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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.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

1960 Automatic K-459

1960 was a banner year for Hamilton Automatics... the Automatic line was in full swing and the Accumatic line was gaining ground and the Thin-o-matics were also new on the scene.  There were quite a few models with only a one-year production run and one of them was the Automatic K-459.


When I first located a K-459 it was fairly easy to identify.  If you've followed my blog you know that gold filled models typically start with a 4.  Stainless steel starts with 5.  If the gold or gold filled model has a stainless steel back, the second digit is a 5 too.  Since the K-459 has a 10K yellow gold filed case with a stainless steel back, I knew that it would be a K-450-something.  Of course, there is an exception to every rule and since there are more than 10 K-series with stainless steel backs, the last model is a K-460.

Like the majority of the K-series automatics, the K-459 features a 17 jewel 661 movement inside.

I recently picked up a K-459 and when it arrived is was very dull - finish-wise that is.  It was not shiny at all and more of matte-finish.  I was concerned at first that perhaps it was just heavily worn but it turned out all it needed was a good buffing.


The stainless steel case back is easy to remove if you have a tool to fit the notches in the side.


Despite the blah outside, the inside of the watch is still bright and shiny.  It will be even more so after a trip to the spa.


Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.  You can see the bezel is much shinier now.


This movement has two challenges when it comes to reassembly.  One is to get the large train bridge back into place - it requires positioning three wheels at exactly the right place at the exact same time. The other is to put the rotor carried back on - as several small pivots have to be lined up for that too.

In this shot the train bridge and barrel bridge are reinstalled and all that's needed now is to put the balance back in place.


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


Not too bad... just a little fast but that's easy to adjust with the regulator.


There - that's much better... good beat rate, beat error and amplitude.


I'll put on a new crystal to protect the dial and hands.  A high dome PHD-style crystal is my typical choice for sweep second models like this.


Everything goes back into the case and a brown teju-leather strap completes the restoration.  The K-459 reminds me of earlier 400-series models from the 1950's.  This one is much less common though, having only been produced in 1960.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

1937 Maxine

Hamilton made hundreds of ladies watches.  For over 30 years the majority of ladies models are tiny cocktail-style watches.  As a result, they all look alike to me and I'm sure I'm not alone in that perspective.  Ladies watches generally are not as collectible as the men's watches.  That could be do to their diminutive size, the similarities between models, or even that men's watches are small enough that today's women can enjoy them too?

I don't enjoy working on ladies watches as much as the larger men's models.  Ladies movements are incredibly small.  They work exactly the same but the physical size and space involved is so tiny that it's a whole new level of difficulty.  I certainly wouldn't recommend tinkering with ladies watch movements unless you've mastered the men's models

I recently picked up a ladies watch, however, because it reminded me of one of my favorite men's models.  The model turned out to be a 1937 Maxine.  The Maxine was produced from 1937 through 1939.


Only the 1937 catalog shows the Maxine with a two-tone black numeral dial in a special announcement.  The other years present that the Maxine came with an applied gold numeral dial.  The model came in yellow or white gold filled and it was available on a silk cord or a gold filled bracelet.


Tucked inside the Maxine's case is a 20/0 sized 997 movement.  The 17 jeweled 997 was introduced in the mid-1930's and was produced for only a handful of years.  It appears to have been used in Hamilton's entry-level line of fine women's models.

The Maxine project watch that I purchased has the black enamel dial.  It arrived in decent condition with a broken expansion bracelet and a severely scratched crystal.


With the bezel removed, you can see the dial is a little deceptive.  You'd expect it to be round but it's actually more oval-like with tabs outside the 12 and 8.  The movement behind the dial extends even farther outward.


The 997 is very small but it's not the smallest movement I've worked on.  I noticed the regulator is set to full slow... we'll see what a cleaning does to improve that.  This cane be a tricky movement to reassemble because the wheels have long arbors and they are packed closely together.  You have to be extremely careful with handling these ladies movements as the balance wheel is exposed on the ends and it's very easy to break the balance staff by touching the balance wheel.


The dial-side of the main plate has all of the familiar parts, albeit they are a bit smaller than usual.


As would be expected, the mainspring is set in a tight coil so I will replace it with a new Dynavar spring.


All of the parts are cleaned and dried before being reassembled.  This looks like a typical photo you've seen me do but when you consider the dial is about the size of a dime, these parts are surprisingly small.  It's amazing they could make such small parts so precisely.


The first thing to go back in is the pallet fork and it's bridge.  If the train bridge has more than two wheels I will usually put the pallet fork in later but since this train bridge has only two wheels, it's easier to put the pallet fork in now and it won't bind the escape wheel like it could in a more complicated movement.


The train bridge supporting the escape wheel and fourth wheel go on next and then the mainspring barrel, center wheel and third wheel are placed in position before the barrel bridge is reinstalled.


Next the winding wheel and ratchet wheel get reinstalled so I can wind the movement up before putting the balance back on.


The balance goes on last and if everything is lined up properly the watch should start working.  As you can see below, the watch is purring away and the regulator has been centered.  Time to see how well it's keeping time.


Well, it's running a bit fast - over six minutes per day but the amplitude and beat error are okay.


Pushing the regulator back to full slow brings the beat rate down to an acceptable range.  If I were really crazy I would try to add tiny weights called timing washers to the balance wheel to add more mass to the balance wheel - that would slow it down as well and allow the regulator to stay centered.  But on a watch this small that would be just asking for trouble.


With the movement properly overhauled, the dial and hands go back on and it all goes back into the case.  A new chord bracelet is a great complement to the watch and once I get a new crystal this watch will look fantastic.  And just in time for Mother's Day too.


And here is why the Maxine caught my eye... it's dial is a match for my favorite Endicott version from the same time period.  Hamilton didn't market "his & hers" models in the 1930's but they were certainly thinking about, as these two uncommon dial varieties are a great example.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

1952 Kennett

There are a number of watches that don't show up in the catalogs for whatever reason.  The Oval, Vancott, Automatic K-451 immediately come to mind but there are quite a few others.

Another to add to the list is the Kennett.  The conventional wisdom is it's a 1952 model.  I'm not sure how long it was produced.

My Kennett project watch arrived in relatively nice shape.  The glass crystal was a bit scratched but otherwise it looked very promising.  Sorry for the slightly blurry photo - too late now to replace it.


Tucked inside the 10K gold filled case is a 17 jewel 12/0 size 752 movement.  This one is missing a lot of the black enamel in the lettering but it say 752 at the bottom between the two bridge screws.


Fortunately the inside of the case back says Kennett - so even though the model doesn't show up in the catalogs it's very easy to identify.


All the parts are cleaned and ready to be reassembled.


I noticed the crown stands a little far away from the side of the case.  I could fix that by shortening the stem a little.  However, I can't move the set lever screw.  Some moisture got in there and rusted it solid.  I could possibly bust it loose but this is probably better treated as one of those... if it ain't broke... situations.


The white alloy mainspring has been rewound in my mainspring winder... now I just need to reinstall it in the barrel.


The movement is back to running order so next stop is the timer.


Just a little tweaking is in order to bring the beat rate in line.  Everyhing else looks fine.


The dial and hands go back on and the works goes back inside the case.  A new black lizard strap completes the overhaul and this 1952 Kennett is ready for some more wrist time.