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 26, 2014

1961 Stormking VII - well, sort of...

You might be tempted to think that Hamilton operated two different watch companies... one that sold through jewelry stores and another that sold through large employers.  The former marketed it's watches as a full retail division, with advertisements in major publications, newspaper circulars, etc.  The latter was strictly wholesale.

Of course, that wasn't entirely the case but it's not far from the truth either.  Hamilton did operate an "awards division" that sold watches to companies to use as awards for service anniversaries or other forms of recognition.  The awards division often produced specialized versions of other commercially available models... for example, a solid gold Pacer, instead of the traditional gold filled version.  Many employers didn't want their award recipients' to find their award watch in their local jewelry store.  So Hamilton might use a different dial pattern for a given case, or use the specifications from a discontinued model.

I recently picked up such a watch, and it turned out to be an interesting story to share.  The model is a 1961 Stormking VII.  It was produced for only two years.

The Stormking VII seems to be a popular model and it always sells for a good amount.  It came in a 10K yellow gold filled case.  Tucked inside is an 18 jewel movement, and if you're familiar at all with Hamilton's grades that would tell you it's most likely a 735 movement - as most movements are either 17 jewel grades or the 22 jewel 770 movement.

I've tried to snag quite a few Stormking VII's, as I'm partial to the model line for some reason.  I guess I'm not alone in the quest though - as, up until now, I never succeeded in landing one.

The one I finally purchased arrived in very nice condition.  It could stand to be cleaned up but there were no obvious distractions.

This is where the story gets a little interesting.  The case back is inscribed with a presentation from 1971.  It's a little hard to read in my photo, but it's a classic engraving style that suggests it's an awards division watch.  1971 is a decade after the Stormking VII was introduced.

Behind the dial is a Swiss-made Hamilton 688 - a 17 jewel grade.  That would technically make this a Stormking VII-B, if there was such a thing.  I have to say I was a little surprised to see it but I was also wondering how a US-made movement like the 735 would have made it into a 1971 watch... since US production ended in 1969.  Now I know.

Like the original Stormking VII, this watch has a 10K gold filled case.  However, I would surmise that this case back is slightly thinner, as the 8/0 sized 735 would require a deeper case back.

Everything is disassembled, cleaned and ready to go back together with fresh lubrication.

The running watch goes onto the timer to see how well it's performing.

It's not running too bad really.  If this were a 735 I would call it a day but this ETA-based 688 allows me to very easily adjust the beat error.  Although a beat error of 0.8ms isn't too bad, I could easily adjust it to be better, so why not give it a try?

The beat error is a measure for how much the balance swings from one side to the other.  If it was zero, the balance would be perfectly centered.  Thanks to the adjustable hair spring stud, I was able to dial in the balance to 0.1ms.  Notice how the two parallel lines on the screen came together.

Well, everything from here on out is a breeze now that the hard work is done.  I just have to reinstall the dial and hands, put it all back into the case and install a new strap to close the project out.  This Stormking VII may not truly be a Stormking VII, but from the outside it sure looks like a close relative nonetheless.

Friday, October 24, 2014

1958 Randolph

If there's one complaint that's common among vintage watch collectors, it is that vintage watches tend to be on the small size.  This is especially true relative to the size of today's watches.  In fact, it seems like many ladies watches today are larger than most vintage Hamiltons.  The 1940's watches were especially small, it seems.

However, watches started to get bigger in the mid 1950's and, like Goldilocks and the three bears, I think watches from this period are "just right".  The 1953 Rodney seems to be a great example - as it was made for 11 years.

Right up there in size is the 1958 Randolph.  It measures about 34mm across, excluding the crown.  It was produced for only three years.

The Randolph presents itself as especially large, thanks to the narrow bezel and large crystal opening.

The model came in solid 14K yellow gold with a butler finished sterling silver dial and solid 14K markers.

Tucked behind the dial is an 8/0 size, shock jewel 735 movement.  The 735 is Hamilton's top-of-the-line sweep second movement, although you might argue that distinction belongs to it's 1960's replacement, the 736.  They're pretty much the same, other than the balance wheel.

I recently scored a Randolph that arrived in excellent condition.  I can tell it's been well cared for, or at least recently restored, as the dial had already been refinished.

The bezel is so narrow, you might be tempted to think the watch opens through the crystal, but it's actually a two-piece case.  The case back is also 14K and this model's case back is unengraved.

With the bezel and crystal out of the way, you can see the dial is in fine shape.  However the Hamilton printing isn't quite correct for the model and I'm not sure of the pearlized track should be silver or gold.  I'm thinking gold, but it looks nice nonetheless.

The 735 is a shock-jeweled upgrade over the 748, that it replaced in 1955.  It's an 18 jewel movement with rather long axles (arbors) on the train wheels.  This is a very tricky movement to reassemble and, although I don't have any trouble nowadays, I'm always a little hesitant when I take one of these apart.  I have a lot of memories of broken pivots and beads of sweat on my forehead from trying to put 748 and 735's back together.

You can see there are some numbers scratched into the back of the dial - a sure sign it has been redone.

If you take apart enough of these movements you develop a keen memory of every part and where they all go.  But the first few times you take one apart, this sort of perspective presents a rather daunting challenge.  Everything is now cleaned and ready to be reassembled with fresh Moebius oil.

Well, there's no complaining about the performance of this watch, good beat rate, beat amplitude and a low beat error.

The dial and hands go on last and then the reassembled movement goes back into the freshly polished case.  A new alligator strap is the perfect addition to complete this Randolph's restoration.  I'll have to think about the silver pearlized track.  I've added gold enamel to dials like this in the past but filling each hole with a tiny dollop of gold is a very tedious task.  It looks pretty good as-is, I think.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1965 Martin

I recently did a post on the 1933 Lee and, while doing so, I learned how it was redesigned in 1934 to be Hamilton's lowest priced model to date, at a mere $45.  That was still a lot of money back then though and the equivalent of about $800 in today's dollars.

By 1965, or 30 years later, Hamilton offered watches at an even lower price point.  For example the 1965 Martin retailed at just under $40, the equivalent of $300 today - or just $17 in 1934 dollars.  The watch industry was under intense competitive pressure from global production of low cost, high quality time pieces.

The Martin was produced for only a single year.  It was the second model to be named Martin though, the earlier one having been produced a generation earlier, starting in 1941.

To compete at such a low the price point, the Martin came in a 10K RGP case with a stainless steel back.  The manual-winding movement is a Swiss-made Hamilton 686 grade, made by ETA.

I recently picked up a project Martin in a favorite local shop of mine.  It was in very rough shape with a serious case of "old man fink" and it was not running.  I really hate these "one size fits all" expansion bracelets with spring loaded ends.  The springs press the sharp edges of the bracelet ends up against the lugs and will eventually wear right into them.  You can see that's been going on with this poor watch and I almost passed on the purchase because I feared the case would be shot.

As suspected, the bracelet took it's toll on the lugs but I've seen a lot worse.  There's verdigris peaking in around the crystal too - giving the crystal a green glow.

Without the bezel in the way, you can see that the dial is in nice shape.  It's a textured dial with small vertical grooves.  Just a little excess verdigris leaked onto the outer edge but that will be easy to remove.

There's no obvious reason for the watch not running.  I assume it's probably just gummed up by old oil that has turned to gel.

Everything is thoroughly cleaned and ready to be reassembled.  Nothing appears to be broken so, hopefully, it will run just fine once I put it back together.

Oddly enough, I could only get the watch to run for about 30 seconds before it petered out.  After checking and re-checking everything, I eventually determined that the watch was not running due to having and incorrect stem installed.  Go figure.  If the wrong stem is installed, it could bind slightly  provide just enough force inside the movement to rob the gear train of energy.

The crown on the watch had an Omega symbol - so it's an obvious replacement.  Since I have to fit a new stem, I decided to put a new crown on too.  That's why the stem looks too long in the photo below of the now-running watch on my timer.  I will trim it to length later.

With the gear train free to convey the energy of the mainspring through to the balance, the watch is running great with lots of amplitude and a low beat error.

A new, low profile, PK-style crystal will do a lot to dress up the exterior aesthetics of the watch.

A new lizard grain strap completes the overhaul of this now-running watch.  I think it turned out gratifyingly well - considering with what I started with.  The lug damage could probably be repaired by a jeweler but it's not bad enough to jeopardize the strength of the lugs - so I'll leave it as it.

The Martin is a nice, clean looking, no frills design.  It doesn't even have any lume to glow in the dark.