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Hamilton Watch Company

Hamilton Watch Company (Est. 1892) is currently a Swiss manufacturer of wristwatches based in Bienne, Switzerland. Its original incarnation began in 1874 when Ulysses S. Grant was US President and Conestoga wagons made their way along the Lancaster Pike. Citizens were heeding, after the Civil War, Horace Greely’s call to "Go West."

Another form of pioneering was factory building in the pastoral community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Adams and Perry Watch Company was built right beside the Pike. Founder Perry was a watch designer and Adams was an organizer and promoter. Using print ads, they inspired skilled watchmakers to relocate to Lancaster and began producing timepieces in 1875.

Despite this, Adams and Perry did not have enough capital to market their product. The citizens of Lancaster came to their rescue in 1877 and raised $225,000. The reorganized company was renamed the Lancaster Watch Company but continued to suffer growing pains. It was reorganized again in 1884 as the Keystone Standard Watch Company.

Even as activity went on, numerous financial problems persisted until 1892. It was in that year that Hamilton Watch Company came into existence as a result of another reorganization. The name, Hamilton was selected to honor Andrew Hamilton an original owner of the Lancaster site on which the factory was built. Hamilton had received the land from William Penn's heirs.

Hamilton Watch was created by merging Keystone with the Aurora (Illinois) Watch Company. Aurora machinery was moved to Lancaster in the summer of 1892. Business leaders and other Lancaster professionals came together to found Hamilton Watch while Charles D. Rood and Henry J. Cain of Springfield, Massachusetts represented the Aurora interests.

When the Hamilton Watch Company was founded, it was with the intention to serve the railroad market with accurate timepieces. The firm eventually became known as, ‘Hamilton - The Railroad Timekeeper of America.’

The rugged, precision watch that Hamilton produced became a favorite among railroad watch inspectors and personnel. In fulfilling the railroads' requirements for accuracy, it also filled the general public’s need for a high quality timepiece.

Owing to its accuracy and precision, Hamilton timepieces were said to play a significant role in decreasing railway accidents. Hamilton railway watches were also used by US army troops during the First World War. Consequently, Hamilton remained one of the most famous American watch manufacturers and is recognized for having significantly contributed to US history.

American soldiers during World War One preferred the modern, smaller sized wristwatch that had come onto the market at the beginning of the 20th Century. Old-fashioned pocket watches were quickly going out of fashion. This trend caused a major shift in American watch production with an emphasis on creating wristwatch models for both men and women.

During World War II, Hamilton ramped-up production of several chronometer models to meet the US Armed Forces (particularly the US Navy's) need for extremely accurate timepieces that could be used for navigation at sea. Prior to WWII, such highly accurate instruments were only produced abroad. The first Hamilton chronometers were delivered to the Navy in February 1942 and, at its peak, Hamilton was making 500 chronometers per month.

During World War II, production of consumer watches stopped and all manufactured watches (more than a million) were shipped to troops overseas. The Hamilton Company was extremely successful producing marine chronometers and deck watches in large numbers to fill the needs of the United States Navy as well as other Allied navies.

The Model 21 Hamilton was built first and had a chain drive fuse. The Model 22 had a traditional mainspring available in a traditional double box and also in a deck watch. Both the Models 21 and 22 had a two-day power reserve and the movements of both were marked, ‘U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships’. The Model 22 was also used by the U.S. Army and the back of some were marked, ‘U.S. Army,’ while all Model 22 movements are marked, ‘U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships’.

The Model 23 was a 16 size chronograph pocket watch. The Model 4992b was in a 16 size case with a black dial. It was used as a pocket watch for U.S. military and featured a 21 jewel railroad grade movement.

Despite the fact that the 1950s was the decade in which Hamilton was last recognized as a watch manufacturing powerhouse in America, the company, nevertheless, continued to contribute watchmaking innovations. In 1957, Hamilton introduced the world's first electric wristwatch, a breakthrough for the industry and the first basic change in portable timekeeping since the early 16th century.

Powered by a tiny 1.5 volt battery guaranteed to run the watch for more than a year, the new watch completely eliminated the need for a mainspring. The electric current necessary to operate one 100-watt bulb for one minute could run an electric watch for 20 years. The Hamilton Electrics featured a revolutionary movement design and was also known for its avant garde styling. Today, it makes these models among the most collectible watches.

During the mid-fifties Hamilton also embarked on a program of expansion and diversification. As a result, the company produced watches under three brand names – Hamilton, Vantage, and Buren – in six plants in the US and abroad. They manufactured sterling and plated silverware, fabricated and processed rare and exotic metals, and produced mechanical and electronic measuring devices and components.

Hamilton continued to produce some of the finest American watches until 1969, earning them the distinction of being the only American watch company to survive global competition well into the 20th century. Hamilton represents the pinnacle of American watchmaking.

Those who own modern, battery-powered quartz Hamilton Watches should understand that these have no connection to the original Hamilton Watch Company. Watches bearing the Hamilton name can still be found today, but the brand is now owned by the Swatch Group, one of the largest Swiss watch conglomerates.

That company now offers a wide range of chronograph, automatic, classic, men's sports and dress watches. The watches are characterized by American Spirit and Swiss Precision. It also sells a wide range of ladies’ designer watches characterized in the same way.

The Open Heart and Skeleton watches are eye-catching and have an iconic appeal. They offer a glimpse of the automatic movements inside.

Hamilton continues to innovate and create new features for its watches. The latest watches are offered in the Jazzmaster, Khaki Aviation, Khaki Field, Khaki Navy, Ventura and American Classic collections that include automatic chronographs, pilots’ watches, and military watches.

The firm also sells Limited Edition watches that include movie watches inspired by Hollywood plus aviation and pilots’ watches created in collaboration with the industry.

For example, the Khaki Aviation collection contains Swiss pilot’s watch. The Khaki Pilot Pioneer is the most recent pilot watch. It is descended from Hamilton’s long history of providing timepieces beloved by aviators and flying enthusiasts.

In 1918, the company began by providing watches for the first U.S. Airmail service and has been creating precise, reliable wristwatches for the flying community ever since. Modern pilots find Hamilton watches as dependable as their forebears did a century ago.

The Ventura was a milestone all on its own. A truly revolutionary moment for watchmaking, it was the first ever wristwatch with an electric, battery-powered movement. Developed by Hamilton engineers over the course of a decade, this game-changing timepiece was revealed to the world in 1957.

Over a decade later, in 1970, Hamilton unveiled the world’s first digital wristwatch: the Hamilton Pulsar, a timepiece that set the tone and style for wristwatches for years to come.

Even before inventions like the Ventura and the Hamilton Pulsar, the company strived to meet the highest accuracy standards. During World War II, Hamilton proved the only company able to mass produce reliable marine chronometers for the Navy, even receiving the Army-Navy “E” Award for Excellence in War Production five times. The company’s modern Khaki Field Mechanical continues the legacy of these sought-after military classics.

In 2020, the Company declared its intention to take another leap forward by focusing on one of the tiniest but most crucial watch components of all: the balance spring. This is the miniscule spiral whose constant ‘breathing’ in and out regulates a watch’s ability to keep time accurately. The aim is to apply radical technology to this spiral at the heart of a watch in the form of NivachronTM: a revolutionary new alloy for making balance springs. This is a complex, titanium-based alloy with strong magnetic resistance, excellent shock resistance, and consistent performance under temperature variations.

The Khaki Field collection includes classic army style watches that have been tried and tested over time. Rugged, robust, and resilient, they’re ready for the outdoors and compete with the best sport watches.

The newest addition is the 42mm Khaki Field Titanium Automatic. This lightweight and durable watch is available in two contrasting styles: a sleek bare metal case paired with a silver dial, or, for a bolder look, a case coated in black PVD with a matching black dial. Both styles come with a soft-to-the touch brown leather strap.

Green Super-LumiNova® is added to the hour and minute hands of the silver dial version, while the black dial version features beige. These colors are a reminder of the patina found on the luminous elements of now-vintage Hamilton military watches and add a further historic touch to the Khaki Field Titanium Automatic.

Daring, pioneering, and unconventional in design, the Ventura is one of the most iconic Hamilton watches. The world’s first electric watch looks as good today as it did in 1957. Triangular watches are unusual and the Ventura made them famous. With vintage style and charm as well as being known as the Elvis watch, this distinctive model is pure Hamilton.

In 1932, Hamilton began an enduring relationship with Hollywood when actor Clive Brook sported an original Hamilton Flintridge wristwatch in that year’s biggest movie, Shanghai Express. Since then, Hamilton watches have been on the big screen over 500 times. Among the most famous appearances was the Khaki Field Murph first featured in the science fiction blockbuster, “Interstellar” and the Ventura famously sported by Elvis Presley in 1961’s “Blue Hawaii” and as part of the official “Men in Black’ uniform.

The Jazzmaster collection draws on Hamilton’s long history and tradition of producing quality women's and men's watches. Jazzmaster models offer a refined look for those who enjoy the finer things in life. Quality craftsmanship is a mark of the Jazzmaster collection.

The selection of American Classic watches includes chronographs and automatic watches. This collection of watches is versatile and represents the brand’s American heritage.

The Khaki Navy collection is comprised of the company’s best dive watches and underwater timekeepers. Inspired by marine pioneers and designed with ocean explorers in mind, the Khaki Navy collection has a luminescent display.

The Broadway collection of men’s watches was created with style-conscious men in mind. Sophisticated street style for the modern metropolitan man is delivered in automatic watches and quartz models with a range of movements. These contemporary watches are made for the city. Interesting color and texture combinations make these ideal day-to-evening timepieces.

Hamilton offers a wide range of watches. Starting at around $300 and going all the way up to $6,000 or more, one can have a Hamilton watch that will perfectly suit a budget. From field watches to pilot to dress watches, the brand has timepieces that many watch aficionados want to wear or add to their collections. There are also vintage Hamilton watches one can buy online. In fact, Hamilton is one of the top brands in vintage watches.

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