured pressure-reducing valves to regulate the steam and relief devices designed to ensure safe operation of water heaters and boilers.
In the fall of 1918 Watts Regulator was purchased by Burchard Everett Horne (best known as B.E. Horne), his uncle Herbert W. Horne, and a mutual friend. Within a year B.E. Horne bought out the other two investors and thus began a new era for Watts Regulator: As a family-owned and operated business.
In the late 1920s, under the direction of B.E. Horne, Watts Regulator developed the patented and revolutionary combination temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve. The T&P valve became central to Watts Regulator’s progress.
In 1936, B.E. Horne appointed his son George, to head up marketing and sales for the company. In short order, George Horne was on the road, going from city to city, driving new sales and marketing the strengths and products of Watts Regulator. In an effort to get T&P valves specified in safety codes, George Horne created "Explosion Danger Lurks!" to demonstrate the dangers of unprotected water heaters.
The Next Chapter
In 1951 B.E. Horne suffered an unfortunate accident while on a fishing expedition and drowned. The company’s day-to-day control fell into the hands of George. Under a new generation of management the company changed, grew, and expanded; it also opened a new manufacturing plant in Franklin, NH in 1959. Before manufacturing even began at the new state-of-the-art plant George’s son, Tim, entered the business.
With George Horne at the helm Watts Regulator expanded its domestic presence and entered the international market, opening manufacturing plants in Canada and the United Kingdom.
In the 1970's, George led Watts Regulator into the new and promising backflow prevention market and the waterworks industry. Backflow preventers, developed to prevent the backward flow of contaminated water into the potable water supply, have become one of the company’s most successful product lines.
A New Generation
In 1976 Tim Horne became President of the company. In 1978 when his father George retired Tim became both President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Tim’s vision included expanding Watts Regulator into new markets through the development of entirely new product lines. The strategy paid off: Sales rose from $39.5 million in 1978 to $100 million in 1984.
To build on this dramatic growth Tim explored other options, including going public to raise investment capital and making major acquisitions. The company was incorporated in Delaware in 1985 under the name Watts Industries, Inc., and went public around the same time.
Between fiscal year 1985 and 1995 Tim and his executive team made 28 acquisitions, including several international businesses, building Watts Industries into a significant global player. In October 1999 Tim led the spinoff of Watts’ industrial sector companies under a different entity called CIRCOR.
In 2002 Watts appointed a new CEO, Patrick S. O’Keefe, to succeed Tim Horne. During his 43-year tenure, Tim was responsible for a vast array of accomplishments, including overseeing the transition of a successful family-owned business to a publicly-traded company with an international presence. Tim officially retired in 2002 but remains as a consultant and Director emeritus.
In 2003 the company’s name was changed to Watts Water Technologies, Inc., to reflect its focus on water-related solutions. At the same time Pat O’Keefe’s leadership as CEO helped grow and expand the company in several significant ways. Pat helped increase annual revenues from $615 million in 2002 to more than $1.2 billion in 2010 and oversaw the acquisition of 23 companies, thereby increasing corporate revenues by approximately $400 million.
When Pat left the company in January, 2011, David Coghlan, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, was promoted to CEO and President. David put in place the company’s strategy (Growth, Operational Excellence, and One Watts Water). He helped the company lead the way to Lead Free in the U.S., strengthen its business in EMEA, and expand in growth markets. David left in early 2014, and in May 2014, Robert J. Pagano, Jr., formerly a Senior Vice President of ITT Corporation and President, ITT Industrial Process, was appointed President and CEO.