Best Value Art Deco Gent’s Watch: Hamilton Flintridge Limited Edition

Posted on April 9, 2014


I’m not a horology snob even though my day job requires that I don the guise of one. That said, while I am saddened by the demise and subsequent acquisition of many watch brands- such is life, I am very happy whenever someone with heritage worth a damn re-issues an archive piece. In this case, the Hamilton Flintridge Limited Edition ticks all the right boxes for me: Well made – check, affordable – check, looks more expensive than it actually is – check.

best value art deco gents watch - Hamilton FlintridgeAffordable Art Deco Gent’s Watch: The Flintridge

History is often written by the victors and so it’s understandable that it’s not common knowledge that American watchmaking was actually in its primacy from the middle of the 1890s. Among them was the Hamilton Watch Co in Lancaster, PA. Eventually American watchmakers turned their machines to producing mechanisms of war- bullets, guns and tanks, to fight the Nazis and of course, the Swiss have reigned since.

For 50 years, Hamilton produced over 50% of the high grade pocket watches necessary for precise time-keeping of train schedules. Over the decades, they produced more than half a million watches at the height of their history. Production ended in 1969 but they had enough components to continue till the mid 80s before it was doomed to a certain death.

best value art deco gents watch -Hamilton_Flintridge_mensIt’s true that European watchmakers continued a tradition of handcrafted grande complications but it was American industrial techniques which allowed it to produce a level of quality and precision (machines vs human hands) that was uniform for serial production timepieces world wide. Eventually, F.A. Jones of Boston took what he had learned from the American industry, using it to form the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen, Switzerland in 1868.

It is important to note, while grand complications are the yardstick by which we measure watchmaking competence, the United States became the dominant superpower today by beating out every other nation in the industrial age. Driven largely by the industrial revolution and with it, the growth of railroads starting from 1810 and at its height, the taming of the Wild West in 1850 – 1890, of which it was Hamilton that kept trains running on time and on schedule- that’ s Hamilton’s legitimacy.

Granted, the firm has continued existence as a member of the Swiss conglomerate, SMH, today SWATCH Group and unfortunately, the name no longer carries the cachet it once did in watch collecting circles (partially because of snobbery but mostly also because they no longer make their own movements relying on ETA blanks from their sister company), even then, the 1930s Hamilton sports watch- the Flintridge is still a compelling buy from an aesthetic and historical standpoint.

At USD1,395, it’s by no means cheap but the value Hamilton Flintridge represents both in its reliable base ETA movement and artistic Clous de Paris pattern with two peepholes for day and date is an incredible reproduction of the golden age before World War 2.

best value art deco gents watch -Hamilton_Flintridge_womensBeneath the lid, the decorated silver-tone dial with stamped Clous de Paris, dauphine hands and applied indices convey a lush, luxurious quality that belies its price-tag. More importantly, you are buying into the idea and perpetuating the history of a company, though now relegated to selling mass market pieces, once was a highly competent watchmaker who made watches that helped tame the West.

Inspired by 1930s radio microphones but carrying a heavy art deco aesthetic, the limited edition 999 pieces are water resistant to 50 metres. The men’s version with black crocodile strap is powered by the calibre H-40 (base ETA Powermatic) with modified power reserve of 80 hours while the ladies is a smaller version in burgundy leather with in-set diamond on the protective lid driven by an ETA 2681.

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