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 11, 2021

1955 Viscount

At last... back in the saddle again.

It's been almost 8 months since I last touched a project watch.  Can you believe it?

If you've seen my last post you know that we've been in the process of relocating from Pennsylvania to Virginia.  We consider Virginia the "motherland" as we moved from Virginia to Pennsylvania in 2007 with the hope of someday returning.

And here we are, at the threshold of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the middle of the Shenandoah National Park, with a view of Flat Top Mountain.  Skyline Drive is somewhere just over the crest of that peak.

The new global headquarters of HamiltonChronicles is on the opposite side of that window... impressive isn't it.  I've come a long way from the basement of my last house and worked my way up to a window and a corner office to boot!

My accommodations are still a work in progress.  In fact, I only have one outlet and have yet to find my desk lamps so it's not the easiest place to accomplish tasks requiring fine motor skills.  It took me most of the weekend to find all of my tools and miscellaneous parts needed to work on watches. (Yes, that's a Hamilton clock on the wall)

My project watch is a really unique model.  It's the 1955 Viscount and was made for four years.  Check out the design for the lugs!  This watch requires a specially trimmed strap.

The Viscount came in a solid 14K gold case with a sterling silver dial with either a silver butler finish or a black finished dial.

In 1958 the dial was outfitted with an extra gold marker to denote it as part of the masterpiece line.  So if you see a model without this medallion under the Hamilton logo it is likely a 1955 example.

My project watch has a few issues.  Can you spot the any of them?

There are several issues the trained eye might spot.  For starters, the crown is totally incorrect.  The marker at the 3 position is missing.  The dial is an older, slightly incorrect refinish.  There are supposed to be two intersecting lines running horizontally but not vertically.  The second hand isn't the right style either but that is forgivable after close to 70 years.

This is the first time I've come across a Viscount in the wild.  I suspect there may be an issue with the lugs, the strap is very wobbly.

Check out the crown, it appears to be a waterproof crown and definitely not correct for a dress watch.  Specifying crown is actually very tricky, there are a lot of factors to consider like the diameter, style, tap, post length, etc.  I should have a genuine Hamilton crown in my stash that will work much better.

Tucked inside the case is a 22 jewel 770 movement, Hamilton's top of the line caliber.  This one is pretty dirty but it does tick, which is always a good sign.

If you didn't believe the dial was refinished, the index mark on the edge of the dial at the 12 is proof positive.

The dial-side of the main plate definitely shows more dirt than the damascened reverse.  It's been a long time since this watch has had a trip to the spa.  You can see in this shot that the crown has a long post, which means I'll need to replace the stem when I fit the new crown.

The missing long marker is very unique.  It took me a while but I eventually found a donor dial.  This dial has a radium burn and incorrect markings so removing a marker is no great loss.

Here's the source of the wobbly straps... the hole the spring bars pass through has been wallowed out by time and wear.  I have no doubt that a talented jeweler or goldsmith could fill the hole with 14K gold and drill it back to a proper diameter.  That will be important as eventually this little strip of gold will give way, and then there will be real trouble.

Everything is taken apart, thoroughly cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.  You can see I've already replaced the missing marker - the dial already looks much better.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with a fine motion.  It's a teensy bit slow but a very minor tweak to the regulator will speed it up.

There... 3 seconds fast per day will do nicely.

Looking at my record book, my last project was completed on August 22nd, 2020, almost 8 months ago!

My light tent and usual photo setup is still missing in a myriad boxes but here's a finished shot using good ol' sunlight.  The lines near the 11 marker are actually creases in the finish from the dial being bent at some point.  Getting the case repaired and the dial refinished (I'd go with black) and this would be one special watch and the pride of any Hamilton collection.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Merry Christmas!... and shop update

It's been a long while since I've posted on the blog and more than a few people have reached out to me to wish me well and inquire how I'm doing.  Thank you.  I thought others might like to hear why things have been quiet and what the future holds.

But first, Merry Christmas!  Although today is December 26th, it's actually the 2nd day of Christmas, so I'm not late to the party after all.  In fact, Christmas is celebrated for 10 more days and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th.

Did you know that Christmas is celebrated by 95% of Americans?

What a year this has been, huh?  On a personal note, this has been a banner year... I've had one child graduate college, another graduate high school, and we picked up stakes in Pennsylvania and moved to Virginia. 

What else happened in 2020?  Oh that's right, that little thing called COVID-19.  Boy did that change everything.

As I've reflected on a theme for my annual Christmas post, I thought the following Hamilton advertisement was inspiring.  We shall ride this storm through...

The birth of Christ celebrates God's gifts of Faith, Hope and Love to humanity and regardless of your religious persuasion, I hope you can experience those gifts first hand in these most desperate times.

There is tremendous hope that our collective scientific community will develop new vaccines and treatments to beat this disease.  That hope is well founded, but it will take time to develop the scale needed to reach everyone, everywhere.

Faith gives us hope and faith is what you need to accept a vaccine into your body.  You have to believe in the science inside the vial... no one wants to hear their doctor say, "well, here goes, I hope this works."

Of course, some folks don't believe in science.  Some don't believe we've been to the moon either, even though there are pictures!

I jest, of course, the astronauts didn't remove their helmets on the moon, as this NASA training image might suggest, but the point is true nonetheless.

Love is the most plentiful of God's gifts to see in a COVID-world today.  You'll see it in every healthcare worker, in every hospital, in every town.  

One way that YOU can show these values is to wear a mask.  Wearing a mask demonstrates you care enough about others that you're willing to protect the most vulnerable in our community by slowing the progress of this disease.  It also shows that you're willing to have faith and hope while we ride this storm through together.

As for a shop update... as I mentioned, we moved to Virginia mid-year.  We've been living in a townhouse in the Shenandoah Valley with the majority of our "stuff" in storage - including all of my workshop materials.  I took great care to move my workshop myself and it was the first of our belongings to go into storage.  That also means it's the furthest from the door and the hardest to get to.  So I haven't worked on a watch in months!

We last moved in 2007 and that was a long enough time ago for us to completely forget how painful it is to move everything you own.  Plus, we managed to acquire a LOT more stuff since 2007.  

Moving is a great opportunity to focus on what's important to you.  We sold a lot of things and we've been patiently waiting for just the right place to come on the market... something with nice mountain views, not too large, not too small, something with a nice workspace, not too long of a drive to work, etc.   

The good news is we've finally found it.  We have a contract on a new home and should be ready to move in late February.  With a little luck and a bit of effort, I should have my workshop back online by March.  

Maybe that's something we can all look forward to a little.  I've got quite a few watch projects waiting for some TLC.

I'll close this annual post with an Irish Christmas blessing:

May you be blessed with the spirit of the season, 
which is peace, 
the gladness of the season,
 which is hope, 
and the heart of the season, 
which is love.

Best wishes for a better 2021!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

1965 A-202 maybe?

One thing I like about collecting vintage Hamiltons is when I get pitched a curve ball.  It doesn't happen too often but it's always a nice change of pace, especially after documenting over 700 different models!

There's one model that always makes me scratch my head - the Accumatic A-652.  It was introduced in 1962 and made into the 1970s.  The 6 in 652 means it has a 10K RGP case.  The 5 means it has a stainless steel back.  The 2 implies it was the second Accumatic with a 10K RGP case and stainless back.

What makes the A-652 interesting is I've found it numerous times without a stainless steel back.  Is it still an A-652 if its just a 10K RGP case?  I would say, yes.

How about if it was in a solid 14K yellow gold case?  Hmm...

Well, that's what my project watch appears to be.  It looks like a well-worn A-652 with a solid 14K case.

Here's an A-652 on it's original bracelet to compare it to.  In general the dial is the same.  The shape of the lugs is very similar but not exactly the same.

The back of the single-piece case is clearly marked Hamilton and 14K Gold.  D&A is the name of the case maker.

The first solid gold Accumatic came out in 1962 but only one, the A-200, was introduced.  The other few solid Accumatics weren't released until 1968.  Prior to 1968, Accumatics came mostly in stainless steel or 10K rolled gold plate.  There are only a handful of solid gold Accumatics and one of them is the 1968 Accumatic A-203.  The case on my project watch looks very similar to an A-203, don't you think?

The crown on my project watch is worn out and ready for replacement.

The seal on the crown has also separated so replacing the crown is definitely a good idea.

There are two numbers inside the case.  The V44xx number is a unique serial number for this watch.  The other number is the model number.  It ends in 65... that implies this model is a 1965 model.  In 1968 the A-201, A-201B, A-203, A-205 and A-206 were introduced.  There is no A-202 or 204... since the A-202 would conceivably come before the A-203 and the A-203 came out in 1968, maybe my project watch is an A-202?

It's also possible it's an Awards Division watch or possibly an M-series model.

The Awards Division marketed Hamilton watches for presentation by companies and organizations.  They were separate models from the regular line.  The premise being that award recipients wouldn't find their "award" in their local jewelry store.  Often an Awards Division model will say "Masterpiece" on the dial.

M-series models are typically uncatalogued.  The conventional wisdom is they were models sold through a large retail chain.  The best way to identify an M-series model is they came in a red clam shell box like this 1963 M100-4.

Of course, it's also possible that at some point over the past 50+ years the dial was changed.  Without original paperwork it's really difficult to say.

Inside the case is a 17 jewel 689A movement, the typical Accumatic caliber.

The finish on the dial is a bit crazed so I really don't want to try to clean it since there's a big probability I could lose the printing or make the dial look a lot worse.

Everything gets taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.

A new crown will make it much easier to wind by hand and less likely for moisture to sneak inside.

The escape wheel is missing a pivot and will need to be replaced.  It's hard to see in the photo but the pinion-end should have a pivot to ride in the jewel on the train bridge.

With a replacement escape wheel installed, the reassembled movement is ticking away with a nice motion.  The timer will tell me how well it's running.  You really can't adjust a watch with a stop watch.  A timegrapher is an absolute necessity.

It's running a little slow but the beat error of 8.3ms is way to high.  Fortunately it's easy to adjust on this movement.

A few tweaks to the position of the hairspring stud centers the balance and reduced the beat error to 0.1ms.  That means the balance swings equally from side to side.

With the beat error out of the way, I can tweak the regulator pins and speed the watch up.  +8 seconds per day is a good place to leave it for now.

My merciless light tent makes this watch look worse than it really is.  It actually looks way nicer in real life.