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, March 27, 2015

1962 Dodson

There are a number of very similar square-shaped watches in Hamilton's 1960's era line up.  Sometimes they're referred to a TV-shaped.  Models like the Carson, Drummond and the Bentley come to mind but there are many others.  There are even square-shaped automatics like the Automatic K-405.

So how do you make similarly shaped watches appear different from each other?  Well, the same way you make round watches different, I guess ... change the dials, change the case materials, change the shape of the hands and change the movements inside.

In 1962 Hamilton introduced the Dodson.  It was the second time the model name was used.  The first Dodson was produced 20 years earlier.  The 1962 Dodson was only made for a single year.

The Dodson was part of the entry-level line up of "Fine Watches" and featured a Swiss-made movement inside a rolled gold case with a stainless steel back.  It came on a bracelet or a strap.  It may have been entry level, but it was not inexpensive.  It was the equivalent of around $300 in today's dollars.

Being made for only one year, the Dodson is not a commonly found model.  Of course, the fact that it's so similar to other models makes it even more obscure.

I recently came across a Dodson and I was happy to snag it up.  It arrived in decent shape and other than the beat up crystal the rest of it was great.

The stainless steel back has some surface scratches but nothing that a minute or two on the buffing wheel won't improve.  The Dodson has a two piece case and you can see the lip where a case knife will help you to pry the back off.

The embossed dial has a fine series of circles radiating from the center.  The camera makes is look like the curve other directions but they're really circles.  The dial looks great - which is a relief as I'd hate to try to get it refinished.

Behind the dial is a 17 jewel 686 movement - a common 10.5 ligne grade in Hamilton's Fine Watch line.  I like the 686.  It's very easy to work on and fine tune.

While the parts are in the cleaner, I'll prep the case for a new crystal.  As you can see, the old glass crystal is scratched and there's no easy way to remove scratches from a glass crystal - glass is just way too hard.

A new glass crystal will be a nice improvement.

Glass crystals are held in place with UV glue.  The glue is easy to apply and clean up as it won't set until it's exposed to UV light.

All the parts are cleaned and ready to be put back together.

The reassembled movement is bright and shiny but only a watch timer will tell if it's really doing it's thing properly.

Well, it's running a little slow with a high beat error.  Fortunately it's very easy to adjust both the beat rate and the beat error on a 672.  So first I'll adjust the beat error by moving the hairspring stud on the balance cock and then the beat rate with the regulator.

A few tweaks bring the both metrics right in line.

Now that the movement is cleaned, oiled and regulated, it all goes back in to the case and a new croc strap installed.  The Dodson is a sharp looking dress watch in my opinion.  I wonder why it only lasted a single year?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

1961 M110-1

One of the fun things about a hobby is simply learning new things as you go along.  It's one thing to be good at doing something.  It's another to know a lot about something.  Some people focus on doing one or the other but I find it most enjoyable to pursue both.

Not too long ago I learned the M-series of watches was produced from 1961 through 1967.  I also learned that that first numbers of the model name was the retail price and the "- number" was the sequence that a model with that price occurred.  So to further explain, an M69-1 was the first watch to be $69 and a M69-2 would be the second model to cost $69.

It appeared to me that the M-series of watches all featured Swiss movements.  However, I've now learned that is actually not the case... and now you know it too.

In 1961 Hamilton offered the M110-1.  It featured the 22 jewel US-made 770 movement.

It's not clear exactly why Hamilton offered the M-series of mens' models and the F-series of ladies watches.  The conventional wisdom from other collectors I've discussed this is that Hamilton offered a special line of watches through a nation-wide retail outlet and marketed it separately from the model line sold through their traditional jewelry store offering.  If you're old enough, you may recall the catalog-companies that sold a variety of things either through the mail or through smaller stores with a showroom.

Anyway, it's always interesting to find a new M-series watch and this one is no exception.  The M110 features a 10K gold filled case with a sterling silver dial and solid gold numerals and markers.  To look at it, you could easily expect it to be part of the regular model line.  It fits right in with the other high-end US-made Hamilton models.

My M110-1 project watch arrived in typical "found in a shoe box" condition.  It was obviously used a lot and although the crystal and dial show it's age, the case itself is in very nice shape.

I would have expected an M-series watch to have had a stainless steel back but this model has a 10K gold filled case.  Perhaps Hamilton wasn't quite sure what they were going to do with the M-series models at first.

The silver-butler finished dial has a crackled appearance to the finish.  I suspect this is the lacquer failing, perhaps as a result of moisture.  The plastic crystal did have a small crack.  However there is no corrosion so maybe the dial will clean up nicely... we'll see.

The 770 was Hamilton's top-of-the-line movement.  It's very nicely made, shock jeweled, and easy to work on.

While all the parts are in the cleaner, I will prep a new crystal for installation.  Since the crystal that was on it was acrylic, I see so reason not to replace it with another one and this CMS640 is a drop-in exact match.

Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.

The reassembled movement is purring away so it's off to the timer to see how it's truly running.

Well, the beat rate and amplitude are solid but the beat error is a little high.  The beat error is a measure of how far the balance swings to one side versus the other.  Ideally it would be zero.  The higher it is the more likely the watch is to stop sooner than if the beat rate was zero.  

Adjusting the beat rate on a balance design like this is very tricky.  You need to remove the balance from the balance cock and then rotate the hairspring on the balance staff in order to movement impulse jewel one direction or the other relative to the hairspring stud.  It's a great opportunity to screw up an otherwise okay balance.

Since the risks of screwing up are high, I tend to view beat errors over 4 as "must fix" and beat errors under 3 as "good enough".  Beat errors between 3 and 4 are the worst... as then I have to ask myself if I feel lucky.

A beat error of 5.6ms is high enough that I'll give it a shot.  It's a little bit of a guessing game to know which direction to move the hairspring collet and by how much.  After my first try I was able to get it to 2.8ms.  That's good enough.

With the beat error reduced I was into the home stretch.  All I needed to do from their is reinstall the dial and hands and put it all back in to the freshly polished case.  The dial actually cleaned up fairly well.  It looks better than my photo makes it out to be.  The dial is actually curved so it 's taller in the center than on the sides and it's hard to get a good photo of it.  The crackled appearance is now gone and I still have the printing - so that's the perfect time to stop cleaning and call it a day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

1953 Kingdon CLD

I first got interested in vintage Hamiltons back in 2009.  There are so many models that I thought I'd try to focus on a specific genre of models.  I decided to focus not the CLD ("sealed") line because there are only 15 manual winding watches plus three more automatic models.  Seemed to be pretty doable... no?

Well, no.

There are a couple of CLD models that are exceptionally scarce and several are solid gold and, therefore, rather expensive.  So I decided to focus on everything and anything.

I've made a pretty good dent in the list though.  Click on the names below to see more about the model (if I've posted about it yet)

I recently landed one of the more obscure models, the 1953 Kingdon.  It was only produced for a single year.

The CLD models all featured a series of gaskets intended to seal out moisture and dirt.  The watches weren't "water proof", just sealed.

One of the other common features of the models is the manual winding models all ended with -don.

The Kingdon is one of the more obscure models and not seen very often.  In fact, I've seen at most three of them in my time collecting.  The model features a 14K yellow gold case.  Tucked inside the two-piece case is a sterling silver dial with solid 18K numerals and markers.  Behind the dial is a 17 jewel 747 movement.

My Kingdon project watch arrived in typical condition.  My biggest concern with it was the crystal - several of these CLD models all share the same crystal... the Croydon, Haddon, Kingdon, Lyndon, and Reardon all share the same crystal and they are scarcer than hens teeth.

With the bezel removed you can see the movement and dial come out the front.  The stem is a two-piece design that is intended to separate when the joint is aligned properly.

The dial in my Kingdon is in fair condition.  It might clean up a little but it would be a good candidate for refinishing if the right pattern exists.  This is a complicated dial with the printing and the pearlized track of recessed gold-colored dots.

The 17 jewel 747 movement is a fine American-made Hamilton.  It arguably the easiest and most straightforward movement to work on.

The crystal has some significant scratches that will be hard to polish out.

I happened to find out that GS actually made crystals for these models.  They aren't shown in the GS catalog though.  A PA435 is a drop-in replacement for these CLD models.

Hamilton often made it easy to identify models but stamping the name right into the case back.  Unfortunately they didn't do it all the time for all the models.

The movement already has a nice white alloy mainspring so I will just take it out, clean it and then reinstall it with fresh grease.

Everything is cleaned, dried and ready to be put back together.

The movement is reassembled and happily ticking away.  Next stop is the timer.

Originally running a little fast, a quick adjustment of the regulator slowed the beat rate down to just 6 seconds fast per day.  I'll leave it there.

Everything goes back together and a new old stock pigskin strap completes the restoration.  The dial is still is "fair" condition.  It's not horrible but I'm going to look into getting it refinished nonetheless. Still, it's not too bad as is and for such an uncommon model, perhaps I will leave it as is.