Hamilton Gents Watch
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Hamilton Gents Watch

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were without question the golden age of American watchmaking. The implementation of mass production and interchangeable parts assured American supremacy. Brands such as Gruen, Elgin, and Hamilton vied against the Swiss to dominate the watch industry—and Hamilton, in particular, was at the top of its game.

In particular, the development of railroad chronometers gave the manufacture a reputation for accuracy and dependability, in an age where those qualities were vital in a watch.

But Hamilton’s production did not rest on railroad chronometers alone: throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and on into World War II, Hamilton released a dizzying array of designs.

In the 1920s, the brand started to deviate from the typical round cases that predominated in the early years of wristwatch production. These watches were often referred to as “Geographic” thanks to their revolutionary case shapes. Hamilton experimented with a variety of shapes, from the square or rectangular “tank” shapes popularized by Cartier, to bold asymmetrical designs that subtly foreshadow the Hamilton Victor, one of the world’s first electric wristwatches.

These early wristwatches were named after their shapes: Tonneau, Square Cut Corner, or Cushion were just some of the models Hamilton released in the 1920s. But after a few years, these models were given names that evoked images of success and prosperity. Certain watches were named after famous golf courses or country clubs, such as Meadowbrook (a country club in Northville, MI outside Detroit) or Oakmont, a golf course near Pittsburgh, PA.

The qualities that these names evoked became more and more desirable after the Wall Street crash of 1929. People lost their fortunes and many businesses were forced to fold. Even Hamilton was not immune to the privations.

Until the late 1930s, Hamilton prided itself on not offering anything but the highest quality materials: the finest movements and the purest gold. But with unemployment at a staggering 14.3%, the economy tanked. Manufacturing declined, and the country entered a recession.

Faced with such numbers, Hamilton toyed with the idea of releasing 10 karat gold cases and lower-quality movements. But these didn’t sell as well as Hamilton had hoped. Consumers already had an image of Hamilton as a premier brand, and their mass-marketing campaign of the mid-1930s did nothing to change that.

This particular watch is exactly the sort of thing that consumers came to expect. It features a 29mm 14k gold barrel-shaped case. Inside beats the Calibre 979, one of Hamilton’s best movements of the period.

Dating these models is hard, but online resources put the production of the movement, at least, to 1937, during the period we describe. Though most watches of that era had model names, the name of this one is sadly lost to time. However, it still resonates with the same care and attention with which Hamilton imbued it, when Hamilton was a giant of the watch world.

Details

SKU: AS02254

14k gold case is approximately 29mm (excluding crown). Calibre 979 Manually-Wound Movement. Circa 1930s.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall, showing some signs of minor use and wear. Dial is in very good condition with some signs of age and professional refinishing. Unsigned crown.

Includes one 16mm light brown strap.

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