Vintage Hamilton and Illinois Watches

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.

Illinois got into the wristwatch business like most other makers of pocket watches—by producing a wristwatch for women. That was in 1905. An Illinois wristwatch for men would not appear until 1921.

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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic - 42mm Military Watch, Lumi Hands And MarkersMens 1970 Hamilton 14k Solid Gold 17j Masterpiece Original Watch, Boxes & PapersHamilton King Khaki H644550Vintage Hamilton Khaki 17 Jewel Manual Wind Military Men's Watch 649 HackingVintage Hamilton Automatic Micro-rotor Cal. 668 17 Jewels Swiss Ens WatchHamilton Khaki Aviation WatchHamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Mens Watch H646110Lot Of 3 Mens Vintage Watches For Repairs/parts Hamilton 646, 688 & WalthamRare 1970's Hamilton Qed 955 Quartz Digital Led Watch Box Set $16,800 Exquisite Platinum 1930 Lady Hamilton 4.50ct Mq/rd Diamond Mop Face $99Vintage Hamilton "980" Military Dial (mint-crystal) Nos Wyler (suede) Mens WatchHamilton Khaki Action Guard Men's Watch H61411533.htmTsovet Svt-cn38 Cn110111-40 Leather Band Watch Nixon Hamilton VestalHamilton Ventura Limited Edition Men's Black Near Mint Blemish No Rsv!Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Black Dial Men's Watch (h64611535)Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic - 42mm Military Watch, Lumi Hands And MarkersVintage Hamilton Sentinel 1940/1 17 Jewels Vary Rare First Hacking Enamel Dial Vintage 1935 Hamilton Sherwood Men's 14k Solid Gold 19 Jewel Ribbed Case WatchVintage Hamilton 10k. Gold Filled Mens Watch Working Conditions 28x28mmVintage 10k Solid Gold Hamilton Wrist Watch Circa 1962 Fancy Lugs Serviced NrVintage Hamilton Brandon 980 Mens Wrist Watch - Mint Dial - 10k Gold FVintage Mens Hamilton Yorktown 980 Tonneau Wrist Watch - Mint Dial - 14k Gold FVintage Hamilton 17 Jewel Wind Men's Wrist Watch Model 980 Runs 14 K GfHamilton Vintage Flight I WatchVintage Hamilton 10k Yellow Gold Automatic Thin-o-matic Watch Circa 1960'sHamilton Vintage Stainless Steel "thin-line" With Original Black Dial, Nice!!!Hamilton 3600 Self-winding Day/date Watch, Mint Condition Illinois Watch Co Bunn Special Usa 16 Size 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement 1923Hamilton 14k Solid Yellow Gold "thin-o-matic" 25 Jewel Micro Rotor Caliber 691.Fantastic Hamilton Automatic 33mm Men's Wrist Watch - RunsHamilton Khaki Harrison Ford Conservation Automatic Chronograph Watch Mint!Hamilton Automatic X-patrol Caliber H21 H765560 Chronograph Men's Wrist WatchHamilton Khaki Automatic Vintage 1953 Hamilton Preston Men's 14k Solid Gold 19 Jewel Cal, 754 Watch RunsWw2 Hamilton Military Watch Usn Buships With Nos Military CaseHamilton Masterpiece Thin-o-matic-14k Solid Gold Men's Watch-diamond Style LugsL.l. Bean Field Watch By Hamilton With Two Straps In Original BoxRare Vintage Mens Hamilton Thin-o-matic 14k Yellow Gold WatchVintage 1970's Men's S/s Hamilton Automatic Watch All Original Runs1950 Vintage Hamilton "medford" Mens Wristwatch - White Gold W/ Black DialHamilton Military "khaki" Field Automatic - Big Size 42 Mm Out Crown Swiss WatchL L Bean Hamilton Military Style Wrist Watch No ReserveHamilton Automatic H644550Vintage Hamilton Men's Black Fan Dial Windup Watch 17 Jewel 671Vintage Gold Fd Large Nos Antique Art Deco Hamilton Mens Watch ... NrVintage Hamilton Automatic Stainless Steel Men's Wristwatch ~ Nice!!!Hamilton17 Jewel Circa 1960 Man's Automatic Wristwatch-runs FineHamilton Masterpiece 14k Solid Gold Watch Mens Watch And BandVintage 1951 Hamilton "donald" Watch 14k Gold Case 982m Medallion 19j ~runningMen's Vintage Wrist Watch Lot 21pc Longines, Elgin, Benrus, Illinois + As ShownC1937 14kt Gold Filled Hamilton Carlisle Watch 980 Manual Wind 17jewelMen's Hamilton Everest S/s Watch Eta 955 412 & Hamilton Rr Special ElectronicHamilton Khaki Automatic H70555533Hamilton Military "khaki" Field Automatic - Big Size 42 Mm Out Crown Swiss WatchVintage 1982 Military Hamilton Benrus Gg-w-113 No. 6645-00-066-4279 OriginalHamilton Military Field Mil-w-46374b Wrist Watch For MenHamilton 1983 Us Military Wrist Watch Nice No Reserve14k Rose Gold Hamilton 982 Brock Watch Box And Papers RareVintage 10k Gf Hamilton "sea Cliff " Asymmetrical Case Hidden Lugs ,22 Jewels.Used Hamilton Thin-o-matic Date Swiss Men's Mens Wristwatch Watch Engraved Back

Recent News: Hamilton and Illinois Wristwatches

Source: Google News

The King gets a new watch
World Tempus, July 6th

The history of Hamilton Watch and Elvis Presley goes all the way back to 1961, when the King of Rock'n'Roll wore the ground-breaking Ventura in the movie “Blue Hawaii.” Elvis wore his own Ventura throughout his life and the Ventura became known as “the ...Read more

Grant: Nothing goes right for Rangers vs. lefties; Angels trounce Texas 13-0
Dallas Morning News, July 4th

Texas Rangers players and their families, including outfielder Josh Hamilton, watch the post game Fourth of July fireworks show at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Saturday, July 4, 2015. The Rangers played and lost earlier to his former team the Los...Read more

Music inspired watches
Telegraph.co.uk, July 4th

To celebrate what would have been Presley's 80th birthday, Hamilton has released the Ventura Elvis in cool rock'n'roll black brightened with flashes of orange – a comeback special of which the King would surely have approved. £1,140, Hamilton Watch...Read more

Whoa! Watch this eight month pregnant lady dancing with daughter!
Daily Bhaskar (press release) (blog), July 1st

International Desk: While eight months pregnant, this mom had an epic living room dance with her daughter and the video is getting viral. In just four days, the video is seen by more than 2 crores 25 lakh people. In the video, Nikki Talor, from...Read more

What Joseph Schooling & I have in common
AsiaOne, June 29th

At 40, I didn't get a promotion but received a Hamilton watch instead from the SAF and was told to go away. I was finally done with NS. Although I'm relieved to no longer have to pass my IPPT, I sometimes miss those days because they represent a bygone...Read more

Biking part of Elgin's long history
Chicago Tribune, June 26th

The Elgin Cycle Co. was related to the Illinois Watch Case Co. on Dundee Avenue. The C.H. Woodruff Co. later evolved into the Woodruff & Edwards iron foundry, in what is now Foundry Park on North State Street. The Elgin Sewing Machine & Bicycle Co...Read more

Rangers' revamped lineup backs Gallardo in win over Dodgers
Fort Worth Star Telegram, June 15th

Yovani Gallardo allowed only four singles in seven scoreless innings Monday night against the Dodgers. | LM Otero AP. The Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins is caught stealing second base by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. | LM Otero AP. By Jeff Wilson...Read more

Hamilton Watch Plays Pivotal Role In Oscar Contender 'Interstellar'
Forbes, November 27th

I am the editor-in-chief and co-founder of QuillandPad.com. Beyond that, I contribute my horological expertise to a variety of magazines, websites and publications all over the world. With more than two decades' experience covering the watch industry...Read more