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, April 22, 2018

1968 Lord Lancaster AA

On any given day it's easy to find watches with Hamilton movements in solid gold cases with diamonds on the dial.  They usually come with high price tags but nine out of ten of them aren't even authentic Hamilton models.

However, there are plenty of authentic models with diamond dials but you need to be careful when you see them for sale.

Diamonds became available on Hamilton watches in the 1940s, solely for specific solid gold models.  Then in the 1960s Hamilton introduced the Lord Lancaster line of models with diamonds on the dials or integrated into the case.  Those models came is a variety of case materials from solid gold to rolled gold plate.

One of the last models to be introduced was the 1968 Lord Lancaster AA.  It was made until 1969.

The Lord Lancaster AA is a very uncommon model.  In fact, I've never seen one for sale until recently so I managed to pick it up.  It was an expensive watch at the time at $300 and it's still and expensive watch today.

The Lord Lancaster AA came in a solid 14K white gold case and it features 24 diamonds mounted to the dial.  It's one of the few models to feature a sweep second movement.

My Lord Lancaster AA project watch didn't come with an original strap, which would have been interesting to see.  A lot of times they are suede and it's hard to tell from the catalog depiction what the strap was really like.

Other than a lack of strap, my project watch is in excellent shape.  The case is very crisp and has sharp edges.  I'll be sure to protect them as I try to clean it up.

If you see a watch that you believe to be a Hamilton model, be sure to check out the case back.  If it doesn't say Hamilton then you can be sure that it's not an authentic model.

Tucked inside the one-piece case is a 17 jewel Swiss-made 688 movement.  The only US-made sweep second movement available at the time was the 735 / 736 and it would have required a deeper case.  The 688 is very slender.  It's basically a manual-winding version of the 689 automatic without the automatic framework tucked onto the back.

All authentic Hamilton models made before 1970 will be clearly marked with Hamilton W. CO. inside the case back.  If you don't see that you can be sure the watch is not authentic.

Everything is ready to be put back together with fresh lubricants in all the wear areas.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with a good motion.  It's off to the timer.

Not too shabby.  The amplitude is under 250 but I haven't fully wound the watch yet.  I'll leave it running a smidgen fast for now.

The original crystal had a deep gouge in it so I will replace it with a new 29.4mm crystal.

The finished watch is running as good as it looks and it looks great.  I paired the watch with a glossy genuine alligator strap.  Next time I have a chance to wear a tuxedo, this will be the watch to wear1

Saturday, April 21, 2018

1953 Berkshire

In my last post I told the story of how the Hunchback of Notre Dame wanted to retire.  Unfortunately, he wasn't able to, so he kept his ad in the paper, "Wanted Bell Ringer, apply in person at the Cathedral of Notre Dame".

After a few days another applicant arrived and Quasimodo checked him out closely.  It wasn't hard to realize that this guy had no arms either.  So Quasimodo told him, "No way!  The last guy who applied had no arms and he ended up getting killed.  I'm sorry but I can't let you do it."

The man said in reply, "Oh please, Mr Quasimodo.  That man was my brother and with him passed away we are in terrible straights.  The responsibility for our family has fallen to me and I have no other way of providing for them!"

Again Quasimodo was moved by the man's selfless dedication to his family so he said, "Okay, it's 1:00, let's go ring the bell".  Together they climbed to the top of the bell tower.

Quasimodo said, "okay - do your thing" and the man steadied himself, leaned back and then quickly swung forward and slammed his forehead into the bell.  "BONNNGGG", the bell clamored as it swung away and as it came back it knocked the still-dazed man off the church tower and he plummeted to his death.

Quasimodo ran down the stairs and out the front door, parted the crown and stood over the body.  The same policeman was there and said, "Well?  Do you know this guy?"

The Hunchback said in reply, "No - but he's a dead ringer for his brother!"


Hamilton watches tend to look familiar to each other.  Although models have different features, details like the solid gold numerals are the same style and size, as is the Hamilton logo, and the construction of the cases are very similar.

In the 1950's I think Hamilton went through the equivalent of their "ugly stage" of puberty.  Some of the models really bordered on odd-looking with horological bucked teeth and bowed legs.  Check out the 1954 Hamilton Kenmore if you need an example.

Furthermore, you will find a lot of jeweler-recased watches from the 1950's where a jeweler recased a 1930's Hamilton movement in an aftermarket case, either because the original case wore out or perhaps it was scrapped for gold.  These watches often say Hamilton on the dial but they just don't look quite right.

However, there are some legitimate models from the time period that upon first blush you might wonder, "Is this really a Hamilton?".  One of them, I think, is the 1953 Berkshire.  It's not an ugly watch, but it's not a dead ringer for it's brothers, either.

I really can't think of older models that look much like the Berkshire.  The Berkshire may mark the first use of dauphine-style hands, although lots of later models use them too.  The flared lugs remind me of the Trent - but that model came out in 1955.

The Berkshire was shown in the 1953 catalog and then again in the 1955 catalog but appears to have missed the cut for 1954.  In 1955 the retail price of the model dropped by $10 to $125... still over $1,150 in today's dollars.  It was an expensive watch, probably because the Berkshire was presented in a solid 14K yellow gold case.

Originally the Berkshire was equipped with a 19 jewel 12/0 size 754 movement.  I suspect you might find a 1955 version with a 22 jewel 770 movement.  The catalog didn't mention the jewel count in 1955 and the 770 came out mid-year.

My Berkshire project watch is a very nice original-looking example.  The crystal on this watch is very small - I didn't measure it but it's probably the smallest crystal I've come across to-date.

This watch has an original Hamilton gator strap - a rare find.

It also has an original Hamilton 14K buckle - an even rarer find.

The case back shows some wear but it's mostly unremarkable.

For the record, the finger prints on the dial are not mine.  I can tell by the notch on the side that this dial has been refinished at least once.

The 754 movement replaced the 982M movement that was used until 1952.  Like the 982M, the 754 has orange enamel in the engravings and is more finely finished than the other 19 jewel 12/0 sized movement, the 753.  This particular movement is a bit dirty, it's fully wound and not running.  Notice the regulator is set to full-slow.

The back of the dial has a couple of sets of numbers so it's likely been refinished more than once.

Everything is cleaned and readied for reassembly.

Check out the side of the barrel - it's been dented in order to install a Swiss tang-style mainspring instead of a T-end spring like Hamilton used.  So the mainspring inside isn't an original Hamilton part.  As long as it's the correct size, length and strength it should work.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  I set the regulator back to the center.

Hmm.... it's running slow, the beat error is a bit high and the amplitude is a bit low.  The order of operations at this point is to fix the amplitude, then the beat error, and then the beat rate.  I suspect the amplitude is related to the mainspring.  I'll replace it with an unaltered barrel with a correct mainspring and see what happens.

There... the amplitude is increased nicely.  Next I'll try to better cetner the balance's impulse jewel by adjusting the position of the hairspring collet on the balance staff.  That's easier to say than do, and it's not really that easy to say.

Alright, a beat error of 1.4ms is well within my specs.  Now I can give the regulator a slight tweak and speed the beat rate up a smidgen.

Well, the finished watch looks a little better than what I started with but it didn't look too bad to begin with.  I very gently polished the case so that I wouldn't lose any of the edge details.  Beyond that I didn't do too much to the outside of the watch.  The big difference is it's now running - and that makes all the difference in the world.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

1962 M 79-2

The Hunchback of Notre Dame was getting ready to retire.  He'd been the bell ringer for many years and it was time.  So he put an ad in the paper, "wanted: Bell Ringer, Cathedral of Notre Dame, apply in person".

After a few days a man arrived and asked Quasimodo for the job.  Quasimodo looked him up and down and quickly realized the man had no arms.  Quasimodo told the guy, "Look, I'm all for differently-abled people, but you don't have any arms!  How are you going to do the job?"

The man said in reply, "Oh Mr Quasimodo, please let me have the job!  My family is so poor and without any arms I have a very hard time providing for them.  I'm sure I can do a good job for you!"

Well, the Hunchback was moved by the man's spirit so he said, "Okay, it's 1:00 - let's go ring the bell."

They climbed together to the top of the cathedral and then approached the large bell.  The man steadied his feet and leaned way back, then he quickly sprung forward and struck the bell hard with with forehead.

"GONGGGG!" went the bell as it swung away and when it came back it stuck the still-dazed man and knocked him off the ledge and he plummeted to his death.

Quasimodo ran down the steps and burst through the front doors to see a policeman was already standing over the body.

The policeman said, "Do you know this guy?"

Quasimodo said, "No, but his face rings a bell."

Did you ever have the feeling?  You see someone and you're sure you've met them before but you just can't place it?

I'm sure you have, everyone has and it happens from time to time with watches too.  For example, I recently came upon a watch in it's original box and with what looked to be an original bracelet too.  I thought, surely I've covered this model on the blog already.

I was wrong.  Turns out it was one of the mysterious M-series models, although M is for Men, not mystery.  What I had is, in fact, a 1962 M 79-2.

There are over two dozen different M-series models to my knowledge.  My theory on them is they were specially made for a large nation-wide catalog retailer, rather than for jewelry stores.  Other than in 1964, you don't see them in the regular Hamilton catalogs.

The M 79-2 is the second model to be sold at the retail price of $79.  It's not clear how many years it was made but since it's not in the 1964 catalog it can be presumed to have only been a year or two.

The M79-2 came in a 10K RGP case with a Hamilton 17 jewel Swiss-made 688 movement.

As received it looks a little like the A-601 and the 1964 M 100-3 but they are automatics.  The M79-2 is a manual winding model.

I have seen empty red clamshell boxes from time to time but this watch would indicate the red boxes are for M-models.  That would be a very interesting observation, if true.

I'll have to keep my out for other red boxes and see if I can confirm my hypothesis.

My project watch is definitely not new old stock.  In fact, the back is engraved with a presentation and it has a bit of wear.  However, I think the recipient must have really treasured this watch, to keep it with its original bracelet in it's original box.  Interestingly, the presentation is from Jan 1965.  Who knows how long it stayed in inventory though.

If you look closely at the dial, it's very similar to the M 100-3.  However, they are a bit different (beyond just the addition of the word AUTOMATIC).  The silver chapter ring on the M 79-2 is flat while the ring on the M 100-3 is raised.

The 688 movement is rust-free and in very good condition.  It has a bit of extra oil inside though so it could stand to be cleaned.

Sorry for the slightly blurry shot of the inside of the case back.  There are a few past watchmakers' marks inside that indicate the watch was well cared for.  This case looks very similar to the 1961 M79-1.

All of the parts are cleaned and dried.

The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter now that it's been cleaned.  Although my camera has frozen the balance in time, it's actually ticking away on the timer with good motion.

Looking good!

A new crystal will brighten up the finished watch since the existing crystal is a bit yellowed by the passage of time.

This watch turned out fantastic!  The bracelet shows a little wear but even with my merciless light tent the watch looks sharp.  It's ready for some more wrist time, although it will be safely stored in it's original box when not in use.