The Hamilton Watch Company was founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. At first, Hamilton only produced pocket watches. It was not until WWI when Hamilton became one of the official suppliers to the U.S. Armed Forces that a shift in production to the more convenient wristwatch occurred.
They made a name for themselves in the early days of the American railroads, when accidents were frequent as no reliable method of timing existed. Hamilton was already well known for its quality and accuracy. This precision helped solve the railroad’s problem and earned them the title: The Watch of Railroad Accuracy.
Hamilton and pilots watches
A Hamilton aeronautical watch was on the wrist of the pilots who flew the first U.S. Airmail service between Washington D.C. and New York City in 1918. Hamilton was in the pocket of Admiral Richard E. Byrd when he became the first pilot to reach the North Pole in 1926.
Hamilton’s contribution to aviation history continued, and their technical advancements helped early aviators make critical calculations of time, distance, and direction. By the 1930s, they were the official watch of the four major American airlines. Today they are the official timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship and the Swiss Aerobatic Association. They are a partner of Air Zermatt and work with top air squadrons around the world.
In 1928 Hamilton introduced the now well known Piping Rock watch. The New York Yankees won the world series that year, and each of the famous players received one. The Piping Rock was also the first Hamilton watch featured in a feature movie.
During WWII, Hamilton stopped selling watches to consumers and focused entirely on supplying over one million wristwatches to the U.S. Armed Forces.
In 1957 Hamilton unveiled the Ventura, the world’s first electrical battery-operated watch, revolutionizing the watch industry. The Ventura caught the eye of Elvis Presley, who wore it in the musical comedy “Blue Hawaii,” instantly propelling the watch to stardom. The Ventura is considered the ancestor of all quartz watches today.
In the early 1970s, Hamilton presented the Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer, the world’s first digital watch. The watch was in solid gold and retailed at $2,100, more than a car cost at the time. A re-edition was introduced in 2020, one edition in stainless steel, and one in yellow gold plated.
Hamilton and the movies
Hamilton is known as the Movie Brand and since 1932 has featured in over 500 major feature films – ‘Men in Black,’ ‘Independence Day,’ ‘Talented Mr. Ripley,’ ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Martian’ to name a few. The Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards began in 2006 and honors the heroes behind the scenes of major movies.
In 1974 the Swatch Group acquired Hamilton. They moved the headquarters and the factory to Switzerland in 2003, adding the “Swiss made” label to all of their watches, but remaining American at heart.