Founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892, Hamilton watches became synonymous with precision timekeeping, supplying pocketwatches to railroads, marine chronometers for ships, and clocks for aircraft. Today, Swiss-owned Hamilton offers a wide range of timepieces at accessible prices. Here are five models* we can recommend for new collectors.
Pilot Pioneer Auto
Hamilton’s Pilot Pioneer watches are inspired by timepieces the company manufactured for the British Royal Air Force in the 1970s. There’s a chronograph version, but we’ve selected the time-and-date model because, at less than $1,000, it offers very good value. Officially, the 41-mm case is described “round”, but for practical purposes, the look is asymmetrical, owing to the crown-side construction. The lugs have a slightly different shape, allowing them to form part of the crown-guard system, along with a piece mounted between the crowns. The top crown adjusts the inner ring that carries the 60-minute scale, giving the user an effective countdown timer. The bottom crown handles the traditional winding and time-setting functions. The H-10 Hamilton automatic caliber is visible through a display back, and it offers an 80-hour power reserve.
The Hamilton Pilot Pioneer Auto is priced at $995.
Hamilton launched the original Pan Europ in 1971, and its sporty ’70s style is still turning heads more than 30 years later. The 42-mm cushion case features a rotating bezel with an aluminum insert with a diver-style countdown scale. We like the blue dial, and there’s also a more subdued gray option. The bright red seconds hand complements the red seconds index between 12 and 3 o’clock. The hour and minute hands and the beefy hour markers feature white Super-LumiNova, and combined with the large, clear day and date indicators, excellent legibility is guaranteed. Under the dial, Hamilton has fitted the new H-30 automatic movement with an 80-hour power reserve.
The Hamilton Pan Europ Auto is priced at $1,195.
Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton
Skeleton watches offer a unique opportunity to view the intricate inner workings of a mechanical movement. Display backs are fine, but they’re hidden away when the watch is in use. But take away the dial and remove some of the metal from the movement’s mainplate, and you (and anyone who notices your wrist) will have an unparalleled view into the inner workings of the miniature engine you use to tell time.
The 40-mm Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton shows off its H-20-S movement to great effect. Contrasts of shape, color, and finish are played out in curves and angles with silver, gold and anthracite-colored components and polished, brushed and matte surfaces to create a dramatic display. Look closely and you can see the interplay of the components, highlighted by the escapement, hairspring and balance wheel – the beating heart of the mechanical movement.
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Skeleton is priced at $1,195.
Railroad Small Second Auto
The Hamilton name is closely associated with railroads, and this year Hamilton introduced two new Railroad timepieces. The Railroad Small Second Auto offers a classic look, with a pleasing twist. The 42-mm case surrounds a dial with a brushed satin finish and dramatic applied hour markers. The asymmetrical small-seconds display sets this watch apart. Located at 8 o’clock, the oversize display is available in either black with a chestnut brown seconds track (shown below) or in slate gray with a blue seconds track.
The hands are powered by the H-22 automatic winding movement. Fine decoration and a skeletonized winding rotor are visible through the display back.
The Hamilton Railroad Small Second Auto is priced at $1,295.
Takeoff Auto Chrono
This timepiece is the product of Hamilton’s relationship with the Swiss mountain rescue service Air Zermatt. Founded in 1968, Air Zermatt has carried out more than 30,000 air rescue missions in the mountains of Switzerland, including missions on the north face of the Eiger, aka the “wall of death.” Hamilton is Air Zermatt’s official timepiece supplier.
Designed to look at home among the instruments on an aircraft control panel, the Hamilton Takeoff Auto Chrono can be configured for multiple uses. The strap attaches to a piece that looks like a caseback with lugs. The timepiece case attaches to this piece in much the same way a lens attaches to a camera – with a “twist and lock” motion, sometimes called a bayonet system. When not on the wrist, the detached watch can be placed in an included wood display box and used as a table clock.
The Takeoff Auto Chrono is not for shrinking violets. The case measures 46.3 mm in diameter, not including the substantial crown and pushers, which are located at the top of the watch in a so-called “bullhead” configuration. The bi-compax display features a central chronograph seconds hand, small continuous seconds at 6 o’clock, and a 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock. The knurled bi-directional bezel adjusts the inner bezel with a 60-minute scale, allowing the watch to be used as a countdown timer.
Inside the black-PVD case resides Hamilton’s H-31 automatic chronograph movement, which is a variation on the time-tested Valjoux 7750. Hamilton modifies the movement to extend the power reserve to 60 hours.
The Hamilton Takeoff Auto Chrono is a limited edition of 1,999 pieces, offered at $3,295.
*This article was originally published in 2014; prices are subject to change.