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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, May 13, 2018

1969 Dateline TM-5903

The end of the 1960's closed the chapter on US Hamilton production and started a new chapter of solely Swiss-produced movements.  The 1970's featured a new variety of interesting-looking models with newly introduced movements, including a second generation of micro rotor movements with and without date complications.

The first generation of Buren-made micro rotors were pink in color.  The new generation were silver in color.  Personally, I really don't care for the second generation design, and I'll tell you why below.

One of the 1970's models that I think is very unique-looking is the Dateline TM-5903.  It looks like it could almost be computerized.  It has a separate window just for the date below the main crystal opening.


The 1971 catalog showed it with a metal woven bracelet.

The TM in Dateline TM-5903 stands for Thin-o-matic.  The case is stainless steel.  The dial is grey and features long applied bars but I don't know if I'd call them hour markers.


Although this watch in engraved with a date from 1971, I'm calling this a 1969 model because the model id number ends with 69.


The case on the watch is polished brightly on the sides and brushed across the face.  This particular example shows a lot of scratches from previous use and I'll try to remove them while the movement is in the cleaner.


The case is a two-piece design and the movement and dial are held in the back.


The movement inside is a 17 jewel 630 movement and you can tell it looks a lot like the earlier micro rotors but it's actually quite different.  The second generation movements have an offset center wheel with an integrated cannon pinion.  The center wheel is the wheel to the left of center below that is held in place with a metal bushing.  The cannon pinion on these grades are notorious for becoming loose so the watch appears to run slow, even though the movement actually keeps good time.  Replacement parts are no longer available for these grades so if you buy a model that "runs slow" be prepared for a costly repair bill.


This movement is missing a dial foot screw.  I'll need to look for a replacement.


Under the dial is a cover that shields the components for the date complication.  It even has printing to show you how to reassemble it.


The date complication is surprisingly simple, as the hour wheel (not shown) turns clockwise it eventually turns the golden wheel to advance the date wheel.  The arm near the number four is an index to center the date wheel in position once it advances.


Once the set bridge is removed, you can see the cannon pinion to the right of the center.  It's the left-most wheel in the series of three setting wheels.


The first thing to come off the back of the movement is the large ratchet wheel.


Well, here's a surprise.  The click spring is missing and a piece of wire has been epoxied in place.  The click spring keeps the click against the ratchet wheel and keeps the watch from unwinding.  Looks like I'll need to replace the click spring too.


While everything is in the ultrasonic I will turn my attention to the bezel.  First I'll pass the front over 400 grit sand paper.  I'll use a flat surface to keep the brushed finish on the bezel running straight from side to side.


Next, I'll cover the brushed surface with tape while I polish the sides to a bright mirror finish.


Stainless steel is easy to polish but it gets pretty hot while doing so.


All the parts are cleaned, dried, and ready to be reassembled.  Did I mention how much I hate working on these movements?  There are a ton of parts and many of them are super tiny and easy to lose.


The epoxied wire is gone so I'll need to install a new click spring.


The same donor that provided the dial foot screw also provided a new click spring.  Now I lust need to make sure I don't accidentally lose it.  Springs have a remarkable ability to disappear into thin air.


Finally!  It seems to take forever to put one of these movements back together but it's running with a good motion.


Not too shabby.  I'll leave it like this.


Once the dial is back on I set the time forward until the date changes.  Then it's midnight and I can install the hands.


Turns out this is a very difficult watch to tell the time on.  The hands are small and the dial is grey so it's hard to see them and even harder to photograph them.  Notice that the bezel looks remarkably better now, all the scratches are gone.


Well, I have to say this watch turned out great but I don't think I'm going to pursue any more of these 1970's Thin-o-matics.  They really are a pain and it's luck of the draw if they will work properly.  I'll have to cross my fingers and hope the hands move as they should. If they don't then I'll have to take it apart again and try to tighten the cannon pinion.


Monday, April 30, 2018

1966 Dateline A-581

One of the interesting things about restoring vintage watches are the variety of times you feel like you are walking in someone else's footsteps.  You often come across watches that have lots of service marks inside the case. 

Of course, the opposite is also true.  I really enjoy coming across a vintage watch that looks like it was never even worn, let alone taken apart since it first left the factory.  Those situations are much less frequent.

Sometimes I come across a watch that makes me wonder who was the last person to "work" on it.  My latest project is a good example.  It's a 1966 Dateline A-581.  This model was made through 1969.


The Dateline A-581 came in a stainless steel case with silver hour markers and hands that have black highlights.  Being a Dateline A-model, it has a 17 jewel 694A movement inside, basically the equivalent of the 689 automatic movement used in the Accumatic line, but with a calendar complication.

My project watch has been waiting patiently for it's turn to visit the spa for so long that I don't even remember when I picked it up.  The only thing I know is the date doesn't want to advance.  The Spiedel bracelet is not original and I detest the spring-loaded "one size fits all" ends - as they eat into the lugs of the watch.  So this bracelet will have to go.


The case is a one-piece design and once the crystal is removed and two-piece stem is separated, the movement will lift up and out.  This watch has a silver reflector ring surrounding the dial - that will come out first.


The movement is secured inside a movement ring.  The two are connected by "case clamps" held down by screws.


One of the signs that I'm walking in someone else's footprints is when I find the wrong screws in certain holes.  Often movement use different screws in different locations.  The last guy (or gal) to open this watch put a longer train bridge screw in the automatic framework - and by doing so dented the mainspring barrel.  This sort of damage will bind the mainspring inside and lead to dramatic changes in spring tension as the watch runs.  So I will need to replace this barrel.


Of course, if one screw is put in the wrong place then another screw will have to go into another wrong space.  That was the situation with this watch - several screws where in the wrong holes.  Fortunately the only damage was the barrel.

Everything gets cleaned and dried.


Here's a nice shot of my watch timer but the reassembled movement is a little blurry... oops.


Did I mention I was walking in the footsteps of a potential "hack"?  This balance is all whacked.  Apparently the previous guy didn't have a timer.  Fortunately the balance is very easy to adjust so I should be able to fine tune things much better.


First I'll adjust the beat error by moving the hairspring stud.  0.4ms is a good stopping point.


Next I'll adjust the regulator index and slow the watch down.  I usually check the watch dial up and dial down.  They should be the same or very close to each other.  In fact, glucydur balances like on the 694A are machine-poised at the factory so the watch should run the same in all positions.


I replaced the crystal with a 30.6mm PHD crystal and installed a fresh alligator strap.  This watch is now a real looker and looks a great as it runs.  As and added benefit, all of the screws are in their proper places.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

1961 Sherwood N

In 1961 Hamilton introduced an unusual experiment - wooden dials.  Five different men's models featured dials laminated with exotic woods.  The manufacturing process proved problematic and the models were not well received by the public so the model line was dropped after 1962.

One of the five men's models is the Sherwood N.  It's an automatic model in a 14K gold case and featured a Mexican Mahogany wood dial.


If the Sherwood N looks familiar it's probably because it's modeled after the 1957 Automatic K-203.


Sherwood models are extremely rare.   Including the Sherwood N, I've only come across three of them.  I don't know how many were made but you very rarely see them for sale, and certainly not the the Sherwood N.  I happened to have a friend send me his for a little TLC.

As received, it was in decent shape but a little beat up.  A lot of times when you see Sherwood models the dials can be rough but this one looks to be in good condition.


The case back unscrews to reveal the movement.


Being a 1960's K-series model, the movement inside is a 17 jewel Hamilton 667 movement.  Based on the looks of it, it's been quite a while since this one has been overhauled.


It has been overhauled quite a few times in the past 57 years, based on the various watchmakers' marks inside the case back.


Although the catalog image doesn't say so, these hands are silhouette hands with radium paint on the back.  I'm surprised that hasn't taken it's toll on the wood dial.  I'll remove it in the cleaner.


The crystal on the watch has served it's purpose and taken a few shots in protecting the watch.  Replacing it with a fresh crystal will be a nice improvement.


30.1mm will do the trick.


The reassembled movement is now ticking away with a good motion.  Let's see what it looks like on the timer.


Hmm... something inside is making a little extra noise.  I'll give the hairspring another cleaning.


There - all better.  Everything is looking good.


The movement is reinstalled in the case with a movement ring to hold it inside.


This watch looks great but it's a little hard to photograph.  You can barely see the second hand against the dial but when the light catches the gold it really sparkles.


I think one of the reasons these models weren't very popular is the wood presents a very casual look to what would arguably have been a very elegant watch.  Priced at $150 in 1961, that was about $1250 in 2018 dollars.  I think the wood dial on a K-203 would be like wearing jeans with a sport coat and tie.  Some people can pull that off but most people wouldn't even try.


Today the appeal of the Sherwood models is their rarity.  Anyone can go into a jewelry store and purchase a modern Rolex, if you've got the scratch for it, but very few people will ever find a Sherwood N in the wild today.