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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.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1968 Thinline 4009

When Hamilton ceased US production in 1969 much of the Hamilton model line was discontinued.  Not all models ended though... some continued on for a few more years.  Hamilton had acquired Buren in the early 1960's and used Buren's movements in their "Thin" watches like the Thin-o-Matics and Thinline series.  When Hamilton's US production stopped, manufacturing shifted to the Buren plant in Switzerland.

Anyway - one of the models that was introduced in 1968 and produced into the 1970's was the Thinline 4009.  It was produced until 1971.


The Thinline 4009 is one of the few gold filled models with Swiss manual winding movements.  It seems most of the time you'll find them in rolled gold case.

The dial on the 4009 is a brushed silver finish with a gold chapter ring and golden markers with black insets.  The golden baton-style hands also have a black stripe to match.

Tucked inside is a Hamilton 639 movement - this 17 jewel was made by Buren and is the same as a caliber 280.

I recently picked up a Thinline 4009 that was rather dirty but I hoped would clean up well.  It came on a Speidel bracelet that was not original to the watch, so I removed it as it was starting to wear into the lugs a little.


The 10K gold filled case opens through the crystal and from this perspective you can see why this watch is part of the Thinline series... it's very skinny.


The 639 is a nice movement, in my opinion.  First of all, all the axles are short so it's very easy to line up all the pivots.  Second, the balance cock has a moveable hairspring stud - so tuning in the beat error is a breeze.  The only thing I don't appreciate with the 639 is the hairspring is very close to the regulator so you have to be extremely careful not to touch the hairspring if you attempt to move the regulator.


The dial-side of the pillar plate is hazy and that's a sure sign this watch hasn't had a trip to the spa lately.


The one-piece case has a movement ring (removed) and it reminds me of the "Sea Something" that I restored last month.  The bottom is a little flatter though.  The inside of this case back is very dirty too, for some reason.


Everything gets cleaned and dried.  The dial had a couple of old fingerprints but I was able to remove them - thank goodness.


The reassembled movement goes onto the timer and initially it started off running a little slow (36 seconds per day with an acceptable beat error of 1.2ms.  The amplitude of 208 degrees is a little low but that's because I didn't wind it fully since this watch has a split stem.


A little tweaking to the hairspring stud and the regulator gets the watch to even on pretty much dead on with an even better beat error.  I could probably get it even closer but I don't want to risk hitting the hairspring.


And here's the finished watch with a new crystal and a nice, thin lizard strap.  I had to take the photo on an angle as the markers and hands are so reflective they look black from straight on.  This is a highly reflective watch - which is great, as everyone wants a dress watch with a little bling every now and again.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

1953 Sheldon CLD

Sometimes I think you have a better chance of spotting a unicorn than you do some vintage Hamilton models.  There are quite a few models that were extremely expensive back in their day - so very few people could afford them.  The reason other models are so scarce is a bit of a mystery - maybe they just weren't popular.  Regardless, there are quite a few fairly ordinary watches that you just don't tend to see.

A good example is the 1953 Sheldon.  It was part of the CLD ("sealed") line of watches that incorporated a series of gaskets to seal them from the environment.  The CLD line predated the "waterproof" models introduced later in the 1950's.   They weren't waterproof, just "sealed from the environment".  Anyway... you never, ever, see Sheldons in the wild.

The Sheldon was produced from 1953 through 1955 - so I don't really know why there aren't more of them around.  Go figure...


The Sheldon came in a 10K gold filled case with your choice of an all numeral AGN sterling silver dial or, starting in 1954, an applied gold numeral / marker dial.   If the model looks familiar, it's probably because it looks a lot like the 1948 Brandon - which was discontinued in 1951.

Like the Brandon, the Sheldon has a two piece case.  When the bezel is popped of, the movement can be pulled out the front, thanks to a two-piece stem.

Inside the Sheldon you will find Hamilton's 12/0 size 753 movement with 19 jewels.  This movement would be replaced in 1955 by the 22 jewel 770 movement so you might find a 770 inside if you ever come across a 1955 Sheldon.

When I first started collecting Hamiltons I was quickly drawn to the CLD line.  The early CLD's like the Nordon, Langdon, Brandon and Steeldon are fairly common.  They're very solidly built too - so they're often in good shape when you find them.  I thought that maybe I'd develop a nice collection of all of the CLD models - but then I realized that quite a few of them are solid gold and the later versions are extremely hard to find.  So I threw in the towel on CLD's and cast a much broader net.

One of my collecting friends as the CLD bug much worse than I did - and he recently came across a Sheldon in a local shop.  It's the first either one of us has seen in the flesh.   It wasn't running so he sent it to me for some TLC.

As received, it was in very nice shape - some typical bumps and bruises but no serious wear through to the gold filled case.  The bezel, in particular, can be very prone to wear on the corners.


One of the reasons for the lack of wear is the crystal stands proud of the bezel and that protects the entire watch from being worn through by long sleeves, etc.


The 753 is in surprisingly clean shape - I'm not sure why it's not running but it could just be caused by the oil inside turning to gel and stopping the power of the mainspring from going through the gears.  I'm optimistic that just a thorough cleaning will do the trick.


The 753 is virtually identical to the 770 with the exception of the extra 3 cap jewels employed on the 770 to bring the jewel count to 22.  Most of the internal parts are interchangeable.  Everything is completely taken apart and cleaned before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.


Right out of the chute the watch is running very nicely.  The beat error of 2.3 is on the higher side of acceptable.  Adjusting the beat error on a watch like this is very tricky business and requires several attempts to get it any closer.  Each attempt is pressing your luck, in my opinion, so like most things in watch repair - you need to know when to stop.


The movement, dial and hands all go back into the case, along with the reflector ring before the bezel is snapped back on.  I think the Sheldon is a close cousin to the Brandon - they are very similar - perhaps that's why the Sheldon is so uncommon.  It's a nice looking watch though and I'm sure my friend will enjoy giving this watch it's rightful place in his very nice CLD collection.


Monday, July 14, 2014

1964 Sea Raven

I think it's interesting how the crystal design can really impact the overall aesthetics of a watch.  In the early 1950's some models had beveled glass crystals.  However, in the 1960's there were a lot of "diamond edged" or faceted round acrylic crystals.

For example, check out the 1964 Sea Raven.  It was produced for two years and is unique from the other sea-somethings because it has a diamond-edged crystal.


The Sea Raven comes in a one-piece 10K RGP case with an integrated stainless steel back.  Tucked behind the silver dial is a 17 jewel Swiss-made 686 movement.

I recently purchased a Sea Raven project watch from a fellow collector.  The crystal was very scratched up and the dial has seen better days but it's a unique model and rarely comes up for sale.  It's definitely worth restoring.


Although the watch runs, a trip to the timer reveals that it's not running very well - 6 minutes fast per day is way too fast... even for a "vintage watch" and the beat error isn't too good either.  I think plus or minus 1 minute per day is within reason - although plus or minus 30 seconds or better isn't unrealistic either.


The stainless steel back shows signs of someone trying to open the case from the rear - but this watch opens through the crystal.


With the faceted crystal out of the way you can see the dial has a sort of haze over it.  A section of the N in Hamilton is missing, as is a tiny section of the seconds register.  So I'm going to leave this dial as-is and not try to clean it - there's a significant probability that any attempt to clean it would remove the printing all together.

It will look a lot better when it's under a new crystal.


The 686 movement is in decent shape but definitely needs a thorough cleaning.


The dial-side of the main plate is also fairly dirty - so this watch has clearly not been serviced in quite some time.


Finding this style of crystal is pretty tricky but it's a requirement.  A non-faceted crystal would change the watch's overall appearance.  Not a lot of places carry this style and GS crystals are not the right profile (they stand way too tall).  Stella DEC crystals are the best alternative I have found.  This watch takes a 30.6mm diameter crystal.


The movement is completely disassembled, cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh oil.


The newly reassembled movement is ticking away nicely but you never know how well it's running until it goes onto the timer.


The 686 is a nice movement and it allows you to adjust both the beat rate and the beat error so I was able to fine tune the movement to a very acceptable performance.


And here's the finished project watch, running well and outfitted with a fresh crystal.  My camera is merciless and shows every flaw in the dial.  It looks way better in person and the gold accents along with the facets in the crystal really make this Sea Raven sparkle!