Friday, May 22, 2009

Art Deco on an eBay Hamilton

Saw this nice-looking Hamilton on eBay and was lucky enough to win it. When it arrived the Art Deco influence was quite obvious. The phrase "Art Deco" was derived from a 1925 Paris exhibition - the "Exposition Internationale des Arts D├ęcoratifs et Industriels Modernes" - see here for more about that. Art Deco succeeded the Art Nouveau movement which was full of natural motifs e.g. vines, flowers and leaves and such. This watch dates from 1929 or 1930, according to the 987 movement serial number.

Above we see a square watch body, softened by rounded corners. This follows the Deco style of using basic geometric figures. This body style is repeated both in the minutes and the seconds chapter rings. However, the hands and the blocky hour markers owe more to the first world war than to the Art Deco movement, I think. Also, the Hamilton logo font itself is more reminiscent of the late industrial 1800's.

However, Art Deco returns when we move to the seconds sub-dial. The long markers and the angled fonts combine to form an implied 'sunburst' effect. The effect fails to an extent, because the font does not expand outwards which is why I say "implied". In this close-up view of the dial screen-printing it is clear that the technology of the time has room for improvement.

In this angled view, we see the parallel linear motifs on the side of the body, the motifs being very common in Art Deco - mimicking radiator grilles, speaker grilles, stiffening ribs on aeroplane skins and other 'modern' looking stuff.

Here we see another view of the side showing the 3 lines which are actual formed by a groove in the body and the two lines where the body joins with the bezel and the caseback.

Another popular Art Deco motif is the "ziggurat" which means a form whose cross-section is that of a staircase. Here a ziggurat is plainly visible on a lug. Ziggurats are found on other watches of the period, more usually in the form of step-sided bodies - a device to accomodate round movements into rectangular bodies, viz. Bulovas.

This watch was not running when received. However, while taking these pictures, it got dropped on the bench and has been running well ever since!

Best regards,


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