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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

1966 Mystery Watch

It's not usual to find uncased movements for sale.  In fact, if you're really bored it's sometimes interesting to try to identify what model a loose movement came from.  Typically they come from solid gold cases that have been scrapped.  Sometimes you will find a movement and dial from a $2000 watch that someone scrapped for $250 in gold.  Seeing that is sad, so I'm rarely bored enough to go looking for uncased movements for sale.

One thing you don't often see is an empty solid gold watch case with a missing dial and movement.  Now that really makes me curious.

I recently had someone contact me about a family watch and all that he had was a solid 14K gold case, with crown and stem, and a very dirty Spiedel bracelet.  Initially I thought it would be easy to identify what the model the watch was, but it turns out that wasn't going to be the case (pun intended).

Looking at the empty one-piece case I can see several important details.  First, it's reeded around the perimeter.  That's definitely distinctive.

Looking at the stamped numbers, one of them ends with 66 so that's a good clue that this model is from 1966, even though it has a presentation on the back from 1969.

The case back is pie panned shaped - so it was originally designed for an ETA movement like a 689, 694, etc.

Armed with that info, the next thing to do is to look for models with those details.  The best I could do was to find catalog images of things that are close.   One is the 1966 Dateline A-279.  It would have likely had a 694 movement.  It appears to have some sort of engraving around the perimeter and the same straight lugs.

Another option was the Thin-o-matic T-210.  It's case looks like a nice match too.  Unfortunately, Hamilton didn't indicate what grades were in which models.  A Thin-o-matic could have a micro-rotor or a ETA movement like the 623 or 624.  You really can't tell from the catalog what the back would have looked like and without a dial you're missing a lot of information.

One thing is for sure, I'll need an ETA movement to go inside and a replacement dial.   Getting a replacement dial isn't as easy as it sounds.  It needs to be the right size (diameter) so even if I got a spare movement that came with a dial, it doesn't mean that I can use the dial.

Typically the dial is the same size as the movement ring, or even a little larger.  So I can use the movement ring that came in the case as a guide and not get anything too much smaller than the ring.

Measuring the ring, I get about 29.8mm.  That's pretty big, believe it or not.

It took a while but one of my Hamilton friends had a spare movement and a dial that was almost the right size, 29.5mm.  That would have to do.

It's hard to tell from the blur in my photo but behind the dial is a 694A movement.  It's not running but the balance looks good so I should be able to get it going after a good cleaning.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  I haven't lost any parts yet either.  So far, so good.

The 694 is pretty much like every other ETA automatic and goes together fairly smoothly.  Now the watch is running with good motion so it's off to the timer.

It's a little noisy so I'll reclean the hairspring and make sure any rogue pieces of dust, etc. are removed.

That's much better.  I will fine tune the beat error and the beat rate to get it even better.

There... not too shabby and pretty much right on the money.

A new crystal and alligator strap complete the restoration.  The dial that I got was a little worn but it's not as bad as my camera makes it out to be.  This isn't the correct dial for an A-279 or a T-210.  I think it's actually from a 1964 A-675, but that's just a guess.  In the end, it doesn't really matter.  Another family watch has been saved and the owner can enjoy wearing his dad's watch again, even if it is just the original case.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

1965 Dateline T-478

If I had to guess which movements are the hardest to come by they would be some of the calendar models.  It's a complication that's typically added to a basic movement, manual or automatic.  There aren't that many calendar models and there are several possible movements so that makes them much less common than the basic models.

One of the less common movements is the Hamilton 624.  It was used on some of earlier Dateline Thin-o-matics.  One of the models that used the 624 was the Dateline T-478.  The T-478 was produced through 1969.

The T-478 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case on either a strap or a matching bracelet.

The 624 movement inside the case is based on an ETA 2522 movement and it's also a Hamilton caliber 74. It looks a LOT like the 694 movement, which is also ETA-based and is a caliber 64, but it's quite different as you will see below.

My T-478 came as a project watch from a new collector who received a family piece.  Its hard to say if it works or not, as it's missing the crown and male stem.  The crystal is deeply crazed and will definitely need to be replaced.  I would guess by the texture of the strap that it's a shark skin strap, but it's hard to say anything for sure, other than it's old.

The case is a one piece design and based on the slight dome it's a safe guess that it's got an ETA movement inside and not a Buren micro-rotor.  A micro rotor case would be flat across the back and makes for a really thin Thin-o-matic.

What's this?  A Bulova strap on a Hamilton watch!   Better than Elgin, I suppose... ha ha!

With a little unexpected blur my photo of the movement would make you think this was a more common 689 or 694 movement.  The non-calendar version of the 624 is the 623... and it's quite a bit thinner than the 689 but looks quite similar.

With the dial out of the way the calendar complication looks familiar but it's actually quite different than what you'd see on other ETA movements.

For starters, the index lever to jump the date wheel from date to date is over on the stem-side of the movement.  Still has the dreaded spring that I've been known to lose from time to time.  There's another spring on the other side, by the 26 number, that is used to push the date wheel at midnight.

I should have flipped this photo 180 degrees as it look upside down relative to the photo above, but all the parts are removed except the set bridge... which actually fell out after I took this photo and took a mini-vacation in my shop for a few hours.  I eventually found it on the floor behind my chair.  The set bridge is different than a set bridge from a 623 though - so I had to find it in order to get the watch back together.  Losing parts temporarily is all part of the "fun" of working on watches... as I'm sure every professional watchmaker will attest.  That's why it pays to keep the workshop clean.

Flipping the watch over, after removing the oscillating weight assembly, the movement looks familiar but also different.  Check out the silver winding wheel that engages the golden ratchet wheel.  The big teeth on the winding wheel actually look like the teeth on an 800 series automatic, but it's moveable like on the earlier 694 movements.  It's a bit of a hybrid design.

Everything is cleaned and dried... well, almost everything.  Do you see the set bridge?  Me either.  I actually looked at this photo to try to determine when it disappeared.

Putting the train bridge back on is just like all the other ETA automatics... all four wheels have to be perfectly aligned before the bridge falls into place.  There's no force needed, just get the pivots into their respective places.

The barrel, barrel bridge, pallet fork and it's bridge all go in next.  I'll put the golden ratchet wheel on and give the watch a few winds to energize it.

I put the running watch onto the timer... it was running a little oddly so I re-cleaned the hairspring.

A few tweaks to reduce the beat error and the watch is running fairly well.  The amplitude is low though but that's because I didn't wind it very much.

A more substantial winding brings the watch back to life.  This is a good exemplification of why you want to wind an automatic fully by hand before you put it on your wrist.  That way you get the best performance and the automatic just keeps it topped off.

I fit a new male stem to a new crown.  I like to use waterproof crowns with a medium tube is this situation so the tube on the crown is supported by the stem tube on the case and I don't get too much wobble when setting the time.

The rotor can go back on now... it gets in the way of making adjustments but I'll leave the watch running as it is for now.

This watch takes a 30.8mm crystal... not the biggest crystal I've used, but close.

As you can see, with a new crystal, a fresh strap and a crown, this watch looks like it just left the showroom case.  I'm sure the owner will treasure this family watch now that it can actually be worn.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

1951 Grover

The number of unique models increased with every decade beginning in the 1920's and culminating in the 1960s.  That's thanks mainly to the addition of automatic movements and Swiss-made manual winding movements, not to mention the Electrics.

I think I've made a good dent in the pre-1955 models featuring made-in-Lancaster, PA movements. So I'm always a little surprised when I find a new model to add to the blog.  The list of watches I haven't done is much shorter than it used to be - that's for sure.

One model I've considered purchasing many times is the 1951 Grover.  It's a fairly common model but it's hard to find without a lot of wear through to the tops of the horned lugs.  The Grover was made through 1953 so you will also see the virtually identical Grover-B as well.

The Grover came in a 10K yellow gold filled case.  It was one of the first models to be available on either a strap or a bracelet.  Because it came in a 10K gold filled case, you will find the Grover has the 14/0 size 17 jewel 980 movement.  The Grover B will have the 12/0 size 17 jewel 752 movement.

I recently had someone contact me about a family watch they received.  Since it was a Grover and I haven't done one yet, I decided to take it on.

As received you can see that this example is a mere shadow of it's former self but a little TLC will go a long way.  The Spiedel bracelet is an obvious replacement.

I was unable to get the spring bars loose so I had to open the bracelet ends with small pliers in order to remove the bracelet.

These spring bars are not removable on lugs like these.  Some models have holes that go all the way through the lugs - in which case you can push the spring bars out from the outside.  But without the through-holes, the best I can do is cut the bars off.

Wire snippers are all that's needed to remove the spring bars, but they can't be reused.

The plastic crystal is beat up and will be replaced.  Without the crystal in the way, you can see the dial has a two-tone white / butler finish and some of the white sections are dirtier than the others.

It's interesting to see how the later 980's are heavily damascened like the 982 and 982M.   The watch will tick but I haven't tried to wind it up and see how it works.

Based on the number of watchmaker's marks inside the case back, this watch was well cared for before it was put away in a dresser drawer long ago.

The watch already has white alloy mainspring installed.  I'll remove it and clean it but there's no need to replace it.

A new glass crystal will be a nice addition to the finished project.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly.

Uh oh, the upper pivot on the balance staff is missing.  This balance is toast unless I replace the balance staff.

Fortunately I had a spare balance so I installed that instead.  Now the watch is running with good motion.

Things look good.  The beat error is a little high at 3.5ms but to reduce it would require removing the balance again and adjusting the hairspring collet.  I don't have another spare balance so, lest I goof up this one, I'll just let this sleeping dog lie.

The finish project turned out really well.  There's a hint of wear to the top of the lugs but even my merciless camera has a hard time highlighting it.  The dial is original and not bad enough to warrant refinishing.  The new glass crystal made a huge improvement and a new simple black leather strap says this watch is ready for some wrist time.