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Greetings!

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, June 19, 2016

Dynamic Poising

One of my favorite quotes is often attributed to Michelangelo, supposedly said after he was 70 years old... "Ancora Imparo"... "I am still learning".  Although I just celebrated my 500th watch post, there are many things that I still don't know how to do, or that I lack the necessary equipment to do.

Certainly a "master watchmaker" ought to be able to make anything that he (or she) would need to fix a watch.  Using a lathe, you can make balance staffs or arbors for wheels.  Making a hairspring would certainly be tricky for anyone.  Adjusting hairsprings is within reach of hobbyists and you can watch true professionals do what is best described as "magic" when it comes to hairsprings.

A couple of my "watch heros" are from the UK... one is Christian Dannemann at http://watchguy.co.uk and another is Mark Lovick at http://www.patreon.com/watchrepair.  You can learn a LOT, especially from Mark's Youtube channel...  https://www.youtube.com/user/jewldood.

I also have tremendous respect for Paul Silvia, who is an accomplished hobbyist like myself.  He has a fantastic blog dedicated to adjusting watches - which is a true test of a watchmaker's skill.  I invite you to refer to his blog to see more about what I'm going to show below.  http://adjustingvintagewatches.com

If you know much about mechanical watches, you probably have heard about fine watches being adjusted to "six positions".  That was a requirement for railroad grade pocket watches.  The six positions are dial up, dial down, pendant up, pendant down, pendant left and pendant right.

Lots of fine watches, including pretty much all of Hamilton's wrist watches, were adjusted to three positions... dial up, dial down and pendant down.  The spec, as I understand it, was they couldn't vary by more than 30 seconds per day - but they are capable of much better performance than that.

Adjusting watches to a particular position required running them for a long time in that position.  It required a lot of effort to record how a watch ran, make an adjustment, then let it run again and record it's performance.  Adjusting to three positions was viewed as "good enough" for everyday use.

Anyway, I always check dial up and dial down when I overhaul a watch and usually one or two positions on the way from dial up to dial down.  Typically things look fine and if there's a big difference between dial up and dial down, then the balance staff is likely the culprit.

I don't usually pay close attention to performance in all six positions - mainly because there's not much I could do about it.  Of course, if I saw something "bad", my go-to solution is to replace the balance in it's entirety.  As a result, I have a depressing graveyard of bad balances and partial parts movements.

I'm sure I'm not alone in the ranks of watchmakers who don't adjust watches to all six positions.

Paul is a very special kind of crazy... and he really loves the cause and effect results of adjusting vintage watches to exemplary standards.  His blog has taught me a lot about the theory and technique but there's no better teacher than experience.  I'm a little crazy too,  so I purchased most of the tools that are needed for this specialized task.

As fate would have it, I recently had someone contact me about a watch he purchased last year that had stopped working for him after vigorously clapping his hands at a show.   He also had a watch I sold him a couple of years ago that he thought ran great on his nightstand but differently when he wore it. I asked him to send me the watches so I could check them out.

The watch that had stopped working was fairly easy to fix.  The task reminded me that in the 1930's when these watches were made, there was a watchmaker in every jewelry store.  Watches stopped all the time.  Think about all the old black and white movies where someone said, "Do you have the time?  My watch has stopped".

The second watch was another story... and the reason for this post.  The watch actually ran pretty well in four of six positions but I could see it varied dramatically in the other two.  I could see why the experience while wearing the watch might differ from the nightstand performance.  Apparently there is no time like the present to try these new techniques out.

The watch is an Endicott, one of my favorite models and the first model that I ever purchased (not this particular watch though, just this same model).


Plus it's anniversary just passed - it was given as a gift 74 years ago to Alfred from his mom and dad... a graduation present, I bet.


Looking at the watch on the timer, it's running a little slow but the amplitude is good and the beat error is on the high side of acceptable.


The regulator is set to full fast, so I could speed it up a little but not too much.


Looking at the performance a little more closely, here's what I recorded at each position, plus the midpoints.  You can see that it runs "fastest" midway between crown down and crown left.


When a watch is fully wound, the energy of the mainspring can mask the variability of the balance weighting.  The balance wheel has timing screws around the perimeter and they are what controls the balance of the watch.  In combination with the hairspring, the weights can also change the speed of the watch.

When you think about a spinning ice skater, when they pull their hands in they spin quickly.   They push their hands out to slow down.  So to speed a watch up you can remove weight and to slow a watch down, you can add weight under the same principle.  But you have to add or remove weight in the right places, otherwise the performance will vary by the position of the watch.  A perfectly balanced wheel is considered to be in "poise" or "poised".

There are tools to check for poise with the balance removed from the watch but with modern timers, it's faster to check for poise by running the watch on a timer and looking at it's performance in various positions.

To see what's going on with this Endicott's 987A, I will first thoroughly clean the movement, demagnetize it and set the regulator to the center.  Then I'll give the watch a turn of the crown to get it running with low amplitude.


Between the regulator setting and the low mainspring tension, the watch is running very slow now.  I'll record it's performance in all six positions.


Now the fastest position is Crown Left.  Dial up and Dial down are fairly close.  What's most important is the position where the watch is running the fastest... that means the heavy spot on the balance is directly below the balance staff.


This may test your spatial geometry skills, but from the back, the left side is on the right in the shot below.  So the heavy spot is on the balance wheel is below the balance staff, where my tweezers are pointed.


Now with the balance removed, my tweezers are again pointed at the heavy spot on the wheel.  From a tweaking standpoint point, I can remove weight from the heavy side or add weight to the lighter side.  But which one should I do?


Since the watch is running slow overall, I need to speed the watch up.  To speed the watch up I need to remove weight.  If it was running fast, I would want to add weight - and I could do that by putting a tiny washer under the screw on the opposite side of the heavy screw.   Since I want to remove weight, I will remove the screw from the heavy side and undercut it, or trim it from underneath.

There are several ways to remove weight but some of them are crude and make the watch look a little ugly.  For example you can file the screw down from the outside.  Undercutting is a cleaner way to trim weight.  One under cutter tool looks like the tool below.  Basically you put the screw in the tool and turn the screw like a "cheese grater" and remove tiny amounts of material.


Precision screw holders like the ones below make short work of grasping these tiniest of screws.  Using a screw driver is a great way to lose the screw.


I also took the opportunity to reposition the hairspring in order to lower the beat error.  After removing a little weight, the watch has slowed down a little but still has a long way to go.


Going a little further, the watch has now sped up nicely.


Well, here's the performance after a couple more tries... now the heavy spot is Crown Right.  I know that's the heavy spot because that's the position that runs the fastest.


Okay, now the heavy spot is crown down.  After a few attempts at removing weight I had to start to add weight in other places.  This is a very challenging process.. tweak a little, check it out, tweak a little, check it out.


After a few more tries, I'm back to Crown Right but the other numbers are slowly getting closer together.  I think I might call it a day... it's taken me about three hours of the sort of effort that involves "beads of sweat on the forehead" in order to get to this point.  Every time I remove the balance I'm rolling the dice and, to be completely honest, I'm shocked I haven't goofed up this hairspring yet or the balance pivots yet.

A man has got to know his limitations.


A slight tweak of the regulator is needed to get the dial up and down rates close to zero.  Notice the regulator is almost at the center position.


I've pretty much nailed this beat rate, amplitude and beat error.  The other positions vary slightly but not by too much as compared to where I started.


I'll have to observe the watch in action to see how it performs while being worn but I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with my first foray into this highly specialized technique.  I'm glad I don't run across this problem very often though.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

1969 Odyssee

This is my 500th post.  Now that is a milestone.

When I started this blog in 2012 I really had no idea that I would be able to keep it going for this long.  My principle intent was to create a record of the myriad models that I had found and restored.  You see, I can't afford to keep every watch I restore but I feel like I put a little of myself in to every example.  So in a nutshell, I can't afford to keep them but I find them very hard to part with.  It's a conundrum and the blog has made it easier to let them go.  Plus, I was afraid my wife would divorce me if she found out how many watches were in my collection and I was running out of hiding places!

All told, there are 1,150 potential pre-1977 models and 126 are Electric or Electronic.  That means there are over 500 mechanical models out there still left to be found.  So I have a ways to go... "I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep", as Robert Frost would say.

But this is a great milestone and what better way to celebrate such a long journey with Hamilton Chronicles than to mark it with a unique Hamilton model like the 1970 Odyssee?

The Odyssee is a very interesting model.  It was first introduced in 1969 after the Stanley Kubrick film, "2001: A Space Odyssey".  I haven't seen documentation that the watch co-promoted the movie, but it's interesting that the watch has "2001" written on the dial.  On the other hand, Odyssey is spelled Odyssee on the Hamilton though... go figure.

There are actually two variants of the Odyssee.  The first version from 1969 isn't shown in the catalogs but it's well known.  The dial has circular hour markers and bold triangular-shaped luminous hands.  It came on a mesh bracelet that looks a little like chainmail.

The second version was introduced in 1970 and produced through 1973.  The dial was changed to rectangular hour markers and the hands became luminous stick hands.  The bracelet was also changed to a link-style design.  The second version is more common than the earlier version, probably because the early version was only produced a single year.  That doesn't mean its an easy model to find though, and they typically sell for a pretty penny ($600+).


The Odyssee is an automatic calendar model and one of the few asymmetric automatics to boot.  It can be found with either a 17 jewel 694A movement or a 21 jewel 64A movement.  They are both based on the same ETA ebauche movement.  The 64A has four extra jewels in the automatic mechanism.

The Odyssee is also a part of the Fontainebleau line - of which there are quite a few unique and surprisingly popular models.

My Odyssee project watch is one of the latter version from the early 1970s.  It doesn't appear to be running very well, the crown won't stay in and the crystal is deeply crazed.  So it's need of a lot of TLC.


Not only is the case wider at the top than it is at the bottom, it's also thicker at the top so that it's kind of a round wedge shape.


The Fontainebleau model line typically have sandwich-style cases where the movement is held in between the crystal and the case back and it's all squeezed into the case.  In order to open the case you need to turn the case back 90 degrees to release the back from the front - then everything drops out the back.  They can be a pain to open and a bigger pain to close.


Once the ring is removed, the case back with the movement comes out the back, along with the crystal and an o-ring.  All of this is squished inside the case when it's tightened up.  The movement and dial are contained inside the case back by a reflector ring.  Once the ring is removed, the movement comes out the front, courtesy of a two-piece stem.


In the shot below you can see one of the tabs on the back ring that engages the bezel.  You don't really thread the ring back on, the ring gets tighter in the case as you turn it 90 degrees.


This watch has the 64A movement and it's got quite a bit of corrosion and dirt inside.  In fact, one of the dial foot screws at about 4 o'clock is rusted to the point that I can't see a slot for my screw driver.  That means getting this dial off could be a challenge.


Here you can see the inside of the case back along with a part of the reflector ring that holds the dial in place when its installed.  There's a lot of grime inside this case back too.


With the movement held in my movement holder, you can see that the dial is oblong-shaped and the movement is actually off-center.


With the dial out of the way, you can see the date wheel is printed so the numbers are vertical at the 6 o'clock position.  Sometimes the date wheel is printed so the numbers are vertical at the 3 o'clock position.  It all depends on where the window in dial is located.


Wow, this was a dirty movement - look how cloudy the cleaning solution got after about 6 minutes in the ultrasonic.  You can barely see the parts inside.


I forgot to take my usual photo of all the parts spread out after cleaning.  In the shot below the movement has been partially reassembled and it's now running.  However, if you look closely you might be able to see that I still need to install the balance jewels.  It will run better once the jewels are installed and the shock spring closed.


The balance jewel and cap end stone are tiny and great care has to be taken not to lose them when they're held by tweezers.  It doesn't take much pressure to flick one of these into the ether - never to be seen again.  The cap jewel has a flat side and a curved side and it makes a difference how its oriented.  The flat side goes against the balance jewel.


In the photo below, I've installed the two jewels and closed the Inca shock jewel.  It's gratifying to see the motion of the balance improve when the lubricated jewels are installed.


There is nothing wrong with this performance.


The oscillating weight and the dial have to go back on before the movement can go into the case.


The hardest part of this project is to find a replacement crystal.  Its a very special design and they are scarcer than hen's teeth.  The crystal is ever-so-slightly domed and it has a flange around the perimeter so it can be held in place inside the case.  This one needs to be replaced as it's well beyond any potential improvement from polishing.


This is what you're looking for, if you're in the market for a new Odyssee crystal.


I had to replace the female side of the stem, thanks to the rust.  That's why it wouldn't stay in place when installed before. My next step is to set the time until I see the date change.  Then I can reinstall the hands at midnight.  That way I know the date will change at the appropriate time.


This watch doesn't have it's original bracelet so a new black lizard strap will have to do for now.  The stainless steel case can really take a beating and this one shows that it has.  The little flea bites between 12 and 1 are on the edge of the case, not the crystal.  They can't be polished out.  But that's not such a big deal and my camera makes it look worse than it really is.


This Odyssee is now ready for 40 more years of wrist time.


And just to satisfy your curiosity, here's a photo of the earlier Odyssee version, courtesy of a fellow collector, complete with it's original bracelet.



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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

1959 Sea-Scout

If you wanted a small, but complete, Hamilton collection you could try to locate the two models with chromium plated nickel silver cases... one is the 1960 Sea Rover and the other is the 1959 Sea-Scout.  They're the only two models to use this unique case material.

I don't know the history, or rationale, for the two models but I suspect they were an experiment to see if the material would be a good candidate for future entry-level models.  Both were replaced in 1961 with B models - when the case was changed to all stainless steel.   No change in price was involved.



$45 may not seem like a lot of money today, but in the early 1960's that was equivalent to over $350 in today's dollars.  Even though it was an entry-level model, the Sea-Scout was not your garden variety timepiece by any other standard.

Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel Hamilton 673 manual winding movement.  In front of the movement is an embossed dial with silver numerals and markers.  It was available in white or black and it's most unique feature was a linen-like texture.

My project watch arrived in decent-enough shape but has arguably seen better days.  Everything looks to be original so we'll see what a good cleaning will do for appearances.


The stainless steel back is held in place with a threaded ring.  I hate this style of case.  I find it's very hard to get a good grip on the ring with a case opener - especially if it's on tight - as you need to overcome the threads as well as any friction between the ring and the back.


The movement is rust-free but definitely in need of an overhaul.


The inside of the case back looks much better than the outside - that's for sure.  This is one of a few models with a made-in-Germany case.  Notice the tab on the case back - that aligns the back with the case so the ring can seal tightly.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  Say what you will about the Swiss-grades in Hamilton's line up but they are very easy to work on.  They may not be as pretty in appearance but they keep time just as well as their American counterparts.


The last thing to go on to the back of the movement is the balance.  With a few winds to the mainspring, the watch should start running as soon as the balance is in place.


The 673 is now ticking away with good motion.


A few tweaks to the regulator gets the beat rate to just a little fast per day - I'll leave it there while everything settles in.


The Sea Scout is one of the few round watches with a special crystal.  It has a low profile and a white reflector ring.  You want to hold onto the old crystal though so you can reuse the silver reflector ring.  Installing these crystals can be a pain since you can't compress the crystal with the ring installed - so you need a crystal press to insert it.


With the watch back in running order with a new strap and a new crystal, you can see that the chromium plating has a few chips and dings here and there.  It's not too bad but you can see why Hamilton switched over to an all stainless-steel case for the Sea-Scout B.


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