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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It'll Take a Social Revolution for Americans to Embrace the Apple WatchWired, September 15th
Back in 1972, the Hamilton Watch Company introduced the $2,100 Pulsar 1—the world's very first electronic watch—with very similar hopes to those swirling around the Apple Watch. But a decade later, most watch-buyers were still expecting the same kind...Read more
Late to watches, Apple set its own a minute earlyQuartz, September 10th
It's a tradition that dates to at least 1926, when the Hamilton Watch Company began using the time in ads for its watches. Apple isn't alone in deviating from the norm. Oris, which has named some of its watches after jazz musicians, often uses the...Read more
Before you get an Apple Watch, learn the basics of smartwatchesVox, September 9th
Smartwatch information site Smartwatches.org points back to the Hamilton Watch Company's Pulsar, produced in 1972, as an early smartwatch. That watch stored up to 24 digits. Later Pulsar watches functioned as calculators and also allowed you to connect ...Read more
Mailbag: A timeless toolAlbany Democrat Herald, September 6th
I wear and use daily the Hamilton wristwatch my parents gave me for graduation from Albany Union High School in 1960. Scott Pirie, Albany (Sept. 1). Copyright 2014 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published...Read more
The 311 on the 33rd GPA Historic House WalkElgin Courier News, September 5th
The house was built in 1917 for Sol Eppenstein, who along with his brother, Max, and Thomas Duncan founded the Illinois Watch Case Co. in 1888. The factory once stood at the corner of Dundee and Slade Avenues. Elgin architect George E. Morris, whose ...Read more
Looking for your Week 2 Big Ten game on BTN? Use our GameFinderBig Ten Network, September 5th
BTN/BTN2Go airs five Week 2 Big Ten football games. At noon ET: Western Kentucky at Illinois (Watch on BTN2Go), Howard at Rutgers (Watch on BTN2Go) and Western Illinois at Wisconsin (Watch on BTN2Go). At 3:30 ET: Middle Tennessee at Minnesota ...Read more
Flashback LancasterLancasterOnline, September 1st
50 Years Ago: General Time Corp., the world's largest maker of timepieces, made an offer to purchase Hamilton Watch Co., according to the Sept. 2, 1964 New Era, at a cost of $31 per share. The offer was made after General Time moved to take over ...Read more
Looking for your Week 1 Big Ten game on BTN? Use our GameFinder!Big Ten Network, August 29th
BTN/BTN2Go airs six Week 1 Big Ten games, including a quartet Saturday: Youngstown State at Illinois (Watch on BTN2Go); Northern Iowa at Iowa (Watch on BTN2Go); James Madison at Maryland (Watch on BTN2Go); Florida Atlantic at Nebraska (Watch on ...Read more