The Hamilton Watch Company was the last surviving American watch company of the companies that began competing for the jeweled watch business during the 19th century. Hamilton was the last to arise in a series of companies located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The first of the Lancaster companies was the Adams & Perry company. It is not clear if any watches were actually sold while the company was called Adams & Perry. However, the marvelous watch they produced is universally known as the Adams & Perry watch. The Adams & Perry watch comes in 3 finishes all with the same basic ebauche and 20 jewels. Gilt is the most common finish and seems to be about 10 times as common as the nickel finish. There is at least one example of a two color watch with a gilt pillar plate and nickel top plate with a two tone balance cock.
The Adams & Perry company was followed by two incarnations of the Lancaster Watch Co. and finally by the Keystone Watch Co. (no relation to the Keystone Watch Case Co.). All these companies produced medium to low grade watches. In the case of the Keystone Watch Co. some with celluloid dials. However, they also continued the Adams & Perry tradition with a fine 20 jewel highly finished example.
During the later period of the Adams & Perry to Keystone sequence, Bowman set up a small watch factory on the second floor of his store in Lancaster. The Bowman watch produced there with Todd who came from Adams & Perry may be the finest watch produced in America during this period. It is a beautiful free sprung lever in the English tradition. The tools and equipment were sold to J. P. Stevens of Atlanta who used some of the material to produce a number of watches with their own unique regulator.
Finally, the Hamilton Watch Company arose in Lancaster. Hamilton owes the early companies for the creation of the proper climate in Lancaster and quite likely for a significant pool of skilled labor. However, most of the equipment and tooling for Hamilton was obtained from the recently failed Aurora Watch Co. and many of the Aurora employees came to Hamilton. The original buildings were those of the Keystone Watch Co.