The Hamilton Watch Company is one with an illustrious history. Founded in Lancaster, Pensylvania in the US in 1892, nearly 120 years ago, it stood right at the forefront of high precision watchmaking. They focussed in those days principally in the production of railroad watches. Pocket watches which often with two timezones though sometimes only one, but always with very clear, large arabic numerals, subsidiary second hands. And often with beautiful and magnificent movements designed for precision but also for great beauty. These movement often feature wonderful decorations – known as demaskeening, and also often feature elaborate and beautiful adjustment and regulation mechanisms.
The company continued to make funky timepieces after the war, like the Ventura (which was featured in the movie Men in Black) and later during the quartz revolution the Pulsar with the distinctive red LED lights. The company moved to Switzerland in 1969 and ceased US manufacture then. Eventually, they became part of the Swatch Group. With the injection of capital and knowhow of the giant group, they moved their production facilities from Lancaster to Biel, and began to make a mark at the entry level collector market.
The Hamilton Below Zero from BaselWorld 2010
The Below Zero series, became a cult success amongst collectors starting out, mostly due to the aggressive design and beautiful finish, but also because of the reasonable entry level prices these watches are offered at.
Shown above is the Below-Zero all black, with darkened arabic numerals. The case design is reminiscent of an aviation instrument. The watch is rather large, but wears well, and has a very sporty character. Note the “0” marker instead of “12”, which is a cheeky but nice touch.
Also made as a regular black anodized stainless steel case with black dial, and white markers.
Another watch which also struck a chord for me was the Below Zero chronograph.
Peculiar to this chronograph is the lack of a minute counter.
BaselWorld 2011 Crop for Hamilton Watches
But on to this year’s watches:
For many years, collectors like myself, and I am sure many of my friends who are more advanced collectors often get stumped when a beginner collector asks for our recommendation for a watch in the region of S$2000 to S$3000 range. Oris comes to mind as one possiblity. Perhaps Longines. But the list is short. Now Hamilton squeezes itself into this market-space, which surprisingly, in the face of more complicated and ever more expensive timepieces, it occupies with little competition.
Of this year’s crop, to be introduced in BaselWorld 2011, I particularly liked the limited edition Pan Europe tribute to a watch they made in 1971.
Limited to 1971 pieces as a tribute to the year it is to commemorate, this watch features a modified Valjoux 7750 movement, lengthening the power reserve to 60 hours from the traditional 42hr+. The spirit of the 1970s is captured in the design…bold, striking blue adorns the dial, with the bezel picking up on this strong colour. The shape of the case is rounded, like those in the 1970s. Even the strap, is punched with holes of diminishing sizes points to that decade.
Also interesting a UTC watch which shows sidereal time in the subdial coxial to the main dial.
Also for 2011, a chronograph, and a thin automatic watch.