Hamilton watches are known for their quality, history, and performance. However, does Hamilton belong to the same group as Rolex or IWC? Is Hamilton a luxury watch brand?
In general, Hamilton is not a luxury watch brand but more of a middle-priced brand. However, their higher-priced models can be considered entry-level luxury watches. The Swatch group that owns Hamilton also considers it their middle-range brand, similar to Tissot.
In this article, let’s discuss and look at Hamilton watches and compare them against common characteristics of luxury watch brands. We also will look at whether Hamilton is a respected brand and how good its’ watches are for investment.
We have also recently covered similar discussions about Movado and Tissot watches, so feel free to check those out if you are keen.
Hamilton watch company was founded in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. The firm was founded by amalgamating three watch companies.
The company focused on producing timekeeping devices for the US railroads and switched to wristwatches during the First World War.
During the Second World War, Hamilton seized consumer production totally, focusing on producing watches for the military. Over a million were produced.
Hamilton subsequently expanded its operation in the US following the war and acquired Buren, a Swiss watch company, in 1966. It eventually adopted some of its movements and slowly switched its production to Switzerland.
Hamilton was sold to the SSIH (now Swatch Group) in 1974. This made Hamilton one of the brands under the group, similar to Omega, Breguet, Tissot, Swatch, Longines, Rado, and many more.
What Is Hamilton Known For?
Hamilton is known for the Khaki Field watches and their triangular-shaped Ventura. Other popular models include the Jazzmaster and the Intra-Matic. Hamilton is also known for being the movie watch, as they have been featured in over 500 Hollywood movies.
The Hamilton Khaki Field is Hamilton’s most popular. It is a field watch with solid ties to Hamilton’s history of producing watches for American soldiers during World Wars.
The watch comes in multiple configurations. You can choose from quartz, mechanical (manual winding), or automatic movement. You can also choose from multiple case sizes and strap types.
The Hamilton Khaki King also has a 40mm case, crown guard, and day and date complications in a layout similar to Rolex Datejust.
The Hamilton Ventura is a well-celebrated model, perhaps due to its odd triangular shape and relation with Elvis Presley.
Similar to the Khaki Field, the Ventura also comes with multiple configurations for you to choose from. You can choose from multiple case sizes, straps, and movements. You also can choose whether to have a simplified classic dial or a fully skeletonized dial for that naked feel.
The Intra-Matic is Hamilton’s take on the chronograph watch. It has a vintage style design, inspired by their Chrono-Matic watches in the 1960s.
The options are also plenty, with multiple configurations available. The popular ones include the ‘Panda’ Intra-Matic, with the reference H384297710.
What Makes A Watch Brand A Luxury Brand?
Luxury watch brands tend to show higher quality in workmanship, performance, and use of materials. Most luxury watch brands are also made in-house, carry an image of prestige, exclusivity, and class, and usually start at a four-figure price tag.
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It is hard to define a luxury watch brand, as it can be different to different people. If you have never spent $600 on a watch before, then a $600 watch is a luxury watch.
But in general, luxury watch brands tend to display these characteristics that set them apart from the affordable watch brands.
- In-House Movements and Technology
- Brand Image
Materials: In general, luxury watch brands use more expensive materials for their watches. Instead of the usual 316L stainless steel, you might see the usage of materials such as 904L steel, titanium, or 18K gold to make watch cases or bracelets.
Luxury watch brands also use gemstones such as diamonds or premium top grain leather to decorate and finish their watches.
Assembly: Luxury watch brands tend to manually assemble their watches by hand to ensure high-quality standards. There is also an emphasis on producing and assembling the watches in-house.
Some affordable watch companies outsource part of the manufacturing process to save costs. Some contracted parts production to outside companies but still assemble the watches in-house. There are also watch companies that outsource production and assembly completely.
In House Movements and Technology: Luxury watch companies usually produce their own watch movement to better control and regulate the performance of their watches.
Regular or affordable watch companies tend to adopt movements from third-party companies such as Ronda, Sellita, or Miyota. They might not have the expertise to develop their own movement or do not have the funds to invest in research and development.
Luxury watch companies also introduce proprietary technologies to help improve watches. These could range from a unique blend of metals to produce a better watch case to specific parts to manage magnetic force.
Design: Luxury watch companies tend to have iconic watch designs and often serve as a benchmark and inspiration for future designs.
For example, when designing a dive watch, many will look at the Rolex Submariner of the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean as a benchmark.
Luxury watch companies also drive watch trends through their designs. For example, many watch companies followed suit when Rolex changed or introduced new design elements on their Oyster Perpetual. Fluted bezels, cyclops magnifiers, and jubilee bracelets are great examples.
Homages: Luxury watch companies also tend to have homages made after their models. Homages are affordable lookalikes made by another company, often sold at a lower price than the original.
Homages are not fake or clone watches. They usually carry the logo of the homage maker and have minor differences from the original to avoid legal liability.
Homages usually appear when the original watch has become expensive yet desired by many.
Fakes: Luxury watch companies will have issues with fake or clone watches. This is inevitable as the watches are expensive and might not be affordable to many. It has also become very desired by many.
That opens a market for the clone watchmakers to fulfill and profit in. Fakes can range from low-quality copies to high-quality super-clones. These super clones require a detailed inspection from watchmakers and serial number checks to tell if they are fake.
Brand Image: Luxury watch companies usually carry an image of prestige, class, exclusivity, and, of course, luxury. They associate their brands with events, people, or media outlets that project similar images.
For example, many luxury watch companies such as Rolex, Omega, IWC, or Richard Mille sponsor high-class sports events such as tennis, golf, or F1. They are often seen as high-class sports. You do not see them sponsoring wrestling or soccer teams.
Luxury watch companies also place ads on media outlets such as Wall Street Journal. These media project wealth, power, and prestige.
Prices: Finally, luxury watch brands often price their watcher high, at least four figures. This allows them to be able to invest more profits into the development of their watch models, as well as marketing.
High watch prices also made their watches exclusive and seen only people who have a certain level of success, achievement, and wealth to afford them.
Now that we have looked at the characteristics of a luxury watch brand let’s compare Hamilton to this list.
We have also written in much detail about the characteristics of a luxury watch brand, so if this is something you would like to explore in deeper detail, feel free to do so.
Is Hamilton A Luxury Brand?
Hamilton is not a luxury brand, as their watches are generally within the middle-price tier. However, their higher-end watches can undoubtedly be considered entry-level luxury watches. Hamilton also does not claim to hand-assemble all their watches, something luxury watch brands commonly do.
|Characteristics||Luxury Watch Brands||Hamilton||Pass?|
|Materials||May use 904L steel, titanium, precious metals, gemstones||Uses similar materials.||✅|
|Assembly||Mostly hand assembled||No such claims, but watches are Swiss Made.||❌|
|Movement||Almost all have in-house movement||In-house movements, modified from ETA’s||✅|
|Proprietary Technology||Almost all have proprietary technology||No proprietary technology.||❌|
|Design||Often iconic, and sets trends.||Iconic Khaki Field & Ventura design.||✅|
|Homages||Have homages made after their models||Yes, but not as many as popular luxury watches.||✅|
|Fakes & Imitation||Suffers from fakes and imitation||Suffering from fakes and imitations.||✅|
|Brand Image||Prestige, exclusivity, class||Carries an image of ‘affordable luxury.’||❌|
|Prices||At least four-figure.||Has watches as low as $299||❌|
Hamilton uses more than just 316L steel for their watches. You can see watch cases made of higher-priced materials such as titanium and bronze.
Bronze watch cases are an interesting choice. The watch case will develop a patina over time and look beautiful and totally unique in its own way.
Some models use mother of pearl for the watch dial, with the diamond setting on the watch bezel. Hamilton watches uses sapphire crystal as well.
Hamilton does not claim to assemble their watches by hand. This means Hamilton likely does not do so, as if they indeed are, they would declare it on their website.
As a comparison, Rolex declared that they assemble their watches by hand right on their website.
However, the good thing about Hamilton is the watches are Swiss Made. To be a ‘Swiss Made’ watch, it needs to have 60% of its production in Switzerland and use a Swiss movement.
The watch also needs to be encased and regulated in Switzerland.
So with Hamilton watches, although they are probably not assembled by hand, we at least can guarantee that it is made in Switzerland and has a high-quality standard.
In-House Movements and Technology
Hamilton’s watches use their own movement, with the standard Hamilton H10 powering their automatic watches while the H30 powers their chronographs.
However, when exploring further, these movements are not fully developed by Hamilton but are slightly modified ETA movements.
For example, the Hamilton H10 is basically an ETA 2824-2 movement, with the beat rate slowed down from 28,800 BPH to 21,600 BPH.
This means the watch will have a longer power reserve and can run longer. However, the sweeping second hand will not be as smooth.
However, ETA is a movement manufacturer also part of the Swatch group, which means it is in the same family as Hamilton. Therefore, it does not seem off for Hamilton to adapt and use the movement.
In fact, Hamilton went the extra mile to modify and change the movement’s appearance to suit their brand better, so that is a plus point.
Hamilton Khaki Field and Ventura have quite an iconic design, seen as the de-facto watch for their categories.
For example, many people would name the Hamilton Khaki immediately when it comes to field watches. Any new field watches released would be compared against it as well.
The Hamilton Ventura is also iconic in its own way. The odd triangular shape made the watch instantly recognizable from afar. Its association with Elvis Presley also made this watch incredibly popular with many.
Like the Hamilton Khaki Field, people would name the Hamilton Ventura first if asked to provide examples of a triangular-shaped watch. Many triangular watches are also compared against it.
Although not at the numbers seen by watches such as the Rolex Datejust or Submariner, there are homages made for Hamilton watches.
The Seiko SKA377 could be a homage to the Ventura due to its shape and likeness to the original.
As for the Khaki Field, it could be said that some lower-priced field watches have designs similar to them. For example, the Seiko 5 SNZG15 and the Timex Expedition Scout.
Hamilton, unfortunately, also suffers from fakes and clone watches.
A quick search online reveals many websites selling ‘replica’ Hamilton watches. The word ‘replica’ is just a way to sugarcoat the truth that these watches are fake and illegal.
Looking into one of the websites, a replica/clone/fake/imitation Khaki Field Automatic is offered at $279. This could be attractive when you compare it against the original, which is priced at $582.
However, fake watches would be hard to service and maintain, and the movements inside might not be familiar to watchmakers. Plus, a fake is a fake, and nothing is great about wearing a fake watch.
Hamilton carries a brand image of the pioneering American spirit and Swiss precision. They do not attempt to project an image of ultra high-luxury prestige to appeal to those who walk up and down Wall Street.
Instead, Hamilton’s history has always been close to the everyday folks, appealing to the shared heritage of adventure and ‘putting in the work’ to build America. Hamilton also projects itself as an ‘affordable luxury’ that many everyday folks can work hard and aspire to.
Instead of placing ads on the Wall Street Journal like what Rolex or Patek Philippe likes to do, Hamilton instead markets their watches elsewhere. It sponsors events such as the EAA Airshow or acrobatic pilots like Nicolas Ivanoff.
Hamilton watches’ prices also reflect their affordable luxury image. Checking at their online store, they offer up to 441 models.
Of these models, about 300 are under $1,000. Almost all of the rest are within $1,000 to $2,000. Only 20 or so models are priced beyond $2,000, with a single model priced over $5,000.
The lowest-priced men’s watch model is the Hamilton Khaki King Quartz at $380. The most expensive is the Jazzmaster Face 2 Face Limited Edition, at over $5,900. At that price, just add in a few hundred bucks more, and you should be able to land yourself a basic Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
On another note, watch prices could be even lower on Amazon. The lowest-priced Hamilton watch is the Khaki Navy Frogman Quartz, which is only $300.
Is Hamilton An Entry Level Luxury Brand?
In general, Hamilton is an entry-level luxury brand. Their watches are generally within the middle-price tier, with some higher-end models considered entry-level luxury watches. These watches often use premium materials such as titanium, diamonds, and mother of pearl.
When looking at the previous section, we can tell that Hamilton checks many boxes. It does show characteristics of a luxury watch brand.
It uses premium, expensive materials. The watches are Swiss Made, with in-house movements. Hamilton watches are also iconic in their design and have homages to them.
However, it lacks some aspects that make it not a genuine luxury brand. The watches are probably not hand-assembled, and Hamilton does not carry the image of a proper luxury watch. Its prices also reflect a watch brand operating within the middle-tier spectrum.
The Swatch Group also places Hamilton as one of their’ middle tier’ brands, together with Tissot, Mido and Certina, further confirming its status as a middle-range brand.
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Is Hamilton A Respected Brand?
Hamilton is a respected brand as it has a strong history, proud American heritage, and an image of adventure. Their watches are made in Switzerland, with iconic designs, and powered by a reliable Swiss movement.
Hamilton is a watch with a strong American DNA, similar to Bulova. It helped build America during the great expansion in the late 19th century by building clocks and other timekeeping devices for the railroad industry.
Hamilton also equipped American soldiers when they went to war during the First and Second World Wars and helped ships sail by equipping them with marine chronometers.
Hamilton has always stuck to this image and spirit despite moving to Switzerland. It also maintained the tradition of producing fine, great field watches.
The watches have their iconic design, and are powered by reliable ETA-based movement, modified for Hamilton’s needs.
Putting a Hamilton on your wrist signifies you as someone who will ‘do the work’ and build things for society. You are more likely an engineer, builder of sorts, rather than an aristocrat or politician.
You love adventure and are more likely to ride a bike from New York to LA than flying first class (that’s more for Rolex wearers).
Therefore, Hamilton is a respected brand and will remain so for some time to come.
Are Hamilton Watches A Good Investment?
Hamilton watches may not be a good investment. This is because it cannot generate significant demand in the used and vintage market. As a result, it would not hold value well and might not generate an excellent resale price.
Market forces determine whether a watch’s price goes up or down in the used market, similar to everything in life.
These forces are supply and demand. When supply is high, and demand is low, prices will decrease. On the opposite end, when supply is low, and demand is high, prices will go up.
Good investment watches often can generate high demand for the watch, either by limiting or removing supply altogether.
For example, some Rolex models are in such high demand that Rolex could not make enough watches on time to fulfill the market demands. This drives impatient people to the secondary market and drives the prices of secondary watches up.
On the latter, Seiko’s SARB033 and SARB017 (Alpinist) watches are famous for their affordability and quality. These watches are also good reviews by influencers online. As a result, these watches are in high demand.
When Seiko stopped production of these watches in 2018, the supply was removed, leaving only a limited number of watches in the market. As a result, prices are climbing, and the watch continues to be hunted down by collectors.
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Hamilton watches do not seem to be able to generate such a level of supply, nor does Hamilton want to remove production of their popular models. Therefore, the resale prices might not do well.