The Elvis Watch
I first saw the Hamilton brand in 2007 at Nice airport while waiting to fly back to England. The watch that caught my eye was the Hamilton Khaki Air Race GMT on a black rubber strap with orange stitching that matched the orange numbers on the black faced dial. The watch was water resistant to 200 metres and came with a decent automatic movement which you could view through the back. It fitted my wrist a treat and was indeed a very tempting watch. When I returned to England I began to look at Hamilton’s in earnest and quickly visited their web site www.hamiltonwatch.com.
Their history caught my eye and I was drawn to the Ventura. This watch is iconic in the watch world for a number of reasons. First, it was the first ever battery powered watch introduced in 1957, secondly it came wrapped in a very modern stylish case designed by Richard Arbib who was also famous for putting the fins on the rear of the huge American motors of the fifties. It was the watch that began the journey into quartz watches which almost killed off the Swiss watch industry. Now this fine American watch company manufactures in Switzerland and is part of the Swatch group! Finally, for me the discovery that Elvis Presley wore one in his movie Blue Hawaii sealed the deal and I knew I had to have a Ventura! However, I could not see where it fit into my plans for a watch, as by now I had my Breitling Navitimer for general wear and the next watch that I wanted was a more sporty watch that I could wear on the beach and for swimming etc.
However, the ladies version looked great and they also did a ladies version on a full stainless strap which looked very nice so I thought perhaps a Ventura could join the family as a watch for my wife Peanut. Still exploring the brand we looked for a local dealer and found the nearest one to us was in Knowle near Birmingham. This was close to Solihull where we like to shop on occasion so it was perfect.
KNOWLE GOLDSMITHS LIMITED, 1644A High Street Knowle, SOLIHULL, B93 0NA Tel. 01564 772827 was the jeweller and we visited on a day when we met some friends of ours in Solihull who had come up from Boston near Lincoln. We had a delightful time in this lovely jewellers and spent well over an hour there trying on all his Hamiltons, asking loads of questions and finally coming away with just a catalogue! They had a ladies Ventura on a white leather strap which Peanut tried on but she wasn’t convinced about the strap. However, the jeweller said he was getting a Ventura on the bracelet and would ring us when he had one in. A few weeks later he rang but it was about two months before we could find time to visit again.
Meantime, I had been reading some fascinating debates about dress watches on some of the watch forums on the internet and had kind of seen a gap in my watch collection, where I didn’t really have a modern watch that you could wear for a dressy occasion. I mean let’s be honest, the real James Bond would never wear an Omega Seamaster with a dinner suit. If he did wear an Omega it would be a Deville surely? However, I had given no real thought to the matter beyond reading the forum debates with interest and anyway I had two gold watches for that already!
Finally we paid a second visit to Knowle Goldsmiths in Knowle and saw the Ladies Ventura on a stainless strap. Both of us fell for it instantly – it was gorgeous. Peanut tried it on and great disappointment followed. Her wrists are very tiny and the bracelet was very big and the jeweller thought that he just could not make the bracelet small enough. We were very disappointed. Anyway we carried on looking and mooching and talking and kept trying the Ventura on. Meanwhile Peanut had spotted a man’s Ventura – an automatic on a croc style strap with a visible movement. It looked great and very stylish. I tried it on and it looked lovely and was very comfortable sporting a very swish deployant buckle. Meanwhile, the jeweller decided that nothing was to be lost trying to make the strap smaller. Ten minutes later he emerged from his back room and success – the watch looked stunning on Peanut’s wrist!
The automatic Ventura had still not come off my wrist and in my mind it filled the gap in my watch collection that I had just invented. It was the perfect dress watch for me – not a dress watch in the conventional way as it is quite a busy watch with the skeleton style face, but really on the croc strap it couldn’t be anything else. So there you have it – my new dress watch!
It was an absolute delight visiting this shop and the guys in there were so friendly and helpful. Final outcome – two happy bunnies left the shop sporting his and hers Hamilton Venturas!
Postscript. My Hamilton Ventura Automatic to me encapsulates a huge chunk of modern watch making history in one ironic watch. The first ever battery powered watch now come with a prestige swiss automatic movement inside! A full circle so to speak!