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Greetings!

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, June 15, 2019

1961 Tuxedo II

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How much is my watch worth?".  That's really a difficult question to answer, there are a lot of factors;
  • What condition is it in?
  • When was it last serviced?
  • What is it made of?
  • Is it a popular model?
  • How easy it is to find another?
Based on those questions most watches can be assigned a value.  The easiest way is to look on eBay for "sold" listings, if it's a fairly common model.

To me, a really significant question is "who's watch was it?".  Tomorrow is Father's Day and I think when a watch was dad's or grandpa's the watch ought to be priceless.  I would say at least half the time that doesn't seem to matter to the owner though... which I think is really sad.  It just goes to demonstrate how important a responsibility fathers' have to be good dads and grandpas.

Anyway, one type of watch that I think is very hard to put a price on is an ultra-rare model where there are very few examples to base a comparison on.  Take, for example, the 1961 Tuxedo II.  It was produced for three years but it's very hard to find in the wild.


In 1961 the Tuxedo II was Hamilton's most expensive model.  Priced at $475, it was $100 more costly than the next most expensive model.  That's over $4,000 in today's currency, when adjusted for inflation.

It came in a solid 14K white gold case but the really unique feature was 44 diamonds surrounding the bezel.

In 1962 and 1963 the price was reduced to a mere $450, still the most expensive model by far.


Inside the case is a 22 jewel 770 movement - the flagship movement for Hamilton models made in Lancaster PA.

You have to be REALLY careful with Hamilton models with diamonds.  Many, arguably most, that you will see are recased Hamilton movements with aftermarket dials.  On any given day you can find a dozen jeweler-cased watches for sale on eBay, usually with steep prices.  Always try to see the inside of the case back.  If it doesn't say Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster PA, it's not a legitimate model.  It might still be a great watch, but assume the price should be the sum of the materials involved and don't overpay.

My project watch was a lucky find.  I have never seen another.  It arrived in really nice condition.  The only remark I would make is the second hand is unusual - it has an arrow tip and is likely a replacement.  On the other hand, Hamilton was known to use what was available when times where hectic, like preparing for the Christmas or graduation seasons.


The back of the case is unengraved.  It has some minor scratches but nothing remarkable.  This case reminds me of the 1962 Whitford but without the diamonds.


With the bezel carefully removed, I can get a better look at the dial.  The H at the 12 position is solid gold but rhodium plated to appear silver in color.  The hands and hour marks are black and the curved arcs between the 1 and 2, etc. looks to be silver in color.  It's a little hard to tell though.


The 770 movement inside has not seen a good cleaning in quite a while, if ever.  Notice the dull haze on the movement.


Here's a look at the inside of the case back - notice the markings.  If you don't see this type of marking inside a Hamilton watch... caveat emptor.  There are no watchmaker's marks inside the case back.  I might be the first person in almost 60 years to overhaul this movement.


Everything is cleaned, dried and ready for assembly.


Notice how bright and shiny the movement is now.  The old oil and dirt is gone and fresh oil will keep the delicate pivots from undue wear and tear.


It's running a smidgen fast but a minor tweak to the regulator will bring it right in line.


Well, this is definitely not a watch you're going to wear while mowing the lawn.  Paired with a genuine lizard strap that sparkles as much as the diamonds, it will take a special occasion to wear this beauty.  You can see I found a much more appealing second hand that matches the baton-style hour and minute hands.

This model is actually surprisingly large... but still small enough for a woman to wear by today's standards.


Now the question you might be thinking is, "How much is this watch worth".  I don't really know... when's the last time you saw one for sale?  What would your answer be?

Friday, June 14, 2019

1961 Hamilton Thin-o-matic T-404

It's been a while since I've posted a new watch model.  So long, in fact, that a number of people have contacted me to check on me and wish me well.

Life has had me up against the ropes lately.  I've been busy with other projects, other commitments, and quite a few non-blog-worthy watch projects.  But overall I'm doing fine and have lots of blessing to be thankful for.

Thanks everyone for your support!

I do have a few projects waiting in the wings for some TLC.  The first one I'll reveal is a 1961 Thin-o-matic T-404.  It was produced for three years.  As you can see from the catalog depiction, it came with either a black or a white dial.  I bet the lizard & gold expansion bracelet was a nice touch too.


The T-404 came in a 10K gold filled case.  Tucked inside is either a 17 jewel 663 or a 666, I'm not positive when the latter replaced the former.  They're almost identical anyway.

My project watch arrived in well-used condition... perhaps even over-used based on the crown being worn smooth.  The metal expansion bracelet is an after market addition and it has spring-loaded ends to provide a one-size-fits-most application.  These bracelets are not a good choice for watches like this, as over time they wear grooves into the lugs... sometimes all the way through.


Oddly, this case has a dent protruding from inside the case with a high point resulting in a tiny wear spot, or just a dirt spot - I'm not exactly sure, this watch is very dirty.


Check out this crown - or what's left of it.  I didn't realize at first just how worn out this crown was.  Only the rubber gasket is still present.  One of the most common questions I get from people is, "How waterproof is my watch".  My answer is univerally, "Assume it's not" and that definitely applies to this case (pun intended).


As you can see below, this portion of the two-piece stem is a rusted mess and will need to be replaced, along with the crown.


Check out the condition of the dial.  It looks like there are grains of sand inside.  The luminous paint is gone from the hands so maybe it's that?


This watch has a 663 movement inside, made by Buren Watch Company, which Hamilton would eventually purchase.  In fact, when production ended in the Lancaster PA factory in 1969, it was moved to Buren's facility in Switzerland in 1970.  This movement is missing a bridge screw so someone has been inside here in the past 60 years.  The male-side of the stem is rusty too but not as bad as the female side.  Hopefully a trip to the spa will do it some good.


Did I mention that metal bracelets wear grooves into the lugs?  Here's a photo for all you nay-sayers out there (you know who you are).  I think it's mainly the spring-loaded versions that do it but given enough use, metal on metal will result in wear and tear.


There's a little rust on the dial side of the main plate - mainly in the set lever.  I should be able to clean most of it off though.


I'll get the hands ready for some fresh luminous paint.  You apply it to the back of the hands and then let it dry.


Well, I got a little caught up with the challenge of keeping track of the gazillion parts and pieces involved in one of these movements and forgot to take a disassembled movement shot.  In the photo below, the movement is just about complete.  It still needs the balance assembly and the oscillating weight to be reinstalled.


There, the balance is in place and ticking away with a good motion.


My watch timer concurs - this watch is running nicely.


A fresh crystal, cleaned case and relumed hands go a long way toward improving a watch's appearance.  Having a crown with knurling and a nice strap doesn't hurt either.


Here's a wrist shot in better lighting.  I treated this dial to a "poor-man's refinish" with a gentle cleaning and a light spritz of lacquer.  It's not perfect but it's way better than what I started with and getting this dial refinished to look correct would be very difficult with the grooved texture in the hour track.  This is a nice looking watch now, and it runs even better than it looks.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

1970's Fontainebleau 66003-3

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on the 1968 Fontainebleau.  There are several other Fontainebleu models but only a couple of them are in the US catalogs.  One of the non-catalogued models goes simply by the model number 66003-3.  The -3 signifies it has a stainless steel case.  So it's possible there's a -4 in a yellow case (gold filled, RGP or electroplate) or even a -1 or -2 in solid gold.

Taking a look at my project watch, you can tell that something is amiss.  You can also easily identify it as a post 1969 model because it says "Selfwinding" and it has a day of the week complication.  Neither of those attributes occurred prior to 1970.


The back of the watch clearly shows the model number and this case is similar in design to the 1969 Odyssey and the Fountainebleu I recently did.  It is a challenging case design to open and an even more challenging case to close.  The back fits inside the front bezel and a ring compresses the back, dial, crystal and a gasket together as an assembly like a sandwich.

I know someone has been inside this watch before me because the back ring isn't seated properly.  Notice the round section over the strap... that should be flat.  The watch is not running but what I don't know is why... is it dirty or did someone goof it up?


As I said above, the movement and dial are held inside the case back and the crystal and a specially formed gasket are sandwiched between the bezel and the case back.  Only half of the gasket remains.  The movement will come out once I separate the two-piece stem and pull the crown out.


Here's a shot of the caliber 66 movement inside.  This movement is used in a few of the 1970's Day-n-Date models and it's based on an A Schild 1876 ebauche.  It has a 21,600 beat per hour rate or 6 ticks per second.  If you have a good eye you'll notice there's a barrel bridge screw missing (the barrel is under the oscillating weight though).


With the weight moved, the ratchet wheel over the barrel is visible and notice the arbor screw is also broken.  Typically I can use a needle to pick the remaining portion of the screw out of the arbor so I can install a replacement.


Both of the dial foot screws are a tad rusty - probably due to moisture getting past the crystal.


I removed the day wheel so I could get an idea of the parts that make up the day and date complications.  There is one pesky index spring under the bridge that will fly off if I'm not careful.  You can just see the tip of it by the number 6.  So I'll listen to the little voice in my head and move to my light tent so I will be able to find it when it inevitably disappears.


Now you can see index spring next to the 6.... no sudden movements or I'll spend the next 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the darned thing.


Slowly the front of the mainplate is cleared of parts.


Turning my attention to the back, it's always good to have a photo of the train wheels to refer to when reassembling the movement.


Uh oh... close inspection of the barrel shows that two teeth are buggered up.  You can see them below at about 4 o'clock.  I'll try to clear them a little but the watch may stop when the barrel turns to engage these teeth.  The barrel should be replaced but I don't have a replacement at the moment.


Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.


The reassembled movement is now ticking away but I haven't wound it very much.  I managed to find the missing bridge screw inside the movement when I disassembled it.


Things look promising... the amplitude should come up once I wind the mainspring more fully.


I was able to clear off the old fingerprints on the dial but it's still not perfect.  I'm not sure if there's a scratch by the H or if its dried gunk.  There's more gunk by the 6 marker but I'll let sleeping dogs lie and avoid making things worse.


The oscillating weight goes on the back and I'm just about ready to reinstall the movement in the case back.


I polished the crystal as best I could but didn't want to over due it.  I'll put a thin o-ring on the crystal to try to take up some of the space that the proper gasket would have filled.  I doubt it will provide much of a seal but it should keep things from rattling inside.  You should keep vintage watches away from all moisture anyway, even it you think they're "waterproof".


Once the crown is installed I can advance the time until the day and date changes.  This movement has a quick set function for the date - you push the stem in.  The day of the week is a little more cumbersome to set.


I can use the crown to wind the watch more fully and the amplitude came up over 200.  I'm happy with that considering the barrel needs to be replaced anyway.  Otherwise the specs look good to me.


This watch looks a lot better, especially since the remnant of the gasket is no longer stuck inside.  Time will tell, literally, if the barrel causes a problem.  I have no doubt the watch will work until the missing teeth rotate into the center wheel.  I suspect the barrel will slip until the next tooth engages but I'll find out in an hour or two.