Review: Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright

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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.

Elvis’ Hamilton Ventura was radical in both design and technology (the first battery-operated wristwatch). But above and beyond that, it was a watch. A signal that the King had joined the ranks of the gainfully employed (albeit as a celebrity).

The Ventura was a visible token of Elvis Presley’s uniquely American rags-to-riches success story, just like his Cadillacs. And my god, the Ventura was cool. Take a good look at the original, because industrial designer Richard Arbib nailed it.

Original 1957 Hamilton Ventura (courtesy gearpatrol.com)

Launched in 1957, adopted by Elvis in ’61, the Ventura’s triangular case was perfectly-sized, elegantly cased (love those Art Deco wings) and attached to a leather strap. The black, three-handed face – complete with spear hands and a red-tipped second hand – is legible (if not instantly), minimalistic and ever-so-suave.

Like a Mozart symphony, the first Hamilton Ventura is no more than it needs to be, magnificent in every detail. It’s the classic Coke bottle, the Steinway piano, of ’50’s-style watches. In a word, it’s quintessential.

Instead of leaving it be, when Hamilton revived the Ventura, the now-Swiss watchmaker f*cked with it. I don’t have the stomach to go over all the bastardizations inflicted on the design since its 1988 reappearance.

Elvis 75th Anniversary Ventura (courtesy ebay.com)

With the exception of the faithful Hamilton Ventura Elvis 75th Anniversary Gold Two Tone Belt Limited Edition, every Ventura “remake” riffed on the original. Badly. Comically? Suffice it to say, the new PVD-coated Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright is hilariously hideous.

At 52mm × 47.6mm, the new XXL Ventura is even larger than the previous XXL – just as watches are downsizing. The original Ventura was 32.3mm x 50.3mm. Yes, today’s men’s watches start at 39mm, but thanks to its triangular case, the first Venura was none the worse for its diminutive dimensions. 

The “skies are not cloudy all day” writers at fratellowatches.com call the new Ventura “unapologetically big and bold for those with extraordinary wrists.” Yeah right. But wait! There’s more!

The XXL Bright is more triangular than the original Ventura but feels familiar in theme. The black dial features a similar electric-pulse motif and matching indexes for a fresh take on the 1950s model . . .

Along with the H logo, the gray detailing glows in red with a push of the button at 9 o’clock. Powered by a modern-day custom quartz movement, it nods to urban neon signage as it illuminates a buzzing night scene.

fratellowatches.com

Reading between the lines, “familiar in theme” means “unfamiliar in design.” What bright spark thought it was a good idea to mess with every single aspect of the original Hamilton Ventura watch?

The new Jumbotron Hamilton Ventura XXL Bright sells for $1495. You can buy an original late ’50’s early ’60’s Ventura for around $3k. One of these will continue to increase in value. One will be gone and forgotten. Do the math.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Kinda reminds me of Bulova going hard on the ‘Accutron’ line despite the fact they no longer have the ability to manufacture the 1960s movements.

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