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    

Hamilton Model 22 Chronometer Us Navy World War Ii Ships ChronometerHamilton 4992b 22 Jewel 16s Scarce .800 Silver Wwii Military Pocket WatchHamilton 944 19 Jewel 18 Size Coin Silver Railroad Pocket WatchHamilton Watch Co Usa Model 992 16 Size 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement - 1914Hamilton 23 Jewel Super Railroad Grade 950 Elinvar Hamilton Mainliner CaseHamilton 7 Jewel 18 Size Rare Early Pocket WatchHamilton 921 21j 10s Pocket Watch Movement Great Condition Runs GreatHamilton 937 17j 18s Serial #7229 Scranton Pa Private Label Pocket Watch Mvt16 Size Hamilton 21j 992 Railroad Pocket Watch With Montgomery DialGorgeous 23j Hamilton/ball Railroad Pocket Watch Ornate 14k Wgf Mint Dial1948 Hamilton Railway Special 992b~16 Size~21 Jewel~lever Set.~r.r. Pocket Watch1943 Hamilton 992b Us Military 21j Sz 16s Silver Base Metal Pocket Watch - K4737Hamilton 921 21 Jewel 10 Size Gold Filled Pocket Watch18s Hamilton Marked Adjusted For Railroad Service 2 Star Rare Pocket WatchHamilton 992b, Size 16 Gold Filled Railroad Pocket Watch, 21j, Runs GoodAntique 16s Hamilton 992 21j 21 Jewel Railroad Rr Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton Grade 992 21j 16s Model 1 Railroad Grade Of Pocket Watch #313 16 Size 21 Jewel Hamilton 992b Brown Box Set Railroad Pocket Watch Matching #sHamilton's Finest Keystone Case Model #a 16s Rr Case 10k Ygf 992b 950b 950e 992!16's Big Pocket Watch Hunter Case 14k Gold Scrap Elgin Hamilton Waltham HampdenAntique Hamilton 18s 940 Canadian Rail Road 21 Ruby Jewel Pocket Watch. 190916s 21jewel Hamilton 992 Railroad Fancy Custom Display Case Extra Fine + Cond.Vintage Hamilton 4992b Grade Gct 22j 16s Model 5 Open Face Pocket Watch #312Vintage Hamilton Railway Special Grade 992b 21j 16s Model 5 Of Pocket Watch #327Vtg Stunning Hamilton 921 21 Jewel 10s Pocket Watch Movement Dial 14k Gold CrownHoward 16s Series 10, 21 Jewel Railroad Pocket Watch...not Illinois Or HamiltonCrisp Cherry Signed Hamilton Case Mod #16 Star 16s Rr Case 10k Rgp Brushmarks!!!Vintage Hamilton 921 21 J Pocket Watch Gold FilledHamilton's Finest Boxcar 16s Rr Dial Ds Enamel 3ft Superb Cond 992 992b 950 950bQuality Antique Hamilton 14k Gold Filled 17 Jewels Pocket Watch WorkingSpit 'n Polish Condition Hamilton Grade 992 16s Rr Mvmt 21j 5p Dr Late-model TwoAntique Hamilton Gold Filled Pocket Watch 21 Jewels Hunter Case Rare 992bDesirable 23 Jewel Hamilton Ball 998 Elinvar 16s Antique Railroad Pocket Watch.1941 Hamilton 4992b Us Military 22j Sz 16s Gct Base Metal Pocket Watch - K5124Hamilton 940 21 Jewel 18 Size Railroad Pocket Watch MvtHighest Grade Hamilton Case Model "cross Bar" Bar-over 16s Rr Case 10k Rose Gf!!Famous Hamilton Case Model #10 Deco 16s Rr Case Wadsworth 10k Ygf 992e 950b 950eImmaculate Dead Accurate Hamilton Gr 992e Elinvar 16s Rr Mvmt 21j 5p Got Rr Time'defiance' Hamilton 992 16s Open Face Pocket Watch Case, Gold Tone, NiceAntique Ball Hamilton 999h 18s 17 Jewels High Grade Rail Road Pocket Watch. 190418s 21jewel Hamilton 941 Hunter Sterling Silver Case Fine+ ConditionAntique Hamilton 23j Railroad Grade 946 18s Gf Open Face Pocket Watch,runs -0326Ball Hamilton 999b Rr Pocket Watch 16s Of 21j RunsHamilton 21 Jewel 16 Size Railroad Grade 992 In A Great Bar Over Crown CaseSuper High Grade Hamilton Military 22j 4992 B Pocket Watch Rare White Dial 1942!Vintage Hamilton Watch Co Tahys Montauk Pocket Watch For Parts Restore RepairsHamilton 929 15 Jewel 18 Size Hunting Case Pocket Watch MvtAntique Hamilton 992e 16s Elinvar Railroad Pocket Watch. Very Nice. Made 1938Hamilton G.c.t 4992b An-5740-1 24hr Military Pocket Watch Hamilton 992b Railway Special 16 Sz 21 J Montgomery Dial Bar Over Crown 1956Vintage 1926 Hamilton, 992, 21j, 10k Ygf, 16s Railroad Grade, Pocket Watch Runs!Mint Dial & Crystal 1920's Hamilton 992 21j S16 Vintage Men's Pocket WatchAntique Hamilton 925 Special, Beautiful Hunter Case Gold Filled Pocket Watch Antique Hamilton 992b 12 Jewels Two Tone Wadsworth Pocket Watch WorksExceptional Hamilton 992e Pocket Watch Movement & Dial (wj2)Perfectly Mint Hamilton Montgomery 16s Dress-rr Dial Ds Enam 3ft 992 950 974 996Lot 6 Pocket Illinois Hamilton Watches For Parts RepairSolid Hamilton 974 Pocket Watch Adjusted 17j Nice 14k Gf Case Good Runner NrFactory Mint Hamilton "blindman Monty" Rr Dial 16s Ss Enamel (3ft) Glassy & FineExcellent 23j 18s Hamilton 946 Railroad Pocket Watch Mint Mvmt Mint Dial