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Distinctive to this company were the four grades of movement it produced, namely the Keystone, Fulton, Franklin and Melrose.
The transformation into the Hamilton Watch Co was made in late 1892 when Charles Rood and Henry Cain formed the company and soon the first Hamilton Pocket Watch rolled off the production line. Testament to the quality of the watches it produced is the fact that most of its watches ended up being bought for use on the railways. In fact by 1923 approx 53% of its entire production were Railroad Grade Watches. Most of the railroad watches produced are fitted with a 42 hour mainspring.
Hamilton ventured into making wristwatches in the early 1900s and to many, these watches represent some of the most sought after wristwatches of the era. Hamilton arrived on the wristwatch scene far later than many other manufacturers like Elgin, Waltham, and Illinois, and their small production of timepieces didn't create a great deal of awareness of the company, however their initial small offerings are quite rare today and any pre-1920 is highly sought after by collectors.
Entering into wristwatch production, it proved harder to gain acceptance than many other manufacturers - Hamilton's production levels were still far behind those of Elgin and Waltham in the 1920s. However, after it bought the well known Illinois Watch Co in 1929, Hamilton produced a series of watches that proved to be popular with the general public. From this point on they have never really looked back. Their use of precious metals, especially gold, and advanced production techniques ensured that this range of watches would definitely catch they eye of the public.
Hamilton went to great lengths to outdo their rivals, producing watches that were fine time keepers but also great lookers too. Many of their watch movements were adorned with intricate carvings demonstrating the skill with which Hamilton put into its timepieces. From 1929 to around the beginning of 1950, Hamilton was considered one of the top prestige watchmakers. Around the mid 1950s watch production changed and watch makers started making much cheaper watch movements. With the benefit of hindsight this was always doomed to failure, but Hamilton bowed to peer pressure and began using Swiss imported movements for their watches.
Hamilton continued producing fine quality pocket watches until about 1969, when it stopped production of its 992B 21 Jewel Railway Special. Hamilton still makes watches today, but none are American, instead being Swiss made.
Hamilton Pocket Watch image reproduced with the kind permission of Pieces of Time
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