Hamilton: The Once American Watch Company
By James Grahame
The Hamilton Watch Company was founded in 1892, "to build only watches of the highest quality." Their pocket watches became known across America for reliability, but it was the 1917 introduction of a military wristwatch that truly established them. Those early wristwatches used tiny 0-sized 17-jewel movements originally designed for women's pendent watches.
The company went on to produce the world's first electric watch in 1957, but they faced increasing competition from Japanese watchmakers. In an attempt to compete, they teamed up with Ricoh to produce electric mechanisms in their Lancaster, Pennsylvania factory which were then sent to Japan for final assembly. The venture failed, and Hamilton acquired Swiss watchmaker Bueren in an attempt to fight the Japanese onslaught with quality. It didn't work, forcing the American factory to close in 1969.
The brand eventually ended up in the hands of Swatch, who revitalized the lineup with a series of respectable timepieces featuring automatic ETA movements. Prices start at around $300 (street), which is downright reasonable for a Swiss watch.
The series is available with leather or steel bands and features a brilliant luminescent dial for those panicked moments when you need the exact time in pitch darkness.