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, April 6, 2019

WWII US Navy Model 27023

Arguably the rarest Hamilton WWII models are the watches made for the US Navy and Marine Corps.  110,000+ white-dialed models were made for the US Army and marked ORD-DEPT while it's not entirely clear how many black-dialed models for the US Navy were made.  There are records for the 987S and 2987 sweep second models for naval aviators but the other USN models with 987A are much less common.

I've posted about WWII models before but I recently had the opportunity to work on a 27023 model and thought I'd show you it's details.  Hamilton's WWII models with 987A movements supposedly had minor alterations to meet military specifications, including a new balance staff design.

My project watch came from a fellow collector and he sent it to me after a slight mishap.  Can you guess what happened?  If you guessed face-plant, then you're right.  He dropped it on a hard surface and it broke the crystal.  Whoops!

This watch has a really cool period correct sterling silver bracelet.

The other side has a medallion from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.  This public shipyard is still in operation today.  Notice the H on the case between the lugs - that's one of the clues to look for to determine authenticity.  This model has a Keystone case and it should have an H between the lugs.

If you look really closely you might be able to see this watch somewhere in the photo below... it was there at the same time.

The back of the case is properly marked with R88-W-800 and the part number 27023.

Inside the case back is a unique serial number for the watch.

The movement is held within a movement ring and a dust cover snaps onto the ring.  A gasket surrounds the cover and seals the case back when it's screwed on.

The movement number starts with an O (oh) and dates the watch to 1944.

Models for the US Navy have black dials with luminous numbers and hands.  The hands should be stainless steel and these are the correct hands.

This watch already has a white alloy mainspring installed so I will reuse it.

Everything is cleaned, dried, and ready for reassembly.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with a good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it.

Not too shabby.  The beat error of 2.7ms is on the higher end of my acceptable specs and the amplitude is a vigorous 316 degrees.  Should I try to reduce the beat error?

Well, the most desirable amplitude is between 250 and 300.  If amplitude gets too high the balance can swing all the way around and hit the opposite side of the pallet fork, causing it to bounce back and make the timing go wonky.  Amplitude will be higher when the movement is dial up or dial down since the friction is lowest in those positions.  When the movement is on edge all of the pivots are in use so the amplitude drops slightly.  If I decrease the beat error, the amplitude will increase.  So, since the amplitude is already pretty high, I think I'll leave the beat error as is.  The watch will stop a little sooner than if the beat error were lower but not that much sooner.

A new crystal definitely goes a long way toward making this watch look a lot better.  Now my friend just needs to make sure he doesn't drop it again!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

1961 Chatelaine II

Back in October of 2014 I did a post on one of the most longest-running models Hamilton made - the 1948 Chatelaine.  It's a ladies model and was marketed for "Nurses & Nuns" since it was the first ladies model to offer a sweep second hand.  It's a pendant watch and initially featured the 17 jewel 987S movement until that was replaced by the 748, and eventually the 735, and 736 after that.  It featured a sterling silver case.

In 1961 a second Chatelaine model was introduced, the Chatelaine II and it was available at the same time as the Chatelaine.  The two were marketed together until 1964.

The Chatelaine II was available with a Swiss-made movement and was offered at a lower price point than the original Chatelaine.

The Chatelaine II was replaced by the Chatelaine III in 1968 and it also featured a Swiss-made movement but I have yet to find a Chatelaine III in the wild so I'm not sure what makes it different.  It looks just like the Chatelaine II but there must be a significant difference to call it a III.

Generally ladies models don't interest me.  They are very small and they all tend to look alike.  Also, unfortunately ladies models don't command as much collector interest, so their value rarely justifies the cost to restore.  I think Chatelaine models are an exception to the rule though, they are a larger and can be worn more like jewelry than a cocktail watch.

I recently purchased a Chatelaine II and it came with a sterling fleur-de-lis mount that complemented the watch nicely.

The case back pops off and this watch's back in unengraved.  It's not unusual to find a Chatelaine with a presentation to a nun, teacher or nurse from the 1950's and that makes dating the watch very easy.  I actually restored a watch for a close family friend who is a religious and, by coincidence, she eventually met a person who was the original recipient's best friend.  The original nun had passed away long ago so my family friend gave her the watch as a reminder of her old friend.  How's that for a Godincidence?

I was very curious to see what sweep second Swiss-made grade would be inside the case.  It's a 17 jewel 610 movement.  It's very small - much smaller than the 18 jewel 8/0 size 735 that would have been in the regular Chatelaine.  Therefore this watch has a large movement ring to fill in the extra space.

The inside of the case back is clearly a Hamilton case and one of a few models that came in sterling silver.

It's a little hard to see but this movement has a shield with FF inside, indicating this movement was made by Fabrique d'Horlogerie de Fontainemelon (FHF), one of many Swiss watch movement manufacturers and the 610 is based on a FHF 62.

The crown also has the Hamilton logo.

While the parts are in the cleaner I will prep a new crystal for installation.  24.7mm should do the trick.  This is the same crystal I'd put on an Endicott or Secometer.

Everything gets taken apart and cleaned.  I think ladies movements are more challenging than men's movements because they are much smaller but they operate the same way.

Well, despite my best efforts, I was unable to get the watch to run nicely.  Upon close inspection I noticed something was wrong with the hairspring and it's a little out of shape.  I did not drop it or goof it up so I suspect it was like this at the start (I didn't check).  I can remove it from the balance and try to get it worked back into shape.

It's also out of flat, that's an even more challenging task to repair.  I have a low success rate with getting hairsprings flat and round.  I usually work with them until I get so frustrated that I tie them into a knot or straighten them out in a fit of desperate rage.  Springs like this one are just so small it's very hard to see what you're doing.

Fortunately a replacement complete balance is only about $15 so I should be able to drop in a replacement without too much difficulty.  In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of what the finished watch will look like.

It's not often that I get beat by a watch but it does happen occasionally.  It keeps me humble and it reinforces why I need to listen to that little voice in my head when good is good enough.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

1965 Edwin

The last watch I posted about was a 1965 Thinline 2015 and it was a little unusual because it didn't have a second hand.  For almost 40 years the only men's model to not have a second hand was the 1936 Norfolk, other than the early 1920's models with the 986A movement.  I guess second hands were less important in the late 1960s - as there are few models with only hour and minute hands.

Another example is also a 1965 model, the Edwin.  It was made through 1969 and bears a faint resemblance the Thinline 2015. 

Unlike the solid 14K gold Thinline, the Edwin came in a 10K gold filled case and you could get it on a matching bracelet or a strap.  Tucked inside the Edwin's case is a 22 jewel 12/0 sized 770 movement.

I happened to see this watch for sale on eBay and thought about making a run for it but as fate would have it, a fellow collector saw it too and purchased it.  He sent it to me for an overhaul so I ended up getting it after all.  I couldn't have planned it better - ha ha!  As received, it's a little dirty but not terrible.  It looks like the dial has seen better days but most people born in 1965 have a few spots by now too.

The case back is unengraved and otherwise unremarkable.

Don't be fooled by the shiny movement, this movement is very dirty and ready for a trip to the spa.  It will be even more sparkly soon.  This 770 has a slightly different 4th wheel than a typical 770, it doesn't have the long pivot for the second hand, instead it has a short pivot.  Otherwise it's a standard-issue 770.

Everything is taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.  The bracelet isn't original but it's in good shape and goes well with the watch so I cleaned it too.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Now it's off to the timer.

Well, the amplitude is great but the beat error of 6.7ms is way above specs.  I prefer to see it under 3.0 and as close to zero as possible.  It's a little tricky to adjust on US-made Hamiltons but I feel obliged to try.

You might be able to see the red impulse jewel on the roller table of the balance.  This jewel needs to be centered with the pallet fork for the watch to be "in beat" and the beat error would be 0.0 if it was perfectly aligned.  That would mean the balance would swing equally to both sides.

Flipping the balance over, the silver ball at the end of the hair spring is the hair spring stud.  This attaches to the balance cock.  Once installed, the hairspring stud determines where the balance's impulse jewel falls.  Notice the position of the stud relative to the balance arm, it's off to the left of the arm.  If I move the hairspring clockwise a little, it will move the stud and that will move the impulse jewel.

It doesn't take much to change the beat error.  You can see the stud is now over the arm.

I also need to make sure the hair spring falls between the two regulator pins when I attach the balance to the balance cock.  Then I can reinstalled the balance and see if the beat error is improved.

Well that's much better.  Notice the amplitude came up.  A high beat error will cause lower amplitude and it will also cause the watch to stop sooner than if it had a lower beat error.  Movements with an adjustable hairspring stud are very easy to fine tune.  Hamiltons... not so much.  Can I do better than 2.7ms?

I've learned the hard way to listen to that little voice in your head.  I thought about taking the balance off again and I even removed it from the movement but then I had a gut feeling that said, "Do you really want to screw this movement up for another 1.5ms?  What if you go the wrong direction?"

You have to know when to say when, and 2.7ms is fine in my opinion.  It's within my 3.0ms spec and screwing up a hairspring can happen in the blink of an eye.

I finished reassembling the watch and I think it looks much better.  My light tent is merciless but I don't see anything distracting with this watch other than the marks on the dial.  Very little wear to the case, that's for sure.

Here's a wrist shot in more flattering light.  Not a bad looking watch but I miss the second hand.