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Greetings!

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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Not Worth Fixin'

As a general rule I've tried to not post the same model twice, although I have occasionally broken it when I had a little more to say on the subject.  However, for the most part I've managed over the past 650+ posts to stick with something new to show you.  I'm about 2/3rds of the way toward the goal of documenting every vintage Hamilton mechanical model made.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd share with you a recent project that really shows you what someone who knows what they're doing can do (and it's not me... ha ha!).

The subject watch is a 1959 Thin-o-matic T-300 that was in serious need of some TLC.  The T-300 was one of the first Thin-o-matic models introduced and as you might surmise by the 300-series number, it was the first Thin-o-matic in solid 10K gold.  I did a detailed post on this model in 2017.


As I indicated above, I was recently introduced to a T-300 that needed some serious attention.  In most cases (pardon the pun) this watch would likely have been scrapped.  As you can see in the photo below, not only was it missing it's crown, it was missing two of the lugs!


It's unfortunate that the missing lugs are on the same side of the watch, as sometimes you can at least use the watch as a pendant if there are two lugs on the same side.  But this watch was figuratively, "screwed".

The backstory of the project is like most vintage watches... it was somebody's grandfather's and as such, it was priceless to them.  It had to be saved.

I suspect the reason two of the lugs were missing was because the case could not be opened and they broke off during an attempt.  One of the remaining lugs is also bent inward, indicating this watch is lucky it's not missing three limbs.

The owner took it to a couple of places to try to open it before he sent it to me but without success.  The back was seized on tight as a drum.  Without a crown, it was quite possible the inside of the watch was a wreck too - although it appeared to tick, which is always a good sign.

Anyway, I tried unsuccessfully to open it as well and even applied penetrating oil for a couple of days with no luck.  The case back was already scraped up by other peoples' attempts and I didn't want to do any more damage.  Even applying penetrating oil worried me - "what if it gets on the dial?", I thought.

My last resort was to epoxy a large nut to the back of the watch and then use a conventional wrench to unscrew the joined assembly.  That's called "going all-in", as removing the nut would be near impossible if I wasn't successful.


Newtonian physics would indicate that applying a great force to the nut would require an equal and opposite great force to restrain the case - otherwise the watch would just spin.  I secured the case as best I could in my vice and then lubricated the case back with beads of sweat that dripped from my brow as I attempted to apply force.


Voila!  The case slowly gave way and opened to reveal a fairly nice-looking Hamilton 666 micro rotor movement inside.


You may be wondering at this point how I got the nut off the case back.  That's straightforward - I simply boiled it in water until the epoxy gave way.


Of course, I still had some pretty serious issues to resolve but the case is looking nice and clean now.  I can tell by the mark inside the back that the rotor has been rubbing the case.  I'll worry about that later.  First things first.


A little polishing and the case back is free of most of the signs of abuse, other than one major gouge.  The threads on the case are in good shape... a little wavy in some spots but the back screws on nicely nonetheless.


At this point in the project the real magic happened.  With the owner's approval, I sent the case to the very talented Lance Heck in Laguna Beach, California and asked him to fashion and attach two new lugs in 10K gold.

A couple of weeks later the case was returned and all I had to do was overhaul the movement, install a new crown and case gasket, install a new crystal, and fit a very nice genuine croc strap.  So I guess I had to work a little magic of my own too.


This watch turned out fantastic and I would challenge anyone to tell me which lugs, if any, are the replacements (assuming you didn't see the photos above).


You may be wondering how much a project like this would cost.  Let's just say not as much as a new solid 10K Hamilton watch would cost.   A better question is how much is restoring your grandfather's heirloom worth to you?  With that in mind, this project was a great deal.

I think this project also shows that where there's a will, there's a way.  If a Hamilton watch is important to you, don't let anyone tell you "It's not worth fixing".

Sunday, February 18, 2018

1960 Thinline 2000

It wasn't unusual in the 1920's and 1930's for men's models to have multiple dial and case material choices.  In fact, some models came in gold filled and solid gold in colors like white, yellow or green gold.  You might even find materials like sterling silver and platinum sneaking in too.  Then you could add the options of black inlaid enamel, applied gold figures and luminous dial options to the mix.  A single model could have 20+ or more possible permutations.

The amount of variety within a specific model decreased over the years but that was made up for by a greater number of model designs being offered.    However, some models still came with options.  For example, the 1960 Thinline 2000 came in both white or yellow gold and you had the choice of white or gold-colored dial with the yellow case or a white or black dial with the white gold case.


In 1961 the Thinline 2000 offering was reduced to the 14K white gold case only and the only available dial was black.  That means if you see a yellow gold Thinline 2000 it must be a 1960 version.


One reason for the lack of variety in the 1961 model year was the phase out of the movements used in  the original Thinline models and the introduction of Buren-based calibers that would be used later in the 1960s.

I don't know if the Thinline 2000 is a "rare watch" but I saw a few for sale at the same time.  Maybe it was just a coincidence.  In any event, I landed one that appeared to be in good shape, albeit with a little lug wear thanks to the metal bracelet.


The back of this watch has a presentation from 1962.  This doesn't look like factory engraving though and it probably came from a local jeweler who had the watch in inventory.


You can tell from the lip on the back of the case (above) that this is a two-piece case and the back pops off.  With the bezel and crystal out of the way, it appears that the dial is in very good overall condition with just a smidgen of crud around the outside perimeter.


Behind the dial is 17 jewel 676 movement.  This Swiss-made movement is based on an Aurore  Villeret movement.  Aurore was an ebauche-maker from same family as other makers in the ESA Swiss trust.


The inside of case back is clearly marked Hamilton W. Co.  You should look for this sort of mark when identifying a solid gold cased model - as without this stamp the watch is likely not an authentic model (1930's models excluded).


While things are being cleaned in the ultrasonic I will measure the beat up crystal so I can pick out a replacement.  29.4mm is the current diameter.


Since the watch has a very low profile I will try a PK-style crystal.  29.3mm may be too small but I'll give it a shot before going larger.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  The most challenging aspects of this movement are the balance jewels.  They are about half the size of the jewel setting that the ETA movements use so they are extra-easy to lose.


The reassembled movement is ticking away with a nice motion.  Time to see what the timer thinks of it.


Not too bad at all.  I'll leave it running a little fast for the time being but the rest of the specs look great.


A new crystal and a fresh alligator strap bring this 58 year old watch back to showroom condition.  This is a great looking watch... it's very sleek but it's also a good size.  It measures about 34mm wide, which is a large size for a vintage watch.



Sunday, February 11, 2018

1966 Dateline A-279

There are 66 Dateline models in the Hamilton lineup, starting in 1963 and going into the 1970s.  Not all calendar models are Dateline models but most of them are.

Of the 66 Dateline models, half are A-series models.  Eight of the 33 A-models came in solid gold cases and of the those eight, one is the 1966 Dateline A-279.  It was produced only in the 1966/67 timeframe.

Priced at $175, it retailed at the equivalent of about $1,300 in today's dollars.  Try finding a quality watch in a solid gold case at that price in a jewelry store today!  Of course, gold was priced at $35 an ounce in 1966 - quite a bit different than today.


Solid gold models tend to be less common than gold filled, which is understandable.  Finding the eight Dateline A-2-somethings could take a while.  I recently had someone send me an A-279 that they recently picked up.  Looking closely at it, it appears that it has never been worn.


Some Datelines are in the Thin-o-matic T-series line and a good way to determine which line the watch is in is to see how deep the pie-pan back is.


There are no marks whatsoever inside the case back so the odds are good this watch hasn't been opened in over 50 years.


The Dateline A-series models are powered by the 17 jewel Hamilton 694A movement - or at least all of the models I've seen so far have that movement.  It's basically a 689A movement but with a calendar complication added on the front.


Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.


The partially reassembled movement is now ticking away with good motion.  It's off to the timer to see how well it's running.


Not too bad at all.  The amplitude is a little low but I haven't fully wound the watch yet since there's no crown attached.  On most watches I'd call it a day at this point but it's so easy to adjust the beat error I would feel guilty not lowering it even more.


Just a minor tweak to the hairspring stud dials the beat error in to near-zero.  I'll leave it running a smidgen fast for now, it will probably slow a little as everything settles in.


Well, this watch looks pretty much the same as it did at the start.  But now the owner can use it without concern about the watch running without oil.  Even though the watch may not have been used in 50 years, the oil inside surely evaporated long ago and needed to be replace.