Hamilton: Swiss Watches with American Roots
The watch manufacturer Hamilton combines Swiss precision with outstanding value for money. Their catalog contains everything from simple three-hand watches and automatic chronographs to futuristic triangular timepieces.
Swiss Engineering Meets the American Spirit
Hamilton is a Swiss watch manufacturer with American roots. Founded in Lancaster, PA in 1892, the company is renowned for their precise timekeepers. By the year 1900, Hamilton pocket watches had developed a following among railroad workers thanks to their reliability and accuracy. The manufacturer later went on to produce many military watches over the course of the 20th century. The vast Khaki collection contains a wide range of timepieces inspired by these historical military models, including pilot's and diving watches with practical functions like a chronograph or drift-angle calculator. Pilots can use the drift-angle calculator to determine the effects of cross winds on their flight path.
For something more elegant and modern, you should look to the Jazzmaster collection. Many of these watches feature partially skeletonized dials, offering a peek at the movement within. Top models boast a chronograph caliber with a 60-hour power reserve.
The Ventura is a true Hamilton icon. Its triangular case design is impossible to ignore and even caught the eye of none other than Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll wore his Ventura in the 1961 film "Blue Hawaii," catapulting the collection into superstardom. Top models feature an automatic caliber. Those with skeletonized dials are especially extravagant.
Reasons to Buy a Hamilton Watch
- Affordable Swiss watches
- American roots
- Iconic models like the Ventura
- Functional calibers with a chronograph, GMT function, or day-date display
- Automatic calibers with an 80-hour power reserve
How much do Hamilton watches cost?
|Khaki Field Mechanical, ref. H69439931||430 USD||Manually wound|
|Jazzmaster Open Heart Auto, ref. H32565521||650 USD||Skeletonized dial, automatic|
|Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical, ref. H76419531||760 USD||Retro design, manually wound|
|Khaki Navy Frogman Auto, ref. H77705145||760 USD||Water-resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft), automatic|
|Ventura XXL Auto, ref. H24655331||970 USD||Triangular case, automatic, appears in "Men in Black 3"|
|Khaki Field "Murph" Auto, ref. H70605731||810 USD||Automatic, appears in "Interstellar"|
|Khaki Field Auto Chrono, ref. H71626735||1,500 USD||Black PVD coating, chronograph, from the series "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan"|
|American Classic Railroad Auto Chrono||1,500 USD||46 mm, chronograph|
|American Classic Intra-Matic Auto Chrono||1,700 USD||Retro design, chronograph|
Prices for the Hamilton Khaki
The Khaki is among the most famous Hamilton watches. The manufacturer divides this massive military watch collection into three sub-collections: Khaki Field, Khaki Aviation, and Khaki Navy. Each series contains a vast array of manual, automatic, and quartz calibers. Top models boast a GMT function, chronograph, or water resistance of 1,000 m (100 bar, 3,281 ft).
Hamilton Khaki Field: Watches for the U.S. Army
The Khaki Field collection pays tribute to the military watches Hamilton once produced for the United States Army. The 38-mm Khaki Field Mechanical bears particularly close resemblance to its predecessors worn by American servicemen around the globe. Defining features include a matte stainless steel case and a dial with both 12 and 24-hour scales. The hands and triangular hour indices glow in the dark, making it easy to tell the time under all lighting conditions. You can choose from a wide range of dial colors such as black, brown, olive green, and white. More recent models house the manual caliber H-50. This movement has an 80-hour power reserve – that's more than three days. The ref. H69439931 with an olive green NATO strap costs less than 430 USD new and about 320 USD pre-owned.
If you prefer automatic watches, you should take a closer look at the Khaki Field Auto. Unlike the manual editions, most of the automatic models have polished bezels. Hamilton outfits these timepieces with the caliber H-10, available both with or without a date display. Like the H-50, this movement boasts an 80-hour power reserve. Perhaps the most interesting version is the Khaki Field "Murph" Auto, which played a prominent role in the movie "Interstellar." This 42-mm watch has a black bezel, cathedral hands, and a calf leather strap. Luminous material fills its hands and hour indices. Prices for the "Murph" begin under 760 USD for a pre-owned timepiece and go up to around 810 USD for a never-worn model.
The Khaki Field Auto Chrono is a great choice for fans of the chronograph function. This 42-mm watch has a day-date display at 3, and 12-hour counter at 6, and a 30-minute counter at 12 o'clock. Its power comes from the caliber H-21. Based on the Valjoux 7750, this movement has a 60-hour power reserve. The solid black ref. H71626735 appears in the Amazon Prime Video series "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan." John Krasinski, who plays the titular role, sports the timepiece throughout the series. This chronograph sells for roughly 1,500 USD in mint condition, while used watches demand about 1,200 USD.
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot's Watches
If you're on the market for a pilot's watch, you should check out the expansive Khaki Aviation series. It's home to everything from simple three-hand watches with a manual caliber to automatic timepieces with a day-date display and chronographs with a drift-angle calculator. The chronographs are among Hamilton's most popular models. They offer a truly unique function, enabling pilots to calculate how cross winds will affect their journey. The 44-mm ref. H77616133, also worn by Jack Ryan in the Amazon series, comes with the caliber H-21 and a stainless steel bracelet. You can purchase this timepiece for about 1,200 USD new. Pre-owned pieces change hands for under 1,100 USD.
Fans of vintage and/or retro watches are sure to enjoy the Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical. This timepiece pays tribute to the pilot's watches Hamilton produced for the Royal Air Force back in the early 1970s. Perhaps its most interesting feature is its 36 x 33-mm cushion-shaped case. The case is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft) and contains the manual caliber H-50 with an 80-hour power reserve. On the dial, you'll find tan luminous material that underscores this pilot's watch's retro feel. Hamilton offers this model on a gray NATO textile strap or brown NATO leather strap. At around 760 USD, the version on a leather strap costs about 50 USD more than the version on a textile strap.
For Aquatic Adventures: Khaki Navy
The Khaki Navy series is home to genuine diving watches, such as the Frogman, as well as retro models with designs inspired by classic navy watches. The latter belong to the Khaki Navy Pioneer line. Hamilton equips these timepieces with one of three movements: the manual ETA 6498-2, the automatic H-10, or the chronograph caliber H-21. The chronograph movement has a date display at 3, a 12-hour counter at 6, and a 30-minute counter at 12 o'clock. However, it does without a small seconds. A new Khaki Navy Pioneer Chronograph costs roughly 1,600 USD. The 43-mm automatic model demands about 860 USD. Finally, the 46-mm manual edition with a small seconds changes hands for some 1,800 USD.
You can easily recognize Khaki Navy Frogman Auto watches by their unidirectional bezels and special crown guards that cover the entire crown. The 42-mm stainless steel variants are water-resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft) and available with a black, red, or blue bezel. While the first two are paired with black dials, the blue edition features a matching blue dial. The titanium model is 46 mm in diameter and has an impressive 1,000-m (100 bar, 3,281 ft) depth rating. Both sizes come with the caliber H-10 with an 80-hour power reserve and a date display. A Khaki Navy Frogman Titanium Auto sells for about 1,100 USD in mint condition and 970 USD pre-owned. On the other hand, the 42-mm stainless steel versions cost between 640 and 760 USD.
Jazzmaster: Modern and Elegant
The Jazzmaster collection has something for everyone, including elegant three-hand dress watches, GMT watches, chronographs, and skeletonized timepieces. One example of a skeletonized watch is the Open Heart Auto. Its dial features multiple openings, offering a view of the oscillating balance and other components. The Jazzmaster Open Heart Auto is available with a 40 or 42-mm stainless steel case. Gold-plated models look especially refined. Hamilton outfits these timepieces with dauphine hands. Arabic numerals mark the hours at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock, with line indices for the other hours in between.
The gold-plated ref. H32735551 is 42-mm in diameter and requires an investment of roughly 1,200 USD. The 40-mm ref. H32565521 lacks any gold plating and demands about 650 USD.
With its three decentralized displays, the Jazzmaster Regulator Auto is entirely unique within the Jazzmaster series. The hour display sits in the dial's upper left, while the seconds are located at the bottom right. A long central hand indicates the minutes. This timepiece gets its unconventional dial layout from the caliber H-12, a modified ETA 2824-2, which ticks away inside the 42-mm stainless steel case. The ref. H42615743 features a black dial and matching black leather strap. Prices for this model range from around 640 USD new to 870 USD pre-owned.
Fans of chronographs will also find plenty of options in the Jazzmaster collection. For example, the Maestro Auto Chrono has a similar dial design to the IWC Portugieser, but comes with a much friendlier price tag. You can purchase the 41-mm ref. H32576515 with a day-date display, 12-hour counter, and 30-minute counter for approximately 1,200 USD. Used watches cost about 110 USD less. For comparison, a mint-condition IWC Portugieser chronograph with an in-house caliber demands around 6,400 USD.
Ventura: A Hamilton Icon
Few Hamilton models are as iconic as the Ventura. All eyes are drawn to its triangular case. Not even Elvis Presley could resist its appeal, and he proudly wore his Ventura on the silver screen. Released in 1957, the Ventura was the world's first battery-powered watch. Today, there are both quartz and automatic models available. The ref. H24515581, a 34.7 x 53.5-mm automatic timepiece, is powered by the caliber H10. This movement is based on the ETA C07.111. Never-worn versions change hands for around 650 USD, while pre-owned pieces sell for about 540 USD.
The Ventura XXL Auto is the perfect choice for fans of large timepieces. Its stainless steel case measures 45.5 x 46 mm. Like its smaller counterpart, this watch uses the caliber H-10 with an 80-hour power reserve. This massive watch has also left its mark on Hollywood, appearing in 2012's "Men in Black 3." You can call a Ventura XXL Auto your own for some 970 USD new and 760 USD pre-owned.
If you're an Elvis fan, you should take a closer look at the Ventura Elvis80 Auto. This series is dedicated to the King of Rock and Roll. Highlights include the ref. H24585731 with a black-coated case. Prices for mint-condition pieces sit around 1,200 USD. Used models sell for less than 1,100 USD.
Prices for American Classic Watches
The American Classic collection honors Hamilton's American roots. While the company is now located in Switzerland, it actually spent most of its history in the United States. As its name implies, the Railroad series features watches modeled after the timepieces used by railroad workers in times gone by. Defining features of the Railroad Auto with a date display include lance hands, prominent tapered indices, and a railroad minute scale around the dial's edge. A 12-hour scale occupies the center of the dial. This 40-mm timepiece is made of stainless steel and is also available as a gold-plated model. Hamilton equips this watch with the caliber H-10, which has an 80-hour power reserve. Plan to spend about 760 USD on a new Railroad Auto.
The 46-mm ref. H40616535 comes with a chronograph function and costs approximately 1,500 USD in mint condition. You can find pre-owned versions for less than 1,100 USD. This timepiece houses the caliber A07.211 with a 60-hour power reserve. Thanks to a magnifying lens, the date display at 3 o'clock is especially easy to read.
The Intra-Matic series also belongs to the American Classic collection. Intra-Matic watches feature a retro design reminiscent of vintage timepieces from the 1960s. The automatic editions are especially tidy. These watches come with delicate hour and minute hands, narrow indices, and a date display at 6 o'clock. You can choose from a 38 or 42-mm case. Both versions use the ETA caliber 2892-2 with a 50-hour power reserve. Intra-Matic watches cost around 760 USD new and 540 USD pre-owned.
If you enjoy vintage chronographs from the 1960s, you should look into the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono. The main feature of this 40-mm chronograph is its panda (or reverse panda) dial. Models with a panda dial have a white dial with black subdials, while reverse panda models feature a blue dial with white subdials. Both have a 30-minute counter at 3 and a small seconds dial at 9 o'clock. There's also a date display at 6. A black or white tachymeter scale around the dial's edge enables the wearer to calculate average speeds. All this functionality comes from the caliber H-31, which has a 60-hour power reserve. Prices are the same regardless of dial type and range from 1,500 to 1,800 USD.
Where are Hamilton watches produced?
Since 2003, all of Hamilton's production has taken place in Switzerland. The company headquarters are in Biel, located in the canton of Bern. They source their movements from ETA, a fellow member of the Swatch group. What's more, Hamilton coordinates with ETA to develop optimized movements. Potential improvements include extended power reserves, for example. The resulting timepieces are of an impressive quality. When it comes to price, Hamilton watches occupy the same range as Tissot and Longines, both of which are also owned by the Swatch Group.
Hamilton Watches and Hollywood
Hamilton has a decades-long relationship with the film industry. In "Shanghai Express" (1932), Marlene Dietrich dons two Hamilton watches: a Flintridge and a Piping Rock. Both play a prominent role in the film.
In the early 1950s, fictional combat divers wore Hamilton Frogman diving watches in the aptly named film "Frogmen." The filmmakers chose this watch because the U.S. Navy had equipped their elite divers with the same timepiece in World War II.
The King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley, wore a Hamilton Ventura in 1961's musical romance, "Blue Hawaii." In the movie, Presley plays a former soldier. It would become the legendary musician and actor's most successful feature film.
Hamilton remains a Hollywood staple to this day, appearing in more recent films like "Pearl Harbor," "Men in Black," "Independence Day," "The Martian," and "Interstellar." In Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic, "Interstellar" (2014), a Hamilton Khaki Field Auto plays a key role in saving all of humanity. To date, Hamilton watches have appeared in 500 movies.
Hamilton has been putting on the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards since 2006. These awards acknowledge those who work behind the scenes out of the limelight. The watch manufacturer also supports aspiring filmmakers and has partnered with the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA.
The History of Hamilton
Hamilton has an impressive history to look back on. The company was founded in Lancaster, PA in 1892, and quickly earned a reputation for producing precise timekeepers. Their pocket watches were especially popular among railroad workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By 1900, over 55% of all train drivers and conductors relied on Hamilton watches. These accurate timepieces helped coordinate departure times, thus reducing the number of train accidents.
The company entered the world of aviation in 1918. Pilots in the U.S. Airmail service wore Hamilton pilot's watches on their transatlantic journeys. Today, Hamilton is the official timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
What's more, Hamilton has been supplying the U.S. military with watches since the First World War. During World War II, the brand also sent wristwatches and high-precision navy chronometers to the front lines. In 1942, Hamilton went as far as to cease all civil production and focus solely on building watches for American servicemen. The company would end up producing over one million wristwatches as part of the war effort between 1942 and 1945. In the post-war era, Hamilton has maintained a close relationship to the military and continues to improve their military watches. They are also partners with some of the world's best flying squadrons, including the Spanish Patrulla ASPA helicopter aerobatic team.
The Hamilton Ventura revolutionized the industry in 1957 as the world's first battery-powered wristwatch. Another milestone was reached 13 years later with the Pulsar, the first digital timepiece with LED displays. The Pulsar caught people's eyes in high places. None other than James Bond himself (played by Roger More) donned this watch in 1973's "Live and Let Die." The Societé Suisse de l'Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) – a precursor to the Swatch group – acquired Hamilton during the quartz crisis in 1974. At first, watch production continued in the USA. It wasn't until 2003 that the company headquarters and production facilities relocated to Biel, Switzerland. Since then, every Hamilton watch has proudly borne the words "Swiss made."