Hamilton is perhaps best known to modern collectors for their historically significant tool watches. But during the Golden Age of American watchmaking, Hamilton was master of all trades, from railroad timers to dress watches fit for kings. Their catalogs from the 1930s and 1940s were filled with elegant and innovative watches that have all but faded to obscurity.
The Otis--or Otis "Reverso"--is one such watch. Seeking to capitalize on Alfred Chauvot's innovative reversible case design, Hamilton produced the Otis in 1938. The Hamilton Otis used Chauvot's case designs, either in solid gold or gold-filled, with black or white dials and bold Breguet style numerals. This example features a beautiful salmon toned dial in a 14k gold-filled case and features a little extra touch of detail with its caseback engraving.
Its an off-the-beaten-path choice for the true aficionado of horological history!
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the world of watches. Although the industry’s insular nature lends a certain air of mystery to each brand’s proceedings, it’s happened several times in horological history that several different brands have—independently—come up with the same idea.
For example, reversible watches.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso is probably the first one that springs to mind. From its romantic, almost whimsical origin story (a watch designed for polo!) to its current status as the flagship of JLC’s catalog, the Reverso has become nothing short of an icon. But it is neither the first—nor the only—reversible watch to exist. Another reversible watch is the Hamilton Otis, which actually used the same case design—penned by Alfred Chauvot—as the Reverso.
The simple fact of the matter is that the design of the Otis infringed upon JLC's Reversounder Chauvot's patent. As you'd expect, Hamilton and JLC soon found themselves embroiled in a lawsuit.
Ultimately, after three years in court, JLC won out. Due to the terms of the lawsuit, Hamilton could only produce the Otis using movements made byTavannes, Movado, or JLC themselves. Faced with the choice to either use another brand's movements or cease production altogether, Hamilton pulled the Otis from their catalogs in 1940.
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