As regular readers know, I enjoy the humble 33 mm Hamilton field watch. They were made in nearly endless varieties, are inexpensive to buy today, relatively easy to locate, and fun to collect. For folks of a certain age and fashion sense, they remind one of childhood and simpler times. With a few exceptions found on the very last varieties Hamilton sold in the early 90's, these watches all used the Jet Age Hamilton logo, which I have always enjoyed. And although I normally eschew the term "collector," I have to admit it applies to me in this case since I don't even wear these watches. As I was telling a friend just the other day, I get as much happiness out of finding the next member of the Confusing Fall Warbler flock as I do bagging that bigger, more expensive grail watch.
Allow me to pause for a moment and share this beautiful artwork from Roger Tory Peterson's eponymous field guide to birds, whence the naming inspiration for my Hamilton group comes. Here are the original Confusing Fall Warblers:
The warbler is a small songbird that exists in many varieties. In the spring time, when they are in full breeding plumage and singing to stake their territories and attract a mate, they are most easily identified. In the fall, however, when they have molted to drabber colors and are singing less, their proper identification can give even experienced birders fits. Because I also enjoy birding, the analogy to my collection of nearly identical field watches occurred to me one day and just stuck.
Ok, back to the watches. Among those who collect these functional gems (both of us, I think ;-) it is generally accepted that within the subgroup of retailer-branded watches, the LL Bean variety is the most common, and occasionally even pops up in NOS condition. Savvy collectors know, however, that the LL Bean watch exists in several varieties: case references 9219, 9415, and a quartz 9219. The Bean watch is followed by the Orvis, which is fairly hard to find at all, let alone in decent shape. But if the LL Bean watch is the common Yellow-rumped Warbler (common and conspicuous), then the Orvis watch is the Cerulean Warbler (uncommon and in decline), and the Brookstone is surely the rarest of all, Kirtland's Warbler (endangered).
One last variety worth mentioning, which is at least as rare as the Brookstone, is the LL Bean Anchor Dial watch. Hamilton also sold the Anchor Dial under its Khaki brand, and this watch, which is seen from time to time, can be had by the attentive and persistent collector. But LL Bean must have featured the Anchor Dial for only a very short period of time as they are rarely seen and even more rarely do they pop up for sale. The Anchor Dial watch features a beautiful blue dial and of course the anchor logo at the top of the dial. Otherwise it is identical to its plain dialed 9219 stable mates. I imagine it must have been marketed to the yachting type. The 9219's case was "water resistant," after all. One pictures JFK wearing this watch at the helm of a teak-decked spinnaker, Jackie off by the rail staring off to sea contemplatively and looking good in her Capri pants. Life is good with this watch on your wrist.
On to some pictures. Here we see perhaps the rarest 9219's to be found, the Brookstone, the Orvis, and the blue LL Bean Anchor Dial, grouped together with the much more common plain dialed LL Bean 9219. All of these watches are on their original straps, except the Anchor Dial, obviously.
And here photographed individually:
It's my theory that the quartz 9219 didn't last long as it was replaced by the much more common 36 mm quartz field watch, also made for LL Bean by Hamilton as the reference 9445 initially and later by other companies. It's interesting to note the large counterweight on the seconds hand, much larger than on any of the mechanical models. This larger counterweight carried over to the 36 mm models.
And finally, here we see the Confusing Fall Warblers of Rover Haven all together.
The spotty-eyed reader will note the greatest variety of font, index, lume plot, etc among the case reference 9415 watches. Although not visible in the picture, this case also has drilled-through lugs. The case reference 9219 has non-drilled-through lugs and faux fixed strap bars in some cases, removable flanged spring bars in others. The military issued watches have the most in common with the case reference 9219, with the exception of the Aussie MIL-W-46374A, which is its own subspecies.
As always, I'd love to hear from other collectors on this or any other topic. Thanks for reading!