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
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Hamilton firefighter's widow organizes memorial 5K race in husband's honorWCPO, April 28th
Fallen Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman's widow Bre is helping organize a benefit 5K to honor her late husband's memory. Terry Helmer | WCPO. Copyright 2016 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, ...Read more
Almeda Watch: The Only Analog-Digital Watch In The World With Six Daily Sound ...7thSpace Interactive (press release), April 26th
Almeda Watches were developed by Hans R. Scholl who has been designing timepieces for more than 30 years in Switzerland and the United States for the Omega Watch Company, the Hamilton Watch Company and others. That extensive experience ...Read more
Wednesday Morning LinksLone Star Ball, April 20th
The Great Josh Hamilton Watch continues, with a tentative return around mid May being the current expectation from someone much more optimistic than I am. Sherrington says the reason the Rangers are a better franchise than Houston is Jon Daniels...Read more
Would worker's comp. lawyers cooperate w/ Madigan and Rauner to keep employers ...ChicagoNow (blog), April 11th
What happens, hypothetically speaking, when Speaker Madigan asks a typical plaintiff's trial lawyer specializing in Worker's comp. insurance cases to reach a compromise on the causation standard used to resolve Worker's compensation lawsuits?...Read more
Men's Style|Three Days at Baselworld, the World's Biggest Watch FairNew York Times, April 4th
An Omega representative presenting the company's newest watch collection in March at Baselworld's 2016 edition of the Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel, Switzerland. Credit Daniel Auf der Mauer for The New York Times ...Read more
Odds & Ends: Javier Munoz on His Incredible Fight Back to Hamilton, Watch Out ...Broadway.com, March 31st
Hamilton's Javier Muñoz recently underwent treatment for cancer and he's been revealing more about his extraordinary fight back to the Richard Rodgers' stage as Lin-Manuel Miranda's alternate. "I look back at diagnosis and treatment…it's like 100...Read more
Hamilton, watch out for 'freezing drizzle' MondayCBC.ca, February 15th
Forecasters at Environment Canada say Hamilton is under a "freezing drizzle" advisory on Monday afternoon. They're expecting a combination of light snow and freezing drizzle to "linger for much of the day and into the evening hours." That could create...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