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, October 23, 2016

1971 Thin-o-matic TM-4801

Some Hamilton models are meant to be paired with a bracelet and the bracelet is an integral part of the design.  In fact, there are a few solid gold men's and ladies models that came with matching solid gold bracelets.

I suspect that more than a few watches met their demise when gold prices got high enough that people thought melting down grandpa's watch was an idea too good to refuse.

As you would suspect, a solid gold watch and bracelet would have been pretty expensive back in the 1960s but Hamilton offered similar models at a more modest gold filled price point.  Take, for example, the 1971 Thin-o-matic TM 4801 - it was about a third of the cost of solid gold models.  It was offered for two years.

The 1970's ushered in newer movements with higher beat rates than the typical 5 ticks per second that watches had used for the previous 70 years.  At 5 beats per second, or 18,000 beats per hour, you could only be precise to 1/5th of a second.  Greater precision needs finer resolution so models evolved to 6 or more beats per second and sometimes upwards of 10 for "high frequency" models - that's 36,000 beats per hour.

Anyway, the micro-rotors that Hamilton had been using in the 1960s evolved to newer grades with faster beat rates.  The TM-4801 received the 628 grade with a 19,800 BPH rate, or 5.5 ticks per second.

A fellow collector recently sent me one of his TM-4801 watches.  As received is was in decent shape and appeared to run.  Although the second hand moved I don't think the minute and hour hands were moving.  So this watch has something going on inside.

This is the first time I've seen one of these models with an integral bracelet so I wasn't sure if the bracelet was a part of the case or if they some how attached.  You can't tell from the catalogs how the bracelet functions but this one operates much like a strap and has a clasp to join the two sides.

Looking at the back of the watch, you can see the bracelet hides traditional lugs and wraps over them to give the appearance the bracelet and watch are integrated.  You could put this watch on a strap but it would have to be very narrow to fit between the lugs.

The TM-4801 opens through the crystal and the movement and dial pivot out until the two-piece stem releases.  The 628 is a 17 jewel grade and is similar to other micro-rotors but also different in several ways.  Notice there is no "center wheel" visible.

With the dial and hands removed, you can see the dial side of the main plate.  It looks typical of most watches but something is going on under the set bridge.  I'll have to take the two screws out to see how this watch works - but first I'll make sure the mainspring is relieved.

I removed the cannon pinion and hour wheel so now you can see the larger minute wheel next to two setting wheels and the smallest silver wheel is actually part of what would typically be called the center wheel - although it's not in the center in this case.  How does this watch work?

Here's another shot of the front without the extra wheels.  In a typical watch the center wheel is driven by the movement and the cannon pinion is mounted to the center wheel post.  The cannon pinion has to be able to slip on the center wheel post so that you can set the time without jamming the movement to a stop.  The cannon pinion also has to be tight enough that the center wheel can turn it - as the minute hand is attached to the cannon pinion and it also turns the minute wheel and then the hour wheel with the hour hand.  It has to be "just right", not too tight and not too loose.

I've never seen this sort of setup before but I suspect the silver portion of the wheel shown below is actually meant to slide on the center wheel - and allow you to set the time as well as drive the hour and minute hands.  This part comes out the back of the movement and it's a good thing I let down the mainspring or all of the power would have been released when I removed the set bridge.

The center wheel is not supported by jewels, just bushings on the set bridge and the train bridge (below).

The first things I'll take off from the back are the rotor and the balance.  They free up about half of the real estate on the back of the movement.

I pull the pallet fork and the ratchet wheel next, to make sure there's no power inside the watch.

Now I can remove the barrel bridge.  The barrel itself is stuck inside the movement until I remove the wheels that are covering it.  One is the center wheel and the other is the winding wheel for the automatic gear train.

Two screws hold the automatic gear train bridge in place so once that's out of the way I can pull out the five wheels used to transmit power from the rotor to the barrel.  One of the wheels is under the  large pink jewel.  That wheel floats inside the watch and allows the watch to wind regardless of the direction the rotor spins.

Now I can remove the two screws that hold the train wheels in place.

It's good to take photos like this so that I know how these wheels are supposed to nest together.  There's a tiny seconds pinion in the center of the movement with it's own bridge supporting it.

Everything is now off the main plate and it can all go into the ultrasonic cleaner.

While everything was drying I spend about 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the seconds pinion.  It flipped up into the ether when I grabbed it with my tweezers.  I felt it hit my elbow - good thing I was wearing a short sleeve shirt.  Look how tiny this part is... but it's important if you want to have an operable second hand.

Phew!  All parts present and accounted for.  Time to put it back together.

Alright... almost there.  I can now wind the watch and put the balance back on.

The watch is now running.  That's a bit of a relief - these micro-rotors are very complicated.

Hmmm.... this beat rate is too fast so it doesn't really matter what the two lines look like.  I'll re-clean the hairspring, perhaps a couple of the coils are sticking.

Alright, getting warmer.  The beat error is a bit too high but the rest is looking better.

Adjusting the beat error is proving harder than I expected but I'm getting there slowly but surely.

A man's got to know his limitations... this will have to do.

Now I can put the rotor back on and then flip the watch over and install the dial and hands.

Ta da!  This watch was a real pain in the arse and I think I may have to get some therapy before I tackle another micro-rotor.  It looks pretty good though.  I ended up having to change the center wheel with another from a spare - as the original wheel was slipping and that's why the hands wouldn't move with the watch.  The watch looks and runs just as it should now.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

1958 Clearview

Some people think round watches are "boring".  Maybe they think there is only so much you can do to make a round watch unique.  Although I would tend to agree that a lot of round watches look similar, there are quite a few models that are unlike any other.

For example, check out the 1958 Clearview.  It was made for three years but you will be hard pressed to find one in the wild.  It is not a common model.

The Clearview came in a solid 14K yellow gold case.  It has long lugs that remind me a little of bunny ears.  What makes the model really pop is the sterling silver dial with embossed golden colored markers and solid 14K gold markers at 3 and 9 and numerals at 12 and 6.

The diamond shaped marker below the Hamilton name indicates the Clearview is part of the Masterpiece line.  Not all Masterpiece models had the diamond shaped marker, depending on the year, but this marker is a definite indicator of a Masterpiece watch.

Tucked inside the case is an 8/0 sized 735 movement that was made in Lancaster PA.

I recently received a Clearview project watch.  Although this model is very uncommon, it looks familiar because there is an Electric model called the Converta III with a similar, but different dial.  The Converta III came out after the Clearview though - so it's more likely the Clearview inspired the Converta III.

Looking at the narrowness of the bezel (the crystal goes all the way to the edge) and then at the case back, it appears like this watch may open through the crystal.

However, when you look closely at the edge you can see a seam, so this is a two-piece case and the bezel pops off the back of the case.

The dial goes almost to the edge of the case too - so this bezel is very thin.  Now the dial and movement can be lifted out the back.

The 735 movement is not running for some reason.  It's a little dirty and nothing looks unusual so it could just be gummed up with old oil.

It's easy to spot a solid gold case because there is never any green verdigris like you'll find on a gold filled case.

I pulled the hour wheel and cannon pinion and the watch didn't start running, so whatever the issue is with the movement, it's on the back side of the main plate.  You can tell in this shot that the crown is worn and is actually coming apart, so I'll replace that after the movement is back in good shape.

Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.

The white alloy mainspring that was in the watch can be reused.  I just cleaned it and rewound it with my mainspring winder so I can reinstall it in the barrel.

The 8/0 sized 748 movement and the 735 that replaced it are tricky to put back together because you have to get four wheels to come together perfectly before the train bridge will fall back in place.  It's very easy to break a pivot off the escape wheel if any force is applied.

I got this movement back together and then realized I forgot to put the winding wheel back on.  Normally that part goes on later but it has to go on now because the third wheel blocks access to it.

In the shot you can see the winding wheel (on the left) is in place .  Notice that one of the two screws that hold it down is visible.  The other screw is blocked by the third wheel.  Now the reassembly can proceed.

Putting the pallet fork on last makes lining up the four wheels easier and it also ensures the escape wheel doesn't accidentally damage the pallet jewels.

The next step is to install the balance.  In order to do that I need to put the balance jewels back under their shock springs.  These incabloc springs are like tiny tuning forks and you squeeze the open end to allow the spring to open and swing out.

The balance jewel and cap jewel are inserted and then the incabloc spring goes back in place to hold it all in place.

With a little tension added to the mainspring, once the balance goes back into place the watch should start running.  The balance is swinging away nicely and the next step is to add the other balance jewel assembly in the balance cock.

Although the watch is ticking, the performance looks like crap on the timer.  So I'll run it through the demagnetizer and reclean the hairspring.

It took a little tweaking but the watch is now running nicely, just a little slow but that's easily adjusted.

There... nothing wrong with this movement's performance now.  The beat error of 1.4ms is well within my usual specs of acceptable.  Adjusting it is a pain and the benefit doesn't out weigh the potential risk of screwing up the hairspring.

The finished watch looks as good as it did when I started - but now it's running as nice as it looks.  Actually it looks even better because the new crown is much better than before.  This is a really cool looking watch and I bet even people who think round watches are boring wouldn't mind giving this watch a little wrist time.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

1932 Hamilton Bok - Tycoon Series 400 Grade

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch?  Time to get a new watch, right?

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch in 1932?  Probably not a great time to buy an 18K gold watch... or so it would seem.

In 1928 Hamilton purchased the Illinois Watch Company - a premier watch brand in it's own right.  Illinois would continue to make watches but the Great Depression took it's toll on everything, including the watch industry.  It wasn't a great time to sell high-end watches, but they tried.

One of the really interesting pocket watch lines is the Tycoon series with the 21 jewel grade 400 movement.   The grade 400 was based on excess Illinois grade 528 movements left over in inventory.

The Tycoon models were second only to the 23 jewel "masterpiece" models with the 922 movement, although that can really be debated.  They were considerably thinner than anything else in Hamilton's lineup and in many ways were ahead of their time... as you'll see in a bit.

About 2,300 grade 400 movements were made in total.  The first 800 used existing Illinois grade 528 movements and you'll find the Illinois serial number stamped on the main plate under the dial on Hamilton 400 movements with serial numbers between H1000 and H1800.

The later 1,500 grade 400s also have a number stamped on the main plate.  Although those numbers also have 7 digits, they start with the number 540 and the last four digits are the same as the movement Hamilton serial number HXXXX in the range of H2000 through H3500.  The 540XXXX serial numbers don't show up as an Illinois serial number and the overall construction is slightly different, so they are believed to be uniquely Hamilton-produced movements.

Although most collectors today favor the larger 16 size or 18 size railroad grade pocket watches, the 21 jewel 12 size 400 models dress pocket watches typically command a premium.  That's partly because of the case material but also because of the overall scarcity of the models - not to mention it's a very attractive looking movement.

The Tycoon series came in solid 18K gold cases in white, yellow or green gold, depending on the model.  The Tycoon line was produced through 1934.

The Great Depression hit the high end watch market hard and eventually the remaining inventory of grade 400 movements was used in award watches with gold filled cases.  By that time the newer 12 size grades like the 917, 921 and 923 were being produced and the 400 inventory needed to be phased out.

Up until now I had actually never seen a 400 series movement first hand so I was happy to take on a project from a fellow collector when he managed to find one.

The model he landed was a Bok.  The Bok is likely named after Edward Bok, a well known editor of the Ladies Home Journal and Pulitzer Prize recipient from the 1920s.  You can thank Edward Bok for the term "living room" - as prior to that the space in your home was typically referred to "the parlor" or "drawing room".

The Bok is a futuristic model in my opinion.  Why?... well you could say the model was the inspiration for Hamilton pocket watches for the next 30 years.  In fact, at first glance, if you didn't know any better, you'd expect the Bok to contain a 917 or 921 movement,

As received, my project watch looks like it was stored in a time capsule.  It's got some light wear, so it's not "showroom new" but all of the edges are sharp - especially for being solid 18K yellow gold.  The sterling silver dial has "raised gold numerals" and a pearlized track, you'd expect this watch to have been made in the 1940's or 50's... no?

The 400 is also Hamilton's first positive set men's pocket watch movement.  That means the stem is retained in the movement and not in the case.

The case back is engraved with the original owner's initials.

Check out this movement... very pretty, isn't it?  It has solid gold jewel settings.

You don't find too many 18K gold pocket watches in Hamilton's line up.  Only platinum would be higher end.

The first thing I noticed is there are no dial feet screws on the circumference of the main plate.  There are none on the back either.  What's holding this dial on? Hmmm...  I've never seen this sort of set up before.

Well, it took some research and an email to a professional watchmaker friend to determine that the dial is held on by friction.  The dial has a lip going around it like the lid of Pringles can.  Supposedly all I have to do is pop it off without totally screwing up the dial... should be nothing to it - right?

Eventually I realized if I held the movement in my movement holder I could use my hand press tool to slowly work my way around the perimeter of the main plate and pop the dial off.  I decided to remove the balance first - just in case - as the last thing I needed to do is break the balance staff.

Success... the dial landed gently on my work surface and in a Pinocchio sort of way is saying, "There are no feet on me..."  I've never seen this type of dial set up on any other Hamilton model.  Hopefully it will go back on as easily.

Sure enough, this is an early 400 grade and you can see the Illinois serial number that dates this main plate to the early 1920's.

While the main plate is facing up, I'll go ahead and take the cannon pinion and setting wheels off.

On the back side, the balance is already removed, so with the mainspring tension fully let off I can start to disassemble the gear train.

Notice this five-tooth click... very unique for a Hamilton model.

With the crown wheel and ratchet wheel removed you can see the barrel bridge is ready to be unscrewed and lifted away.

This barrel set up is called a motor barrel.  The arbor floats in two jewels, one on each end.

Next to come off is the train bridge for the center wheel and 3rd wheel.

The center and 3rd wheels are free to be removed.  Two more screws secure the bridge for the 4th wheel and escape wheel.  That comes off next.

Finally I can remove the pallet bridge and all the parts will be ready to be cleaned in the ultrasonic.

So far so good.  Everything is cleaned and dried.  Now I just have to put it all back together.

The train is back in place. Next on is the barrel and it's bridge.

At this point I can wind the watch and energize the mainspring.  I could put the balance on next but before I do that I want to put the dial-side parts back on, including the dial.  That way I don't risk goofing up the balance when I try to pop the dial back in place.

All the setting parts are back in place, including the cannon pinion and hour wheel.  Now I just need to press the dial back on and make sure the second hand bit is centered in the hole.

Here we go... wish me luck.

Going nice and easy got the job done.  You'll see in my photos that I'm wearing finger cots to make sure that I don't get any finger prints on the dial.

Now the balance can go back on.   Once everything is in position the watch should start running.

Hooray!  Running nicely, just a smidgen fast.  The micro regulator on the balance cock makes it hard to adjust the watch when it's installed in the case so I'll slow it down now.

There... 5 seconds fast per day with great amplitude and an acceptable beat error.  Nothing wrong with this watch's time keeping.

At this point the movement can go back into the case and then I'll put the hands on.

My project Bok even came with it's original box... or is that it's Boks?  Regardless, this is a super nice dress pocket watch and a definite keeper.  Too bad it's not mine.