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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Wristwatches: high-tech often means highly desirableSmithsonian Science, April 24th
In 1972, the Hamilton Watch company released the Pulsar, which was the very first LED (light-emitting diode) digital display watch. “Others were trying to make an LED watch at the same time, but the Pulsar was the watch that had commercial success,” ...Read more
State transportation infrastructure 'listening tour' kicks off next weekChicago Tribune, April 21st
Traffic moves during the morning rush hour commute as construction began on the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction project Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Chicago. Traffic moves during the morning rush hour commute as construction began on the ...Read more
I'm Buying a WristableHuffington Post, April 20th
Perhaps we should all refer back to a 1913 Hamilton Watch ad that described their new product as a tool for moral improvement because it leads its owners to form desirable habits of promptness and precision. Imagine how we can morally improve by adding ...Read more
Chinese GP will be challenging – Lewis Hamilton (Watch video)Newsfirst, April 8th
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton attended a promotional event for fashion brand Hugo Boss on Wednesday (April 8) ahead of this week's Chinese Grand Prix. Hamilton won the opening race in Australia almost as he pleased, but Ferrari's ...Read more
More than $6500 worth of watches stolen from Evanston homeDaily Northwestern, April 1st
Two watches with a combined value of about $6,800 were stolen from a west Evanston home March 21, police said. The owner of the home, a 57-year-old man, said he was out of town and while he was away his relatives who were watching his home in the ...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
Hamilton — Vidéo. Interstellar interview- Prop Master - Ritchie Kremer ...WorldTempus, November 7th
Thumbnail Panerai, PAM00526. Panerai. Thumbnail Zenith, Fondation Eric Abidal. Zenith. Thumbnail FH surveillance aeroports. Action de surveillance. Accueil · Insider; Hamilton — Vidéo. Interstellar interview- Prop Master - Ritchie Kremer - Hamilton Watch...Read more
Pearl Jam Debut New Song 'Moline' in Moline, IllinoisCBS Local, October 20th
Every major city has its own song and last night a small town in Illinois was treated to the same by Eddie Vedder. Before taking the stage in Moline, Ill., the Pearl Jam frontman wrote up a tribute to the Mississippi River-adjacent city. “Moline, it...Read more