Hamilton Watch Co. Time Line
1874 - Predecessor of Hamilton - Adams and Perry Watch
Company was formed with $78,000 in capital.
1876 - Ezra Bowman - made the his first watch The Bowman
Watch- a response to his observation of the Adams & Perry's
1877 - Lanscaster Pennsylvania Watch Co. - formed on the
determination that 800 of the remaining movements from
Adam & Perry could be completed and sold for $20,000 giving
sufficient capital to form this new company.
1878 - Lancaster Pennsylvania Watch Co. recognized after
the sale of the Adam & Perry movements and the Lancaster
Pennsylvania Watch Co. Limited was formed.
1879 - The above was recognized with additional capital
to the "Lancaster Watch Company."
1879 - Lancaster Watch Co. produced its first watch - it
was a size 19, then reduced to a size 18 to fit Howard
Cases. Four grades of watches were produced with the
names - Keystone, Fulton, Franklin and Melrose.
1880 - Lancaster Watch Co. - Showed profit
1881 - Lancaster Watch Co. - Doubled its Capital
1882 - Lancaster Watch Co. - Prospering, marketing grades
- Delaware and Lancaster, PA.
1882 - Lancaster Watch Co.'s Delaware model now featuring
a patented, dust-proof cover of the escapement giving
them a competitive edge.
1882 - Offered more then 30 varieties placing a strain on
the company leading to reorganization forming "Lancaster
Watch Co. Inc."
1883 - Lancaster Watch Company Inc.
1884 - Lancaster Watch Co. Inc. failed due massive debt
1884 - Approximate rise of the Keystone Watch Co.
1885 - Aurora made watches for railroad service seven
years later became part of Hamilton.
1886 - Keystone Standard Watch Co.
1886 - Keystone Watch Company
1889 - Appointment of H. J. Cain as General Manager.
Later he will personally design the first Hamilton watch.
1890 - Company became insolvent, the factory closed and
Mr. Cain left Aurora.
1890 - Death of the Keystone Watch Company - an attempt
was made to remove some of the debt by finishing several
hundred movements which were sold by Oppenheimer Bros.
1892 - Negotiations between Charles Rood and Henry Cain
(from the bankrupt Aurora Watch Co.) and Lancaster
businessmen give raise to the Hamilton Watch Co.
1892 - Hamilton name officially adopted and the Charter
was granted by the State Department of Pa.
1892 - Hamilton 's first movement designed by Henry Cain.
1893 - Debit bonds of $50,000 were burned and title
passed to Hamilton from Keystone.
1893 - Start of 27 different grades of Railroad watches
in 51 different styles - continued until 1969 the last
model being 992B.
1893 - The first Hamilton watch. It was not completed
until late 1893 almost one full year after the founding
of the company.
1893 - Hamilton had only one salesman, by 1924 they had
ten, by 1929 they increased to sixteen.
1893 - Only 212 watches were made for this year - 75 were
finished in November and 137 in December. Total sales
were only $1,500.
1894 - 5,065 watch movements were sold.
1894 - New model 18 size, full-plate, open face and
hunting, improved grade 936 - New grade 937 (later in
1898 and 1899 this model would become the 940).
1895 - 6,514 watch movements were sold.
1896 - Hamilton made a Grade 999 Railroad Grade watches
for Mr. Webb Ball who was a Technical Inspector.
(This company never actually produced watches)
Confirmed 21,788 total Hamilton movement were shipped to
Ball but total could have been closer to 50,000 of the
Grade 999 were made.
1896 - Hamilton also made a 23 jeweled model, Grade 998,
Railroad Grade watch for distribution by Mr. Ball.
1896 - 4,404 watch movements sold.
1897 - 10,982 watch movements sold.
1898 - Hamilton' s best seller began production - 18
size, Grade 940 - 205,815 movements made between 1898-1926.
1898 - 23,821 movements sold.
1899 - Waltham watch Co. began production of railroad grade
watches in size 16, 23 jeweled, dubbed "Official Railroad
Standard" some made for distribution by Mr. Webb Ball
- production stopped in 1922.
1899 - 22,888 Hamilton movements sold.
1900 - 30,316 watch movements sold.
1900 - Henry Cain Died - credited as the force behind the
remarkable success of Hamilton.
1901 - 38,654 watch movements sold.
1902 - 53,327 watch movements sold.
1904 - The Grade 940 described as "The Railroad Timekeeper
of American" also exported to England and then dubbed
"The Railroad Timekeeper of the World"
1904 - Hamilton, Elgin, Waltham and Illinois investigated
for price fixing and anti-trust violations - investigation
was dropped in 1907.
1906 - W. W. Dudley - joined Hamilton as foreman of the
modeling department - hired to develop 0-size movements
- later founded Dudley Watch Co. and produced Masonic
designs. His company went under and he returned to
Hamilton as a finisher.
1907 - Hamilton published a pocket notebook as a promotion
- 3x5 with 32 printed pages - 32 blank memo pages,
advertisements, calendars for 1907 and 1908, and
miscellaneous helpful hints.
1908 - Market for railroad watches became glutted, Waltham
and Elgin moved into smaller sizes and fanciers cases.
Hamilton did not follow suite and as a result sales
1908 - Hamilton introduced an 0 size pendant watch
1908 - Hamilton introduced a 950 railroad grade watch in
England, where it received high praise and selected for
outstanding accuracy by European horologists.
1909 - Grade 950, size 16, (new grade of 950) The Mainliner
- 16 size, lever set, 23 rubies and sapphire jewels,
elinvar hairspring, mono-metallic balance wheel, two-piece
friction fit balance staff, patent motor barrel, gold
center, capped jewels, double rollered escapement,
sapphire pallets, micrometric regulator, friction set
roller jewel. Adjusted to Temperature and five positions.
Sold cased ONLY in 10k gold filled open faced. Choice of
dials. Price $75.00.
Note: 950, 23j, Open faced, pendant set made only 4,400
in bridge model between 1909-1925. Lever set model about
18,000 made between 1909 and 1936. All had solid gold
jewel settings, recoiling click, 23 extra fine ruby
jewels; adjusted to 5 positions; gold train, micrometric
regulator, double roller, Breguet hairspring,
compensation balance wheel, steel escapement, solid
nickel bridges and patent motor barrel. (This
information was taken directly from the original 3x5
card that Hamilton made on every watch model produced).
1911 - Hamilton factory more then doubled in size. A
fourth floor had been added to the East and West wings
and both wings were extended.
1915 - Hamilton introduced a ladies watch with a
1918 - Hamilton watches were the official timekeepers
for the U.S. Airmail flights between Washington D.C.,
Philadelphia and New York.
1919 - Hamilton introduced it's first wristwatch for
men - 17 jeweled, sterling silver case and strap with
a buckle for $35.00
1920 - Elinvar hairspring developed by French Physicist
Dr. Charles E. Guillaume (awarded the Nobel Prize in
Physics). The hairspring was perfectly elastic and made
of a non-magnetic allow, resisted rust and automatically
compensated for variation in temperature. (Hamilton
obtained the rights to it in 1931).
1921 - The first presentation done by President Warren
Harding was of a Hamilton watch to Henry J. Greiser,
swimming instructor and health expert for the government
in the Canal Zone.
1924 - Extended sales staff to ten.
1925 - Swiss competition was beginning to be felt.
(From 1923 - 1928 importation of watches more than
1926 - Admiral Richard E. Byrd used a Hamilton during his
historic flight over the North Pole.
1927 - First air flight from California to Hawaii - Two
Hamilton torpedo boat watches were used.
1927 - Hamilton's President Miller began giving company
stock to employees who received honors.
1928 - 60 Hamilton watches were the "Official Timepieces"
of the first Byrd Antarctic Expedition.
1928 - Hamilton watches timed the University of Michigan's
second Greenland Expedition.
1928 - Hamilton purchased the Illinois Watch Co. of
Springfield, Illinois. By 1933 Illinois factory was
closed and machinery moved to Lancaster. Hamilton
continued to use the Illinois until 1953 - some of them
were Swiss movements
1929 - 71 models offered, 11 were for women, four of
which were diamond-set cases.
1929 - Increased sales staff to sixteen.
1929 - Hamilton enjoyed 31% return on sales. Showed a
profit of $1.8 million after taxes on sales of $5.8
million - Hint of price fixing raised again (eventually
indicted in 1941, but due to war effort going on at that
time no effect was felt.)
1929 - Hamilton offered 40 pocket watches grades and
19 wrist watches for men.
1929 - Hamilton made tachometers for cruisers (only 5
to 6 made), submarines (only 4) and hundreds for
aircraft. (All produced under Hamilton name with the
aid of Stover-Lang.)
End of the 1920's - Hamilton purchased land southwest
of the factory and build a residential community
called "Hamilton Park". Houses were build and sold
to employees at cost.
1930's - Hamilton produced superior watch parts (better
then European counterparts) and even sold them lower
than the competition.
1931 - Hamilton's share of the market had dropped so
substantially that the company was at the break even
1931 - Hamilton purchased the E. Howard Watch Co.
and produced small quantities under this brand name.
1931 - Hamilton obtained the American rights to the
Elinvar hairspring - perfectly elastic, rust
resistant, non-magnetic and it automatically
compensated for variations in Temperature. Of a
concern was the fact that it proved fluctuate greatly
in quality. Hamilton Chief metallurgist developed
Elinvar Extra, an alloy so uniform that it out
performed the finest ever made. It was virtually
immune to changing conditions - resulted in
unprecedented accuracy. They used if for the first
time in the 992B Railroad watch in 1940.
1932 - Only year Hamilton lost money - Waltham posted
losses from 1931-1934 and Elgin and Bulova posted
losses from 1931 to 1933.
1939 - 88 models offered, 41 were for women, 4 of
which were encased in diamonds and platinum and 8 in
diamonds and gold.
1939 - Hamilton offered 30 wrist watch models and
only 16 pocket models.
1940 - Hamilton accepted a contract with the Navy to
supply 40 chronometers.
1942 - First two Hamilton marine chronometers were
delivered to Navy. (Total production equaled 8,902).
(Between end of WW I and 1970 a total of 4,184 were
produced - grand total 13,984.)
1944 - Joseph Stalin was presented a Hamilton pocket
watch by the American Jewelers via Russian Ambassador
1947 - Hamilton could make 275,00 screws worth $9,100
from a single pound of steel costing 90 cents delivered
1951 - Hamilton acquired Ralph W. Biggs & Co. (a case
making company specializing in high quality diamond
1955 - Imported over 10,000 pocket watches from
Switzerland - and continued to do so through 1957.
1959 - Hamilton acquired Wallace Silversmiths.
Interesting side notes:
NOTE: World War I - Hamilton designed and constructed
special navigational watches for use on torpedo boats,
destroyers and submarines.
NOTE: General "Black Jack" Pershing - used a Hamilton
Railroad watch to time all troop movements of the A.E.F.
it was borrowed in the early stages of the war and kept
for it's entirety.
NOTE: World War II - Hamilton produced 18,938 pocket
watches for the Army; 15,563 "comparing" watches for the
Navy; 23,610 wrist watches for the Navy; 110,336 wrist
watches for the Army; 18,814 wrist watches for the Marine
Corps; 17,054 chronograph stop watches for the Navy;
5,000 chronograph stop watches for the Army; 15,614
"elapsed time" clocks for the Navy; 2,000 navigation
watches for the British Navy; 313 mounted chronometers
watches and 312 pocket navigation watches for the
Canadian Navy; 3,000 wrist watches for the Russian
Government; five mounted chronometer and 135 chronograph
stop watches for the Russian Maritime commission.
Total value of the time pieces produced was $14,433,835.67.
NOTE: One millionth Hamilton - rare Grade 947, probably
manufactured in 1913. According to company records only
308 units of this grade were produced.
NOTE: Grade 992 - size 16 - 1,066,215 were made, all
Open Face - grades 992, 992E, 992B - all were 21 jeweled.
NOTE: The Cleveland Watch Co. sold more then 100,000
NOTE: The original name of the company was to be the
"Columbian Watch Company" - but the Waterbury Watch Co.
already had a model by the same name.
NOTE: The name Hamilton was in honor of Andrew Hamilton
who donated the land that the city of Lancaster had been
NOTE: A total of 196,193 watch movements were sold in
the first 10 years.
NOTE: Specifications for railroad grade watches per Mr.
Webb Ball: - Must be open faced; size 16 or 18, no less
then 17 jewels, adjusted to 5 positions at the least;
gain or lose no more then 30 seconds a week; adjusted to
temperatures from 34 to 100 degrees (F); doubled roller,
steel escape wheel, micrometric regulator, lever set,
winding stem at 12 o'clock, grade on back plate; use
plain Arabic numbers printed in bold black and white
dial, and must have bold black hands.
NOTE: Webb Ball, for the most part, purchased movements
from Hamilton, not completed watches. He then assembled
watches from components which he made along with those
of numerous other jobbers.
M.O.S.T. Watch and Clock Co.