Hamilton Watch Company


2015-06-26 11:01:42


The Hamilton Watch Company was an American watch manufacturer based in Pennsylvania.


Hamilton Watch Company started off as an American maker of mid range and luxury timepieces. In the early days, the company occupied a 13-acre piece of land in Lancaster’ Pennsylvania USA. Today, the Hamilton brand name still exists but its part of a Swiss corporate conglomerate with diversified operations. It became popular by making accurate railroad watches. Its celebrated products have made a mark on popular culture that is hard to ignore. Hamilton watches have been featured in more than three hundred Hollywood movies not to mention the Hamilton-branded plane that Nicolas Ivanov started competing for the World Aerobatic Pilot title with.


It was in 1892 that a group of entrepreneurs from Lancaster, Pennsylvania bought Keystone Standard Watch Company and declared their objective. Apparently, they were committed to building “only watches of the highest quality.” Before years-end, the Lancaster group merged their new acquisition with Aurora Watch Company of Illinois. The large track of land where the City of Lancaster sits today was owned by a man named James Hamilton. It was in his honor that the progeny of the aforementioned marriage was named.

The year 1893 saw the first watch ever to appear with the Hamilton label. It was an 18-size 17-jewel pocket watch. The first Hamilton wrist watch, which contained the 0-sized 17-jewel 983 movement, came out in 1917. Come 1928, Hamilton had grown big enough to take Illinois Watch Company under its wing. In the advent of World War II, production of consumer watches was halted. The freed production capacity was quickly swallowed by demand for marine chronometers and deck watches primarily caused by war activities in which the US Navy was engaged at the time.

A failed 1951 hostile takeover attempt, which had been orchestrated by the Bernus watch company, ended up in a landmark 1953 ruling. Four years later in 1957, Hamilton introduced the world’s first electric watch. The electric watch business necessitated a partial merger with Japanese watchmaking firm Rico. The deal was signed in 1962. This venture proved unfruitful and was abandoned in 1965. In 1966, Hamilton acquired Buren Watch Company and a somewhat symbiotic relationship ensued. While Hamilton was busy fixing Swiss movements to their American watches, Buren was making good use of watch components manufactured by its partner.

Notable Models and Ownership

In the wrist watches category, Hamilton presents a number of offerings among them; The Oval, the Rectangular, The Coronado, The Glendale, The Cambridge etcetera. Members of this clan came in both solid gold and gold filled cases with a rare silver aberration.

As for the Navy, Hamilton first offered Model 21 followed by Model 22 both of which had a two day power reserve and their movements were marked US Navy of Ships. The Ventura was one of the numerable varieties of the Hamilton Electric 500 that were availed. When the short co-habitation with Rico ended, the remaining Hamilton-Rico electronic movements were re-cased as Vantage and sold in the US. The Hamilton brand name helped sell numerous quartz watches during the 1980’s after the Omega Trust Holdings Company purchased it in 1971. Currently, the name is owned by The Swatch group Ltd.

Notable Auction Sales

Western Asset Reserve sold a Hamilton Railroad 992 21 Jewel Pocket Watch INVST for $175 on Jun 29th, 2008. on 15th December, 2004, Christies Auction House put on sale a An 18ct gold, diamond set and enamel half-quarter repeating keyless half hunter pocket-watch by Hamilton Watches. The auction was estimated to raise £1,600 - £2,000. However, the auction realized a price of £3,227. This auction was held at South Kensington, London.

Popularity with Collectors

The entertainment industry link, coupled with association with the military is one of the factors that account for the overwhelming popularity of company’s products. Besides, having literally been around the world makes collectors all over identify with its stuff.

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