History of Hamilton Watches

Founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hamilton was a watchmaker during the early 1900s that helped to shape the way American railroads adhered to a method of accurate timekeeping. The company was founded in 1892 but began creating pocket watches that helped to minimise the number of railroad accidents happening in 1912. Just two years after that, Hamilton was equipping U.S. Armed Forces during WWI with accurate timepieces, prompting a swift move from the traditional pocket watch towards the more convenient and functional wristwatch.

During the 1920s Hamilton also created many wristwatches for the aviation industry. Critical calculations of time were made possible, as well as navigations over the Pacific Ocean. Following the company’s famous Piping Rock watch made in 1928, Hamilton also created an official watch of the four major American commercial airlines, followed by the first appearance of a Hamilton watch on the silver screen when its Flintridge watch appeared in a Hollywood movie in 1932.

Fast forward ten years later and Hamilton was developing wristwatches for military personnel during the Second World War. Over one million wristwatches were manufactured for the US Armed Forces during this time with marine chronometers that earned the watchmaker an Army-Navy E award for excellence in manufacturing. By 1951 the Hamilton Frogman watch has launched, appearing in the film with an unmistakable aesthetic, followed by the manufacturer’s first electrical battery operated watch just 6 years later. The timepieces created by industrial designer Richard Arbib were an instant success.

In 1961 Elvis Presley styled the Ventura watch on his wrist during the making of the musical comedy. “Blue Hawaii”. Hamilton’s’ association with the famous figurehead of the Rock and Roll movement only added to the company’s world-wide reputation. In 1969 Hamilton was involved in the development of the first automatic chronograph movement. The Calibre 11 was a breakthrough for the watchmaking company, followed by the success of the Pulsar model, the brand’ first digital watch.

During the 1970s Hamilton’s reputation grew and grew through innovations like the revolutionary Pulsar with its LED display and easy to operate button on the side of its gold case. In the year 1974, Hamilton was sold to SSIH when later became the Swatch Group. Remaining in Switzerland, the company went on to produce more classic looking timepieces during the 1980s such as the Hamilton Boulton, the Wilshire and the Ardmore.

After transferring its facilities to the epicentre of expert watchmaking in Biel, Switzerland, Hamilton began building links with the air racing and aerobatics industry, with timepieces created for the Red Bull Air Race and the Swiss Aerobatic Association. In 2011 the company manufactured two of its own automatic calibres, the H-21 and H-31, followed by the H-10, H-30 and H-40 just three years later. With watches that now offered collectors an impressive power reserve of 80 hours, businessmen and travellers could utilize a Hamilton watch to its full potential. The Khaki Flight Timer was created in the same year, securing Hamilton’s status as an innovator for professional pilots.

Over recent years Hamilton has worked to create a wristwatch for the “Instersteller” film, as well as the Khaki BeLOWZERO timepiece for Ridley Scott's epic adventure, 'The Martian'. It also celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Ventura in 2017 and continues to guarantee its place within the Swiss watchmaking universe today. From synchronising American Railroad to creating its first electric watch and landing itself a place on the silver screen with many a blockbuster film, Hamilton watches continue to unite traditional watchmaking methods with leading timekeeping technology.