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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, February 9, 2019

1940 Coral Ross

One of my favorite models is the 1939 Ross.  It's not a very large model but it has a number of varieties in both case material as well as dial patterns.  You could have a very nice Hamilton collection by just finding the various Ross configurations.

Technically, a new model was introduced in 1940, the Coral Ross.  I mentioned it in my 2012 posting on the Ross.  I've restored a bunch of them over the years but I was surprised I didn't do a specific post on the Coral Ross - until now.

The model was introduced in 1940 and only made for two years.


It's interesting to see that the applied gold numeral (AGN) dial was more expensive than the polished numeral dial shown in the 1940 catalog.  Personally, I really like the polished numeral dial and variations were available for the yellow Ross and the white gold filled version too!

The 1941 catalog showed both of the dial options for the Coral Ross.  The polished dial version got black hands while the AGN version got rhodium plated hands to match the rhodium plated solid 18K gold numerals on the dial.


Being made in 1940 and having a 14K gold filled case, you should find a 19 jewel 982 movement under the hood.  The same is true for the white and yellow cased versions but they could have been made in 1939 and received the 17 jewel 980.  So what's inside the case can help date the watch.

My project watch arrived in working condition, well ticking condition anyway.  It's a bit dirty but I don't see any really rough signs of wear.  This model can often show wear through on the edges and especially the corners.  The crystal definitely needs to be replaced and the second hand is missing in action.


The back is nicely hand engraved with the original owner's name.  The bracelet is rose gold filled too and made by Hadley.  It wasn't an option from the factory but the original jewelry store may have installed 79 years ago.


Without the crystal blocking the view, the dial and hands are in remarkably good shape.  I wonder what happened to the second hand?


The serial number of the movement dates the watch to 1940, just as you'd expect to see, although a 1941 movement wouldn't be incorrect either.


The inside of the case back has a couple of watchmaker's marks inside so it's been overhauled at least twice in almost 80 years.


No surprise here, the mainspring in the barrel is a blue alloy spring.  It's going to be "set" for sure so I will replace it with a white alloy Dynavar spring.


A new glass crystal is definitely in order.  This one is double thick so it will protect the case from additional wear from shirt sleeves, etc.


Glass crystals are held in place with UV glue and the glue cures in UV light, or you can take it outside and let the sun take care of it.


All the parts are cleaned and ready to be reassembled.


First to be installed is the new mainspring.  This will power the watch for 40 hours or thereabouts.


It's always a relief to see the balance start moving once it's reinstalled.  It's got good motion so I'm optimistic that the timer will like what it hears.


Not too bad, running a little fast but the amplitude and beat error are within my specs.


A couple of tweaks to the regulator slows the watch down and you can see the two lines start to approach horizontal.  At a perfect beat rate of 18,000 beats per hour the two lines would be perfectly horizontal at zero seconds per day.  8 seconds fast per day is nothing to complain about.


What a difference a trip to the spa makes!  Everything is clean and shiny and even the correct rhodium plated second hand looks like it was there from the beginning.


My light tent is merciless so here is a wrist shot with more flattering (realistic) lighting.


And just to show you why this model is a personal favorite, here's the white Ross with the two-tone gilt and coral dial.  Nice, huh?



Thursday, February 7, 2019

1982 Hamilton LL Bean Field Watch

I'm starting to think Hamilton field watches are like Lays potato chips... it's hard to stop with just one. 

I started with military watches like the Mil-W-46374B, GG-W-113, and the Mil-W-46374D not to mention the British military W-10.  Then I realized there are a couple of different Khaki field models like the 921980 and the 9415A that are based on the same models (at least the GG-W-113 and 46374D.

If you look for these watches for sale, you will also see similar Hamilton models co-branded by Brookstone, Orvis, and LL Bean, the latter being very plentiful.

LL Bean is a high quality brand and it's been around for a long time... over 100 years, in fact.  There are lots of different LL Bean-Hamilton Field models, for men and women, the earliest being from the early 1980s, around the same time that the original Khaki was introduced.  They came with mechanical movement, quartz movements, even chronographs and pocket watches!


It's no secret that these field watches are quality watches.  Even crappy-looking examples will sell online for well over $100.  I think that's a little surprising since they're not uncommon and they all tend to look alike.  One thing is for sure, I would take any of these field watches over the Mil-W-46374B model with a mere 7-jewel movement.

I recently picked up an LL Bean field watch because... well, I couldn't help myself.  As you can see in the shot below, the watch is very beat up, but it still ticks.


The case back is marked 921980 and is identical to the Khaki model from the same period.  No difference at all, other than the dial.


Getting the case back off can sometimes be a challenge since the gasket inside can seize tight.  It helps to have a quality case holder paired with a quality case wrench.


Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel 649 movement based on an ETA 2750, just like the military models like the W10 and GG-W-113.


The case back is made in Hong Kong but clearly marked Hamilton Watch Co.


To me, the hardest part of overhauling this movement is to remember to put the hack lever back in place when reassembling the watch.  The L-shaped lever is engaged by the clutch so when the clutch slides into the setting position the lever moves over and touches the balance wheel, stopping the watch.


While everything is in the cleaner, I will install a new crystal with the original matte reflector ring.  That will make a huge improvement over what I started with.


Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.


The reassembled movement is ticking aware with a brisk motion... noticeably faster than the majority of vintage watches I work on.  This movement has a 21,600 beat per hour rate, verses the usual 18,000 pre-1969 models have.


Not too shabby but I can dial it in much further by speeding it up and reducing the beat error.


There... just about perfect with great amplitude too.


I relumed the dial and hands since the old lume was a bit grungy.


The finished watch looks almost perfect.  It certainly looks great, that's for sure.


And the fresh luminous paint glows nicely too.   Time to find another field watch to work on...


Saturday, January 12, 2019

1938 Otis

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, isn't that the saying?  Well, I guess when it comes to high end watches, imitation can also lead to intrigue and rumors.

In 1938 Hamilton introduced a model called the Otis.  It was produced into 1941, although only shown in the 1938 through 1940 catalogs.  It was arguably one of the most unique models of all time, as the case was "reversible" and allowed the wearer to flip the watch over to protect the glass crystal while still wearing the watch.


For many, many years collectors believed Hamilton was sued for patent infringement because of the Otis, thus resulting in the demise of the model in 1941.  The design is very similar to the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, also produced in the 1930's.  In fact, you can still purchase a new JLC Reverso today!  Did Hamilton get caught stealing another company's designs?  (no)

If you notice in the 1938 catalog, two caveats are mentioned by ** and (x).  Those mention the US Patent for the watch and that it's not available for export.


It turns out, thanks in large part to Mark Cardelucci at www.vintagehamilton.com, that LeCoultre granted Hamilton a license to manufacture and sell watches in a reversible case, in accordance with the US patent, in exchange for a 60 cent royalty to be paid to LeCoultre on every watch sold in the US.   The Otis ceased to be made simply because of the outbreak of WWII, just like many other models manufactured at the time.

Originally the Otis was outfitted with a 17 jewel 980 movement.  That was the norm for gold filled models using a 14/0 sized movement.

Oddly enough, there are at least two solid gold Otis examples known to exist.

In 1940 the Otis was outfitted with a 19 jewel 982 movement.  That was the new norm introduced when the 982M was created for solid gold models and the 982 was used for 14K gold filled watches.


So you will find Otis watches in the wild with both the 982 and the 980 movements, depending on the year it was produced.

As for other features of the Otis, it was available with either a black finished dial or a silver butler finished dial.  The back of the reversible case was intended to be engraved with a personalization but there are plenty of examples where the back in unengraved.  Which is preferable?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some people prefer unengraved while others prefer a nicely engraved example.  Regardless, an Otis will always command a premium and sell well into the thousands of dollars today.

I recently came into possession of an Otis and I took a little bit of a leap of faith with it.  When it comes to a watch with a moveable case, it's hard to say what shape it is in without actually holding it in your hands.  However, as received it turned out to be pretty much what I was expecting... beat up, extremely dirty, and functional.


From the looks of the front and back you would not expect the Otis to have any other unique properties.  It looks like your normal, garden variety, gold filled Hamilton of the 1930's.


However, with a little force you can slide the case to the side and once it's fully slid outward you can flip it over.


Voila!  The watch is now closed up tight and reveals that this watch was presented to the president of the Advertising Club of Los Angeles in 1941.


The careful application of a case knife separates the back from the bezel.  Inside you can see two steel springs that work as the hinge as well as the detent to hold the assembly in position.


Wow, this in one dirty watch.  I think I could probably send the residue in my cleaning solution to 23 and me and get the DNA of the original owner identified.


Although it's super dirty, the movement is in otherwise fine condition.


The inside of the case back has a plethora of watchmaker's marks inside indicating that this watch was well maintained, at least for the first few decades of life,


This dial is a candidate for refinishing in my opinion.  Its very dirty and if I try to clean it I'll probably find that it looks worse.  At the same time, it looks pretty grungy as is.  I can tell by the D60 at the bottom of the dial that this is the original dial.


Don't believe me?  Check out the original dial pattern for the Otis.  The black version is dial D60 and the silver version is dial D59.


Taking the movement apart, as expected, the mainspring inside is an old blue steel example.  There is a 99% chance that it's "set" and will need to be replaced.


No surprise here, this spring lacks most of its original energy and would probably only power the watch for a few hours.  A fresh Dynavar spring will give the watch upwards of a 40 hour power reserve.


While all the parts are in the cleaner I will see what I can do with the dial.  My first pass seemed to make matters worse.


However, the dial looks better when it's wet than when it's dry.  So maybe if I give it a light spritz of clear lacquer it won't look too bad.  I call this the "poor man's refinish" and it will often turn out great.


Everything gets cleaned and dried.  Now it's time to put it back together again.


When I went to install the balance I noticed the impulse jewel was off to the side a smidgen.  I suspect the beat error will be a little high.  The watch is ticking away with good motion though so that's a good sign.  Only a watch timer will be able to really say what's going on.


It's running a little fast with great amplitude but the beat error is over my 3.0ms upper spec.  I think I know what direction to adjust the hairspring, now I just need to move it the right amount.


Ah, 0.6ms is much better.  Now I can tweak the regulator and slow the watch down.


There... 17 seconds fast per day will be fine.  It will slow a little as everything settles back into place.


My poor man's finish turned out okay, not great but not terrible.  The crystal has a chipped corner and a couple of dings so I'll add that to my list of things to track down.


This is such and interesting watch!  The movability of the case is oddly satisfying, like flipping a Gerber multitool.  The case is nicely cleaned of any past grunge and only a hint of wear through is visible to the high points of the lugs.


The back (or is it still the front) of the watch is just as attractive as the dial-side.  Personally I prefer engraved examples.  The unengraved versions look too plain and uninteresting to my eye.


I found the following in the Highland Park Post-Dispatch, Volume XI, Number 42, 2 July 1942

R. G. Kenyon New Vice President Of Edison Company

R. G. Kenyon, advertising: manager of the Southern California Edison Company for the past ten years, has been appointed assistant vice-president of the-company. Howard W. Hayes, assistant advertising manager, has been appointed advertising manager to succeed Mr. Kenyon. Announcement of the changes was made here today by Harry J. Bauer, Edison president. Mr. Kenyon, a member of the Edison organization for twentyfive years, was named assistant advertising manager in -1926 and became head of the advertising department in 1932. He previously had been employed in the company’s accounting department, the securities department and was assistant supervisor of employment. He is a director of the Public Utilities Advertising Association, a past president of the Los Angeles Advertising Club and a trustee of Occidental College. His home Is in San Marino. Mr. Hayes has been assistant advertising manager since 1932 and has been with the Edison Company fifteen years. Before joining the Edison advertising staff he was on the editorial staff of newspapers in Pasadena. Santa Monica and Visalia, and was on the staff of the Associated Press in Los Angeles and Phoenix, Ariz. His home Is In South Pasadena.

And here's a picture of him sitting at his desk!  It's from 1938 so he's not wearing this watch.