History of Hamilton Watches

History of Hamilton Watches

For more than 130 years Hamilton has been timing heroes, but did you know they were founded in our backyard? Hamilton Watch Company began in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1892 producing its first watch in 1893. "The Broadway Limited", a railroad watch that was dubbed "the watch of Railroad accuracy" was designed by H.J. Cain, one of the company's founding members. Initially manufactured to provide the country's railroads with reliable timing devices, the Hamilton railroad pocket watch was adopted as the official watch of the American Expeditionary Forces worldwide. In 1969, the Hamilton Watch Company completely ended American manufacturing operations with the closure of its factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, shifting manufacturing operations to the Buren factory in Switzerland.

To this day the same pioneering, practical and attention to precision timing continues.  Hamilton uses a unique combination of Swiss precision and American spirit to create distinctive, versatile watches for aficionados and style conscious individuals alike.

Hamilton has a long history and has achieved numerous milestones, all of which have contributed to making Hamilton the strong, internationally renowned watch brand it is today.

Hamilton's current primary collections include the American Classics collection and the Khaki collection, updated versions of the legendary military timepieces of yesteryear. Let us help you pick out your next Hamilton timepiece. 


When it comes to military history, the Hamilton story is one of absolute precision. It was the superior quality and accuracy of Hamilton’s early pocket watches, as well as the ability to innovate and act quickly while maintaining high standards that first caught the attention of the American military back in 1914. The same qualities kept Hamilton at the forefront of supply, earning five prestigious Army-Navy ‘E’ Awards for manufacturing excellence along the way.

As an official supplier to the U.S. Armed Forces during WWI, Hamilton equipped hundreds of soldiers with timepieces reliable at all times during war. This prompted a shift in production from pocket watches to the more convenient wristwatch, a change that was here to stay.

Hamilton stopped producing watches for consumers in 1942 to focus on the enormous task of supplying the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII.

Between 1942-1945, Hamilton produced over one million timepieces including wristwatches and marine chronometers, even earning an Army-Navy E award for excellence in manufacturing.


More than a century ago, a Hamilton aeronautical watch accompanied the first U.S. Airmail service between Washington, D.C., and New York City. This was the beginning of our long history producing instrumental timepieces for the flying community, and today we continue to fly on the wrists of pilots around the world.

In 1926 Admiral Richard E. Byrd became the first aviator to reach the North Pole, circling it for 13 minutes before returning to base. This pioneering 15 hour and 57 minute flight was timed by a Hamilton watch.

Pilot watches do a lot more than tell time and our technical advancements helped early aviators arrive safely on the first flight from California to Hawaii in 1927. These early aviators relied on the precision of Hamilton watches to make critical calculations of time, distance and direction as they navigated over the Pacific Ocean.

By now renowned for accuracy in flight, Hamilton was the official watch of the four major American commercial airlines of the day. Hamilton was also selected as the official timekeeper for the very first coast-to-coast service from New York to San Francisco.


Game-changing innovation has been one of the pillars of Hamilton’s success with major developments appearing in the mid 20th century that changed the world of watchmaking forever.

A symbol of innovation and cutting-edge watchmaking, the Ventura changed the watch industry forever. When renowned American industrial designer Richard Arbib first sat down with a blank sheet of paper and was told by Hamilton to design whatever he wanted without regard for practicality, he could never have known that the very first sketch he made would become a 20th century icon that’s still turning heads more than 60 years later.

The world’s first electric watch, the Ventura created an instant sensation and revolutionized the world of watchmaking. Powered by an electromagnetic coil, it was a technological breakthrough, bridging the older world of mechanical watchmaking with that of the quartz movement that would emerge in the 1960s.

Four years later, the triangular-shaped Ventura appeared on the wrist of the global megastar Elvis Presley in his 1961 musical comedy, ‘Blue Hawaii’. Blessed with an immense talent that catapulted him to stardom, Elvis was the superstar of the Rock and Roll revolution whose shockwaves inspired a generation and made him a cultural icon.


For almost 90 years, Hamilton has been known as the Movie Brand, prominently featured in more than 500 movies and television shows.

Hamilton watches first appeared on the silver screen in 1932 in the Marlene Dietrich movie ‘Shanghai Express’, a landmark moment where it all began. In 1951, the major Hollywood movie ‘The Frogmen’ featured Hamilton’s military watches taking a leading cinematic role. Ten years later, the Ventura starred on the wrist of the King of the Rock and Roll Elvis Presley in his musical comedy, ‘Blue Hawaii’.

Since then, Hamilton timepieces have appeared on the silver screen more than 500 times, adding authenticity to the mechanics of the plot and the protagonists. The range of different genres emphasizes the versatility of the Hamilton collection. Our distinctive watches have captured the attention of the world’s leading prop master and costume designers who have chosen them for their historical accuracy or the way they help to define a character.

Hamilton has been trusted not only to provide watches but also to design and produce a unique prop watch, commissioned by a director or producer to create something special to fit a movie storyline. Each custom-made prop timepiece is a result of close collaboration with the movie’s design team.

Check out some of our Youtube channel posts about Hamilton Watches

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