In 1893, the Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania began producing pocket watches primarily for railroad workers. Railroad-grade watches had to meet strict guidelines to ensure their reliability and accuracy. Hamilton met these standards, and more. Its watches had 42-hour mainsprings, with 17 jewels in their isochronous movements. Physically, the watches were large (size 16 or 18), and they had easy-to-read boldface Arabic numerals on their faces. Little wonder, then, that a lot of Hamilton watches found their way into the pockets of a lot of railroad employees.

As a result of its focus on the railroad industry, Hamilton never had the widespread brand recognition of giant watchmakers like Elgin and Waltham. But Hamilton was content with its reputation for accuracy. In fact, its pocket watches were so highly regarded that by the beginning of the 20th century, the company’s 1893 Broadway Limited model was named the official timepiece of all U.S. Expeditionary Forces. In World War I, a wristwatch version of the Broadway Limited was made for troops and General Pershing himself.

The Broadway Limited, along with another railroad-grade watch called the Model 992, accounted for the bulk of the company’s sales during this period. Both models were decorated with the standard Arabic numerals, often with gold lettering and center wheels on their faces.

Some 992s had Montgomery dials, in which not only the hours were labeled but the minutes as well. Other companies tried to copy this design, but Hamilton’s Montgomery dials were unique for the way in which all numbers could be read on the dial—the 6 at the bottom of the watch was actually placed inside the seconds dial so that the numeral 30 would still be readable. Today, these pre-1920 workhorses are among the most collectible Hamiltons around.

Before and after World War I, Hamilton was simply unable to compete with the production rates and sales of bigger watch companies like Waltham. So, in addition to focusing on railroad-grade pocket watches, it also made pocket watches for well-heeled customers. For these watches, Hamilton incorporated expensive materials into its mechanisms. It’s not uncommon to find antique Hamilton pocket watches from the first quarter of the 20th century with gold screws, wheel sets, and cases.

In 1927, Hamilton acquired Illinois Watch Company, which helped increase its overall production levels. During the Great Depression, it remained a maker of prestige watches. Then, in World War II, Hamilton, like many other watchmakers, shifted gears to make instruments for the war effort. Here Hamilton’s railroad roots served it well—its Navy chronometers were considered some of the most accurate mechanical timepieces ever made.

Hamilton produced far more wristwatches than pocket watches after World War II, but it continued to supply the high-end pocket-watch market. Following the trend of many other watchmakers in the 1950s, Hamilton began using movements imported from Switzerland. Its remaining railroad watch, the pricy 992B, wasn’t phased out until 1969.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Barry S. Goldbergs Pocket Watch Collection

Barry S. Goldbergs Pocket Watch Collection

Barry Goldberg’s excellent collection of pocket watches, mostly American models from the late 1800s and early 189… [read review or visit site]

American Watch Company Web

American Watch Company Web

Tom McIntyre’s reference site on antique watches, especially those made by the American Watch Company (later know… [read review or visit site]

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Hamilton 992 16s 21 Jewel Rail Road Pocket Watch. Amazing Case. 1912Lot Of 10 Pocket Watches Non-running Waltham Elgin Hamilton Parts RepairClasic 1942 Hamilton 992b Railroad Pocket Watch Model"2" Ygf Case! A Beauty!Hamilton Watch Company Chronometer Model 22 BoxHamilton Chronograph Mod 23 Pocket Watch 19j RunsHamilton Watch Co Usa Railway Special 978 Model 16s 17j Pocket Watch MovementHamilton Grade 992b Sw/ls 21 Jewel Adj. To Temp. And 6 Pos. Sz. 16 Pocket Watch Hamilton 992b 21j 16s Railway Special Pocket Watch Circa 1941 For Repair B5Hamilton 992e Elinvar 16s 21j Flawless Boxcar Dial Scares Hamilton #8 Case!!1949 Hamilton 992b Railway Special 21j Pocket Watch With Montgomery Dial 10k GfHamilton 992b Railway Special 16s 21 Jewel Wwii Rail Road Pocket Watch. 19442409: Hamilton Grade 990 Railroad 16 Size Pocket Watch 21 Jewels Gold FilledVintage Watch Lot: Bulova Accutron, Antique Ny Standard Pocket, Hamilton, Etc.Hamilton 10k Y. G. Gold Filled #992 Railroad Grade 21 Jewel Pocket Watch 16s1939 Hamilton Elinvar 992e 21 Jewel 16s Railroad Grade Pocket Watch Runs GreatHamilton 992 Elinvar 21 Jewel 16s Scarce Narrow Stripe Pattern Pocket WatchHamilton 21j "921" Pocket Watch Movement- Runs And Looks Great16 Size 992b/992 Hamilton #576 Double Sunk Porcelain Railroad Pocket Watch DialLot Of Hamilton 16s Railroad Watch Parts Movements Inc 992 21j Elinvar21 Jewel Size 18 Hamilton 940 Watch Runs Strong & Timed Sn 510525Antique 1924 Hamilton 956 Pocket Watch 17j Adj. Tivoli G/f Open Face Case RunsHamilton 992b Railway Special 16s 21 Jewel Rail Road Pocket Watch. 1948Hamilton 940 Pocket Watch 18 Size 21 Jewels Gold Filled Case RunsHamilton 992e Elinvar 16s 21j Flawless Boxcar Dial Serviced All Orginal !1952 Hamilton 21j 992b Size 16s Railway Special Stainless Pocket Watch - K10338310s Hamilton 21 Jewels Model 921 Movement, Great WorkingBall/hamilton 999 19 J Adj. 5p Sw/ls Of Model 1a Gold Filled Sz. 18 Pocket Watch16 Size 992b/992 Hamilton #536 Double Sunk Porcelain Railroad Pocket Watch DialVintage Hamilton Model 921 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement & Dial WorksHamilton Sz. 18 Ls/sw Railroad Case Adj. 5 Pos. 21 Jewel Grade 940 Pocket WatchStunning 1928 Mint Dial Hamilton 912 14k White Gf Digital Model PocketwatchVintage Pocket Watch - Ww2 - Hamilton 4992b Military - Runs1949 Ball Hamilton 999b Official Standard Pocket Watch With Montgomery Dial1962 Hamilton Railway Special 992b Railroad Grade/21 J Pocket Watch Working~nr!18s 1911 21 Jewel Hamilton 940 R.r. Pocket Watch No Reserve.Hamilton 14kt White Gold Filled #992 Railroad Grade 21 Jewel Pocket WatchHamilton 18 Size Model 928 Open Face Pocket Watch. 24aLarge Antique 1903 Hamilton Pocket Watch Adj. 17 Jewels #272675. Railroad Theme Hamilton Watch Co. Antique Pocket Watch Case 10 K16s Hamilton Model 15 Stainless Steel Pocket Watch Case, Great Condition17 Jewel Size 16 Hamilton 974 Adjusted Watch Runs Strong & Timed Sn 1229613Hamilton 16-s 10k Gf Model 11 Pocket Watch Case Mfg In Usa K062109Mint City Versatile Hard To Find Hamilton 16s 4-post Dress-rr Dial Ss Enam Great1947 Hamilton Pocket Watch Railroad Special 992b 21j Gf Not Working RepairHamilton Railway Special 992b Lancaster Pa 21j Lever Set Pocket WatchMirror Finish Hamilton Case Mod #11 Rr Case 16s Keystone 10k Ygf 992b 992e 950b!Antique Hamilton 18s, 21 Jewel Railroad Grade 940 Pocket WatchVintage 14kt Solid White Gold & Diamond Ladies Hamilton Wristwatch16 Size 992b/992 Hamilton #080 Single Sunk Porcelain Railroad Pocket Watch Dial16 S 992b/992 Hamilton Script Single Sunk Porcelain Railroad Pocket Watch DialHamilton 16s 975 Gold Filled Hunter Watch No ReserveHamilton 18s 17j Private Label Fred Mcintyre Indian Territory Pocket Watch1935 Hamilton 992 Railroad Pocket Watch Ygf #2 Case Mint Dial Gold Center Wheel!Vntage Hamilton Watch Co. 21 Jewel Wind Up Pocket Watch Usa Double Roller 992Antique Hamilton Watch Co. Non-running Large Pocket Watch 17 JewelsVintage Swiss Elgin 867 17 Jewel Silver Tone Pocket Watch - K3964Fantastic Hamilton 992b 16 Size 21 Jewel Antique Railroad Pocket Watch1930 Hamilton Elinvar 992e Size 16s 21j 10k Gold Fill Pocket Watch - K103382Excellent 10k Ygf Model #a Cased 1948 Hamilton 992b Railway Special Pocketwatch1954 Hamilton 16s 21 Jewel 992b Model 5 Pocket Watch