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 992b Railway Special Pocket Watch 16s 21 Jewel 1968 Runs Great Immaculate Dead Accurate Hamilton Gr 950b 16s 23j 6p Mod #a Case Correct Got Rr!Hamilton 18s 21jewel 942 Railroad ,montgomery Dial Sterling Case Exrta FineAntique Hamilton 992b 16s 21j Railway Special Pocket Watch. Runs Very Will 1951108 Yr Old, 17 Jewel, Size 18, Grade 924 Hamilton Runs Strong/timed Sn 609210Vintage Hamilton 992, 21j, 16s, Railroad Watch, In Sterling Case Keeping TimeHamilton 4992b 22 Jewels Military Pocket Watch Black DialHamilton 18s 21jewel 940 Railroad *rarer* Silver Pair Case Fine Condition1916 Hamilton 14k Tri-tone Hunter Case Stag 21 Jewel Pocket Watch #1308626Gorgeous Rarely Offered Hamilton Case Mod "5 "rr Model" 16s 14k Wgf Superb& Fine1938 Hamilton Elinvar 992e 21j 10k Gold Filled Open Face Pocket WatchPerfect 16 Size Hamilton 992, 992e, 992b Railroad #576 Pocket Watch DialPristine Super Accurate Hamilton 950l 16s 23j 5p Mod #5 Wgf Case Cranks Rr Time!Antique Hamilton 992 16s 21 Jewel Rail Road Pocket Watch Original Wadsworth CaseAntique Hamilton 940 Pocketwatch With Gold Filled Case 21 Ruby Jewel 1910 Runs! Antique 18s Hamilton 17 Jewel Grade 927 Pocket Watch Parts RepairVintage Hamilton, 992b, 21j, 10k Ygf, Railroad Grade, Pocket Watch "nice!!"Hamilton 992b 21 Jewel 16 Size Railroad Pocket Watch MvtAntique Hamilton 992 16s 21 Jewel Rail Road Pocket Watch. Gold Filled. Made 19181959 Vintage Hamilton Railroad Special 992b 21 Jewel, Open Face Pocket WatchHamilton 4992b Metal Military Carrying Case With SpringsBall, Hamilton, 21 Jewel , Official Standard , Gold Center Wheel , Ball Case. Vintage Art Deco Octagonal 17j E Howard Boston Mens 14k Pocket WatchSuper Cherry Hamilton Boc Case Mod #2 16s 10k Rose Gf Rr Case Crisp Clean SuperbRare Hamilton Pocket Watch Box Plastic Cigarette DesignAntique 1929 Hamilton 992 16s 21j 10k Gold Filled Railroad Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton Gold Pocket Watch 1927? Oes Presentation Watch W/display (kwe)Antique 19 Jewel Ball By Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watch 999g 18 Size Gold Filled1937 Hamilton Gr. 992e 16s 21j Rr Pocketwatch Running 10k Gf Wadsworth CaseHamilton 4992b Military Dial Pocket WatchStrong Running Dead Accurate Hamilton 992e Elinvar 16s 21j 5p Rr-grade Keeps Rr!16 Size Hamilton 956 17 Jewels Pocket Watch (ac31) Nice Looking 16s 2x Signed Hamilton W.c.co. Salesman's Pocket Watch CaseAntique Hamilton 992b Bar Over Crown 16s 21j Rr Grade W/ Beautiful Melamine DialAntique "1920" "marked" 996 Hamilton, 19j, 10k Ygf, Railroad Grade, Pocket WatchHamilton Railway Special 992b 21j Railroad Grade Pocket Watch Circa 1961 Beauty!Choice & Select Hamilton 16s Boc Case Mod #2 14k Wgf Mirrory Crisp Wadsworth Rr!112 Yr Old, 17 Jewel,size 18, Grade 940 Hamilton Movement Sn 268674Antique 19 Jewel Ball By Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watch 999g 18 Size Gold FilledAntique Hamilton 940 Gold Filled Rr Pocket Watch. Made 1909. Size 18 Runs Great!1940 Hamilton 992b 16s 21j 10k Gold Filled Open Face Pocket Watch89 Year Old, Hamilton, Size16, Large Numeral, Double Sunk, Open Face DialVintage "hamilton " Bakelite Pocket Watch Box/case - MintBold Choice Select Hamilton 16s "blindman Monty" Ds E Nam 3ft Dial 992b 950b 974Hamilton 23 Jewels 18s Gr 946 Spectacuar Mvt Dial Hands Gold Filled 20 Yr CaseUltra Scarce Hamilton Us Army 992b /military Early (ww2 Era) Elinvar Extra Watch10kt Gold Filled Hamilton 21 Jewel Railroad Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton 21j Model 992 10k Rgp Pocket Watch1938 Hamilton Elinvar 992e 16s 21 Jewel Railroad Pocket WatchMuseum Grade Dead Accurate Strong Running Hamilton Gr 990 16s 21j 5p Rr-gr GotrrBeautiful Antique Hamilton Pocket Watch 974 Special 2544536Dead Bang Perfect Hamilton "boxcar" 16s Ds Enam 3ft Dress-rr Dial 992b 950 974!!Antique 18s Hamilton Pocket Watch Parts Repair16s Hamilton 21j 992b Open Face Canadian Dial Stainless Steel Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton Railway Special Pocket WatchHamilton Railway Special 992b Pocket Watch 21 Jewels Dual Time Zone ;gold FilledFabulous Hamilton 992 - 21 Jewel Railroad Watch108 Yr Old, 17 Jewel,size 18, Grade 936 Hamilton Movement Sn 568708Hamilton 992 21j Railroad Watch, 16s, Fancy Dial20 25 Years Heavy Gold Filled Hamilton 18s & 2 Pocket Watch Cases Waltham 156g