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, October 22, 2016

1958 Clearview

Some people think round watches are "boring".  Maybe they think there is only so much you can do to make a round watch unique.  Although I would tend to agree that a lot of round watches look similar, there are quite a few models that are unlike any other.

For example, check out the 1958 Clearview.  It was made for three years but you will be hard pressed to find one in the wild.  It is not a common model.

The Clearview came in a solid 14K yellow gold case.  It has long lugs that remind me a little of bunny ears.  What makes the model really pop is the sterling silver dial with embossed golden colored markers and solid 14K gold markers at 3 and 9 and numerals at 12 and 6.

The diamond shaped marker below the Hamilton name indicates the Clearview is part of the Masterpiece line.  Not all Masterpiece models had the diamond shaped marker, depending on the year, but this marker is a definite indicator of a Masterpiece watch.

Tucked inside the case is an 8/0 sized 735 movement that was made in Lancaster PA.

I recently received a Clearview project watch.  Although this model is very uncommon, it looks familiar because there is an Electric model called the Converta III with a similar, but different dial.  The Converta III came out after the Clearview though - so it's more likely the Clearview inspired the Converta III.

Looking at the narrowness of the bezel (the crystal goes all the way to the edge) and then at the case back, it appears like this watch may open through the crystal.

However, when you look closely at the edge you can see a seam, so this is a two-piece case and the bezel pops off the back of the case.

The dial goes almost to the edge of the case too - so this bezel is very thin.  Now the dial and movement can be lifted out the back.

The 735 movement is not running for some reason.  It's a little dirty and nothing looks unusual so it could just be gummed up with old oil.

It's easy to spot a solid gold case because there is never any green verdigris like you'll find on a gold filled case.

I pulled the hour wheel and cannon pinion and the watch didn't start running, so whatever the issue is with the movement, it's on the back side of the main plate.  You can tell in this shot that the crown is worn and is actually coming apart, so I'll replace that after the movement is back in good shape.

Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.

The white alloy mainspring that was in the watch can be reused.  I just cleaned it and rewound it with my mainspring winder so I can reinstall it in the barrel.

The 8/0 sized 748 movement and the 735 that replaced it are tricky to put back together because you have to get four wheels to come together perfectly before the train bridge will fall back in place.  It's very easy to break a pivot off the escape wheel if any force is applied.

I got this movement back together and then realized I forgot to put the winding wheel back on.  Normally that part goes on later but it has to go on now because the third wheel blocks access to it.

In the shot you can see the winding wheel (on the left) is in place .  Notice that one of the two screws that hold it down is visible.  The other screw is blocked by the third wheel.  Now the reassembly can proceed.

Putting the pallet fork on last makes lining up the four wheels easier and it also ensures the escape wheel doesn't accidentally damage the pallet jewels.

The next step is to install the balance.  In order to do that I need to put the balance jewels back under their shock springs.  These incabloc springs are like tiny tuning forks and you squeeze the open end to allow the spring to open and swing out.

The balance jewel and cap jewel are inserted and then the incabloc spring goes back in place to hold it all in place.

With a little tension added to the mainspring, once the balance goes back into place the watch should start running.  The balance is swinging away nicely and the next step is to add the other balance jewel assembly in the balance cock.

Although the watch is ticking, the performance looks like crap on the timer.  So I'll run it through the demagnetizer and reclean the hairspring.

It took a little tweaking but the watch is now running nicely, just a little slow but that's easily adjusted.

There... nothing wrong with this movement's performance now.  The beat error of 1.4ms is well within my usual specs of acceptable.  Adjusting it is a pain and the benefit doesn't out weigh the potential risk of screwing up the hairspring.

The finished watch looks as good as it did when I started - but now it's running as nice as it looks.  Actually it looks even better because the new crown is much better than before.  This is a really cool looking watch and I bet even people who think round watches are boring wouldn't mind giving this watch a little wrist time.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

1932 Hamilton Bok - Tycoon Series 400 Grade

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch?  Time to get a new watch, right?

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch in 1932?  Probably not a great time to buy an 18K gold watch... or so it would seem.

In 1928 Hamilton purchased the Illinois Watch Company - a premier watch brand in it's own right.  Illinois would continue to make watches but the Great Depression took it's toll on everything, including the watch industry.  It wasn't a great time to sell high-end watches, but they tried.

One of the really interesting pocket watch lines is the Tycoon series with the 21 jewel grade 400 movement.   The grade 400 was based on excess Illinois grade 528 movements left over in inventory.

The Tycoon models were second only to the 23 jewel "masterpiece" models with the 922 movement, although that can really be debated.  They were considerably thinner than anything else in Hamilton's lineup and in many ways were ahead of their time... as you'll see in a bit.

About 2,300 grade 400 movements were made in total.  The first 800 used existing Illinois grade 528 movements and you'll find the Illinois serial number stamped on the main plate under the dial on Hamilton 400 movements with serial numbers between H1000 and H1800.

The later 1,500 grade 400s also have a number stamped on the main plate.  Although those numbers also have 7 digits, they start with the number 540 and the last four digits are the same as the movement Hamilton serial number HXXXX in the range of H2000 through H3500.  The 540XXXX serial numbers don't show up as an Illinois serial number and the overall construction is slightly different, so they are believed to be uniquely Hamilton-produced movements.

Although most collectors today favor the larger 16 size or 18 size railroad grade pocket watches, the 21 jewel 12 size 400 models dress pocket watches typically command a premium.  That's partly because of the case material but also because of the overall scarcity of the models - not to mention it's a very attractive looking movement.

The Tycoon series came in solid 18K gold cases in white, yellow or green gold, depending on the model.  The Tycoon line was produced through 1934.

The Great Depression hit the high end watch market hard and eventually the remaining inventory of grade 400 movements was used in award watches with gold filled cases.  By that time the newer 12 size grades like the 917, 921 and 923 were being produced and the 400 inventory needed to be phased out.

Up until now I had actually never seen a 400 series movement first hand so I was happy to take on a project from a fellow collector when he managed to find one.

The model he landed was a Bok.  The Bok is likely named after Edward Bok, a well known editor of the Ladies Home Journal and Pulitzer Prize recipient from the 1920s.  You can thank Edward Bok for the term "living room" - as prior to that the space in your home was typically referred to "the parlor" or "drawing room".

The Bok is a futuristic model in my opinion.  Why?... well you could say the model was the inspiration for Hamilton pocket watches for the next 30 years.  In fact, at first glance, if you didn't know any better, you'd expect the Bok to contain a 917 or 921 movement,

As received, my project watch looks like it was stored in a time capsule.  It's got some light wear, so it's not "showroom new" but all of the edges are sharp - especially for being solid 18K yellow gold.  The sterling silver dial has "raised gold numerals" and a pearlized track, you'd expect this watch to have been made in the 1940's or 50's... no?

The 400 is also Hamilton's first positive set men's pocket watch movement.  That means the stem is retained in the movement and not in the case.

The case back is engraved with the original owner's initials.

Check out this movement... very pretty, isn't it?  It has solid gold jewel settings.

You don't find too many 18K gold pocket watches in Hamilton's line up.  Only platinum would be higher end.

The first thing I noticed is there are no dial feet screws on the circumference of the main plate.  There are none on the back either.  What's holding this dial on? Hmmm...  I've never seen this sort of set up before.

Well, it took some research and an email to a professional watchmaker friend to determine that the dial is held on by friction.  The dial has a lip going around it like the lid of Pringles can.  Supposedly all I have to do is pop it off without totally screwing up the dial... should be nothing to it - right?

Eventually I realized if I held the movement in my movement holder I could use my hand press tool to slowly work my way around the perimeter of the main plate and pop the dial off.  I decided to remove the balance first - just in case - as the last thing I needed to do is break the balance staff.

Success... the dial landed gently on my work surface and in a Pinocchio sort of way is saying, "There are no feet on me..."  I've never seen this type of dial set up on any other Hamilton model.  Hopefully it will go back on as easily.

Sure enough, this is an early 400 grade and you can see the Illinois serial number that dates this main plate to the early 1920's.

While the main plate is facing up, I'll go ahead and take the cannon pinion and setting wheels off.

On the back side, the balance is already removed, so with the mainspring tension fully let off I can start to disassemble the gear train.

Notice this five-tooth click... very unique for a Hamilton model.

With the crown wheel and ratchet wheel removed you can see the barrel bridge is ready to be unscrewed and lifted away.

This barrel set up is called a motor barrel.  The arbor floats in two jewels, one on each end.

Next to come off is the train bridge for the center wheel and 3rd wheel.

The center and 3rd wheels are free to be removed.  Two more screws secure the bridge for the 4th wheel and escape wheel.  That comes off next.

Finally I can remove the pallet bridge and all the parts will be ready to be cleaned in the ultrasonic.

So far so good.  Everything is cleaned and dried.  Now I just have to put it all back together.

The train is back in place. Next on is the barrel and it's bridge.

At this point I can wind the watch and energize the mainspring.  I could put the balance on next but before I do that I want to put the dial-side parts back on, including the dial.  That way I don't risk goofing up the balance when I try to pop the dial back in place.

All the setting parts are back in place, including the cannon pinion and hour wheel.  Now I just need to press the dial back on and make sure the second hand bit is centered in the hole.

Here we go... wish me luck.

Going nice and easy got the job done.  You'll see in my photos that I'm wearing finger cots to make sure that I don't get any finger prints on the dial.

Now the balance can go back on.   Once everything is in position the watch should start running.

Hooray!  Running nicely, just a smidgen fast.  The micro regulator on the balance cock makes it hard to adjust the watch when it's installed in the case so I'll slow it down now.

There... 5 seconds fast per day with great amplitude and an acceptable beat error.  Nothing wrong with this watch's time keeping.

At this point the movement can go back into the case and then I'll put the hands on.

My project Bok even came with it's original box... or is that it's Boks?  Regardless, this is a super nice dress pocket watch and a definite keeper.  Too bad it's not mine.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

1954 Kenmore

Everybody loves puppies.  Who wouldn't? They're so cute and cuddly and they usually grow up to be man's best fried.  They say the reason a dog has so many friends is he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

But that doesn't mean there aren't any ugly dogs.   There are even competitions to find the ugliest dog, like the 2015 World's Ugliest Dog winner... Quasi Modo.   Good call, that is one ugly dog but I'm sure he's still lovable, and that's what really counts.

Well, it stands to reason that out of the 1,100+ Hamilton models there has to be one that would win the "least attractive" award.  Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder so getting agreement of which model is the "top dog" could be a challenge.

The Hamilton lineup in the mid 1950's has a lot of uniquely designed cases.  It's almost as if the company was in it's "awkward teen years" with models with ears and teeth that were too big for their noses and foreheads.

If I had to vote it would be for the 1954 Kenmore.  To my eye, it looks like the Hamilton equivalent of a blowfish, but I think that's mostly because of the bracelet it was paired with.  It was produced for three years so a lot of people must have liked it.

Not much changed over the three years of production other than the price... it was increased by over 10%!

Being made from 1954 through 1956, the Kenmore spans the transition from the 8/0 sized 747 movement to the 730 movement with shock jewels.  So you'll find examples with either grade.  If there's a 747 under the hood then it's an earlier 1954 version.

Regardless of the movement, the Kenmore is a fine watch with a 10K gold filled case and a sterling silver dial with 18K numerals and markers.

You could get the Kenmore on a strap or with a bracelet and the bracelet really brought the model's cooky look to life.

My Kenmore project watch arrived in the typical "some attention required" condition.  The Speidel bracelet doesn't look too bad with the watch but it's not original.  Obviously the crystal will need to be replaced.  Once the layer of "old man funk" is removed, I bet the case will clean up great.  Time will tell - pun intended.

The case back and the back of the lugs are sharp and undamaged.

The sterling silver dial has a brushed butler finish that goes in different directions so it looks two-toned depending on how the light hits it.  This dial is very dirty but there are no obvious distractions.

The 730 movement is identical to the 747 movement with the exception of the incabloc shock jewels to protect the balance staff.  It's been a while since this movement has had a bath, that's for sure.

The inside of the case back makes identification of the model easy.  There are a few watchmakers' marks inside to indicate the previous owner took good care of this watch.

US-made movements had two different length cannon pinion and hour wheel options so that spherical dials or flat dials could be used.  Sometimes dials are flat and sometimes they are domed.  Domed dials require a longer cannon pinion and hour wheel to get the hands further from the main plate.  The Kenmore has the longer setup.

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

Everything is cleaned, dried and ready for reassembly.

The movement is back to running nicely and is installed in the timer to find out how well it's ticking.

Everything looks great except for the beat error.  The 4.9ms beat error means the balance swings further to one side than the other.  That's corrected by repositioning the hairspring on the balance, effectively centering the balance impulse jewel with the pallet fork.  It's a tricky exercise with this type of balance but 4.9ms is too high to let slide.  My target is less than zero but I usually will accept anything under 3.0 if it's this style of balance.  Every attempt at adjustment is also an opportunity to goof up the hairspring.  So I don't like to do it if I don't have to.

Success... this movement is now right on the money.

Such an odd-looking watch deserves an unusual strap - in this case ostrich skin.  As I predicted, the case turned out great.  The new crystal allows you to see the dial much better and although the dial isn't "new", it doesn't look too bad either.  Maybe this isn't Hamilton's least attractive model after all?

I restored a Kenmore a few years ago though, and this one had it's original bracelet.  Ugly watch or thing of beauty... You be the judge.