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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
American Watch Company Web
National Watch and Clock Museum
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Hamilton and Illinois Wristwatches
Source: Google News
Ten top watches for under $2000Sydney 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
Photos: Then and now Lancaster places and facesNewsworks.org, July 17th
She documented the city's Armistice Day parade and a dance for employees at the Hamilton Watch Company. She took shots of the community garbage heap and shots of a highway supervisor salmon fishing with a bottle of hard cider on the Susquehanna ...Read more
Rare green snake surfaces in WaukeganLake County News-Sun, July 16th
Officials with the Lincoln Park Zoo have been releasing captive-bred snakes into Lake County preserves since 2011 as part of an effort to re-establish the population, which has been placed on an Illinois watch list as “in greatest need of conservation.”...Read more
Movie, traveling exhibit to tell the story of African-Americans in ElginElgin Courier News, July 14th
The city's two biggest employers, Elgin National Watch Co. and Illinois Watch Case Co., refused to hire blacks, and there were no black teachers, police officers, firefighters or city council members. Broadnax said many people in The Settlement took...Read more
Does Android Wear need the iWatch? asks CNET UK podcast 394CNET (blog), June 27th
The first digital watch was the Pulsar manufactured by Hamilton Watch Company in which year? Yo, yo. Okay, digital watch, not smart watch, right? Digital watch. Are you Google it? [LAUGH] No, 1967. That's not correct I'm afraid, Luke. Anchors away. 2014...Read more
Local soccer fans thrilled U.S. survives, advancesHamilton Journal News (subscription), June 26th
Fans, including Kyle Brogan and Brian Hamilton, watch the US Men's National Team play its third World Cup 2014 matchup Thursday against Germany at the Dingle House in West Chester Twp. By Michael D. Pitman. Staff Writer. WEST CHESTER TWP. —...Read more
What I Wear to Work: At the White HouseWashingtonian.com (blog), June 25th
Tommy Hilfiger suit, Thomas Pink shirt, Isaia tie, Paul Smith socks, Mezlan shoes, Ted Baker cufflinks, vintage Hamilton watch, vintage Ray-Ban sunglasses, vintage briefcase. “Casual” Friday. “We don't really do 'casual Fridays' the White House, but a...Read more
Deaths of Local Interest – July 26, 2014Lititz Record Express, June 25th
She worked as an inspector at Hamilton Watch Company for five years and at John Herr's Village Market, Millersville for 10 years at the meat counter. She and her husband also had a stand at Central Market. A brother, Robert (Aileen) Bender, lives in...Read more