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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LANCASTER THAT WAS: Hamilton won 1935 state softball titleLancaster Newspapers, December 3rd
This photo from New Providence resident Barry Giberson shows the 1935 "Hamilton Watch 10" softball team decked out in uniforms of wool or flannel. The H.W.A.A. insignia stood for Hamilton Watch Athletic Association. Giberson, who collects baseball and ...Read more
For MEDA, a decade of growthMennonite World Review, December 2nd
Phyllis and Curt Dorsing, left, from Washington state, and MEDA board member Pat Vendrely from Illinois watch the auction bidding unfold at MEDA's annual convention Nov. 7-10 in Wichita, Kan. — Photo by MEDA. MEDA doubled the number of countries in ...Read more
Emerging Technology branch of ESPN calls Hamilton homeThe Trentonian, November 30th
HAMILTON— Watch a football game and you're depending on that little yellow line to tell if your team made it another 10 yards for a chance to score. Watch a basketball game and look to the left-hand corner to count the ticking seconds on the shot...Read more
FLASHBACK LANCASTER: Nov. 25, 2013Lancaster Newspapers, November 25th
100 Years Ago: The Hamilton Watch Co., which the Nov. 26 Daily New Era said prides itself on accuracy, installed a wireless receiver that would allow it to receive the latest government standard time at noon each day directly from the Naval Observatory...Read more
Tomorrow's Technological Breakthroughs: Hiding in Plain Sight?The American, November 22nd
While mechanical watchmaking today is an enthusiast niche, it was at the forefront of 1930s technology; Hine portrayed a skilled inspector using a “high-precision toolmaker's microscope, accurate to .0001 of an inch,” in the Hamilton Watch Co. factory...Read more
Richard A. Whiting, antitrust lawyerWashington Post, November 21st
In 1953, he participated in a major antitrust case, Hamilton Watch Co. v. Benrus Watch Co., that was among the first successful challenges of a hostile business merger. Mr. Whiting served as chairman of the American Bar Association's antitrust section...Read more
10th-ranked Rams butt heads with SeminolesCharlotte Observer, November 21st
FSU is no stranger to in-season tournament success with four titles on Hamilton's watch, the last the 2012-13 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Shaka Smart's Rams certainly know a thing or two about navigating a tournament field. VCU is one of the nation's ...Read more
OHIO STATE vs ILLINOIS Watch Live Stream Online & Listen: FREE Live ...Sports World News, November 16th
OHIO STATE vs ILLINOIS Watch Live Stream Online & Listen: FREE Live Coverage from Memorial Stadium Illinois. By Mike Smollins | Nov 16, 2013 10:48 AM EST. Tags:ohio state, Illinois, Live Stream. Braxton Miller. Ohio State Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller...Read more