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Hamilton Automatic, Quartz Watches Complete Guide-Review

Updated on August 26, 2011

Hamilton Watches

Once a purely American watchmaking brand, Hamilton partnered throughout the 20th century with companies from Japan and Switzerland – the two industry power-houses – and today constitutes a part of the Swiss operated Swatch Group. Despite foreign influences, Hamilton declared that they will continue to represent American patriotic spirit.

Hamilton's long and complex history can be traced by their products: from pocket clocks, to wrist mechanical timepieces, marine chronometers, the first electric watch (the precursor of Bulova Accutron), and later automatic and quartz watches. Collectors and aficionados prize mainly the earlier models, while contemporary designs and calibers aim to appeal to a wide audience of both fashion and functionality literate customers.

Hamilton supplied watches to the U.S. military (joining Tiffany & Co., which later focused on jewelry, though offers watches as well), following a long tradition of similar companies (Swiss Army Victorinox/Wenger) supplying the armed forces with precision instruments.

Design

Hamilton categorize their watches according to two main directions. One, titled as “American Classic,” offers a range of fashion, business/formal, and sometimes casually designed pieces that most often will not contain any complications or functions besides hours, minutes, and seconds movement.

The focus in these watches – be it Jazzmaster, Ventura, or Lady Hamilton – stays on making the dial and the cases visually exciting. Both pocket and vintage timers also thrive in this department.

The trademark Khaki line offers a sports and military oriented alternative. Khaki timepieces, while retaining the brand's visual integrity, value complications and functionality above all else. Tough looking watches, they routinely incorporate chronographs and dual time utilities, and employ stainless steel and titanium to protect the mechanisms from knocks and weather. The Aviation, Navy and Field subdivisions each prize at least one radically looking watch: Navy BelowZero and Field King Quartz are good examples.

Movements/Functions

Hamilton created the first electric watch three years before Bulova emerged with the Accutron in 1960. This basically gives the company the freedom and right to do anything they want: watchmaking relies on a mature technology, and by taking the rare chance and risk to innovate, Hamilton have written their name into the books.

Today the selection includes quartz and automatic analog watches; they do not shy away from mechanism revealing skeleton and open-worked models long considered the prerogative of the Swiss.

Most Khaki timers encase automatic mechanical calibers – by accepting minor imprecisions inherent to mechanical watches, Hamilton secure long term reliability (no dependence on batteries).

Vintage models, especially pocket ones, are hand-wound. Classic items can contain either type though the slimmer and the more fashion conscious pieces (various Ladies versions) usually run on quartz.

Complications/Materials

Besides day and date, Hamilton watches feature chronograph (including fly-back) and GMT complications. Materials employed include stainless steel, gold plating, and titanium for the cases, leather and rubber for the straps, and sapphire crystal for the dials.

Collections

  • Khaki: as the title implies, this collection offers timepieces originally intended for the military. It's a master collection, and Hamilton make a point out of covering the elements of air, sea, and land, by offering Aviation, Navy, and Field watches respectively. With time, Khaki evolved into a well rounded brand department that offers travel and sports timers, and diving and marine watches, made for both men and women.

  • Ventura is the classic irregular triangular watch that adorned the hand of Elvis Presley while he was shooting Blue Hawaii. The case presents a bold futuristic design that reveals elements of Art Deco; it's a unisex watch that will suit ladies or gents depending on the color of the dial and the strap.

  • Jazzmaster watches comprise another classic collection that employs round, square, or tonneau shaped cases, an contains automatic or quartz movements. The most elaborate technical models feature chronographs, while most fashion pieces veer towards more exotic shapes and face configurations. Some interesting Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe references.

  • Chronographs: Hamilton do not dedicate a special collection to their chrono watches, but they still warrant a special mention, being among the most popular and complicated of the brand's assortment. Chronographs appear in Khaki and Classic lines, and show a rich variety of dial compositions.

  • Ladies watches embody Hamilton fashion (vintage original or reissued) and artistic ambitions, channeling Art Deco influences into such collections as Brooke, Lady Hamilton, Ardmore, Square, and others.

  • Vintage timepieces continue to draw the attention of watch lovers and collectors: their value rests not only in the mechanical-engineering prowess, but also in their historical role in United States railroads, and military campaigns. Many vintage pieces feature precious metals (gold and platinum) and diamonds, all of which add even more to their worth.

  • Pocket timers were the first products Hamilton ever manufactured in late 19th century; they continue to make these today, though contemporary new watches lack the vintage aura (and value) of the originals. Come in various sizes and, depending on the movements, contain up to 23 jewels.

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