TORONTO — Ever since it made its screen debut in 1951’s Oscar-nominated film “The Frogmen,” the Hamilton watch has enjoyed Hollywood’s spotlight, popping up on stars like Elvis and in Nineties blockbusters like “Men in Black” and “Independence Day.” Now Hamilton’s tie to aviation is taking center stage as the Swiss-American company celebrates 100 years of designing timepieces for pilots.
Hamilton is marking the milestone with the appointment of Canadian aerobatic race pilot Pete McLeod as its newest brand ambassador. The brand is also debuting its new Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono Limited Edition this month.
Comprised of 1,918 individually numbered pieces, this reimagining of the brand’s original Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono features the first Hamilton chronograph movement with a silicon hairspring. This innovation of using non-magnetic silicon gives X-Wind’s movement greater precision, which is a boon for pilots traveling through high-magnetic fields in airports.
“Aviation and great timepieces have been together from the beginning. But aviation is one of the best real-world test and development laboratories a watchmaker could find,” McLeod told WWD.
In 2017, the 34-year-old from Red Lake, Ontario, became the first Canadian to claim a top standing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, taking third place in this major motorsport event, which showcases master pilots pushing the limits while flying lightweight racing planes.
That same year, Hamilton also became the Official Timekeeper of the Red Bull Race, which put McLeod and his real-life “Top Gun” style and daring on the company’s radar.
“I’m hard on watches I wear. I don’t like to worry if my watch is up to the task,” said McLeod, who joined Hamilton’s team because of its current support of international flying squadrons and its historic appreciation of aviation, skill and precision.
Originally established in Lancaster, Pa., in 1892, Hamilton’s history with aviation began in 1918 when the company became the official timekeeper of the first-ever U.S. Airmail flight traveling between Washington, D.C., and New York. That entrée came thanks to its reputation for accuracy, which grew during America’s earliest days of the railroad when Hamilton’s precision pocket watches were used to time train arrivals and departures across the U.S.
By the Twenties, Hamilton was on the first flight to Hawaii from California and the first nonstop coast-to-coast service from New York to San Francisco, which took commercial flying into the modern age.
Hamilton later become the official watch of TWA, United and Northwestern in the Thirties, and eventually produced aviation instruments for the U.S. Army in World War II and wristwatches for the British Army Air Force in the Seventies.
“Hamilton is a strong character brand,” said the company’s chief executive officer Sylvain Dolla. “We will keep doing what we have done in the past, producing strong character watches, strengthening our aviation presence and maintaining our long-lasting cinema partnerships.”