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    

1905 Hamilton 21 Jewels Rr Grade - Mint Dial In 14k Gold Filled Case 18s - RunsHamilton Military Chronograph Model 23 19 Jewels Running Nicely Great Dial Etc.Collector Alert!! Hamilton Boc Display Case 16s Mod #2 16s 1ok Wgf Glass Bezels!1936 Hamilton 992 Railway Special Watch, 21 J. Wadsworth 10k Gold Filled Case18 Size Hamilton 17 Jewels 927 Hunting Case Pocket WatchPossibly Unused Cond Hamilton 2-tone Boc 16s Case Mod #2 Bar-over Cherry&superb!Hamilton 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Lancaster, Pa Double Roller, 5 Position (lh8) Vintage Hamilton Grade 910 Size 12 17j Pocket Watch No ReserveVintage Hamilton, 992b, 21j, 10k Ygf, Railroad Grade, Pocket Watch "nice!"1915 Hamilton 992 Pocket Watch, 21 Jewels. Illinois 10k Rolled Gold Watch CaseHamliton 950 B 23 Jewel Good Running Order.Hamilton An5740 Hacking 4992b 24 Hour Dial 22 Jewels Splendid Condition ServicedHamilton Watch Co. PocketwatchTop Of The Line Hamilton 23j 922 Mvt Gold Train Silver Dial No Reserve!Elgin B.w.raymond Large Size Mens Hunters Fancy Case Running Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton 21j 992 Railroad Pocket Watch 1928Hamilton Pocket Watch Special Size18 Unmarked Grade927. Side Winder 17 Jewels Very Nice 16s Hamilton 992b Enamel Ds Railway Special Dial!Vintage Hamilton, 992e "elinvar" 21j, 10k Ygf Railroad Grade Pocket Watch !!!Vintage Hamilton 21j 992b Railway Special Railroad Pocket Watch Bar Over 1941Hamilton 21 Jewel 992 Elinvar Railroad Pocket Watch 10k Rolled Gold In Box C241Hamilton 16 Size “992b “hamilton Railway Special” Enamel P.w. Dial. 137aSuper Rr-ready & Fine Hamilton Case Model #a 16s Keystone 10k Ygf 992b 950b 974Hamilton Secometer 14k White Gold Filled 17 Jewel Pocket Watch 912105 Yr Old 17 Jewel Elgin Runs Strong/timed Sn 15570630Hamilton Pocket Watch 14k Solid Gold Hand Carved Hunter CaseRunning Hamilton Railway Special 992b Pocket Watch 1951 10k Gf Case Movement34mmNear Mint Hamilton 16s "blindman Monty" Ds Enam 3ft Rr Dial 992b 950b 950e 996!!Hamilton Pocket Watch Railroad 17 Jeweled 10kt Gold Filled 974 Special96 Years Old Hamilton "978" 14k Gold Filled Open Face 16s Railroad Pocket WatchHamilton 937 - 17 Jewels 3oz Silver Hunters Pocket Watch - Runs1916 Hamilton 17 Jewels Mint Dial In 14k Gold Filled Ornate Case - 16s - RunsHamilton Pocket Watch16s Hamilton 992e/1 Pocket Watch Movement, 21 Jewel, #2616449 - 1937, OfVintage Hamilton 21j 992b Railroad Pocket Watch Montgomery Dial Wgf Case 1950Hamilton 16 Size 992b & 992 Railroad “factory Signed ” Pocket Watch Case. 138aBright 10s Hamilton 917 Mov't 17j Runs Well W/brilliant Dial Of Pocket WatchFactory Mint Hamilton 18s Ss Enam 13-24hr Canadian Chapter Dial 940 924 936 942!18s Hamilton 5 Pos 926 Rr Pocket Watch Movement Gold Highlights Dial & Hands TlcVintage Hamilton Pocket Watch Nice Hamilton 21j Early 992 Just Serviced Keeps Rr Time No Reserve !Antique Hamilton Pocket Watch 21 Jewels 18s Adjusted Railroad 940 GradePricelessly Flawless Hamilton 16s Montgomery Style Ds Enam Dial 992 950 974 992b18s Hamilton 940/1 Pocket Watch Movement, 21 Jewel, #1403129 - 1915, OfHamilton 16 Size White Ygf Railroad Bar Over Crown” Pocket Watch Case. 151a1903 Hamilton 21 Jewel 941 Railroad 18s Lever Set Pocket Watch For Repair/partsBeautiful And Rare Hamilton Gr 926gt Gilt Trimmed 18s 17j Adj'd Dress Mvmt GreatHamilton 992 Rr Watch Wadsworth Case Dbl Sunk Dial Xtra Nice WatchHamilton 4992b Pocket Watch, NavigatorsScarce Strong Running Highly Collectible Hamilton Gr 950p 16s 23j 5p Pend SetterMen's Pocket Watch-hamilton Watch 21j 20 Yr. Warr. Gold Filled, WorkingFabulously Mint Cond Hamilton 16s Ds Enam Boxcar Arabic 3ft 992b 992e 950b 974!!Hamilton 16 Size 992b Complete Pocket Watch Balance Wheel. 159aMinty Cond Hamilton 18s Ss Enamel Bold Arabic Dial 924 935 944 926 930 940 942!!Dead Accurate Sparkling Clean Hamilton Gr 950b Rr Watch 16s 23j 6p Model A Case!Rare!!! Vintage 1900's Hamilton Watch Co. 14kgf Pocket Watch No Reserve!!Hamilton Model 21 Chronometer Outer Box No Reserve !Antique 1913 Hamilton 18s 17 Jewels Pocket Watch - Fahys Gf Tip-out Case - RunsMuseum Grade Dead Accurate Strong Running Hamilton Gr 992 16s 21j 5p Rr-gr GotrrAntique "1917" Hamilton, 992, 21j, 10k Ygf, Railroad Grade, Pocket Watch "nice!"