When we think of old watches and watchmaking in general, we naturally think of Switzerland. Although Switzerland is by far the largest producer of high-end watches today, this has not always been the case. Mechanical watchmaking was born in France in the Middle Ages, England played a decisive role in the accuracy of watches, especially in the eighteenth century, and the United States was the precursors of modern industrial watchmaking, particularly due to the arrival of the train to Uncle Sam’s house. This will be accompanied by increasingly accurate mass produced watches.
In this article we will talk about the American brands actually manufactured in the United States, some of these brands still exist but have nothing to do with the original spirit with which they were created.
Attention ! Many American movements adapt to modern cases, generally they are movements of pocket watches, American or Swiss. This is something we see a lot in the United States, in particular to see the movement through a modern sapphire crystal caseback and relive old forgotten watches. However, it is totally accepted if you are looking for a completely original watch, be careful and verify that everything is original.
An example of a chronograph pocket watch movement with a modern wristwatch case.
Clock also modified (Welding trails).
The brand Hamilton It was launched at the end of the 19th century in Lancaster, Amish country in Pennsylvania, is probably the best known American brand, so today it is a myth in the minds of Americans. It will begin to outsource its production of movement to Switzerland from 1964 and will end its operations in the United States in 1969. Today it is one of the Swatch group brands that has tried to maintain a typical American military watch, with a Swiss automatic movement to a very competitive price (- 700 euros) but that would be the subject of another article.
Hamilton’s turn of the century
Hard to evoke Hamilton Not to mention references 985 and 983 produced between 1908 and 1918. They mark the beginning of the democratization of wristwatches. These watches were equipped with movements with very neat finishes. The cases have different styles, some of them cushion-shaped or that maintain the original form in force at the time of pocket watches. Therefore, you can open it from the bottom of the case like a classic bellows. Most dials are enameled. Enamel is the most durable material used for dials, you will see many of these references with dials in excellent conditions on the Internet, which is often a black point with respect to the purchase of old watches. These references were gradually replaced by 986, 986A and then 987 (since 1926)
An example of Hamilton, originally found on the Internet with the keywords ” trench watch or watch ww1 “First we can think of a pocket watch that we would have adapted more recently to make a wristwatch, but with the views of the accessories of the strap and available to the crown, in fact it is an original watch.
See lady cushion movement 983 (around $ 800)
The modern era
In the 1920s, the democratization of wristwatches began, with it, the arrival of watches. We can think what we want from this period, but it’s all but boring. Although some will be reluctant to wear such old watches, with cases less resistant to moisture and movements not yet equipped with shockproof, in no case is it a problem to use one frequently or regularly. The Americans at that time were extremely reliable and resilient, and if checked properly they will be accurate enough for an active person. However, you should keep it as far as possible from the water.
Cushion watches equipped with movement 986 (1921-1923) 986A (1923-1926) or 987 (1926-1927). From the dials to the hands that pass through the boxes, these watches transpire the art-deco period.
Shock watch / shock watch (
Square clocks They are also a strong marker of the 20s and the art-deco period, the same calibers are used for wristwatches. It will be easier to find the newest ones produced in the 1940s and 1950s with modern and shockproof dials (730 caliber).
1920 square clock / square clock (between $ 100 and $ 500)
Barrel clocks They were also equipped in the 1920s with 986/987 gauges and then with specially dedicated barrel movements of the 982 series produced between 1935 and 1951.
1936 barrel clock, equipped with caliber 982.
The “seckron” Produced from 1935, a very nice watch equipped with the 980A or 980B, popular among collectors known as “medical clock” for its small, very readable second that allows the doctor to deduct the amount of beats per minute.
Seckron equipped with 980A (between $ 300 and $ 800)
Military watches : During World War II, Hamilton will concentrate his production on watches for soldiers. These robust watches, although produced in large quantities, were mostly destroyed after the war so as not to compete with civil watches, therefore, they are quite rare and have the advantage for the most part of having a more resistant screwed caseback to wear Water. Many Hamilton “military” watches were produced in Switzerland in the 70s and 80s and are still produced, to verify that it is a World War II watch, make sure the caliber is a 987 or 987A.
Hamilton WWII equipped with the 987A movement (around $ 300). It can be seen by wear, most of the watches produced were chrome, which is the main drawback of the watches of that time.
Hamilton “Howard” Howard is the company bought by Hamilton in 1931, more than 1000 watches were produced to protect Hamilton’s interests in the brand. Therefore, it is a fairly rare range produced between 1942 and 1949.
Hamilton Howard (about $ 400)
Hamilton Otis reversible, clock similar to the Jaeger Reverso, produced from 1938 therefore, after the Reverso. This watch will no longer be produced following Jaeger’s patent.
An example of a rare watch sold between $ 1,000 and $ 1,600 silver 14-carat watch equipped with the 982 caliber.
The “Ventura” innovation and the end of the American adventure
It was in January 1957 that the ” first electric clock »It was launched after 10 years of research. It is the result of a frantic technological career with Elgin that promised the first “electronic clock” since 1952. Although the Ventura’s escape is still mechanical, the watch runs on a battery. At that time, the American manufacturer had an impeccable command in the process of producing a mechanical watch, unfortunately the first electric watches of the factory with the caliber 500 were not fully developed and were subject to frequent failures. . It was quickly dethroned by the Bulova Accutron in 1960, an electronic clock this time at a frequency of 360Hz. The frequency is a determining criterion in the precision of a movement and the electrical or mechanical clocks do not exceed 5 Hz. Little respite for Bulova before the first quartz watch, the Seiko Astron on the frequency of 8192, arrived on the market in 1969 Hz that coincides with the change in the operations of the US brand to Switzerland.
Hamilton Ventura (between $ 400 and $ 4,000)
The Hamilton Ventura are better known today and it is easy to find specialized electric watch repairers. Contrary to popular belief, it is still possible to obtain batteries (reference 387S).
How to get out accurately with your Hamilton?
The vast majority of Hamilton pocket watches have a serial number that begins with ” one »From 1893. The higher the number, the more recent is the clock. It is important to carefully observe the serial number in the movement and not in the case.
Other types of serial numbers will appear starting in 1930, numbers beginning with H, Y or G. All information is available on the site of watch and clock collectors. You can easily date your watch from the caliber or serial number in the search engine.
For example, in the photo above written 750, among the information provided by NAWCC, we know that the movement occurred between 1950 and 1954.
Last tip before buying
Hamilton is a brand very envied for its reliability, all models manufactured before 1964 are the symbol of America famous for its very high quality products long before the generalization of planned obsolescence. For this brand, it is difficult to make a mistake, but still be sure to check the time and origin of the pieces. Most of the interesting pieces are on the other side of the Atlantic, but with a little perseverance and negotiation in the language of Shakespeare, you can buy a high-end watch at a low price.