Opening their doors in Lancaster, PA, in 1892, the Hamilton Watch Company makes an iconic American watch with superlative Swiss movements. Respected for over a century. Producing innovative, precise and rugged, good-looking watches for consumers, the military and actors.
Known as functional watches with a respected history like none other. Starting in 1893 with their early railroad watches, like ‘The Broadway Limited’, known as “the watch of Railroad accuracy.” That same year, their reliable railroad pocket watch receives status as the official watch of the American Expeditionary Forces.
The Turn of the Century
A Masterpiece in Design
In 1928, Hamilton debuts the new Piping Rock. Every player on the New York Yankees receives a specially commissioned and engraved version for winning the World Series.
Unbelievably, the Yankee’s legendary lineup, called “Murderer’s Row”, would still hold more future Hall of Famers than any other in history. The ‘Yankee World Series Piping Rock’ created an overnight sensation! Therefore, making Hamilton a pioneer in watch design.
Its Art Deco style captures the character and mood of an era in a way that connects with people. Even in this new millennium, it’s considered highly desirable and collectible. For instance, Lou Gehrig’s Piping Rock World Series watch auctioned for over $340,000 in 2014. What with its relevance to arguably baseball’s greatest hero and its Art Deco design that’s considered a crowning stroke for Hamilton. Plus, only five have surfaced of the limited 35 watches that went to mostly players.
By the 1930s, Hamilton was onboard the first balloon trip into the stratosphere with Jean & Jeanette Piccard. Also making history was Jeanette, who was piloting the balloon while her husband gathered scientific data. She became the first woman to enter the stratosphere.
In addition, commercial aviation also became viable in the ’30s. Renowned for accuracy in flight, Hamilton’s reliability put them at the forefront of aviation. Becoming the official timepiece to all four of America’s leading commercial airlines.
Then came the 1940s. Hamilton supplies the perfect way for our military to synchronize its watches. Our armed forces use Hamilton’s ‘Hack’ watch, known for its stop-second function when the crown is released. A function that became a standard feature on all watches.
Most significantly, Hamilton becomes the official watch supplier for the American military during World War II. So, they stop selling watches to the public to focus on the enormous task of providing every soldier with this essential piece of field equipment. Making over one million watches and marine chronometers. This is when Hamilton gains the reputation of the highest performance standards.
One of Hamilton’s most widely worn watches, the Khaki Field was the original soldier’s watch. Rugged, uncompromising, and functional, designed to meet the needs of military personnel and later became a big favorite among Hamilton fans and collectors.
Hamilton also excelled for the Navy during WWII. Without satellite navigation back then, and fearful of attracting the enemy using long-range radio signals, navigation was a critical concern for the U.S. Navy. Dependent on using the heavens to navigate, a precision timepiece was essential. Hamilton’s exclusive ability to mass produce Marine Chronometers to the Navy’s precise standards was vital to our military effort.
20th Century Innovations
The year 1957 brings another ground-breaking innovation from Hamilton watches, changing the face of time-keeping forever.
Hamilton’s advanced engineering brings us the first electric, battery-powered watch. On top of that, its futuristic styling is something no one had ever seen before or since.
The vision of the famous American industrial designer, Richard Arbib. The story goes that Arbib was given free rein, without thought for practicality. As a result, Hamilton’s Ventura astonished the market, becoming an instant success.
From his very first sketch, Hamilton produced an iconic watch, still popular, over 60 years later. In fact, its shield shape design is so futuristic, Ventura is still used in the Men in Black movie series today.
In the 1960s
Ventura’s success is still on the rise. It becomes the watch of trendsetters, rebel rock & rollers, and celebrities. To many, including the Rock & Rollers, its undeniable style keeps the Ventura relevant above other watches.
In 1961, the “King of Rock & Roll” wears his own Ventura in his blockbuster movie, Blue Hawaii. And, he gives them as gifts to friends and associates.
In 1963, the first American to get to the top of Mount Everest is Jim Whittaker. Part of his essential equipment was Hamilton Khaki Field watches.
Come 1969, Hamilton is again involved in one of the biggest breakthroughs in watchmaking history. Playing an integral role in the invention of the first automatic chronograph movement, the Caliber 11.
Another Major Innovation
1972 brings another first for Hamilton, the world’s first digital watch. They are once again innovators of new technology, heralding the future with the Pulsar, and making a big splash with consumers.
Hamilton’s highly anticipated unveiling of their new watch technology came in 1970, on “The Tonight Show”. The Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer had no moving parts, unlike any watch anyone had ever seen. The newly invented LED display was activated by a button on the side of its solid gold case.
Hamilton produced only 400 pieces, which sold for $2,100, MORE than the price of a car at the time.
The 21st Century
2005 Leading aerobatic pilot, Nicolas Ivanoff, begins competing under the Hamilton name in the Red Bull Air Race. Partnering with Ivanoff, their brand ambassador, Hamilton becomes heavily involved in air racing, aerobatics, and the Swiss Aerobatic Association.
2011 brought a huge advancement in Hamilton’s movements. Collaborating with movement specialist ETA, Hamilton developed its own automatic calibers. Starting with H-21 and H-31 and three years later the H-10, H-30, and H-40. Each offers customers an extended power reserve of up to 80 hours.
More Aviation Collaborations
Also in 2011, Hamilton gains another new aviation partner. The famous rescue service Air Zermatt, known as the helicopter heroes, help Hamilton develop the Khaki Flight Timer. Obviously, a favorite watch among pilots, top air squadrons from around the world also begin collaborating with Hamilton.
In addition to being the Official Timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race Championship, Hamilton has had a competing team in the event since 2005.
By 2018, three more of the world’s best pilots, Juan Velarde, Pete McLeod, and Dario Costa join the ranks as Hamilton ambassadors. Certainly, with four of the top pilots in the world, they push their watches to the limits. So, Hamilton now receives crucial input and data directly from the cockpit.
King of the Underwater World
In 2019 the world’s best free-diving champion and four-time world-record holder, Pierre Frolla, becomes Hamilton’s Dive Ambassador.
He comments that time determines everything in free diving. Dictating “rest periods” on the surface between dives, the “official top” signaling our underwater departure and determining the moment we resurface.
By definition, a free dive is time spent underwater without breathing. So, free-diving without a watch is impossible.
“Ultimately, I chose the Khaki Navy watch because it’s simple, resistant, functional, and attractive”, says Frolla. “It provides exactly what I need on my longest and deepest dives. It offers instant readability. In less than a second, I need to know how long I’ve been underwater. Also, the watchband is very comfortable and extremely durable, I know there’s no risk of losing or damaging it.”
More Aviation Timepiece Innovations
What’s their most recent innovation? With the Khaki Aviation X-Wind Auto Chrono, Hamilton has actually created the first-ever drift angle calculator to appear on a watch. Helping pilots accurately calculate how crosswinds will affect their journey.
Today, Hamilton continues their excellence with its Khaki Field, Khaki Aviation, Khaki Navy, Ventura, and Jazzmaster collections.
Hamilton, Hollywood's Favorite Watch
With many notable appearances, Hamilton watches have been in over 500 feature films. Collaborating in science-fiction masterpieces, comedies, action thrillers and inspirational movies. In fact, Hamilton receives many more requests for watches to appear in films than they approve. Obviously, it’s the versatility and range of the Hamilton collection and creativity that allows the perfect watch to be chosen for so many characters.
Hamilton is proud to be known as the Movie Brand watch. Defining astronauts, pilots, explorers, crime fighters, superheroes, time travelers and ordinary people with extraordinary stories. Hamilton watches have been the choice of film makers to develop their characters for almost 100 years.
When it comes to creating movie watches, Hamilton’s ability to become part of the crew’s creative process and deliver what they need has kept Hamilton at the heart of cinema since 1932. Every movie briefing starts with a blank sheet of paper. Sketching out ideas, Hamilton helps bring authentic characters and plots to life on the big screen.
Some Memorable Hamilton Movie Appearances
Beginning in 1932, Hamilton watches first appear on the silver screen in the iconic ‘Shanghai Express’ starring Marlene Dietrich.
It was a glittering screen debut for both the Piping Rock and the Flintridge, used as important props that advanced the plot. It is a partnership that runs deep through Hamilton’s history and continues to inspire stylists and designers in the movie industry almost 100 years later.
This would be just the start of Hamilton’s involvement in the world of cinema.
Mid-Century & Beyond
In 1951, for historical accuracy, Hamilton was chosen as the watch to appear in the smash hit movie, ‘The Frogmen’. Winner of two academy awards, the movie focused on the work of a Navy Underwater Demolition Team.
So, since Hamilton had been the chief supplier of watches to the U.S. Military and had actually designed and produced submersible timepieces for the Navy, choosing Hamilton for the part was a no-brainer.
Come 1961, Hamilton appears in another blockbuster. ‘Blue Hawaii’ starring Elvis Presley. Featured in the movie, was one of the superstar’s greatest hits, “Can’t Stop Falling in Love” and his own Ventura watch.
Hamilton has also been commissioned by directors and producers to create custom concept watches to fit a film. For example, in the 1968 sci-fi classic, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, director Stanley Kubrick asked Hamilton to create a set of futuristic clocks and watches for the movie.
Although the timepieces Hamilton created became highly sought after, they were only prototypes. In fact, the designs were so complex to produce, it would be 40 years later before Hamilton could complete a finished, working watch.
Fittingly, the production of The ODC X-01 was limited to 2,001 pieces.
Beginning in the original 1997 movie, Men in Black agents lived in a future where they rooted out aliens among us. All while sporting a minimal but distinctive uniform that has become legendary.
Hamilton’s futuristic-looking Ventura watch is as much a part of their iconic uniform as their black suit and sunglasses. Providing the agents with precise timing as well as a watch as unconventional as the world they live in.
The watch has been in every MiB movie and all agents are assigned a Ventura, including Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth.
The New Millennium
In the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor, the challenge was historical accuracy based on 1941 military uniforms. Not a problem, Captains Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) were issued Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanicals, exactly what was issued at the time.
2011 brought us Green Lantern with a Khaki King Automatic on his wrist.
More recent examples include the blockbuster Interstellar in 2014, the winner of 44 awards globally. Set in an imagined future in which time and ‘The Murph’ watch plays a critical role. Hamilton was asked for two watches.
First, Hamilton’s persona worked perfectly for Matthew McConaughey’s character, an American pilot. He wears a Khaki Field Pilot Day Date while saving the planet. Next, Hamilton’s involvement with filmmakers is always a true collaboration. And, Hamilton was asked to develop an exclusive watch for Murphy Cooper, the main character played by Jessica Chastain.
After four years of fans clamoring for their own ‘Murph’ watch, Hamilton released an exact reproduction in 2019 of the original, with one tiny addition. As a nod to the story, “Eureka” is printed in Morse code on the seconds hand.
Remember Matt Damon in ‘The Martian’ in 2015? Another futuristic tale, Mark Watney must survive solely on his own, through ingenuity and perseverance on a completely different planet.
His Khaki BeLOWZERO 1000m Automatic turns out to be crucial to his mission.
Independence Day: Resurgence came out in 2016. Pilot Jake Morrison played by Liam Hemsworth is facing the end of the world. Fearless, determined, and highly skilled, making quick calculations as a pilot is how he survives.
The Khaki Aviation X-Wind Auto Chrono is considered a high level Aviation timepiece. It is key to the character completing his missions and staying safe.
Hamilton was also called on in 2021 to create another exclusive watch, this time, for the video game Far Cry® 6, resulting in the Khaki Field Titanium Automatic Limited Edition.
Dani, the main character is gifted her mentor’s lucky watch, his symbol of survival and resilience. Not just a key piece of Yara’s history, the Khaki Field Titanium Automatic watch proves to be a critical defense asset for her too. Turning out to be just as important to Dani for its functions as well as its meaning.
Oceanic Filming of an Underwater Legend
In 2022 we saw the Khaki Navy Frogman in action on the wrist of World champion free diver and Hamilton ambassador, Pierre Frolla, in Hamilton’s 38-second clip, “Behind the Breath”.
Filmed on the Island of Hawaii. As intense as he is exuberant, Pierre isn’t just any free diver. Breaking four free immersion diving world records in his life, he pushes the limits in his very DNA.
Hamilton is proud for him to wear its most technically capable maritime-ready watch, the Khaki Navy Frogman Automatic. Engineered for accuracy, legibility, and endurance. A high-precision instrument with a uniquely shaped crown protector and wave-look tactical rubber strap.
We also recommend the 54 minute-long documentary from 2015, On a Long Breath, featuring Pierre. It’s mind-boggling to witness this world-champion free-diver retreat to the ocean depths for up to 6-8 minutes at a time, interacting with whales, eels, and sharks.
With an undeniably great tagline: “Six oceans, six minutes, free diving at all costs… oxygen is overrated.”
Retiring in 2009, the 47 year old from Monaco, still retains his four world records and is able to hold his breath for almost 8 minutes.
Frolla’s record dive of 80 meters (over 262 feet) and the variable weight dive at a whopping 123 meters (over 403 feet) have never been broken.
Currently, he is heavily involved in teaching and a number of conservation efforts regarding sharks. With his extraordinary free-diving skills, he quietly swims alongside these creatures. Proving that their killer reputation is unfounded. Therefore, the need to kill them is unwarranted.