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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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
AirVenture Report: 2014Aviation International News, September 1st
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Looking for your Week 1 Big Ten game on BTN? Use our GameFinder!Big Ten Network, August 29th
BTN/BTN2Go air 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
VOTD: Early Jim Henson Short Animates Jazz With Paper Cutouts/FILM, August 22nd
After he'd done years of the show Sam and Friends but before moving on to The Muppet Show, Jim Henson did a set of experimental musical shorts. The animations use paper cutouts to visualize music. In the case of this one, Drums West, the inspiration...Read more
Weekend Deals: ADAC sample sale, free coffee & pastries at Mae's Bakery ...Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog), August 22nd
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Watch times changeOCRegister, 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