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
Columbia Plan Vies For 300 JobsInsurance News Net (press release), April 17th
Hill Experience in a vacant Columbia silk mill, renovating the former fire and police station in downtown Lancaster into office and retail space and creating a headquarters for Eastern Insurance out of a former Hamilton Watch warehouse on Race Avenue...Read more
'Last busy week' for retiring Monsignor Richard A. YoutzLancaster Newspapers, April 17th
"My father, sister and brother all worked at (the former) Hamilton Watch" (Co., at Columbia and West End avenues). Youtz felt called to the priesthood as a student at Lancaster Catholic High School, encouraged by young priests. "They were happy, and...Read more
30 Years Later, This Nerdy Watch Is Still Super AwesomeBusiness Insider, April 12th
But others say it was the Pulsar, formerly the Hamilton Watch Company, that was the first. Pulsar calculator watch. pulsar_calculator_watch. Wikimedia Commons. The Pulsar calculator watches hit the scene in 1975. They were 18-karat gold and sold for ...Read more
Hamilton RailRoad Auto ChronoWorld Tempus, April 11th
In 1892 the Hamilton Watch Company set out to deliver accurate watches to the railroad community. Once again, 122 years after, the RailRoad Auto Chrono watch pays tribute to the railroad. Hamilton RailRoad Auto Chrono. http://goo.gl/p801r1. Two new ...Read more
Baselworld 2014 : Vintage, skeletons and aerobaticsWorld Tempus (press release), March 29th
With casual, smart, men's, ladies', unisex, thirties and seventies-style models, it will be difficult not to find a Hamilton watch to your taste among the new releases for 2014! The brand is on all fronts, with ever-assertive creativity. Over and above...Read more
LANCASTER THAT WAS: Salvation Army's 1963 midget-midget teamLancaster Newspapers, March 27th
Fifty-one years ago, the 1963 Salvation Army baseball team finished in second place behind the league champions, Hamilton Watch, in the Lancaster Optimist Midget-Midget baseball league. The team's manager was Dick McCue, and his coaches were Walt ...Read more
The Attraction for Nautical Folklore in Watch DesignNew York Times, March 27th
The Hamilton Watch Company, founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Penn., was originally known for its precision pocket watches used to time trains across the United States. Hamilton became the official watch supplier to the United States military at the outset...Read more
Quincy's Illinois Watch Co. assembling watches, set for expansi - Quincy ...Quincy Herald Whig, March 26th
(H-W Photo/Phil Carlson). By DOUG WILSONHerald-Whig Senior Writer. The watches being assembled at the Illinois Watch Co. in Quincy are popular with members of the military, and sales of the timepieces are raising money for charities that help veterans...Read more