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, January 3, 2020

1969 Mystery 18 Jewel Model

In 1969 Hamilton produced a fairly well known but uncatalogued model called the Liberty Coin.  It was produced after production of movements in the US came to an end.  Hamilton had an abundance of left over stock and they created a very unusual and rare model in both solid 14K gold and 10K RGP.

If you look closely at the watch, you may note a couple of interesting attributes.  First, there's no second hand and, in addition, it says "22 jewels" on the dial.  Both are very unusual for Lancaster-made models.

I have noticed other models with "18 Jewels" written on the dial and I suspect they were also created at the end of the 1960s using excess 736 movements.  I posted on one in the past that I've seen in yellow as well as white RGP with diamonds on the dial.  This particular model has a Hamilton branded case on the outside but it's rather crudely made, by Hamilton standards anyway.

No I've had the opportunity to see another 1969 mystery model, this time in solid 14K.  It also has 18 jewels written on the dial.

The back of my project watch has 14K Hamilton stamped on the back.  The crown is a bit worn and a little too large, in my opinion, to be original.

Sure enough, inside is an 18 jewel 736 movement.  This caliber was introduced in the early 1960s as a replacement to the 735 movement.  The only difference is the 736 has a glucydur balance with no timing screws.

Check out the inside of this case back... talk about plane jane.  There is no Hamilton Watch Company Lancaster PA inside, just like the Liberty Coin and the other mystery models I've seen.  I think these cases were just procured to use up inventory.  There are a few past watchmakers marks inside so this watch has been worked on in the past.

Hmm... it's missing a dial foot screw.

Well, I guess the missing dial foot screw is no big deal, it's missing the dial foot too!

Everything is disassembled, cleaned and dried.  I also prepped a new 30.6mm crystal for it since the old one was too small and has let moisture in an corroded the dial around the circumference.

The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter and shinier now.

It's running a little fast.  I will tweak the regulator but it's already close to the S.  There's not much adjustment left and glucydur balances are one-trick-ponies.  They are factory-poised and not adjustable.  Still, this watch should run well within the 30 second per day factory spec.

One way to hold a dial without a dial foot on is with "dial dots".  The are small double-side sticky dots.  I've also seen people use glue... don't do that, no matter how tempting.  The dial has to come back off eventually.

The dots go on in a couple of flat spaces that don't interfere with anything else.

Then I carefully pry the covers off to reveal the sticky side.

I'll replace the large and worn crown with a new, slightly smaller waterproof crown.  I will also have to trim the male hub since the old hub will be too short.

Voila!  This watch looks great now and it runs as good as it looks.  The bezel of the case is florentine finished so I made sure not to polish that off.

Here's another shot from my Instagram account in more flattering light.  Looks pretty good if I do say so myself.  If you don't follow me on Instagram you can check me out at @HamiltonChronicles.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

1970s Dateline 64049-3

Once production in the US ended in 1969, manufacturing moved to Hamilton's Swiss factory.  Some models made their way to the United States but a lot models were intended for other international markets.  It's not unusual to find models that do not show up in the US catalogs, even though they may look very similar to other known models.

I recently landed a watch that I assume is a non-US model.  It's likely known only by the number on the back of the case, 64049-3.  I've seen this same case before but with a slightly different dial.  That's not unusual for 1970's watches either.

The case is stainless steel and the "-3" in the model number would indicate that.  The watch is in good shape but the hour hand has scraped the dial apparently and there's a tiny piece of lume missing from the hour hand.

The back of the case is clearly marked with the model number and based on the 64 starting the number, I would guess there is a caliber 64 inside.

Hmm... this is interesting.  The movement is a 17 jewel 694A and not a 21 jewel caliber 64.  The 694A is what's used in the Dateline A-series of models and is based on the caliber 64 platform but 21 jewel version has four extra jewels in the automatic framework.

With the dial out of the way you can see the calendar mechanism on top of the main plate.  There are a couple of small springs to keep an eye on but its fairly straightforward to disassemble.

Here you can see the 64 stamped into the main plate that indicates what the movement is based on.

All the parts are cleaned and dried... well all but one, I lost one of the springs from the front somewhere.  It will turn up eventually.  Notice the inside of the case back doesn't say Lancaster PA.  Another sign that this is probably a 1970s model.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Notice there's a HYL stamped to the balance cock, that's the import code for Hamilton in the US so this movement was at least intended for the US.  That begs the question, was the movement swapped out in this watch at some point?  It really doesn't matter one way or the other, the 694A is the same thing as a Cal 64.

It's running a little fast and the beat error is a little high but they are both easy to adjust.

There... that's much better.  I haven't wound the watch up very much, that's why the amplitude is a bit low.

A little furniture paste wax on the dial reduced the scratches a bit so this watch now looks much better than what I started with.  My attempt to fill the missing lume on the hour hand didn't have perfect results but you wouldn't notice that without really looking hard at it.

It's a nice looking watch, don't you think?  It's also a pretty good size too - about 34mm wide without the crown.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

1939 Coral Winthrop - Christmas 2019

I have a confession to make.  I have struggled to get into the Christmas spirit this year.   I've been busy and there has been a lot going on.  In fact, we didn't get our Christmas tree up until three days ago and the outside of my house has no lights on it whatsoever.  At least my electric bill won't be as much this year.

I know a lot of people, well maybe more like a few people, look forward to new blog posts and especially my Christmas post, so I've been thinking a lot about what to say this year.

2019 was difficult for me and I'm glad it's almost over.  I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that life came at me swinging with both fists and I've been ducking and bobbing for most of the year.

Given it all, I am still tremendously blessed and when I've reflected on this Christmas season one word has continuously resonated in my head... Hope.

Hope precedes all of the emotions typically associated with Christmas.  We hope for presents, we hope there will be snow, we hope we'll get a seat in church.

If there's one thing we all need today, it's hope.  Hope for good things to happen in the future, hope that everything will be okay in the end.

For example, 2020 brings an opportunity for America to elect a new president.  Our nation is divided like at no other time that I can recall.  It's as if you need to choose a side.  If you want to believe in religious rights you have to give up caring about the environment.  If you want to care about your fellow man you have to give up your views of the sanctity of life.  If you think no one should face financial ruin because of healthcare you have to give up your right to bear arms.  Our two party system seems to percolate such that only the most morally flawed will rise to the top.  If there is one thing we all need today, it's the hope that America will be tolerant again.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Candlelight Processional at Disney's EPCOT theme park.  If anything ought to put you in the Christmas spirit, the Candlelight Processional tops the list.  The host for our show was Gary Sinise and I was struck by how the entire crowd loved him.  I'm sure there were democrats, republicans, independents and undecideds in attendance but everyone was of one voice and it was refreshing.  Our nation is filled with Gary Sinises, we just need the right ones to present themselves.  Perhaps we can hope for a president we can all respect, appreciate and be proud of for a change.

Another word that goes hand in hand with Christmas is joy.  Without hope, there can be no joy and without joy it is hard to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Our world is sadly lacking in joy nowadays and there is no shortage of joy-robbing messages in the media.  Just this morning I saw an article about " the 20 Christmas things people are the most tired of".  I thought, "Really, someone took the time to create an article like this... what was the point, what was their motivation?"

Joy is one of the reasons that I like to restore vintage Hamilton watches.  Every watch that I restore brings a modicum of joy into this joy-challenged world.  Not a week goes by that someone doesn't reach out to me about restoring their family's treasured timepiece and when they receive their heirloom back in pristine condition, joy is the universal result.  Like a candle can light another candle, I can name more than a few collectors with fabulous collections who got their start simply by having a watch restored by me.

So hope and joy are my wish to you this Christmas, and if you can only have one, choose hope and joy will follow.  I wish you a hopeful Christmas and a happy new year!

As for my project watch, I wanted to share something rare and unique for a celebration of Christmas.  My watch is an uncatalogued model called the Coral Winthrop.  It was introduced in 1939 along with the Coral Ross.  However, only the yellow gold filled version made the 1939 catalog.

Coral models didn't make the catalogs until 1940 but the Coral Winthrop didn't make the list.  Hamilton production records indicate 434 Coral Winthrops were produced, making them one of the rarer models out there.  

I found my project watch on an auction site along with a number of other interesting opportunities.  I've only seen a Coral Winthrop perhaps two or three times over the past 10 years so I decided to take a serious run at this one and I wound up winning it.  As you can see below, it's definitely in need of a little TLC.

The lighting in my workshop makes the case appear yellow-ish but it's clearly rose gold to the naked eye in daylight.  The back is engraved with the name of the original owner from 1940.

The black numeral dial appears to be original, or at least I don't see any evidence that it was refinished.

It's interesting that the inside of the case back appears yellow.  Gold fill is a sandwich of two gold layers with a base metal in between.  I can see the outside is rose and the inside looks more yellow.  The case serial number is less than 200 from other Coral Winthrops I've seen, which is a good sign that the case is legit.  Also, if the case was re-plated I would expect to see the inside would have been plated along with the outside.

Looking closely at the back of the dial, I don't see any marks or indication that this dial has been refinished.  If anything, it looks exactly like you'd expect an 80 year old dial to look.

In 1939 rectangular gold filled models received the 17 jewel 980 movement and solid gold models were outfitted with the 19 jewel 982.  That all changed in 1940 when the 982M movement was introduced - and in 1940 a 14K gold filled case like the Winthrop would have gotten the 982.  Since this is a 1939 model it's fair to expect that the movement would be a 980 and the serial number of my movement dates to 1939 as it should.

Despite numerous past service marks inside the case back, the mainspring in the barrel is an old blue steel spring and surely has set by now.  I'll replace it with a white alloy Dynavar spring.

Yup - this spring would likely power the watch fine for a little while but my guess is it would peter out after about 24 hours or so on a full wind.

A new glass crystal will make an immediate and significant improvement to the watch's appearance.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter than before and it's ticking away with good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it.

It's running a couple of minutes fast per day, the amplitude is good but the beat error of 5.2ms is a bit high.  The beat error is a measure of how centered the balance is and how far it swings to one side or the other.  I'll have to pull the balance from the balance cock and rotate the hairspring to reduce the beat error.

Hairsprings are very delicate and easy to get out of shape but as a general rule, the pink impulse jewel should be about 90 degrees from the hairspring stud.  In the shot below I've rotated the hairspring to the correct position as a best guess.

Ah, that's much better, the beat error has been reduced to 0.5ms.  Now I can tweak the regulator and slow the watch down a bit.

You can see the effect of tweaking the regulator as the two lines approach horizontal.  It's now running 10 seconds fast per day.  I'll leave it there for now.

Outfitted with a vintage genuine alligator strap, this Coral Winthrop looks worthy of a museum, although there's a smudge of polishing rouge on the upper right lug.  Only the tips of the upper lugs show any wear in my merciless light tent.  I wonder how this example would compare to the other 433 Coral Winthrops out there?  I wonder how many are left?

I hope Christmas of 2019 finds you and your family in good health and good prosperity.  I wish you the best for 2020 and if you happen to know Gary Sinise, please ask him to run for president.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in hope".  

- Romans 15:13