LL Bean, My Family Tradition.
Since 1912, LL Bean has been an outfitter for active, outdoors-oriented families. The now widely-copied style that their clothing and goods engendered was one of going right from the weekend’s grouse hunt or fly fishing outing to the weekday’s work or school schedule, and finding time to gather around the fireplace with family and friends. As a high school kid, I bought watches, cords, shirts, rain coats, sleeping bags, tents, and camping kit from LL Bean to go with my Maine Hunting Shoes. Later, I also bought pipes and smoking tobacco from Bean, because, you know, it was the done thing. How times have changed.
So of course LL Bean’s watches have long been of interest to me. The (Most Interesting) Watches from LL Bean is by far the most popularly read article on the Rover Haven Blog. I had no idea this would prove the case, but obviously there are more fans of Bean watches out there than I expected. If you haven’t yet read it, and you’re interested in Bean watches, you might want to follow the link above first. You can certainly save it for later, though, as well as the other collecting interest I’ll be writing about today, the closely related topic of the Confusing Fall Warblers.
Recently a reader contacted me about a watch that he had found at his local watchmaker’s shop. I ended up buying it from him because it was both a unique specimen of Confusing Fall Warbler and an Interesting LL Bean watch that I didn’t already have and had never seen before. Independent of this, yet another reader contacted me late last year with some new information he had uncovered about LL Bean’s version of the Hamilton 9721, one of my two personal favorite LL Bean watches of all time. So it seemed like an update to the article that started it all was needed.
By the late 1980’s the quartz version of the 33 mm round-cased reference 9219 Field Watch had been replaced by the shoulder-cased reference 9445. The mechanical, hand-winding version soldiered on, however, probably a case reference 9415 by now.
The Missing Link Hamilton LL Bean 9219.
If you spend any amount of time looking for a good specimen of Hamilton case reference 9219, the dial variety you’re most likely to find is what I call the Big Khaki, which has a Hamilton logo at the top of the dial and a big, somewhat ugly Khaki logo at the bottom. Hamilton also made this watch in the (later) case reference 9415 with a smaller, more discreet Khaki imprint at the bottom, but they are definitely less common. When it comes to the Hamilton 9219’s that LL Bean sold, by far the most common dial variant has the big LL Bean logo at the top of the dial and the smaller Jet Age Hamilton logo appearing at the bottom of the dial.
You can find both of these 9219’s all day long and expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $300, depending on condition. But I have never, ever, seen a Bean watch that had both the big LL Bean logo at the top and the big Khaki logo at the bottom. Obviously they made them, since here we have an actual specimen in the metal, but I don’t think they made very many since I’ve literally never seen another in all my years of seeking out and studying these watches. I am therefore referring to this dial variant as the Missing Link, since it appears to be something of a hybrid.
The Hamilton 9721 Automatic Field Watch From LL Bean.
And now we move from the 1980’s to 1990, when Hamilton started selling the reference 9721. My own NOS specimen has a warranty card stamped Feb 29, 2000, which makes me think it had been sitting under the retailer’s counter for a while before being purchased by someone on Leap Day. Before I found it, however, I had been locating and buying nice specimens of LL Bean’s version of this watch for quite some time. My curiosity about the watch had already led me to write to LL Bean, who told me that it had been available in one catalog only, the Spring 1991 offering.
But a Rover Haven Blog reader (Michael from New Hampshire) wrote me recently to say that he’d asked LL Bean about his 9721 and they had told him that it had been first offered in the Fall 1990 catalog. Fall of ‘90, spring of ‘91 — it hardly matters, I suppose, and who knows what Bean’s system for locating archived information is, but it’s interesting to note.
The catalog page that the helpful LL Bean archivist sent to Michael clearly shows the choice of the quartz-powered dive-style Deluxe Field Watch, the Automatic Field Watch, and the common or garden shoulder-cased quartz-powered Field Watches, the latter having replaced the round-cased, plastic-crystaled, 33 mm Field Watches. Although hardly what you’d call a retirement investment, the value of good 9721’s has more than doubled in the last few years, so if you are at all interested in these awesome little ETA 2824-powered watches, you should find one now as decent specimens seem to be trading in the $400 range.
So there you have it; more pictures than words this time, but as usual I always love hearing from other enthusiasts. Reader thoughts, comments, and factual corrections are always welcome, and thank you for reading the Rover Haven Blog.