Hamilton Ventura
$ 3,300.00

Hamilton Ventura

The Hamilton Ventura is perhaps the most distinctive American timepiece ever designed. For a brand known primarily for its sports and military watches, the Ventura with its asymmetrical case is a wide departure from the brand's aesthetic. But the Ventura is a snapshot of the American psyche in mid-century America, its flamboyant design evocative of the American mindset as the country roared out of the war-torn 1940s into the prosperity of the 1950s. 

It also represented a renaissance for Hamilton as the brand resumed production of watches for civilians after concentrating on timepieces for the U.S. armed forces during the Second World War. 

Eveready's invention of the miniaturized battery in the 1950s galvanized the watch industry, and brands endeavored to capitalize on this new technology. Starting in 1946, Hamilton initiated a secretive research and design project dubbed "Project X." Ultimately, the process of researching and developing the Calibre 500--the world's first battery-powered watch movement--would take ten years. 

In 1957 Hamilton filed a patent for "an indexing mechanism for a battery powered watch." The invention, or so the patent went: "... attempts to eliminate the fabrication of numerous parts, the need for lubrication, and the problem of wear." Essentially, in Hamilton's design, the balance wheel--that is, what regulates the watch--is powered not by springs but by magnets. 

The Calibre 500 movement illustrated to the world the technological advances that could be achieved in this new Atomic Age. 

To accompany this watch's game-changing guts with a similarly revolutionary case concept, Hamilton enlisted the aid of industrial designer Richard Arbib. A graduate of the Pratt Institute, Arbib designed bombs during the War, and then afterwards designed automobiles for Packard, Hudson, and General Motors. He was responsible for the Nash Astra-Gnome "Time and Space" car, a futuristic concept car that depicted Arbib's conception of what cars would look like in the year 2000. 

Arbib designed numerous cases for Hamilton over the years, but without question the most iconic is the Space Age asymmetrical case featured on the Ventura. Inspired by the bombs and rockets he created during the War, Arbib drew on those designs for the Ventura's case. As distinctive as the tailfins on a Cadillac (which, incidentally, were devised at General Motors by Arbib while working under Harley Earl), it was initially offered in 14k gold with either a black or a silver dial.

The Ventura saw international exposure on the television show The Twilight Zone, on the wrist of the show's writer, Rod Serling. But the King of all Ventura-aficionados is of course The King himself, Elvis Presley, who most famously wore one in his 1961 movie Blue Hawaii. Though the Ventura originally came on a black or black-and-gold leather strap, Elvis wore his on a metal bracelet. 

Though the Hamilton Ventura was the first battery-powered watch, the fickle nature of the watch's movement meant that there was still room for improvement in the industry. Elgin, a fellow American brand, developed a prototype for an electro-mechanical watch in the early 1950s in concert with French retailer LIP. But the most enduring and revolutionary electric watch was of course the Bulova Accutron, whose 1960 debut would lay the groundwork for quartz technology and change the face of horology forever.

With the opposition of the Accutron, Hamilton discontinued production of the Ventura in 1963. But the design still lives on, having been reissued by Hamilton on several occasions, including a special edition in the late 1990s worn by planetary defenders Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black

While there is no question that collector attitudes have changed from considering wristwatches as pieces of art to desiring the function-first "tool watches" so popular today, we have a strong belief that appreciation for mid-century marvels such as the Ventura are bound to come back around. The 1957 original remains a classic design of mid-century horology, a distinctive dress design with a pedigree that deserves serious appreciation - just look at this thing.  Magnificent.

This particular example is quite simply one of the nicest we've ever encountered, showing no signs of dial refinishing so commonly associated with Hamilton electrics. Furthermore, the incredible stepped case has never been polished, resulting in crisp edges throughout.  Paired with an aftermarket replacement two-tone strap (admittedly, not for everyone!), this is about as close as you're ever going to get to having the chance to buy a nearly brand-new Ventura. In a few years, when high-design timepieces like this one are back on collector radar, you'll kick yourself for passing on it - we promise.

 

Details

14k solid yellow gold asymmetrical case is approximately 31.5 x 49.7mm (excluding crown). Hamilton Caliber 500 electric movement. Circa 1957.

Overall Condition: 14k gold case is in outstanding condition with no signs of polishing and only light signs of wear from careful use. Glossy black dial is in excellent condition with some signs of age, including spidering, particularly in the corner near 5 o'clock. Very hard to find un-restored dial! Hamilton signed crown and case back.

Includes one aftermarket reproduction 17mm black and gold leather strap.

SKU: AS01799

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