2019 Jul 17 Wed

A Step In Time With Hamilton

A Step In Time With Hamilton
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Do you happen to own a pocket watch? How about a digital clock? Do you know who James Hamilton is? Why is this important? Haven’t you ever wondered where the modern wrist and digital watches came from? Some of us are old enough to remember, but for the rest of us who aren’t here is a bit of history.

Welcome to the pre-1900’s where pocket watches were treasured items. Maybe they were all the rage, or maybe not. Pocket watches were typically made of gold and adorned with jewels. Anything as expensive as a pocket watch was not had by just anyone either. For those who could afford them, and actually bought them or were gifted them, they became family heirlooms.
Back in the 1500’s, pocket watches were first developed and in the early 1900’s the time keepers became wrist mounted. About forty years later, they went digital.

When American pocket watches were first made in the 1830’s, nobody knew how important they would become in our society today. Such expensive ones, like Rolex, are more jewelry than anything else. But in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, things changed in the 1890’s when the Keystone Standard Watch Company went bankrupt. The investors had another watch company already and decided to merge the two, but what to name it?

About 110 years after his  death, James Hamilton had no idea a company would be named after him. Why was James Hamilton important? Who was he?

James Hamilton was the son of Andrew Hamilton and Anne Browne in 1710, becoming a lawyer after completing his education in Philadelphia and England. He followed after his father becoming the prothonotary of Pennsylvania’s supreme court in 1733. He was also an Alderman, Mayor of Philadelphia, Assemblyman, member of the Provincial Council, and Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania. In addition to these public offices, he was also President of the Americal Philosophical Society, and President of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, College and Charity School of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1764 and from 1771 to 1773.

James Hamilton died in New York in 1783.

Even though the actual names of the original investors have proven to be elusive, a guess could be hazard that perhaps Mr. Hamilton’s name was chosen through university affiliation by alumni. After all, such a thing still happens to this day, does it not?

Pocket watches are more associated with the Railroad conductors than probably anyone else. Hamilton Watches set about making themselves the only time keeper, with a reputation for accuracy, for the railroads. This would actually come to save many lives as accidents were avoided.

Later on, during World War I “trench watches” were wrist mounted pocket watches. This new style would catch on in the Roaring 20’s when many service men would come back home.
The war effort of the 1940’s hit everyone on the home front. That included watches, which were no longer developed for consumer use but military instead. For the U. S Navy, over 10,000 marine chronometers were made. These time pieces were vital in keeping radio silence as they could plot latitude and longitude positions. After the war, Hamilton had become a household name.

By the late 1950’s, a digital wrist watch was made but, like any new technology, it came with problems. In 1970, Hamilton released the first LED wrist watch.

Overall, Hamilton Watch Co. has set themselves apart from the rest with their dedication to quality. Because of this, they’ve been leading the way in new designs and technology. They’ve been used with reliability by the railroads and the U. S. military. They were first in many ways and were worn by such celebrities as Elvis Presley and Steven Kubrick as well as playing parts in such movies as Independence Day, Men In Black, Fight Club, You’ve Got Mail, and many others.

But why is any of this important? Well, if you live in today’s society, the world runs more on the clock as defined by seconds, minutes, moments, and hours than ever before. How long are you willing to wait for a web site to load? Studies have shown that if the page doesn’t load within the first ten seconds, the audience is lost having gone on to something else. As we’ve become more aware of time being measured in minutes and seconds, our level of patience and tolerance has equally dropped. Anymore, it’s about “how long is this going to take” or “how fast can we get there”. In business, the fastest one wins. In our personal life, we should be more concerned about quality than quantity.

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Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Journal

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