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 Railway Special Pocket Watch - Grade 950b 23j Movement, 16 Size, CaseVintage Hamilton, 992b, 21j, 10k Ygf, Railroad Grade, Pocket Watch "nice!"Hamilton Gg-w-113 Genuine Us Military Issue In 1981, Viet Nam War DesignVintage Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster Pa. Pocket Watch Working 21 JewelsHamilton Gg-w-113 Genuine Us Military Issue In 1980, Viet Nam War DesignAntique Hamilton 12 Size 17 Jewel 917 Pocketwatch WatchWw11 Hamilton Model 22 Chronometer Submarine, Patrol Boat WatchAntique "1920" Hamilton, 996, Model 1, 19j, 10k Gf, Railroad Grade, Pocket WatchHamilton 23j Elinvar 950e Pocket Watch Railroad Model 10k G.f.Early First Year(1940) Hamilton 992b Railway Special Elinvar Very Low S/n: C125Hamilton Gct Military Wwii Navigational Pilots 4992b 22j Pocket Watch An5740-1Vintage Hamilton, 992, 21j, 14k Wgf Railroad Grade Pocket Watch !!!Ball Hamilton Railroad Standard Pocket Watch Model 999 Year 19041910 18s Hamilton 21j 940 Pocket Watch Movement RunsVintage 1960's Men's 14k Gold Hamilton Thin O Matic Wrist Watch WorksVintage Hamilton 16s 992-b 21 Jewels Railroad Approved Hamilton #3 Case Runs NrHamilton Watch Co. 992b 21 Jewel Railroad Watch -10k Rolled Gold Plated Hamilton Pocket Watch Railway Special 992b 21 Jewels 10k Gf Case RunsHamilton 992b Stainless Steel Case Railroad Pocket Watch 195216 Size Hamilton Model "11" Railroad Pocket Watch Case 992 992b 992e 950bHamilton Gct 22 Jewel An5740 Military Issue Pocket Watch 4992b No Reserve!Hamilton 21j # 992b -railway Special Pocketwatch - NiceHamilton 18 Size 17 Jewel Canadian Private Label Pocket WatchHamilton Pocket Watch 1947 Grade 923 23j 10s Open Face 14k Gf Free ShippingHamilton 934 18 Size 17 Jewel Pocket Watch In Hamilton Salesman Display CaseAntique 18s Hamilton 940 21j 21 Jewel Railroad Pocket WatchVintage Hamilton 940 Railroad Grade 21j Pocket Watch1905 Hamilton Gr 925 Gold Hand 17j Pocket Watch In Scene Engraved Case 18s RunsMilitary G.c.t. Hamilton 4992b Navigator, 24hr. 22 Jewel Pocket Watch**runs**1950 16s Ball Hamilton 999b Pocket Watch Movement RunsBright 10s Hamilton 917 Mov't 17j Runs Well W/dial Of Pocket Watch 16s Hamilton Model # 16 Yellow Gold Fill Pocket Watch Case, Excellent ConditionVtg Hamilton 940 Railroad Approved Pocket Watch 21 Jewel Open FaceHamilton 16 Size Genuine Factory Salesman Sample Case. 4gRare Find! Museum Quality, Magnificent 14k Gold 21j 18s Hamilton Pocket WatchHamilton 950 Rr 23 Jewel Bar Over Crown 10k Gold Filled Pocket Watch Rare (?) Antique 18s Hamilton 940 21j 21 Jewel Railroad Pocket WatchVintage 1926 Hamilton Model 912 - 17 Jewels - Pocket Watch -- 14k Gf Antique Large Lot Hamilton Wrist Watches Huge Number Of Watches & Parts1923 16s Hamilton 21j 992 Pocket Watch Movement Runs1925 16s Hamilton 21j 992 Pocket Watch Movement RunsHamilton 14k Gold Filled 917 17j Pocket Watch 45mmVintage 1911 Hamilton 17 Jewel Grade 975 Pocket Watch 4 Parts Or Repair 25y CaseHamilton Pocket Watch Movement 917, 17 J 10s, Dial, Runs WellAntique Hamilton Railroad Rr Celluloid Pocket Watch Case BoxHamilton 992b Railway Special 21j 16sz Pocketwatch C1940 Hamilton Watch Co CaseAlmost Perfect Hamilton Case Mod #11 16s Rr Case Keystone 10k Ygf 992b 950b 950eHamilton Railway Special Pocketwatch 992b Model 21 Jewels 10k Gf Star Case 1914 Hamilton 992 21j 16s Gold Filled Open Face Railroad Pocket Watch W/ Fob E631926 Hamilton 992 21 Jewel 16s 10k Gold Filled Open Railroad Pocket Watch E63 Vintage Hamilton 10 Size Gold Filled Open Face Pocket Watch - Grade 917 !Super 1906 Montgomery Dial Hamilton 941 Railroad Grade Hunting Case PocketwatchHamilton 950b Railway Special 23 Jewels 10k Yellow Gold Filled Case PocketwatchPristine Military Hamilton 4992b Hacking Pocket Watch Marked: U.s. Govt. 22jewelVery Nice Scarce 1936 Vintage 21j Rr Model 8 Boc Case Hamilton 992 ElinvarAntique Elgin Gold Filled Railroad Pocket Watch Scrap Lot Parts Steampunk 222 GrHamilton 17 Jewels 16 Size Need Work Pocket Watch Nice Hamilton Pocket Watch Case Double Hinged 25 Year Yellow Gold Filled 12sRare Railroad Hamilton 14k Solid Gold Pocket Watch 17 Jewel #924 No Reserve!!!!Vintage Hamilton 992b 21j, 16s Of Pocket Watch Rr,us Army Back Plate, Runs Well