Over a century of timing the skies
Highlights from our aviation museum collection
At Hamilton, we have a long and proud history of serving the flying community. Having built our reputation for reliability and accuracy on the early railroads, moving to timing the skies was a natural progression.
Since 1918, we’ve been creating watches and instruments for professional pilots. Each piece is designed to serve a specific purpose, and each has its place in a Hamilton history.
Here, we take a look at some key aviation pieces from our extensive Museum Collection. This early wristwatch from 1918 was designed for pilots and soldiers. An early print advertisement proclaimed, “Hamilton is the watch of U.S. Mail Aviators”, referencing the fact that Hamilton watches were the official timekeepers of the first U.S. Airmail service between New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It is one of our earliest aviation pieces.
A model exactly the same as this one from the 1930s, and featuring the famous Hamilton 992 movement, was used as the expedition watch during Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s pioneering first exploration of Antarctica.
This 1944 H-37500 Elapsed Time Clock is one of the first examples of this specialized timepiece produced by Hamilton for the U.S. Navy. It was originally designed for use in the F-4U Corsair aircraft. The different displays show the date, serve as a stopwatch, track elapsed time, and tell the time of day on a 24-hour ‘military time’ main dial. These functions assisted with navigation as well as allowing pilots and navigators to keep an accurate record of their flight time.
This standard issue military watch dates back to the 1950s. The handwinding movement has a ‘hack’ feature that is now standard to all mechanical watches. It allows for precision synchronization. When the crown is pulled out, the mechanism stops. This means that pilots can all set their watches running again at an exact time to ensure the key steps of their mission are carried out in perfect synchronicity.
This Aircraft Elapsed Time Engine Hour Meter dates back to the 1960s and is one of thousands produced by the Hamilton Watch Co. in Lancaster, PA. Often known as a Hobbs meter, these devices are used in aviation to measure the time an aircraft engine is in use. The time is then usually recorded in the pilot’s logbook after the flight.
In total, Hamilton produced almost 40,000 wristwatches for the British military between 1965 and 1976. This W10 model was issued to military personnel from 1973 to 1976 and has a handwinding 649 movement. The W10 marking was given to all watches issued to members of the British Army. Those provided to members of the Royal Air Force – like this one - were typically designated ‘6BB’.