Founded in 1870, the Illinois Watch Company was primarily known for its pocket watches favored by American railroad workers. The Hamilton Watch Company arrived on the scene almost a quarter century later, but by 1900, more than half of all U.S. railroad conductors, engineers, and workers made sure their trains ran on time with the help of a Hamilton. In 1928, Illinois was purchased by Hamilton.
During the 1920s, most men’s Illinois wristwatches were sold to jewelers, who would put their own cases on them. Of the Illinois watches that were cased at the factory, models included the Square, Canby, Cushion, Champion, Special, and Atlantic.
The late 1920s were Illinois’s prime period. Instead of plain and generic names, these new models were called the Picadilly, Marquis, Ritz, New Yorker, Beau Royale, and the top-of-the-line 14-karat gold Consul, which some collectors consider the finest American wristwatch ever made. These were designed in high Art Deco, with silver pinstripe dials, tiny second hands, and cases of two-tone gold.
After the sale to Hamilton, Illinois watches from the 1930s embraced the Streamline Moderne design. Their names leaned to the preppy (Chesterfield, Wentworth, Andover, Rockliffe) and were almost identical to Hamilton watches of this era, which were named after famous explorers (Stanley, Livingstone, Byrd). These antique Hamiltons are quite collectible today precisely because their movements were made by Illinois.
Of course Hamilton has its own history of wristwatch making. It got into the field because of World War I, when it produced wristwatches for servicemen entering the military. In the 1920s it launched a line of modest, Art Deco masterpieces, with names that evoked the Americas—Piping Rock, Langley, Coronado, Spur. Many of these watches feature white-gold cases with enamel inlays.
In the 1936, Hamilton offered the twin-dial Seckron and in 1938, it introduced its own version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, which Hamilton called the Otis. Other collectible antique Hamiltons from the 1930s include the Mount Vernon, Andres, and Oakmont...
The 1940s were largely devoted to making wristwatches for the U.S. military—one rectangular, twin-dial steel watch from this period was even known as the Bomb Timer. Then, in the 1950s, Hamilton proceeded to make a slew of conservatively styled watches named, seemingly, after archetypal American dads—Ryan, Craig, Grover, Brent, Carlton, and Alan, to name but a few.
For Hamilton, the 1950s were only in part about tradition. In 1957, it introduced the world’s first electric watches. Designed by Richard Arbib, whose previous credits had included the fins of both World War II bombs and 1950s automobiles, these new late 1950s-1960s watches had space-age, asymmetrical shapes, with equally space-age names like Ventura, Spectra, Altair, Polaris, and Gemini.
By 1971, Hamilton had embraced the electric revolution so completely that its Pulsar would have no moving parts at all, but that would be the last gasp for the once-proud American watch maker, which was sold that year to the company that is today known as the Swatch Group.
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Recent News: Hamilton and Illinois Wristwatches
Source: Google News
Hamilton watches bag starring role in The MartianWatchPro.com, September 2nd
This latest starring role in The Martian is the latest in more than 450 Hamilton watch placements in films over the last 60 years and culminated in a Hamilton watch becoming a vital plot device in last year's Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey...Read more
Watch out, 'super lice' are realThe Times (subscription), August 31st
As parents sent children back to school this week, there could be bigger concerns than early homework assignments and unpacked lunches. Earlier this week, Dr. Kyong Sup Yoon, an assistant professor of biology at Southern Illinois University at ...Read more
Drivers love return to CordovaClinton Herald, August 28th
Jon Gremmels/Clinton HeraldDouglas Cabral of Brazil squeeze into one of the dragsters on display Thursday at the iwireless Center in Molline, Illinois, promoting this weekend's World Series of Drag Racing in Cordova, Illinois. Watch Cabral climb into...Read more
Florence Starr Taylor's legacy on display at LancasterHistory.orgLancasterOnline, August 27th
The Lancaster artist was prolific, drawing everything from the Fulton Opera House on the cover of Lancaster Motorist magazine to illustrations for the Intelligencer Journal to heartfelt paintings of a mother and child. Not only was she the first woman...Read more
Watch This Freshman Win Free Tuition With an Amazing Half-Court ShotTIME, August 22nd
for the past three years administrators has offered a free semester of tuition to the first student who sinks a half-court shot at Worthen Arena. This semester, the lucky student who won't get a bill is Lem Turner of Illinois. Watch the amazing...Read more
Flashback: See Glen Campbell Join the Highwaymen at First Farm AidRollingStone.com, August 18th
In September, with Campbell standing in for Kristofferson, the song was performed at the very first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois (watch the performance above). The Highwayman album also topped the charts and featured a second Top 20 single, ...Read more
Building on Strength: Cultivating Our City's Great Entrepreneurial SpiritLancasterOnline, August 11th
From Milton Hershey's original candy company to Woolworth's initial Five and Dime, from the Hamilton Watch Co. presenting the world with the inaugural battery-powered watch to the introduction of the Serta Mattress, Lancaster has always been a "City of ...Read more
Then and Now: Hamilton Watch CompanyLancasterOnline, July 30th
The former home of Hamilton Watch Company anchors the corner of Columbia Avenue and West End Avenue in Lancaster, as seen in this aerial photo taken earlier this week. Hamilton Watch Co. postcard. Buy Now. JENNIFER KOPF | Staff. A vintage ...Read more