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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.

Friday, June 14, 2019

1961 Hamilton Thin-o-matic T-404

It's been a while since I've posted a new watch model.  So long, in fact, that a number of people have contacted me to check on me and wish me well.

Life has had me up against the ropes lately.  I've been busy with other projects, other commitments, and quite a few non-blog-worthy watch projects.  But overall I'm doing fine and have lots of blessing to be thankful for.

Thanks everyone for your support!

I do have a few projects waiting in the wings for some TLC.  The first one I'll reveal is a 1961 Thin-o-matic T-404.  It was produced for three years.  As you can see from the catalog depiction, it came with either a black or a white dial.  I bet the lizard & gold expansion bracelet was a nice touch too.


The T-404 came in a 10K gold filled case.  Tucked inside is either a 17 jewel 663 or a 666, I'm not positive when the latter replaced the former.  They're almost identical anyway.

My project watch arrived in well-used condition... perhaps even over-used based on the crown being worn smooth.  The metal expansion bracelet is an after market addition and it has spring-loaded ends to provide a one-size-fits-most application.  These bracelets are not a good choice for watches like this, as over time they wear grooves into the lugs... sometimes all the way through.


Oddly, this case has a dent protruding from inside the case with a high point resulting in a tiny wear spot, or just a dirt spot - I'm not exactly sure, this watch is very dirty.


Check out this crown - or what's left of it.  I didn't realize at first just how worn out this crown was.  Only the rubber gasket is still present.  One of the most common questions I get from people is, "How waterproof is my watch".  My answer is univerally, "Assume it's not" and that definitely applies to this case (pun intended).


As you can see below, this portion of the two-piece stem is a rusted mess and will need to be replaced, along with the crown.


Check out the condition of the dial.  It looks like there are grains of sand inside.  The luminous paint is gone from the hands so maybe it's that?


This watch has a 663 movement inside, made by Buren Watch Company, which Hamilton would eventually purchase.  In fact, when production ended in the Lancaster PA factory in 1969, it was moved to Buren's facility in Switzerland in 1970.  This movement is missing a bridge screw so someone has been inside here in the past 60 years.  The male-side of the stem is rusty too but not as bad as the female side.  Hopefully a trip to the spa will do it some good.


Did I mention that metal bracelets wear grooves into the lugs?  Here's a photo for all you nay-sayers out there (you know who you are).  I think it's mainly the spring-loaded versions that do it but given enough use, metal on metal will result in wear and tear.


There's a little rust on the dial side of the main plate - mainly in the set lever.  I should be able to clean most of it off though.


I'll get the hands ready for some fresh luminous paint.  You apply it to the back of the hands and then let it dry.


Well, I got a little caught up with the challenge of keeping track of the gazillion parts and pieces involved in one of these movements and forgot to take a disassembled movement shot.  In the photo below, the movement is just about complete.  It still needs the balance assembly and the oscillating weight to be reinstalled.


There, the balance is in place and ticking away with a good motion.


My watch timer concurs - this watch is running nicely.


A fresh crystal, cleaned case and relumed hands go a long way toward improving a watch's appearance.  Having a crown with knurling and a nice strap doesn't hurt either.


Here's a wrist shot in better lighting.  I treated this dial to a "poor-man's refinish" with a gentle cleaning and a light spritz of lacquer.  It's not perfect but it's way better than what I started with and getting this dial refinished to look correct would be very difficult with the grooved texture in the hour track.  This is a nice looking watch now, and it runs even better than it looks.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

1970's Fontainebleau 66003-3

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on the 1968 Fontainebleau.  There are several other Fontainebleu models but only a couple of them are in the US catalogs.  One of the non-catalogued models goes simply by the model number 66003-3.  The -3 signifies it has a stainless steel case.  So it's possible there's a -4 in a yellow case (gold filled, RGP or electroplate) or even a -1 or -2 in solid gold.

Taking a look at my project watch, you can tell that something is amiss.  You can also easily identify it as a post 1969 model because it says "Selfwinding" and it has a day of the week complication.  Neither of those attributes occurred prior to 1970.


The back of the watch clearly shows the model number and this case is similar in design to the 1969 Odyssey and the Fountainebleu I recently did.  It is a challenging case design to open and an even more challenging case to close.  The back fits inside the front bezel and a ring compresses the back, dial, crystal and a gasket together as an assembly like a sandwich.

I know someone has been inside this watch before me because the back ring isn't seated properly.  Notice the round section over the strap... that should be flat.  The watch is not running but what I don't know is why... is it dirty or did someone goof it up?


As I said above, the movement and dial are held inside the case back and the crystal and a specially formed gasket are sandwiched between the bezel and the case back.  Only half of the gasket remains.  The movement will come out once I separate the two-piece stem and pull the crown out.


Here's a shot of the caliber 66 movement inside.  This movement is used in a few of the 1970's Day-n-Date models and it's based on an A Schild 1876 ebauche.  It has a 21,600 beat per hour rate or 6 ticks per second.  If you have a good eye you'll notice there's a barrel bridge screw missing (the barrel is under the oscillating weight though).


With the weight moved, the ratchet wheel over the barrel is visible and notice the arbor screw is also broken.  Typically I can use a needle to pick the remaining portion of the screw out of the arbor so I can install a replacement.


Both of the dial foot screws are a tad rusty - probably due to moisture getting past the crystal.


I removed the day wheel so I could get an idea of the parts that make up the day and date complications.  There is one pesky index spring under the bridge that will fly off if I'm not careful.  You can just see the tip of it by the number 6.  So I'll listen to the little voice in my head and move to my light tent so I will be able to find it when it inevitably disappears.


Now you can see index spring next to the 6.... no sudden movements or I'll spend the next 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the darned thing.


Slowly the front of the mainplate is cleared of parts.


Turning my attention to the back, it's always good to have a photo of the train wheels to refer to when reassembling the movement.


Uh oh... close inspection of the barrel shows that two teeth are buggered up.  You can see them below at about 4 o'clock.  I'll try to clear them a little but the watch may stop when the barrel turns to engage these teeth.  The barrel should be replaced but I don't have a replacement at the moment.


Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.


The reassembled movement is now ticking away but I haven't wound it very much.  I managed to find the missing bridge screw inside the movement when I disassembled it.


Things look promising... the amplitude should come up once I wind the mainspring more fully.


I was able to clear off the old fingerprints on the dial but it's still not perfect.  I'm not sure if there's a scratch by the H or if its dried gunk.  There's more gunk by the 6 marker but I'll let sleeping dogs lie and avoid making things worse.


The oscillating weight goes on the back and I'm just about ready to reinstall the movement in the case back.


I polished the crystal as best I could but didn't want to over due it.  I'll put a thin o-ring on the crystal to try to take up some of the space that the proper gasket would have filled.  I doubt it will provide much of a seal but it should keep things from rattling inside.  You should keep vintage watches away from all moisture anyway, even it you think they're "waterproof".


Once the crown is installed I can advance the time until the day and date changes.  This movement has a quick set function for the date - you push the stem in.  The day of the week is a little more cumbersome to set.


I can use the crown to wind the watch more fully and the amplitude came up over 200.  I'm happy with that considering the barrel needs to be replaced anyway.  Otherwise the specs look good to me.


This watch looks a lot better, especially since the remnant of the gasket is no longer stuck inside.  Time will tell, literally, if the barrel causes a problem.  I have no doubt the watch will work until the missing teeth rotate into the center wheel.  I suspect the barrel will slip until the next tooth engages but I'll find out in an hour or two.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

1940 Coral Midas

I was recently paid a very nice compliment and it was also a very fitting analog for Easter.  Although I posted a watch recently on Easter Sunday, the season of Easter lasts for seven weeks and goes through Pentecost.  So technically this is also an Easter post and I thought I'd share the sentiment with you.

My project watch is a Coral Midas.  The model was introduced in 1940 and made through 1941.  Like the regular yellow gold Midas, the Coral Midas came in a solid 14K case but in rose gold, which was very fashionable before WWII.


The dial on the Coral Midas is a two-tone coral finish and the dial features rhodium plated solid 18K gold numerals, markers and dots.  The hands are also rhodium plated to match.

My project watch has seen better days.  The crystal is tired plastic and just replacing that will be an improvement.  The case is a little worn but it's also a bit scratched so I will be very careful when I polish it.  If you've got a good eye you might spot that the hour hand doesn't match in style or in length.  If you've got an even better eye, you might wonder if the crown is rose or yellow... to be honest, I wasn't sure either.


The back of my project watch is nicely engraved with a presentation from 1941.  The serial number of the movement dates the watch to 1940 so this watch probably sat in the jewelry store for a few months before making its way to its original owner.  It looks like it may have had a sticker, or something, affixed to the back for a while, as there is a bit of hard residue.


The movement inside is a 19 jewel 982M movement, or Medallion movement, that was newly introduced in 1940 for solid gold (and platinum) models.  It's a more ornamented version of the 19 jewel 982 movement that was already the standard for solid gold models.  Supposedly the 982M was crafted to even tighter standards - although it shares all the same parts with the 982.  It's certainly very nice to look at, especially when it's clean.

This movement is not running.  The balance doesn't wobble so that's a good sign that all it will need is a good cleaning.  We'll find out soon enough.


Without the crystal blocking the view, you can get a better look at the dial and hands.  I don't see any obvious tells that the dial has been refinished.  There is no dial pattern number below the seconds track though.  However, if it was refinished it was done a long time ago, based on the aging along the right side.  It was not unusual for Hamilton to refinish the dial as part of their standard service so as long as the dial is correctly done, it doesn't really matter if it's original or not.  In fact, many people who have an "original dial" really have a refinished dial that was redone decades ago.


I was unable to get the lower dial foot screw to budge and I was forced to carefully pry the dial off.  Once it was lifted out of the way I saw the reason for the issue - there's a little rust right in the area of the lower dial foot.  There's evidence of moisture going over to the 4th wheel and pallet fork jewels so that may be the cause of the watch stopping.  Hopefully the ultrasonic will work the dial foot screw loose.

If you ever notice there is moisture in your watch, you should open it as best you can and carefully dry it with warm air.  You may want to also have it serviced by a watchmaker, especially if it's been a while since it was last cleaned and oiled.


While everything is being cleaned I will prep a new glass crystal for installation.


I noticed one potential issue while inspecting the cleaned parts.  One of the teeth on the minute wheel is bent.  It's around 10 o'clock in the picture below.  The minute wheel is what keeps the minute hand and hour hand in sync.  A bent tooth can cause a disruption and is usually caused by putting the cannon pinion on with the minute wheel in place and "crushing" the minute wheel in the process.  I'll replace it to be on the safe side.


Everything is ready to be reassembled, excluding the old crystal... how'd that get in there?


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


It's running a little fast but that's easily adjusted with the regulator.


In the shot below the original crown (left) is placed next to a coral crown for comparison.  I'm now convinced the original crown is the incorrect color so I'll replace it.


I replaced the hour hand with the proper style and the length is typically determined by the distance from the center to the nearest hour marker.  I don't know if that would be the numbers 3 and 9 or if it should be the rectangular markers.  The minute hand should extend to the nearest minute track.  The glass crystal and coral crown are definite improvements.


Here's a better shot with more flattering light.


When I went to look at the catalog image of the Coral Midas I saw the hour hand appears to extend to the marker so it should be a little longer.  Fortunately I have a slightly longer hour hand so now the watch is "perfect".


As I said at the start, I was recently paid a very nice compliment by someone I restored a watch for.  One of the things I enjoy the most about this hobby is the happiness that I can provide when I restore someone's father's or grandfather's watch.  What was once broken and battered can be brought to new life by the touch of a master's hand. 

What a wonderful message for Easter as well.  No one is past redemption when they find their way to the Master's hand.

The Touch of the Master's Hand

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three----" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

                 --Myra Brooks Welch