The year was 1957. Elvis was shaking up the airwaves waves, and the USSR was first out the gate in the Space Race, launching Sputnik 1 into low Earth orbit. Back on terra firma, Hamilton was making waves of its own, as the brand launched the first electric wristwatch, the Hamilton Ventura. With its bold and futuristic looks and powered by an electric circuit, the Ventura was truly revolutionary. With the new Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright , Hamilton revisits this now-classic model with an all-new fiery look. The original Hamilton Ventura was designed by Richard Arbib, an industrial designer best known for his automotive designs during the golden age of American automobiles. Responsible for iconic automotive designs like the AMC Hudson Hornet, Arbib was a futuristic designer with an eye for the avant-garde. It only made sense for Hamilton to tap Arbib to create a futuristic design for a futuristic watch. More than a decade before quartz wristwatches would upend the entire watch industry, Hamilton and others were working feverishly to bring a battery-powered watch to market — one that would retain a traditional balance wheel but be driven electromagnetically by a solenoid powered by a battery small enough to fit within a wristwatch. The Ventura wasn’t so much ahead of its time, as it was a product of its time. In an era of ebullient optimism, the Ventura captured the spirit of an age when innovation was pouring forth at an exponential rate — when today’s dreams were tomorrow’s reality. Though the Ventura’s movement (the 500, later replaced by the 505) was groundbreaking, it was the wild case and dial design that inspired Elvis Presley to purchase one for himself, famously wearing it on screen in 1961’s Blue Hawaii. The Ventura became something of a Hollywood staple, appearing throughout the 1960s in the Twilight Zone and, later, as an essential part of the minimalist wardrobe of the Men in Black. Hamilton offers the Ventura in a wide range of colors, sizes, movements, and complications, but each stays true to Arbib’s original design brief. With the new Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright , Hamilton took inspiration from the vibrant colors and energy of a city at night. The Ventura XXL Bright is housed in an oversized (47.6mm), PVD black-coated case with that instantly recognizable triangular shape and art deco lugs. While the dial appears as a monochrome black with grey accents, everything changes when you push the small button at 9 o’clock. With one small push, the custom quartz movement provides an electric pulse, allowing the dial to come alive, illuminating it in a vibrant red like neon city signs at night. That said, the hands and markers still receive ample Super-LumiNova, allowing you to quickly read the time through the sapphire crystal without illuminating the dial.
The Hamilton Ventura is inexorably linked to its most famous wearer: Elvis Presley. And not, I may add, fat Elvis. The King wore his watch at the height of his cultural influence, in uniform. And that’s key . . .
By the time Elvis’ Hamilton Ventura broke cover, Army service had mainstreamed the singer. The Memphis Flash was no longer dangerous, no longer a lightning rod for racial animus. He’d become a social influencer, to use today’s terminology.
The Hamilton Ventura’s connection to Elvis is one of those famous-owner stories that never gets old. Ever since the King made it “his watch” in 1961, the avant-garde timepiece has been immortalized. Through the decades, the Ventura has spawned countless sizes, colors, executions, and movements. The latest iteration takes inspiration from a neon city at night as the energy and vibrancy come alive. The Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright features a dial that illuminates with red detailing and comes in a super-large size for the big-wristed or big-spirited among us.