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 Khaki Gents Automatic WatchHamilton Military "khaki" Field Automatic - Big Size 42 Mm Out Crown Swiss WatchVintage 1957 Hamilton 14k Gold Ventura Electric Watch W/ First Run Cal 500Beautiful Gents Hamilton Khaki Automatic Movement Mens Watch, Mint Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Military Watch, Lumi Hands And MarkersHamilton Watch Co Usa Model 992 16 Size 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement - 1914Hamilton Electric Pacer Vintage Original 505 1960's Men's Watch Ventura VegaIllinois Watch Co Bunn Special Usa 16 Size 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement 1924Hamilton Jazzmaster Automatic Chronograph H326160 With Valjoux 7750 No Reserve!Hamilton Military "khaki" Field Automatic - Big Size 42 Mm Out Crown Swiss WatchHamilton-khaki-divers-auto Wind-ca.1970.eta-caliber 2834-2-rotating Bezel.-Hamilton Watch Co Usa Model 992 16 Size 21 Jewels Pocket Watch Movement - 19301975 , Rare Hamilton British Military Raf 6bb Hack Sec. Mens Watch * No Reserve$5100! Vintage 14k White Gold Hamilton 1ctw Natural Diamond Ladies Watch 17gHamilton Khaki Automatic Watch With Leather And Rubber Straps.1953 Vintage Hamilton "rodney" Men's Wristwatch - Excellent ConditionVtg Hamilton Military Pilots Wristwatch Gg-w-113 February 1979 W/ Hack HackingAntique Hamilton Diamond Platinum Ladys Wristwatch 13.1 Grams NrStunning 1948 Hamilton "brock" 19j 982m 14k Solid Gold Black Dial Mens Watch!!Vintage Rare Hamilton (ultra-thin) Calendar Cross-hair Dial Working Mens WatchMens 1950s Hamilton Morton Fancy Case 10k Gold Filled 19 Jewel Usa Vintage WatchVintage Hamilton Thin-o-matic 17 Jewel 663 Micro Rotor 10k Gf & S/s Men's WatchVintage Hamilton Thin-o-matic Automatic Micro Rotor WristwatchHamilton Vintage Men's Automatic Original Dial The 10kygf Case Is Exlt.c.1961Vintage 1978 Hamilton Military Wristwatch $9.99 H3 Mil-w 46374 B. LookSeiko Pulsar Hamilton Sector Zodiac Led Automatic Quartz Mens LotGents Vintage Buren / Hamilton Mechanical Wrist Watch Stainless SteelHamilton Khaki Belowzero Blackout Men Automatic Watch Below Zero 1000mHamilton Khaki Field Officer Mechanical H69419363Mesmerizing~vintage Late 60s Hamilton Thin-o-matic Men's Automatic~stunning DialVintage Hamilton Electric 10k Gold Filled Two Tone Wristwatch 1959 (nr)Hamilton Khaki Quartz Military Watch - 38mm Without CrownVintage Hamilton Led Watch.1905 Hamilton Watch 941 (940) 21 Jewels High Grade Pocket Watch MovementVintage Mid Sized Hamilton Automatic Wristwatch - Swiss Made - 17 JewelsVintage Hamilton Pacer WatchLot Of Two Vintage Hamilton Military Field Watches - Mil-w-46374b - H3Vintage Hamilton Electric 10k Gold Filled Two Tone WristwatchVintage Mens Hamilton "brandon" Wristwatch - Cal.980 - 17 Jewels - UsaStunning 1996 Hamilton "masterpiece" Model 8926 Mens Swiss Quartz Watch!!Platinum Deco Hamilton 1ctw Natural Diamond Ladies Watch With Rope BandHamilton Vintage Ladies Platinum Diamond Watch,10 Grams! .48 Tcw!Vintage Mens Hamilton 17 Jewels 752 10k Gold Filled Art Deco Wrist Watch - WorksLady's Vintage Art Deco Hamilton Platinum & Diamond Manual Wind Watch (#908)Vintage 1930' Estate Illinois Mens Wristwatch, Link Wristband No ReserveMens Vintage Hamilton Automatic Wristwatch W/date 10kgf Case - 17j - SwissHamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Automatic H32515555Ladies 14k Gold Hamilton 1.25 Cttw Diamond Dress Wrist Watch No Reserve Vintage Men's Hamilton 17 Jewel 686 Diamond Dial Wrist WatchHamilton 979 W/ Stained Crystal Case Marked 14k White Gold Runs 19 JewelVintage Hamilton Deco Engraved Gf Case Cal 987 Mens Watch Circa 1920sHamilton Vintage Men's Automatic Original Dial The Stainless Case Is Exlt.c.1970Vintage Mens Watch Lot, Bulova , Elgin ,gruen , Hamilton Mechanical WristwatchesHamilton Thin-o-matic Vintage Men's Automatic Watch - T451 - 1960Superb Hamilton Wristwatch 14k Solid Gold Case Bradford Model Yr 1954 Diamonds Hamilton 1930's Tonneau Wrist WatchGreat Rare Hamilton Khaki Air Chronograph Date Black Pvd Stainless Quartz 41mmVintage Hamilton Us Gi Gg-w-113 Military Mens Watch Stainless 17jVintage Large Antique Hamilton L.l. Bean Military Mens Watch ... NrHamilton Electric Hamilton Watch Co Lancaster Pa 14k Star W C Co

Recent News: Hamilton and Illinois Wristwatches

Source: Google News

Wristwatches: high-tech often means highly desirable
Smithsonian Science, April 24th

In 1972, the Hamilton Watch company released the Pulsar, which was the very first LED (light-emitting diode) digital display watch. “Others were trying to make an LED watch at the same time, but the Pulsar was the watch that had commercial success,” ...Read more

State transportation infrastructure 'listening tour' kicks off next week
Chicago Tribune, April 21st

Traffic moves during the morning rush hour commute as construction began on the Jane Byrne Interchange reconstruction project Wednesday, March 11, 2015 in Chicago. Traffic moves during the morning rush hour commute as construction began on the ...Read more

I'm Buying a Wristable
Huffington Post, April 20th

Perhaps we should all refer back to a 1913 Hamilton Watch ad that described their new product as a tool for moral improvement because it leads its owners to form desirable habits of promptness and precision. Imagine how we can morally improve by adding ...Read more

Chinese GP will be challenging – Lewis Hamilton (Watch video)
Newsfirst, April 8th

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton attended a promotional event for fashion brand Hugo Boss on Wednesday (April 8) ahead of this week's Chinese Grand Prix. Hamilton won the opening race in Australia almost as he pleased, but Ferrari's ...Read more

More than $6500 worth of watches stolen from Evanston home
Daily Northwestern, April 1st

Two watches with a combined value of about $6,800 were stolen from a west Evanston home March 21, police said. The owner of the home, a 57-year-old man, said he was out of town and while he was away his relatives who were watching his home in the ...Read more

Hamilton Watch Plays Pivotal Role In Oscar Contender 'Interstellar'
Forbes, November 27th

I am the editor-in-chief and co-founder of QuillandPad.com. Beyond that, I contribute my horological expertise to a variety of magazines, websites and publications all over the world. With more than two decades' experience covering the watch industry...Read more

Hamilton — Vidéo. Interstellar interview- Prop Master - Ritchie Kremer ...
WorldTempus, November 7th

Thumbnail Panerai, PAM00526. Panerai. Thumbnail Zenith, Fondation Eric Abidal. Zenith. Thumbnail FH surveillance aeroports. Action de surveillance. Accueil · Insider; Hamilton — Vidéo. Interstellar interview- Prop Master - Ritchie Kremer - Hamilton Watch...Read more

Pearl Jam Debut New Song 'Moline' in Moline, Illinois
CBS Local, October 20th

Every major city has its own song and last night a small town in Illinois was treated to the same by Eddie Vedder. Before taking the stage in Moline, Ill., the Pearl Jam frontman wrote up a tribute to the Mississippi River-adjacent city. “Moline, it...Read more