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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Hassler 72nd AnniversaryLancasterOnline, February 6th
Jane was working at the Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster. She wrote many letters to Thurston, but it in some cases it took a year for the letters to reach him. After the war, Thurston joined his father and brother in the family businessâFerguson and ...Read more
James Corden and Rosie O'Donnell Rapped Hamilton's 'Alexander Hamilton' and It ...Us Weekly, February 4th
Open casting calls, anyone? James Corden and Rosie O'Donnell really, really love Broadway's hit Hamilton. So much so, that the pair rapped the show's opening number, "Alexander Hamilton," during The Late Late Show on Wednesday, February 3...Read more
Without Wideman, Flames rally for win over CanesCalgary Herald, February 3rd
Needing a rallying cry and, at the very least, a positive distraction, the Calgary Flames put their hardhats on and went to work. Sean Monahan — with a goal, three assists, and his first career four-point game — did his part. The performance was much...Read more
Calgary Flames host the Hurricanes after losing Wideman for 20 gamesCalgary Sun, February 3rd
On Hamilton's watch, to boot. Still, the Flames carried on. And, in the end, Karri Ramo made 28 stops to cap off the hosts' first game back from the '16 NHL all-star break. “We saw again that Mony, Johnny and Huds, they were flying,” said Flames head...Read more
Hasslers celebrate 72 yearsCecil Whig, February 1st
Jane was working at the Hamilton Watch Company in Lancaster, Pa. She wrote many letters to Thurston, but it in some cases it took a year for the letters to reach him. Thurston and his shipmates were tasked with fortifying the newly-conquered islands in...Read more
Weather Guarantee 2/5/16FOX Illinois, January 30th
Storm Team 20 is proud to team up with Green Family Stores to bring our special Weather Guarantee to Central Illinois. Watch to see if we correctly predicted the previous day's high temperature within 3 degrees. When we get it right, a designated local...Read more
Steven M. Sipple: O'Brien arrival comforting for NU, but issues remainLincoln Journal Star, January 17th
Nebraska is pursuing four offensive tackles for its class of 2016 (probably hoping to land two or three) — Alaric Jackson of Detroit; Jauan Williams of Washington, D.C.; Matt Farniok of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Royce Newman of Nashville...Read more
Then and Now: Hamilton Watch CompanyLancasterOnline, July 30th
Buy Now. KEITH SCHWEIGERT | Staff. 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...Read more