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 H32766513 Men`s Jazzmaster Maestro Automatic Chronograph - No Reserve!!Awesome 1972 Hamilton 685 Vietnam U.s. Military Mens Wrist Watch!!Mens 1950s Hamilton Fleetwood 14k Solid Gold 18j Usa Vintage Scoop Lug Watch A+Burlington (illinois) Special 19 Jewel 16 Size Chronometer Pocket Watch MovementHamilton Khaki Field Auto 42mmHamilton Chronograph Men's Automatic Watch - Black Face Day-date 25jHamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto Pvd H70575733 AutomaticHamilton Automatic Chronograph Mens Wrist Watch Valjoux 7750 Ref.3828 Black DialRare Vintage Hamilton 14k Gold Filled 982 Reverso Wristwatch 19 Jewels OtisHamilton Khaki Chronograph Automatic Swiss Made Ref.6313Vintage Hamilton 17j Men's Watch Thin-o-matic Model Cal 663 Micro Rotor Runs1940 Rare Vintage Mens Hamilton 'bagley' Art Deco 10k Gold F Unusual WatchVintage Hamilton Manual Wind Ll Bean Military Style Mens Wrist Watch W Strap1950s Vintage Automatic Hamilton Men's Wristwatch - Excellent & Working Fine1949 Vintage Mens Hamilton "jeffrey" Two Tone Dial 10k Gold Fl 980 WatchMens Hamilton - " Solid Stainless Steel " -mint Original Dial Hamilton & Co, Calcutta, Vintage Silver Trench Watch, Quite Good For Repair,Hamilton Khaki Automatic Chronograph White Face 42mm (not Running)Illinois Watch Co Springfield Usa 16 Size 17 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement - 1907Art Deco Hamilton Diamond 14k White Gold Womens Dress Watch Ladies VintageStunning 1951 Hamilton "grover" Caliber 980 Mens Watch!!Military Vintage May 1976 Hamilton Cal 2750 Men's Watch14kt Solid White Gold Vintage Asymmetric Hamilton Electric " Polaris" Watch..1944 Wwii Hamilton 987s 17 Jewel Sweep Seconds Hand 10k Gf Men's Watch E42Hamilton Khaki Field Pioneer Auto Chronograph Automatic S/s Watch H60416583Hamilton Watch Co Usa Railway Special 978 Model 16s 17j Pocket Watch MovementHamilton "gilbert" Solid 14k Gold Gents Vintage 1940s Wristwatch W/original Band1938 Hamilton 980 "brooke" 17 Jewel Manual Wind 14k Gf Men's Curved Watch E42Vintage 1940's Hamilton Usa Wilshire 982 19j Slim Driver Swivel Lugs Men 14k Gf Vintage Mens Watch - 10k Gold - Hamilton Gilmore -19j - Gr 754 - Runs - StunsVintage Original Hamilton Electric Everest ?? Men's Wristwatch Model 500a Hamilton Khaki Automatic Men's 25 Jewel Analog Wrist WatchWristwatch Hamilton Swiss Automatic 21 J Stainless SteelScarce 1959 Hamilton Thin-o-matic T-402 Swirled Engine Turn Dial Micro Rotor!!1976 Hamilton Vintage Military Issue Watch - Stainless Steel -rad Waste!1948 Hamilton 982 "ashley" 19 Jewel Manual Wind Art Deco 14k Gf Men's Watch E42Hamilton Automatic 10k Yellow Rgp Men's Watch Working & Keeping Time!Vintage Watch & Movement Parts Lot,gruen Curvex,bulova,leonidas,croton,hamiltonMen's Illinois, Antique Large, High Grade Pocket Watch Movement In Steel Case.Hamilton Mount Vernon H295150 Automatic Car Ss Silver Clockface Hamilton Automatic Swiss Made H274350 Saphire GlassVintage Hamilton Masterpiece Automatic Self-winding 10k Gold Filled Watch E42Mens Hamilton - " Talbot"- 10k Gold Filled - 1961Mens Vintage Hamilton 10 K Gold Filled Automatic WatchRunsgreat-no Rsrve-1971-vintage Mens Hamilton-ss-automatic-day N Date 5002-watchHamilton Wristwatch Vintage 14kt Gold Very Nice Running No ReserveVintage Hamilton Electric 505 10k Gold Filled Award Watch 1964 Dr. Leroy WalkerVintage Hamilton Masterpiece Thin-o-matic 10k Gold Filled Watch Parts Or Repair Vintage Hamilton 14k Gold Filled 17 Jewel 980 Men's Curvex Style Art Deco WatchVintage Mens Hamilton 17 Jewel Watch Grade 639 10k Rgp Sub Second DialHamilton Ladies 14k White Gold 43 Diamond Watch, Tcw .45! Non WorkingHamilton Sub 660 Vintage Mens Watch1950s Hamilton 14k Yellow Gold Mens Rectangular Hand Winding Wrist Watch Runs GdHamilton 917 Pocket Watch To Wrist Watch Conversion 44mmVintage C.1920's Hamilton- Men's-wristwatch W/ 986 Movement- 9 O'clock RegisterVintage Hamilton Converta Iii 1958 Wrist Watch 500 WorksMens Antique Art Deco Illinois Victor Watch Wristwatch Mechanical W/band-repairHamilton Mens Windup Wrist Watch 19 Jewel 982 14k Gold Filled Vtg Running NiceRare Vintage Illinois Argonic Tank Watch Case - Inlaid Enamel Art Deco Engraved 1950s-60s Mid Century Modern 14k Gold Hamilton Diamond Starburst Ladies Watch

Recent News: Hamilton and Illinois Wristwatches

Source: Google News

Flashback Lancaster
LancasterOnline, August 18th

100 Years Ago: Robert E. Miller of the Hamilton Watch Co., related his harrowing trip home from war-torn Europe aboard the British-owned ship Minnetonka as it traversed a sea filled with lurking German warships, the Aug. 17, 1914 Daily New Era reported...Read more

Watch party Sunday for Jackie Robinson West game
Bloomington Pantagraph, August 16th

CHICAGO (AP) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District are teaming up to host a second watch party for a city team that's in the Little League World Series. Jackie Robinson West will play at 1 p.m. Sunday in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. They...Read more

Watch times change
OCRegister, August 4th

“Watches always have a high value with collectors because of the history,” said SCP Auctions Vice President Dan Imler. “But the Gehrig watch is special because it's the holy grail, given the artistry of this particular Hamilton watch, and it has its...Read more

Weather Window | Jacob Teeter level-headed lawman
Tahoe Daily Tribune, July 30th

In 1868 Charles Hamilton was found dead on the road leading to the Truckee Cemetery, Teeter arrested a Chinese railroad employee after finding him in possession of Hamilton's watch. Chinese were regularly persecuted at the time, but the level-headed ...Read more

NCAA settles concussion cases, provides $70 million monitoring fund
CBSSports.com, July 29th

return-to-play guidelines, educational programs, research and plaintiffs' attorney fees. Bodily injury claims are not part of this settlement." The settlement addresses approximately 10 cases consolidated in the Northern District Court of Illinois...Read more

Abercrombie & Fitch: Zweites Outlets für die Dünnen und Schönen
FashionUnited, July 24th

Neben Abercrombie & Fitch darf das Outlet in Wolfsburg seit dem Frühjahr auch Michael Kors, United Colors of Benetton, Hannah White, Claire`s, Melvin & Hamilton, Watch Station und Salamander zu seinen Mietern zählen. Wolfsburg bietet nun nach ...Read more

?????????????????
?????, July 23rd

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????1975??????Hamilton Watch???...Read more

Ten top watches for under $2000
Sydney Morning Herald, July 20th

Inspired by a Hamilton watch of the same name introduced in 1971, the Hamilton Pan Europ is an automatic chronograph that takes a nostalgic look back at history's timepieces. Today's Pan Europ is powered by the calibre H31 with 60 hours' power reserve...Read more