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Hamilton - Lights, camera, watches

Like all good watches, Hamilton is based in the postcard setting of Switzerland. Bienne, to be exact. That said, it wasn’t always this way. The Hamilton Watch Company began life across the pond, the fourth of a long line of watch outfits to find a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Not quite the Jura, but not a locale to be sniffed at either. 1892 - the year in which the Hamilton Watch Company was officially established - was the golden age of American manufacturing, and like cars, aeroplanes and pharmaceuticals, watches were seen as another emblem of solid, midwestern craftsmanship.

During its formative years, the group also enveloped the Aurora Watch Company, another label based in Illinois. From the off, Hamilton was set to be a sizeable offering, and took its name from Andrew Hamilton, a Scottish lawyer that founded the good town of Lancaster. That’s the heritage box ticked off, then.

As America began to develop its rail networks, Hamilton reaped the benefits, maintaining over 56% of the watch market as workers and execs enjoyed Hamilton fare in equal measure. By producing pieces that specifically catered to the railroad, the label found its niche, and was able to acquire the Illinois Watch Company for a figure totalling $5 million to build Hamilton further as a serious horological contender.

Then, as appetites switched from pocket watches to wristwatches, the label changed tack again - and its fortunes were just as handsome. During the second World War, Hamilton redesigned several models to suit military needs, and sidelined watches for the everyman altogether. The war effort, and all that.

Since then, Hamilton became a respected brand in its own right, the label offered sheer practicality from its production complex in Lancaster. From its very first pocket watch - a 17-jewel beauty produced in 1893 - Hamilton branched out into several leading families including the Rectangular, the Oval, and the Coronado.

But it seemed the American Dream wasn’t so steady. Prior to the iconic release of Elvis Presley’s preferred watch, the Ventura, Hamilton was already under attack from a hostile takeover by Benrus - a Romanian-American watch company. Fast forward to the next decade, and the brand had acquiesced to the Buren Watch Company of Switzerland, before then switching to SSIH that later became known as Swatch Group. Hamilton’s days as a great American manufacturer were over.

It’s links stateside however, were not. Hamilton had always dipped a toe into Tinseltown, appearing in flicks as early as 1951. It wasn’t till the turn of the century however, when Hamilton really amped up the cameos, with various models seen in The Talented Mr Ripley, Men In Black, Ocean’s 11 and the Spiderman series to name but four. Fast forward a few more years, and Hamilton’s clocked up a filmography that would even cast a shadow on De Niro himself: 239 movies across 65 years in the industry.

Hamilton Collections

Hamilton American Classic

The Hamilton American Classic very much lives up to the name. Harking back to the label’s midwestern railroad roots, this noted piece is available in multiple styles that all channel stateside appeal for both men and women. That’s where the star-spangled mechanics end, though. Crack the American Classic open, and it’s Swiss precision to the very last cog.

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Hamilton Broadway

Inspired by the Big Apple itself, Hamilton’s Broadway collection encapsulates everything good and great about the namesake neighbourhood: it’s robust, versatile and unashamedly American in design. Factor in the three different designs - classic, sporty and casual - and you’re left with a line that deserves it’s own chorus. Encore, indeed.

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Hamilton Jazzmaster

If jazz is considered a genre for the musical maestros, consider the Jazzmaster the perfect accompaniment. Finely-tuned and technically impeccable, this classic collection is a high note in modern horology - and that’s just how it looks. The Jazzmaster, like all things Hamilton, is a harmonious masterpiece on the inside, too.

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Hamilton Pan Europ

Though Hamilton proudly champions stateside design, turns out it does European finesse just as well. The Pan Europ takes the brand’s signature transatlantic, embedding a bold aesthetic within classic Italian racing watches. Granted, you may never see the inside of a cockpit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress the part thanks to Hamilton.

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Hamilton Railroad

Never forget your roots: an adage Hamilton knows all too well. The Railroad collection, arguably the watch that shot the brand to fame in 1892, is just as exemplary in the 21st century. Though thanks to increased precision, improved craftsmanship and a design fit for the modern day, the Railroad is even better this time round.

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Hamilton Timeless

If you thought Hamilton was all stateside modernity and bold statements, think again. The Hamilton Timeless collection gives the horological greats a run for their money, imbuing exemplary mechanics within a design that’ll look just as good in this century as it will the next.

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Hamilton Ventura

There are iconic watches, then there’s the Hamilton Ventura. As a piece that’s a direct replica of styles popular in the 1950s, this standout piece was first popularised by Elvis Presley in the 1961 film Blue Hawaii. And just like the king himself, the Hamilton reigns on.

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Why Should I Buy A Hamilton Watch?

Style and substance is a heady, but rare, combination. Hamilton however, manages to clinch both thanks to intricate, well-made insides that are reflected on the outside, too.

Hamilton has both. Sure, it might not boast Swiss heritage like other elite brands, but it hails from the US with an aesthetic to match. Plus, it’s what’s on the inside that count: you’ll find mechanics to rival any notable timepiece, yet a watch that’s a firm pivot away from the conventional.

Then, there’s the sheer choice. Unlike other brands, Hamilton caters to almost every taste in the book: dress watches, sports watches, something in-between. It’s all there. Plus, it won’t cost you a fortune either - an ideal choice to clinch the cost-per-wear ratio across multiple events. So if you’re a watch man, but don’t quite want to take the plunge into the Sotheby stock just yet, start with Hamilton. It’ll serve you for this decade and beyond.


Hamilton in Numbers


The amount of acres that encompassed the original Hamilton Watch Company estate. Built in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the complex housed miles of machinery built and acquired from other American watch manufactures.


The number of jewels in Hamilton’s very first timepiece. This pocket watch, an 18-size simple ticker, debuted in 1893 to massive popularity during America’s railroad revolution.


The number of locations worldwide in which Hamilton is sold, cementing the brand’s global presence.


The particular model - the Hamilton Electric 500 - that was the first of its kind to be fully electric. Released in 1957, the now famous piece was designed by Richard Arbib with a trademark asymmetrical case. And, to top it all of, this is the landmark piece first worn by Elvis Presley on-screen.


The amount of dollars first raised by the good people of Lancaster in 1877 to keep Adams and Perry - Hamilton’s founder - buoyant in an unstable market. The label endured to become Hamilton today.


The highest number of production Hamilton ever achieved during WW2, when the brand shipped chronometers to the Navy in February 1942.

Hamilton: a Chronology

1892:Hamilton is founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now a rural town to the southeast of the state, back then, it was the birthplace of great American watchmaking. It was actually a thing, and thanks to Hamilton, still kind of is.

1912: ‘The Watch of Railord Accuracy’ is released. This piece, a simple pocket watch, makes Hamilton a household name during the US railroad boom. Accidents were a daily occurrence during this era, and precise timings from precise watches exponentially reduced this risk.

1914: Hamilton upped the public service once more. In addition to stocking the railroads with timings to keep passengers on-track, the brand became the official supplier to the US Armed Forces.

1918: The very first American airmail plane takes off, and with it, a specially-designed Hamilton pilot’s watch. Starting to spot a theme?

1928: Hamilton cemented itself as an all-American watch brand with the release of the Piping Rock and Yankee models.

1941: World War II began. As the need for a home front grew, Hamilton halted production of commercial timepieces and instead, chose to focus on the mammoth job of creating one million watches for the boys on the field. As the war wore on, Hamilton produced over 10,902 naval chronometers that offered lifesaving accuracy and precision.

1943: Hamilton was awarded for its assistance during the war, and received a US Army-Navy ‘E’ award to commemorate such an achievement.

1951: Hamilton begins to flirt with Tinseltown. The brand first starred in the Oscar-nominated flick ‘The Frogmen’.

1957: Hamilton launches a world first: the Ventura, a landmark piece that’s fully powered by electricity.

1961: Elvis first dons his own Venture in 1961’s Blue Hawaii, once again highlighting Hamilton as a watch brand for the forces - and the big screen.

1970: Yet another world first. Hamilton launches the first LED digital watch.

1974: After several deals and potential takeovers, Hamilton becomes part of the SSIH - an organisation soon to be known Swatch Group. From May 16 1974, Hamilton had become part of a larger family.

1990: Hamilton gets its close-up. Following some smaller appearances on the silver screen, the brand makes a breakout role in Men In Black, The Talented Mr Ripley, Independence Day, Die Hard and the Lethal Weapon series.

2003: Hamilton makes a fresh start, moving its entire operation to Biel in Switzerland. Though many thought this marked the severance of Hamilton with its homeland, the label still retained a signature that was very much from the Land of the Free.

2009: The EAA Airventure - an annual week-long celebration of aviation - names Hamilton as its official timekeeper. More than 60 nations were involved and almost half a million EEA members attended the event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

2014: Yet more big roles. Hamilton clocked up a role alongside Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain in Interstellar, with watches specially created for the characters.

2015: Ridley Scott’s The Martian starred another leading cast member (and one that could give Matt Damon a run for his money) - the Khaki Belowzero.