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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, July 3, 2015

1957 Thincraft II

Thin was in... in the late 1950s and '60's.  I'm not sure what was the inspiration for the new trend but in 1957 the first "thin" model called the Thincraft was introduced.  A second model called the Thincraft II was also introduced.  A Thinline II entered the mix in 1958 and by 1959 eleven Thin-o-matics arrived on the scene.   By the mid-1960's the about half of Hamilton's lineup was thin-related.

The 1957 Thincraft II was produced for four years - so it was a desirable model.


The Thincraft II is unique in a number of ways.  It came in both a yellow gold filled case as well as white.  It also had a white dial with one pattern of markers or a black dial with a totally different pattern.  So there are four different Thincraft II model variations between the case material and the dial colors.

Tucked inside the case is an 8/0 sized, 18 jewel 735 movement.  This grade is a shock jeweled version of the earlier 748 movement.

The Thincraft II is not rare but it seems to be a pretty popular model so they tend to sell outside my usual price range for project watches.  I've made a run at several but never landed one until recently.  The seller's description was very favorable but I've learned to take all that with a grain of salt.  Based on the seller's photo, I was expecting to receive the following...  looks to be a yellow version with the black dial.


Well, when it arrived I was surprised to see that it was a white version.  The case was very dirty, and probably turned yellow by nicotine.  The second hand is incorrect for the watch and would be more appropriate with solid diamond hands... if there were such things.  I usually think a red second hand is a striking addition but this one is just a little too striking for my taste.  It's more of a distraction than an attraction.


The case back has a yellow-ish tinge to me.  That could be because of the lighting in my shop, the nicotine on the case or even a reflection of the orange shirt I was wearing.


The seller said the dial was "mint original".  In fact they said, "excellent movement condition overall, no oxide; mint original dial; good gilt hands; case shows moderate wear, fine scratches, no dents or dings; crown shows moderate wear; good crystal."  I'd have to say that most of that description was optimistic, at best.  However, the dial was in decent shape and does appear to be original.  The round hour markers really sparkle.


The 735 movement looks to be in good shape.  It looks like it's been a while since it's had a trip to a watchmaker, though.


Everything is now cleaned and ready to be reassembled.


A new 30.3mm high dome crystal will be a great improvement over the cracked and hazy "good crystal" the seller described.


These 8/0 sweep second movements can be very intimidating to work on.  Getting the four wheels under the train bridge to line up at the same time is very tricky.  It takes a delicate touch and excellent visibility.


Although the movement is running with a good beat rate and amplitude, the beat error is a bit high at 5.8ms.  Ideally it should be close to zero but I'll usually accept anything under 3 - as adjusting it on a movement like this is risky business.  But 5.8 is too high so I'll give it a go.


Well, I was able to cut it in half.  It's a bit of trial and error and I risk goofing up the balance every time I take it apart to adjust the beat error so I'll call it a day at 2.6ms.


I had a spare white (silver) 8/0 second hand so I swapped that out during the reassembly.  Now that the case, hands, dial and movement are all clean, this white Thincraft II is really striking.  It's a very elegant design, I can see why it was produced for four years.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

1968 Thinline 5003

There were very few models that survived the 1970 transition from US-production to Swiss-production.  One of them was the 1968 Thinline 5003.  It continued to be produced through 1971... probably because it could use a Hamilton 639 movement - which is a Buren movement that was made in Hamilton's factory in Switzerland.


As a 5000 series model, you can safely assume it comes in a stainless steel case.  It was offered for sale on either a strap or a matching stainless bracelet.

Tucked inside the case you will likely find either a 17 jewel Hamilton 639 movement or a Hamilton 686 movement.  I believe both were used, depending upon the year.

Although the catalog shows a simple cross-hair pattern for the seconds register, I have seen Thinline 5003's with a recessed circle and cross hairs at the sub second position.  So I think there are couple of dial patterns out there,  depending on if it has a 686 movement or a 639 movement, the latter probably getting the dial with sunken circular sub-second area.

Although some collectors turn up there noses a little at the Hamilton models with Swiss movements, I think the grades are actually very nicely designed.  Hamilton used movements from a bunch of different Swiss ébauche makers over the 1950's and '60's.  An ébauche is a partially assembled movement... may 95% complete and they were sold to other companies who finished the last 5% to meet their needs.  So you'll see ébauche movements in watch brands like Hamilton, Bulova, Elgin, and even high end watches like Breitling.

I recently received a Thinline 5003 in need of some TLC.  It arrived in the typical beat up fashion with a slight tinge of green on the right side of the dial - a sure sign that some moisture had gotten past the crown and inside the case.


The stainless steel back is a bit scratched up and still has some residue from what might have been an original price label sticker.


The watch opens through the crystal so the movement uses two-piece stem with the female portion in the movement as shown below.


While all the parts are in the ultrasonic cleaner, I will get out my lume kit to redo the lumen on the hands.


The parts are now cleaned and dried so it's time for reassembly.


The movement is now back to running condition and purring away.  Now it's off to the timer to see how it's performing.


Running just a smidgen slow - a slight adjustment of the regulator will speed it up a little.


There - that's better.


The movement and dial goes back into the case so I can reinstall the hands.


The crystal is yellowed and scratched up so a replacement is an easy way to make a dramatic improvement.


A 29.5mm low dome crystal will be perfect for this low profile watch.


I was able to clean up the dial a bit however it's still not perfect.  Sometimes moisture can take a heavy toll on a dial.  Anytime you get water inside a vintage watch you should open it up and dry it out... or get it a a jeweler or watchmaker if needed.  I don't think the dial looks bad enough to warrant getting refinished though.  In fact, I think the watch turned out really well.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

1937 Harris

Hamilton dramatically refined their 6/0 movement in 1937.  Prior to 1937 there were several 6/0 movements.  Initially there was the 986 and 986A in the early 1920's.  They gave way to the 17 jewel 987 and the 19 jewel 979.  The latter was used mostly in the solid gold models.

The 987 and 979 had jewel chattons, or settings, that were held in place with tiny screws.  By the end of the 1920's the 987F and 979F were on the scene.  The F was for friction - and the chattons were pressed in place and held by friction.  In 1935 the new 14/0 sized 980 and 982 were introduced and all of the solid gold models received 982's.  The 979F was discontinued and the following year the 987E was introduced in all models with 6/0 movements.  The E was for Elinvar, Hamilton's new hairspring material which allowed improvements to the balance assembly.

That brings us to 1937 and the dawn of a new era in 6/0 models.  The 987A was a dramatic improvement over the 987E.  The first three 987 variants share vitually all of the same parts... and you can swap parts from one grade to the other.  However, the 987A is significantly different.  It shares some of the same parts - mostly the gear train and the balance staff - but that's about it.

One of the new models introduced with the 987A is the Harris.  It was produced for only two years.  It came in a 10K yellow gold filled case with a choice of an applied gold numeral dial or a black enamel numeral dial.


The Harris is on the smaller side even though it has a large 6/0 movement inside.  That's probably because of the flat rectangular shaped bezel opening.  The case is very prone to wear through, especially near the corners of the crystal.  Several years worth of wear against shirt sleeves can take a toll on the case.

As you can see below, the 987A is similar to it's predecessors but it's considerably different.  Initially the 987A's has recesses for case screws so it could be held in place in 3-piece cases, even though there were no three piece cased models at the time.  That implies it was meant to be 100% interchangeable with the other 987 movements.  However, by 1938 the case screw holes were left out of the 987A design, as shown in the 1938 movement below.


In 1940 Hamilton introduced the 987S - with a central sweep second hand.  It's very similar to a 987A.  WWII saw the introduction of the 18 jewel 2987.  It's almost identical to the 987S other than the 18th jewel to support the special second hand sweep pinion.

So Hamilton got a lot of mileage out of the 987A design.

I recently restored a Harris but I neglected to take photos of the process. I thought I had already posted about the model so I did't bother to document the process.  I wish I had a "before" photo because it was in rough shape after 75 years.

I've restored several Harris's in the past.  However, I had not done a black numeral dialed version.

I thought this one turned out really well.


And here's an example of the AGN version from a few years ago.  Although the black enamel dial was less expensive when new, I think they are considerably less common today and much more appealing to collectors.

Harris photo Harris.jpg

The Harris is very similar to the 1938 Reagan.  The latter is a little more square than the Harris but they are easy to confuse.  The Reagan came with an AGN or black numeral dial as well.

Reagan photo Reagen.jpg