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, January 2, 2022

1958 Lansing

In the early days of Hamilton wrist watches the first models were named after their shapes.  For example you had the Cushion, Oval or the Rectangular.  Sometimes they got creative and added other features like if it was engraved or if the bezel opening was a different shape - like a Cushion Round.

Fairly quickly they ran out of shapes so other themes emerged like famous resorts of the time... Piping Rock, Coronado, etc. and there was also a unique line dedicated to noteworthy explorers (Bird, et al).

By the early 1930s most mens' models received mens' names - often more unique names versus common names.  For example there's a Webster but no Peter.  I suspect models were named after people important to the Hamilton factory or Lancaster area but I've never seen a specific list of who inspired which model.

In the 1950's there were lots of new models introduced, perhaps too many for marketeers to come up with names so they adopted numbers for certain lines.  The first automatics were called Automatics and the series was K-something.  What was the K for?   I'll tell you...  I don't know.  If I had to make a guess I would say it stood for Kurth, as Kurth Freres was the Swiss-maker of the initial K-series of automatic movements for Hamilton.  However Eterna made some early models too so that theory may have some flaws.

Anyway, sometimes the model name makes you wonder what the genesis was.  An example is the 1958 Lansing.  Was it named after the city in Illinois or was there an employee at the factory named Lansing?  Was it the twin brother of who ever inspired the Courtney - as the two models are very similar.  

Regardless, the Lansing was produced for only two years and you don't tend to see them very often.  If you do see one, it may actually be something else, as there are other very similar looking models like the 1958 Courtney.

The Lansing was cased in solid 14K yellow gold.  It's an interesting model in that it features a dial with both embossed (stamped) markers as well as 14K applied gold numerals.  That's pretty unusual but the 1950s introduced a lot of never-before-seen features.

The 1958 catalog shows the model has a 22 jewel movement.  That can only mean one thing - the 12/0 sized 770 movement.

My Lansing project watch came courtesy of the nephew of the original owner.  Family watches make wonderful heirlooms.  It was a little tarnished from a few decades in a drawer but still worked when wound.  That's always a good sign that all it needs is a good cleaning.

The back of the 14K case is engraved with a presentation for 20 years of faithful service.

I didn't see any previous watchmaker's marks inside the case back so I may be the first person to actually work on this watch since it left the factory.  Notice the soft haze on some of the parts.  This will make for a significant before and after comparison.  There is no rust inside so I think this is just the result of many years sitting in the same place.

If the catalog ad didn't specify the dial had embossed and applied markers, the back of the dial definitely does.  This dial is original and the brightly scraped areas are where the back of the rivets of the numerals were ground down after the numbers were applied.  The areas where there are no marks are the areas where the figures are embossed.

The printing on the dial is a bit faded and although the dial is a bit patina'd I don't want to risk losing the printing by cleaning the dial.  I'll give a very gentle rinse but nothing to risk damage - as, based on my experience, getting embossed dials refinished rarely has good results.  

All of the parts are stripped and cleaned in my ultrasonic cleaner before being reassembled.  I like the 770 movement - it goes back together so smoothly it almost reassembles itself.

Notice how much brighter the freshly cleaned movement is.  It's ticking away with good motion - time to see what the watch timer thinks.

Not too shabby.  The amplitude is vigorous and the beat error is within my personal specs.  It could be lowered by trial and error but each attempt risks disaster if something happens to the hairspring when the balance is repeatedly removed and reinstalled.  The Swiss-made models in the 1960s with moveable hairspring studs were a huge advancement in terms of making adjustments.  However, the US made movements can be a challenge to get the beat error near zero.  The impact of the beat error isn't huge.  A watch with zero beat error will run a little longer on a full wind but the negative impact of a beat error under 3.0ms is pretty minimal.

A gentle polish of the case and crystal, along with a fresh genuine lizard strap, complete the restoration of this 60+ year old Lansing.  The patina on the dial is appropriate and makes it look like the vintage watch that it is.  I'm sure the owner will be very happy with the results.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

1959 Golden Tempus II

Happy New Year!  May your new year resolutions be successful, and may you find peace, purpose, and prosperity in 2022.

My first project of 2022 is one of my own projects that I picked up a while back.  It's a unique model that you don't see everyday.

It's a 1959 Golden Tempus II.  It was produced for only two years.

As you might suspect, there was also a Golden Tempus introduced in 1957.  It was similar to the Golden Tempus II but cased in solid yellow gold with more dramatic lugs. The Golden Tempus II was cased in 14K gold fill.

The model is unique in that the case, dial, markers, etc are yellow but the hands are silver (rhodium plated).  That's not a very common attribute for Hamilton models, typically models are one color or the other.

Tucked inside the case is an 18 jewel US made movement and post 1955, that would imply a 735 movement.  

My project watch arrived in fairly good condition and showed wear and tear consistent with being 60+ years old.  The second hand is yellow but the hour and minute hands are white/silver.  I suspect the second hand is a replacement.

The back of the case could stand a little polishing but is otherwise unremarkable.

The yellow chapter ring is integral to the bezel and the dial is actually a smaller circle that fits inside the ring.  

The 8/0 size 735 movement is essentially the same as the earlier 748 movement other than the addition of shock jewels at the balance.

There are several prior watchmaker's marks inside the case back.  So that shows this watch had a lot of use and was well taken care off - but it may have some mileage on it as well.

Everything is cleaned and thoroughly dried before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.  I also installed a new crystal to brighten up the outside of the case.

Reassembling the 748 and 735 movements can be a bit daunting.  Most of the wheels have very long axles and getting all four wheels to line up at the same time takes a bit of finesse.  I don't tend to sweat it now but in my earlier days I would usually think twice before taking one apart.  I also filled in the black enamel on the Hamilton lettering on the train bridge.  It looks much better now than when I started.

It's running a wee bit fast according to the timer but I should be able to adjust it.

Looks like the regulator is pushed toward fast so I'll back that off a bit.

There... that's a lot better.  I'll leave it running a smidgeon fast as it may settle down after a while.

My finished watch looks much better, don't you think?

I searched my stash of parts and found a silver second hand that fit the post of a 735 so now it's closer to what it would have originally looked like.  This is a very unique and stylish watch with a lot of sparkle!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

1964 Hamilton Thin-o-matic T-209

It's interesting to note how prolific Hamilton's lineup became in the 30 years between 1930 and 1960.  For example, in 1934 there were 20 men's models in the lineup and in 1964 there were over 130!

Of course, over those 30 years Hamilton introduced automatic movements, Electric movements, models cases in stainless steel, even a variety of entry-level moves with Swiss-made manual winding movements. In 1934 you had your choice of a 987F movement or a 979F, when it came to wrist watches.  

Pocket watches were still very popular in the 1930s and there was a broad selection of calibers and models.  Pocket watches were still available in the 1960s, including Railroad models.

Anyway, I recently received a very nice Hamilton Thin-o-matic in need of some TLC.  It took me a while to figure out what model it was... either the T-203 or the T-209.  I'll give you my rationale below but I'll let you make up your mind too.

The T-203 was introduced in 1962 and made for three years.  It came in a solid 14K yellow gold case.

The T-209 was a one-year wonder, produced only in 1964.  It also has a 14K yellow gold case.

Both models appear to show the same dial and style of hands.

My project watch is pictured below.  Identifying a watch model requires taking into consideration several attributes...

  • What is the case material (gold filled, solid gold, stainless steel back, etc)
  • What is the shape of the crystal / bezel opening (round, rectangular, etc)
  • What are the markers on the dial (numbers, markers, etc.)
  • What is the movement inside?

Based on the photos above, which model do you think this is... the T-203 or the T-209?

The artists behind the catalog images always did a good job with their depictions and if you look very closely at the cases, you'll see the lugs attach to the case slightly differently.  Both bezels appear to have two steps around the circumference.  On the T-203 the lugs stop at the outside of the case.  On the T-209 the lugs go a little farther into the case, and join the first step.  In other words, on the T-203 you could trace a pencil point all around the bezel without hitting the lugs but on the T-209 your pencil point would hit the lugs.

So I went with the T-209 on this watch.  Let me know in the comments below if you'd disagree.

Looking at the back of the case, you can probably guess this model has a micro-rotor automatic tucked inside.  The case back is flat.  I don't see any sort of seam so I suspect this is a one-piece case and opens through the crystal.

Watches that open through the crystal have a two-piece stem.  I have a small tool that I use to gently pry the crown out of the case and separate the male side from the female side of the stem.

You can see below the female side of the stem is in the crown.  Usually it's the other way around.

Once the stem is separated, I can lift off the crystal and the dial / movement will come out the front of the bezel.  There's a little bit of wear around the edges of the dial but nothing too dramatic.

As suspected, there's a micro-rotor movement inside.  In this case, the 17 jewel 620 caliber.  These movements were made by Buren in Switzerland.  Hamilton eventually would acquire Buren and, after that, close the Lancaster PA factory and move production to Buren's Swiss facilities.

I can see from the circle inside the case back that the rotor has been rubbing the inside of the case.  I can also see a previous watchmaker's mark inside the circle.  So this watch has been serviced at least once since 1964.

The dial-side of the main plate looks very clean so I don't think this watch has had a lot of use over the last 5 decades.

Everything is taken apart and thoroughly cleaned and dried.  There are a LOT of parts in a micro-rotor movement and a lot of places to lubricate during reassembly.

You might be able to tell how much brighter the freshly cleaned movement is.  It really sparkles now and it's running with a nice motion.

The timer agrees.  It's running just a smidgeon slow but I really haven't wound it much yet since there's no crown on the movement.

Everything goes back into the case and a new crystal is installed to complete the overhaul.  This is a beautiful watch and has styling that would be appropriate in a Hamilton showroom today.