The Hamilton Railroad line pays homage to the roots of the brand that date back to the nineteenth century. Based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hamilton kept the country’s trains running on time by supplying accurate pocket watches to the North American railroads. It’s only appropriate that the brand became known as the “Railroad Timekeeper of America,” and today’s watches from the Railroad line celebrate this heritage. In fact, they’re nothing short of wearable metaphors for the brand’s early beginnings. More on that as we move through the review.
During BaselWorld in 2013, Hamilton introduced an extension to the Railroad line with its Small Seconds models that both reference its rich American history and push forward affordable Swiss watchmaking. The new Small Seconds lineup boasts new exclusive calibers that yield an asymmetrical design, lending a fresh and expensive look to a watch that really doesn’t cost a whole lot.
For the case, Hamilton went with the standard Railroad curved silhouette that resembles a pocket watch like one the train companies would have relied on back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Jazzmasters are Hamilton’s modern and refined offering, typically featuring a lot of gloss and polish, but the brushed sides of the case make for an overall sporty execution.
The polished bezel does add a touch of that Jazzmaster class, however, ultimately tempering the casual vibe. The crown is unguarded and doesn’t screw down, so that combined with the transparent case back translates into a limited water resistance of 50 meters. Overall, it’s nicely sized for a range of wrists measuring 42mm wide, 49mm lug to lug and about 13.5mm thick.
While the dial exhibits more of the dressed-up Jazzmaster motifs like the sunray dial and the polished dauphine hands and markers, the railroad metaphor continues here, too. Both the chapter rings, the main one and the orange subsidiary seconds track, look a lot like train tracks, which I consider to be an effective reference as its not too obvious and also practical when measuring elapsed time. You may or may not like it, but these chapter rings tone down the dressiness of the Jazzmaster dial a little bit.
But not too much. There’s no lume on the dial, limiting its legibility under low lighting and couching the sportiness. I love the assymetrical dial, the sub-seconds at 8 o’clock is the type of design choice reminiscent of something really expensive, like a watch from A. Lange & Sohne, but it’s not. It’s a Hamilton.
A couple of things I’m not personally in love with are the orange–with some exceptions, I’m just not a big orange fan–and the date window. I’d rather Hamilton have used a date window with a black wheel. There’s another variation of this watch that implements a silver dial with a blue subsidiary seconds track and in this execution the white date wheel is more appropriate. I also wish the sapphire crystal featured anti-reflective coating, but, alas, like many of Hamilton’s watches this one doesn’t, either, so checking the time is often like looking into a mirror.
Through the exhibition case back, you can see the automatic caliber H-22, which is nicely decorated with a skeletonized rotor. Since this is a more elegant watch, you’ll notice the perlage on the plating versus the mini H’s that Hamilton is using to decorate the movements inside its Khaki line. The movement is ETA-based and provides 42 hours of power reserve.
On the Wrist
You can pick up the new Railroad Small Seconds on either a black padded alligator grain strap with a deployant or a stainless steel bracelet. The bracelet tops off the railroad metaphor, its polished inner links again resembling train tracks similarly to how the chapter rings on the dial do. The bracelet has a signed butterly clasp. It’s comfortable.
Personally, while the stock bracelet is comfortable and reflects an appropriate level of quality, it adds an unwanted complexity and busyness to the overall package. I’d go for leather. Furhermore, with a 22mm lug width, one can fit almost any strap imaginable to this watch.
The Final Word
Technically and design wise I think Hamilton introduced some great things in 2014 and this is toward the top of my list for them. It’s elegant and the subsidiary seconds at 8 o’clock is eye catching and different. It’s an interesting nod to the brand’s history while simultaneously illustrating that Hamilton is prepared to take serious steps forward. Priced at $1,395 on the bracelet and $1,295 on the leather strap, the Hamilton Railroad Small Seconds is available with a black or silver dial at Hamilton’s online store, Hour Passion boutiques and other authorized dealers.