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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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

1955 Automatic K-100

If you've followed my blog you might recall how I occasionally come by mysterious models that don't show up in the catalogs.

It's not unusual to find a Hamilton movement and dial recased in a jeweler's case.  These watches are often referred to as "frankens", as in Frankenstein, since they can be assemblies of various incorrect parts.  It's significant to realize that very often a watch's case would wear out long before the movement did.  Jewelers could make more money by recasing a movement and giving an old watch new life, and they often embellished them with diamonds and other bling.  Jeweler-specials are somewhere between a complete franken and authentic models, but way closer to the franken-side of the continuum.  Their value is in the movement and whatever scrap value the case offers.

In February of this year I came across an uncatalogued model that I called a K-200-something because the case was solid 14K gold and properly marked as a Hamilton model.  Then, shortly thereafter I came across another!  So it's definitely a legitimate and unidentified model.

What made that model interesting is the dial looked like is was for the K-100, the only solid 18K gold model in the K-series.  (There is a K-150 with stainless steel back but only the K-100 is solid 18K front & back).

The K-100 was introduced in 1955 and produced through 1957.
The K-100 is an interesting model in numerous ways, beyond just being solid 18K gold.  It has flexible lugs that are attached to the case in a manner that makes the strap look like it has gold tips.  It has solid 18K numerals and markers on the dial, along with a pearled minute track.  It's a very sharp-looking watch - which you'd expect from the flagship of the Automatic K-series lineup.

Tucked inside you'll find the 17 jewel 661 movement, the typical grade for the majority of the K-models.

A friend of mine recently landed a K-100 and shortly thereafter found a franken with a nicer dial and a 667 movement.  He sent them both to me for a trip to the spa and to get the original K-100 squared away. 

As received, the watch looked great on the outside.  You can see on the catalog that there are lines on the dial that extend inward from the markers.  You can see them on this dial at the 3, 5, 7 and 9 positions but they're not colored at all.  I've seen this dial a number of times now and none of them have color in those lines but the lines are always visible.


Solid gold cases are always verdigris-free so they have a look that is very easy to spot.  If you see verdigris anywhere, it's not solid gold.


The case back makes it easy to identify the model... it say K-100 right inside.


My friend installed the nicer of the two dials in the watch, along with the 667 that it came with.  The 667 replaced the 661 early in the 1960's.  The contour of the rotor is about the only difference that I've been able to identify between the two grades.


The dial and movement that came with the 661 originally looks to be in very nice shape too.  Notice the white lines extending inward from the hour markers... strange, huh?


The 661 looks like the 667 but you can see the outside of the rotor is a different shape than the 667.  This movement isn't running but as soon as I took the hands off, it started right up.


Oddly enough, this movement is missing it's clutch wheel and the winding pinion.  So this watch will wind itself but you can't set the time or winding it manually.  I have a parts movement so I can donate the missing parts.  I could have taken them from the 667 too, but then that movement would be out of commission.


The clutch wheel (left) and the winding pinion will be installed after the movement is cleaned and reassembled.


Which dial to use... it's nice to have a tough decision.  I'll go with the one on the right, its just a smidgen nicer.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly with fresh lubricants.


The movement is now running but I still have to put the jewels back into the balance cock.


Reinstalling these two little jewels can be nerve wracking... one flick and they will disappear, never to be seen again.


Still running... that's always a relief.  The gold shock spring holds the jewels in place.


The watch is running a little fast but I'll leave it like this for a while.  It should slow down a little after an hour or two.


The clutch and winding pinion are installed.  Now for the cannon pinion, minute wheel, setting wheel and hour wheel - then the dial can go back on.


With everything back to ship-shape and a correct 661 under the hood, this watch is ready to be sealed back up.


A light polish is all that's needed to get the outside of the watch to look as good as the inside.  The K-100 is a wonderful model and would be a centerpiece for anyone's collection.  Too bad I have to send this one back!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

1964 Galen

The number of watches in Hamilton's lineup seemed to increase every year starting in the 1960's.  Between the Thin-o-matics, Accumatics, Electrics, Thinlines, and the variety of high end US-made models with 770 movements (et al), there was a huge variety of models at every price point.

One of the entry level models with a Swiss-made ├ębauche movement was the 1964 Galen.  I was produced for four years.  Many of the entry level models came only on a bracelet, matched to the design of the case.  The Galen is a good example of the practice.


The Galen features bold dauphine-style hands and textured seconds register.  Being the embossed dial is a Hamilton 686 movement.

I recently picked up a Galen project watch but the bracelet has been lost to time.   There's a little spotting to the dial and the watch could use a thorough cleaning but it looked like a promising project.


The stainless steel case back is engraved with the name of the probable original owner.  I always find engraved watches to be very interesting.  They make me wonder about who the owner was and where this watch went.  I especially like watches with an obvious sentiment as part of the presentation.  The presentation is pretty basic... maybe it was a service award for a work anniversary.


The movement is shiny but it's also very dirty.  A thorough cleaning is definitely in order.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly.


The movement is now back to running order.  The balance motion looks good so it's off to the timer to find out for sure.


Well, the beat error of 8.1ms is way too high.  The amplitude is under 200 degrees too.  I'll run this through the demagnetizer and make sure it's fully wound.


It's still a bit noisy inside but the amplitude has increased.  I'll reclean the hairspring and see what that difference that makes.


Still a bit noisy... I don't see anything obvious so maybe the noise is pallet fork related.  I'll reclean the hairspring and the pallet fork and see what different that makes.


Alright... getting a clean signal, now I just need to adjust the beat error.  That's easy to do on this movement as the hair spring stud is adjustable.


You can see the two lines slowly get closer together as I tweak the hair spring stud.  The final position is under the 0.2ms on the display.  I'll leave the watch running a smidgen fast - as it will slow a little after a while.


The finished project turned out well.  The dial spotting is obvious but it isn't too bad.  This is a radial finished dial and the textured seconds register might make this a difficult dial to get redone correctly.  So I'll leave it as is.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

1951 Bailey

The early 1950's was a little like the 1940's and even though new models were introduced, they seemed to echo the prior models quite a bit.  That all changed in 1954 with the introduction of automatics and larger models.  However, the first years of the 1950's was very traditional.

Take for example the 1951 Bailey.  I was produced for only two years.


The Bailey looks a lot like several different prior models, for example the 1948 Forbes, but there are plenty of others.  A lot of times you need to look closely at the dial to narrow down what model it is.  For example, is the dial all numerals, numerals and markers, or markers and dots.

The Bailey has a 14K gold filled case, that's a good identification clue to - as other models have 10K gold filled cases.

The 14K gold filled cases with 14/0 movements got the 19 jewel 982 movement.  10K gold filled models got the 17 jewel 980 movement.  Solid gold models got the 982M movement.

The dial on the Bailey is sterling silver with a white finish.  The dial features 18K solid gold numerals and dots.

I haven't seen too many Baileys in the wild but that doesn't mean it's rare.  I did happen upon one recently though and it look ed like it would be a good project.  It arrived with a vintage strap that was well worn.  I have no idea if it's original or not.


The case back is unengraved and doesn't show too much wear.  The crystal is all beat up but the rest seems like all it needs is a good cleaning.


The dial looks very nice too and appears to be original.


Hamilton did a nice job decoratively engraving their movements.  That's a sure mark of quality considering the only people who would ever see this side of the movement would be watchmakers.  The watch is ticking.  That's always a good sign.


Identifying the model is a breeze thanks to the name being stamped into the case back.  That's not always the case (pardon the pun) but it's definitely helpful.


A new white alloy mainspring is ready to be inserted into the barrel.


There are three challenges to installing a mainspring.  First, you have to make sure you wind it in the right direction.  Next, you need to install it in the barrel and get the little tab on the T-end of the spring to catch in the tiny hole in the barrel.  Finally you need to get the arbor back into center of the spring and not lose it in the process - as it has a tendency to fly off if you're not super careful.


I'll also prep a new glass crystal for installation after the case gets out of the ultrasonic.


Everything is cleaned and dried and ready for reassembly.


The movement is now ticking away.  The motion looks pretty good so it's off to the timer.


Well, the amplitude is good, there's a little noise but the beat error of 9.7ms is way too high.


My first attempt to reduce the beat error is basically a best-guess at which direction to adjust the hairspring.  I lowered it to 5.8ms but getting below 3.0 is my objective and the closer to zero the better.


Well, that'll do.  It doesn't get much better than this.


Installing the dial and hands is a breeze compared to overhauling the movement.  Reassembling it all into the freshly polished case with a new crystal, this watch is looking great, even with it's old strap.


Old straps are interesting but I personally find them to be a little on the nasty side too.  They can't be cleaned as well as an old bracelet.  So I've outfitted this watch with a fresh Hamilton-branded strap.