It soooo much depends on the individual watch. There are beauties and bears in both brands. I'd happily look at both. If I were planning on collecting ONLY one brand, then Hamilton, just because of the shear volume and variety.
From the mid-1950s you'll find a lot of Hamilton automatic watches using Certina/Kurth Frères movements. Hamilton did not have in-house produced auto movements. You'll also find that from around this period and later they were using a variety of other Swiss movements (Buren, ETA, etc) along with some US-made Hamilton movements. For the models using Swiss movements I'd place them on much the same level as Certina in overall quality and a good example from either brand would be fine.
I like Certina watches alot but like Hamilton a lot more.
Perhaps it is because Hamilton was an American company who made watches only a few miles away from where my family lived in PA. Perhaps it is the military connection (with the recent 75th anniversary of D-Day, how many of the greatest generation landed on the beaches of France with a rifle and a Hamilton watch as their trusty companions?)
Or perhaps it is because collecting Hamilton watches in the USA is easier? If you go to thrift stores or yard sale in the USA long enough, odds are you will find a Hamilton watch in a short time. It is rare to find a Certina in the wild at a thrift store (Though I found a 7 year old DS quartz last year in one.)
However you don't have to choose, a nice Certina and a nice Hamilton should not set you back much so grab one of both.
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