Thanks for visiting my vintage Hamilton watch blog. I like to restore US-made Hamilton wrist watches back to their original glory and share my experiences with other enthusiasts. Use the "Search" space below if you know what model you're looking for. Feel free to leave polite comments or questions in the spaces provided. Also check out my "watches for sale" on my Etsy site - the link is on the right, just below.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

1968 Dateline S-576

In my last post I talked about how Hamilton first introduced Swiss-made movements into their product line by using the Illinois brand.  It wasn't long before they dropped the charade and introduced Hamilton-branded models with Swiss-made movements.  If you want a Hamilton with an automatic movement or with a date complication there are plenty to be found but all of which will have Swiss-based calibers under the hood.

For example, there's the 1968 Dateline S-576.  It was produced through 1969 and is one of a handful of manual winding models with a date complication.

The Dateline S-576 came in a one piece cushion-shaped stainless steel case.  It has a reflector ring inside with chapter marks and a white dial with applied markers.  Tucked inside is a manual winding Hamilton 674 movement, essentially the same as the automatic 694 movement but without the automatic framework attached to the back.

I don't think you see this model particularly often so I jumped at the chance to purchase a fixer upper. As received, it looked pretty good, although it could stand to have a polish and a new crystal.

The crystal wasn't even installed and all I had to do to open the watch was flip it over.  Then the crystal and chapter ring dropped out.

The 674 looks a lot like the 688 movement but it has all the date complication parts on the other side of the main plate.  As you can see below, the watch is running and that's always a good sign that all that it needs is a good cleaning.

This movement was very dirty and I was surprised by how dirty the cleaning solution got after the parts were cleaned.  Everything looks nice a sparkling clean now.

The reassembled movement is running with a good motion - off to the timer to see what it thinks.

Wow... I wasn't expecting this... it's running a bit slow and has a large beat error.  I wonder if someone monkeyed with it before I got it.  That would explain why the crystal and chapter ring just fell out.

If you look closely at the position of the regulator index relative to the silver hair spring stud, they are bit close to each other.  The closer they are, the slower the watch will run.  I can move the silver hair spring stud relative to the balance bridge to center the balance (and reduce the beat error) and then move the regulator index away from the hair spring stud to speed the beat rate up.

There... that will do nicely... 12 seconds fast per day and a beat error of 0.5ms.

You can see below I didn't have to move things too far.  This is the sort of thing that can only be done with a timer - you can't make these adjustments with a stop watch.

Once the dial is reinstalled I put the movement in the case and use the crown to set the time forward until the date changes - then I can set the hands at midnight.

A new 30.6mm crystal should do nicely to seal the watch and improve the overall appearance too.

A new strap, new crystal and fresh luminous paint on the hands make this 50 year old look like it just left the showroom.  Not a bad looking watch, in my opinion.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

1953 Hamilton-Illinois Topper B

The watch industry was in turmoil in the 1950's.  Post WWII European countries were producing high quality watches at price points that were difficult for American watch companies to compete with.  The Great Depression had already taken out a number of the early American watch companies and the remaining producers like Benrus, Elgin, Waltham and Hamilton were struggling to compete.

For example, Waltham Watch Company, one of the first American watch companies and founded in 1850, went out of business in 1957 but not without first forming a Swiss subsidiary called Waltham International SA, which carried on and retained the right to the Waltham trade name outside of the United States.

Hamilton was not immune to the industry pressures and in 1953 it reintroduced the Illinois brand that it had acquired when it purchased the Illinois Watch Company in 1928.  Illinois Watch Company was another premier watch manufacturer and the brand still retained some panache with buyers in the early 1950s.  The introduction of Illinois watches allowed Hamilton executives to test the use of Swiss-made ├ębauche movements in the Hamilton line up and assess if all hell would break loose.

Other brands like Elgin, Benrus, etc. had already gone down the Swiss-made route but Hamilton was regarded as a step above those other brands... at least by Hamilton executives and many of their customers.

Today's Illinois collectors turn up their noses at the Illinois branded watches of the early 1950s.  There's good reason, as there's nothing in common between the 1950's Illinois models and the pre-1930 Illinois watches other than the name on the dial.

Oddly, today's Hamilton collectors also turn up their noses at these 1950's models.  That's a bit less understandable, as Illinois models used some of the same Swiss ├ębauche calibers that Hamilton later used when the realized buyers embraced lower cost, high quality watches.

I think the Hamilton Illinois models are as much a part of Hamilton's heritage and any other development of their evolution.  Are the Explorer Series of the Hamiltons from the early 1930's any less Hamilton because the Hamilton 401 is essentially an Illinois 207 movement?  To turn up your nose at a Hamilton with a Swiss-made movement would require ignoring every automatic in Hamilton's lineup and that would be... well... stupid.

That said, Hamilton Illinois models aren't always that attractive.  I suppose you could say they are the "8th grade school pictures" of what would eventually become late bloomers in the Hamilton model line.

Take for example the 1953 Topper B.  It was introduced along with another model, the Topper A and was produced for three years.

If you want to compare the Topper B with with it's 17 jewel 12/0 sized shock proofed movement to a Hamilton shock proofed movement, you couldn't.  No US-made Hamilton movement had shock jewels until 1955 when the 770, 730 and 735 grades were introduced.

In 1956 Hamilton came out from behind the Illinois curtain and introduced Hamilton models with Swiss-made movements and they even used up Illinois-branded movements in Hamilton models with a -B designation (Jason-B, Cabot-B, et al.).

The Topper Model B is a typical entry-level Hamilton model with an embossed dial (something Hamilton never did until the Illinois line).  The case on the Topper B is gold filled, although eventually rolled gold plated cases with stainless steel backs would be used on other models to trim a few bucks.

My Topper B project watch arrived in typical project-watch condition... a little dirty but running and in need of a trip to the spa.

The bracelet on the watch is a JB Champion and is period correct but not correct for the Topper B.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was used on another Hamilton model so I'll save it for a rainy day.

The model number for the watch is 9510 and stamped clearly on the case back.

The embossed dial is probably the least impressive aspect of this watch.  You just don't see this basic type of dial on a Hamilton made before 1955.  After 1955 is a different story.

Someone in the past crudely attempted to do something to the case back.  There's a slight dent on the outside so maybe this is evidence of an attempt to remove the dent?  Who knows... we all have our scars, right?

Illinois movements had no unique names.  A lot of people misidentify an Illinois movement as a "TXD", as that's what's on the balance cock and a lot of other brands used letters to identify grades.  But every Illinois-branded Swiss-made movement has TXD on it because that's the import code for Illinois.  You will see "HYL" on all the Hamilton-branded Swiss made movements through 1969.

Once the parts are removed you can see the main plate is stamped with the ETA shield and 1220 so this is an ETA 1220 movement - in case I need to find any parts.

The crystal is a cylinder style and although it's scratch-free, it does have some cracks on the side so I will replace it.

I think I've got the correct crystal - it even says Hamilton on it.

It took about 30 minutes of sanding the crystal before I realized the contour of the curve on the side of my new crystal isn't deep enough to match the curve of the case.  So it rock in the bezel like a see-saw.  I'll need to find a better fitting crystal option.  I'll reinstall the old one in the meantime.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  I'm in the home stretch.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks.

Something is making a little extra noise inside based on the occasional specks showing up below the main signal trace.  It doesn't take much ... any tiny spec of dust or fiber in the wrong place can be detected.

There... did I find anything?  Not really but a little toot of compressed air here and there can make a big difference.

The Topper B is not a bad looking watch in my opinion.  It's a little on the feminine side, mainly because it's smallish but if it didn't have an embossed dial you could argue that it looks like a typical 1930's tank-style watch.  Now to find a proper-fitting crystal.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

1968 Lord Lancaster FF

Hamilton's Lord Lancaster line featured diamonds as part of the models' designs.  Sometime the diamonds were on the dials and sometimes they were integral to the case.  There are men's and ladies' Lord Lancaster models but there were plenty of men's and ladies' watches with diamonds that were not part of the Lord Lancaster series.

One of the last models in the Lord Lancaster line up was also one of the most expensive models.  It was the Lord Lancaster FF - introduced in 1968 and made only for the 1968/69 period.  The Lord Lancaster FF was also a Thin-o-matic model.

If it looks familiar, it's very similar to the Lord Lancaster G, although that model was not an automatic and had a 687 movement used in Thinline models.

Both the FF and the G model featured 14K white gold cases.  The G model has 32 diamonds surrounding the crystal opening while the FF model features 24, presumably larger diamonds.  Both models came on unique suede straps.

My project watch came courtesy of  a fellow collector who recently purchased a Lord Lancaster FF he spotted for sale.  You don't tend to see this model very often so he jumped on it.  It doesn't have it's original strap but it is presented on a solid 14K white metal strap.  The bezel features a florentine-style finish and this watch's bezel is a little smooth along the outside perimeter so I will not attempt to polish the case at all.  That way I won't risk losing any more of the finish, even though the case is solid gold.

I have found that sometimes white gold cases have a slightly yellow cast to them.  However, this watch has a yellow crown on it and it definitely doesn't belong there, although it does have a Hamilton logo.

The case is a two-piece design and the two pieces separate in the middle.

The buckle on the metal strap is stamped 14K Italy.

The catalog doesn't make mention of a black dial and I would say this dial has been somewhat crudely refinished.  The part that is visible inside the bezel is only about the size of a dime so it doesn't really look too bad.

There are a few watchmaker's marks inside the case back so this watch has been serviced several times in the last 50 years.  The lower number is the model number.  It ends with 68, indicating the year the model was introduced.

This watch says it's running 425 seconds per day slow but the beat rate of 25,200 is way higher than the 19,800 it should be.  So this watch is actually running very fast.

The movement inside is a Hamilton 626 micro rotor movement and I can tell by the shape of the hairspring that several coils are sticking together and making the watch run fast.  Hopefully I'll be able to clean it up so it will run correctly.

Based on the dial-side of the movement, I can see that it's been a long time since this watch was cleaned.

Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.

I had a 20 minute "rain delay" while I looked for this blasted click spring.  I accidentally touched it the wrong way and it flew off.  I eventually found it but I had to clean my entire workbench to locate it.  This is why you never do this sort of thing over carpet or a similar soft surface.

The movement is back together and running with good motion.  The shape of the hairspring looks good so I'm optimistic.

It's running a little slow but otherwise it's looking promising. There's a little extraneous noise inside, maybe a filament of dust in the wrong place.

Alright - this will do for now.

With it all put back together this watch is looking very good.  Personally I think the metal strap is a bit much and I think a black strap would look better.  I hate this type of micro rotor movement because it has an offset center wheel and they're notorious for having loose cannon pinions that are almost impossible to fix.  Hopefully this watch will run correctly... time will tell.