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
Flashback Lancaster: March 10, 2014Lancaster Newspapers, March 9th
Hamilton Watch Co. joined Bulova and Elgin to protest a proposed government plan to lower tariffs on imported watches, the March 10 Intell reported. Hamilton feared the lower tariffs would result in the loss of 700 local jobs. Strasburg Railroad...Read more
White Ready To Make More MemoriesSeminoles.com, March 8th
White's greatest pride - on the court - is being a part of a program that has risen to new heights under Hamilton's watch, establishing the `Noles as a formidable foe every night in the tradition-rich league. "That's just an amazing accomplishment to...Read more
Springing ahead can be work, but a labor of love for shop ownersAkron Beacon Journal, March 7th
Ball had the Hamilton Watch Company make the watches, which literally display his stamp of approval. Today, jewelry stores are filled with wristwatches for men, which wasn't always the case. “Before World War I, the wristwatch was worn by men in Europe...Read more
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??????(Hamilton Watch) ????H-20-S?????????????????????????????????????????????????????“H”????????????????????????...Read more
Morgan, Dabney have an Olympic volunteer episodeCleveland Daily Banner, February 18th
“She came over to the booth that Michael Dabney and I were working, the Hamilton watch booth, with a social media camera, obviously streaming her experience and asked if we were OK with her taking a picture with us,” he said. “It absolutely blew our...Read more
Britain sets curling record en route to big win over JapanNevada Appeal, February 14th
Great Britain's Anna Sloan, left to right, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton watch a shot during their round robin curling match against Japan at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash). Expand Photo Erika ...Read more
Workers take on the system in 'Shining Lives'Greenville News, February 13th
In the 1920s and 30s, four women work at an Illinois watch factory, painting the hour markings onto different sized watch dials. They use a radium compound which glows in the dark. Their bosses at Radium Dial tell them there's no evidence that radium...Read more
Hamilton Squelette pour hommesWorld Tempus, February 12th
Hamilton's Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton. Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton © Hamilton. Comme le précise Sylvain Dolla, président de Hamilton Watch Worldwide : « Le H-20-S est un mouvement squelette exclusif développé par ETA pour Hamilton...Read more