How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches

Written by shannon johnson
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How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
Use a magnifying glass to see small insignias. (a magnifying glass image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

The Hamilton Watch Group was a watchmaker that produced time pieces from 1892 to 1969. In America, the company produced fashionable pieces most notably in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Today, these watches are produced under the Swatch Group. Vintage Hamiltons are a collector's treasure, but assessing the value of your watch will rely on your ability to identify what you have and where it came from. This can be done by a horologist, but you can begin the process yourself and save some money by using a website called Antique Vintage Watches, which devotes a large section of its site to vintage Hamilton designs.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Computer with Internet

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Evaluate the features of your watch. Hamilton did not make automatic watches in the United States -- only self-winding pieces. Any that are automatic are actually Swiss imports. Also, if you see the Hamilton "H" on top of a crown raised on the surface of the watch somewhere, it can help you identify the time period you are dealing with. Hamilton did not start using these insignias until the 1950s.

    How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
    Use a magnifying glass to see small insignias. (a magnifying glass image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Use a small screwdriver to pop off the back of the watch. Inside, you should see an engraved number. This is the serial number. Write the number down, including the numbers before and after the period, dash, or space and replace the watch back. In most cases, it should pop right back on.

    How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
    Pop off the back of the watch with a small screwdriver. (screwdriver image by Maciej Mamro from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Go to www.antiquevintagewatches.com and click on Hamilton Watch Co. underneath the References tab in the right-hand margin. From the options, choose Reference for Hamilton Serial Numbers. At this page you will see two columns, one marked "Movement" and the other marked "Serial Numbers."

    How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
    Use the Internet to help identify your Hamilton watch. (keyboard image by Jan Will from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Scroll through the list of numbers. The movement is already matched to the serial number, so if you can match the number from your watch to one of the numbers in a column, you can find either the appropriate movement or serial number. In most cases, you will be able to find the movement number this way. Once you have this number, look in the right-hand column to find out the years that your watch was made. For example, the vintage watch with serial number 2100001-2191300 was part of movement 986 and was made between 1922 and 1926.

    How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
    Scroll through the list of numbers. (scroll wheel image by Evan Meyer from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Look through the Hamilton gallery at Antique Vintage Watches as well, especially if your serial number has worn off. Here the site has photos of several vintage watches that you can try to match yours to. Even if your watch is not pictured, those close in style to it could be indicative of the time period of its production.

    How to Identify Vintage Hamilton Watches
    Look at photos of Hamilton watches in the Hamilton gallery online. (young woman with laptop image by .shock from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

    Take all of your research, including the serial number and your watch to a horologist or jeweller specialising in watches if you are still not satisfied with the identification. If possible, seek out an individual that specialises in vintage designs or Hamilton work. Based on your research and the physical watch, the expert should be able to give you more specific details about the design, including possibly narrowing the production date.

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