1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby ChronoMATT » June 16th 2011, 4:32pm

I'm no wristwatch historian, just an admirer of cool timepieces and appreciate mid century design. Company and model backgrounds are from what I have read and learned through the years, mostly from the internet and fellow collectors. If anyone has corrections or additions, please post! All watch photos are from my personal collection.

Right-Click photos for an expando-view.

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Welcome to the Space Age.
Today, I'd thought I'd step it up a bit with a horological icon, the Hamilton Electric Ventura. Debuting in January 1957, the Ventura was America's first mass marketed battery-operated watch. This model exposed me to the collecting bug. In the mid 1990's, I purchased a quartz Ventura "Registered Edition" based on looks only from a local department store. I soon discovered it was based on a model that existed many decades earlier. Once a little research was done, I purchased a couple unique vintage Electrics and never looked back.
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Excited about its dive into new technological territory, Hamilton desired the Ventura's visual presentation to match the revolutionary electro-mechanical excitement held within. Prolific industrial designer, Richard Arbib, was tapped to design the infamous asymmetrical solid 14K gold case that perfectly reflected the design aesthetics of the mid to late 1950s: Think kidney-shaped coffee tables; car tail light fins; atomic-themed furnishings and decorative patterns. Arbib would move on to design other wild Electric designs, too.
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Even with a steep selling price of $200, unproven technology and an over-the-top case design, it was extremely popular. Selling over 10,000 units, the Ventura was 'the" watch with hipster celebrities, creative types, forward-thinkers and mid century watch collectors. Rod Serling and Elvis Presley are closely associated with the model as they could be seen wristing them in public and within promotional photos, no doubt as an image enhancer. By contrast, a conservative solid 14K gold round case model, the Van Horn, debuted concurrently as an alternative for those who couldn't handle Ventura wildness.
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Mr. Serling with a watch that could have arrived from the Twilight Zone.

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Elvis sporting a Ventura on the set of his movie, Blue Hawaii. Don't go surfing, King! The Ventura's water resistance? .000000125 meters.

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A character from the TV series Mad Men receives a Hamitlon Electric as a Christmas present from a client. Though on screen for just a quick second, it is thought to be a Ventura by some. Based on the above screen grab, I say it's the Ventura's entry level, gold filled brother, the Pacer. It was offered starting late 1957 at a starting price of $110.00, and has a different lug configuration mated to the same asymmetric case shape.
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The somewhat fragile electric 500, 501 and 505 movements had a less than stellar service history that nearly bankrupted Hamilton, but that's a story for another time. It was soon upstaged by the more robust and accurate 1960 Accutron tuning fork electronic movement which in turn was overtaken by the late 1960s quartz movement that soon made these pioneering movements a distant memory.
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An example of a caliber 500 movement. Note its electrified mechanics -- no conventional electronics to be found.
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An early magazine advertisement for the new Electric line. Space age design for a space age timepiece. Courtesy of vintagepaperads.com.
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It should also be noted that Hamilton released the first LED digital watch in 1971 under the Pulsar name for $2,100.00 -- near the price of a new Chevy compact.
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The most recent Ventura limited edition Anniversary model.
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Noting the public's ever-lasting fascination for the Ventura design, Hamilton released my earlier mentioned "Re-Edition" as gold plated/quartz model in the late 1980s which saw great success and launched other variations utilizing different finishes and colors.

Since acquired by the Swatch Co., the Hamilton's tradition of motion picture product placement is still active. The Ventura is the official watch of the Men in Black and other models pop-up regularly on your local theater screen. Swatch continues to offer the Ventura in various contemporary incarnations assuring it will be with us for generations to come.
Last edited by Anonymous on April 14th 2012, 4:08pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Kahuna74 » June 16th 2011, 4:42pm

I have always loved the the look of the ventura. Great stuff and keep it coming, lot there i didn't know.
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby TemerityB » June 16th 2011, 4:49pm

Chrono, I'm a big fan of the Ventura - my wife loves them even more than I do - and I've had the opportunity to obtain a vintage one twice during the past couple of years. However, I backed off after reading that the old Venturas are just about impossible to service because of the scarcity of parts for them. Is that accurate?
I bought a dive watch from them that literally had “dive” in the name. The instructions said not to dive with it - it was only meant to LOOK like a dive watch. It was also fast by more that a minute per day. Garbage. Never again. - IWG buyer on Reddit
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby ChronoMATT » June 16th 2011, 5:27pm

It's not as extreme as your misinformed source expressed. Luckily, there is a fan base for Hammie Electrics, thus enough of a need for servicing to keep qualified watchmakers in business. They usually keep a stock of NOS parts on hand, pulled from a variety of sources.

I would always encourage a collector to be the custodian of an original Ventura if interested. They can be easily revived to run as new, but because of the somewhat fragile movement, I would encourage it be a special occasion wearer.

Here is the world's premier Hamilton Electric technician:
http://www.rondeau.net

As you probably know, under their Hamilton division, the Swatch Group offers a Swiss Made quartz Ventura "Re-edition" that's widely available. I own a couple variations and wear them when I don't want to sport my original.

TemerityB wrote:Chrono, I'm a big fan of the Ventura - my wife loves them even more than I do - and I've had the opportunity to obtain a vintage one twice during the past couple of years. However, I backed off after reading that the old Venturas are just about impossible to service because of the scarcity of parts for them. Is that accurate?
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby mrneddles » June 16th 2011, 6:03pm

I had the 1951 re-issue from 2007. It was a nice watch but then I felt a bit cheated by Hamilton when they pumped out subsequent unlimited variants.

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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby koimaster » July 15th 2011, 7:19pm

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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Ed Barclay » July 25th 2011, 7:26am

I have the "reissue" but someday I've got to pick up an original. If it was cool enough for the King, then I'm in. That's one of the reasons I bought all three of the Lord Elgin direct reads. They are "Elvis" cool!
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Mortuus Fakeuus » May 31st 2015, 5:57pm

What a great read, Matt! Many thanks for posting this, and I think it easily deserves a re-posting... 8-)

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8-)
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Nuvolari » May 31st 2015, 6:43pm

+1 ^^^ this a great post, I am only just realizing it's four years old. No less excellent.

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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby koimaster » May 31st 2015, 11:47pm

moved from archives back into the Hamilton forum
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With the lilt of Irish laughter

Every day and in every way

Now forever and ever after."
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby TemerityB » June 1st 2015, 8:18am

One of the best posts ever here.
I bought a dive watch from them that literally had “dive” in the name. The instructions said not to dive with it - it was only meant to LOOK like a dive watch. It was also fast by more that a minute per day. Garbage. Never again. - IWG buyer on Reddit
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby conjurer » June 1st 2015, 9:05am

TemerityB wrote:One of the best posts ever here.


Yup. I apparently missed this one first time around. An absolutely first class post and watch.
Cream rises to the top while jackoffs only leave puddles of rancid jizz.


--Temerity, regarding Bazinga!.
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby koimaster » July 11th 2015, 11:14am

Ttt
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“Your heart was warm and happy

With the lilt of Irish laughter

Every day and in every way

Now forever and ever after."
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Racer-X » July 11th 2015, 11:47am

Excellent post and an enjoyable read.
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Nuvolari » July 11th 2015, 2:25pm

Great read & post - & watch!! I feel like we should get a few units of credit in horological history... Very well done, prose and images!
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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby Tzimisces » July 12th 2015, 6:34pm

This was a great post.

Orient, as well as many others, copied this iconic design. These were offered in 1958.

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Re: 1957 Hamilton Electric Ventura

Postby koimaster » June 20th 2019, 9:14am

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1946-2006

“Your heart was warm and happy

With the lilt of Irish laughter

Every day and in every way

Now forever and ever after."
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