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, July 9, 2016

1956 Automatic K-456

It's interesting how some K-series models are fairly ubiquitous and other, very similar, models are seen infrequently.  It makes you wonder if shoppers of the time were drawn more to one style than to another or if it was purely a matter of supply.

For example, you can't swing a dead cat without knocking a 1956 Automatic K-455 off the wrist of a Hamilton collector.  You can find a K455 for sale all the time.  It's a nice model, comes with two dial options and has a classic 1950's "flying saucer" vibe to it.

On the other hand, when is the last time you saw a 1956 Automatic K-456?  It was made for the same duration as the K455... through 1958.  However, you rarely see a K-456 in the wild.

The Automatic K-456 looks very familiar.  It looks like a cross between a K-455 and a 1957 Rotomatic I.  It came in a 10K gold filled case with a stainless steel back.  The dial features luminous dot hour markers with matching dauphine hands.

Like pretty much all of the K-series models from the 1950's, you will find the 17 jewel 661 automatic movement inside.

My K-456 project watch arrived in very good shape - a perfect project watch because it shows very little wear but doesn't look new either.  The crystal has a few rub marks and the crown doesn't fit quite right but those are both easy fixes.

This is my favorite style of screw-on back.  Stainless steel is tough and the openings are strong enough for my case wrench to get a solid grip.

The movement looks to be in great shape with no obvious corrosion anywhere.

Based on the spartan case back, there are no signs whatsoever of anyone every servicing this watch in the past.  I might be the first person disassemble this watch since it left Lancaster, PA in 1956.

Everything is ready to be reassembled.  There are a lot of parts in a 661 when you take it completely apart.

The basic powertrain has been reassembled and the movement is now ticking away.  It's off to the timer to listen to the ticking.

I wish every watch I reassembled looked like this right out of the gate.  Not much to complain about here... everything looks great.

A new 28.1mm diameter high dome crystal will go a long way toward improving the look of this K-456.  The other crystal was obviously old and it had turned a dull yellow.

You can see what a difference a trip to the spa can make on even a relatively good looking movement.  Notice how bright and shiny everything is now.  I still need to shorten the stem a little so the crown will seat better.

I decided to replace the crown with a better looking example, as the rest of this watch looks almost new.  This K-456 has not seen a lot of wrist time over the last 60 years.  I bet it will now, though.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

1954 Automatic K-550

Hamilton's first Automatic models arrived on scene in 1954.  They had several of them, including their first calendar watch too.  They were all members of the newly created K-series.  One of them was the Automatic K-550.
Also offered in 1954 was the K501 and K502 so it sort of begs the question, why the K-550?  Why not the K-503?  Well, there was a K-503 already in the works, and a K504 too.  They came out in 1955.  So the answer to "why the K550?" is... I don't know.

Typically when the second digit in the model number is a 5, it means the watch has a stainless steel back.  The first digit represents the bezel material... 1 is  solid 18K, 2 is solid 14K, 3 is solid 10K, 4 is Gold Filled, 5 is stainless steel and 6 is Rolled Gold Plate RGP.  

So naming a first year model the K550 is a bit of a mystery.

Like most of the K-series models, you can expect to see a 17 jewel 661 movement inside.

My project K550 watch came with what I believe to be the original bracelet.  The K550 is a one-year wonder, it was only produced for a single year.  The catalog says there was a bracelet but it only shows the strap in the catalog.  However I have it on good authority that this bracelet is correct.

If the dial looks familiar, it should.  The same dial was used in the 1955 K504.  The shape of the lugs is what makes the K-550 different from the K504 - although the K504 has another dial pattern too.

The case back unscrews.  This is my favorite design for a case back - as I find it easy to open and close without my case wrench slipping.

I've restored lots of K-series models and the 661 is a very familiar movement to me.  It's a very sturdy movement but that makes it a very thick movement too.  So the K-series eventually yielded to the Accumatic line, which was considerably thinner.  And the Thin-o-matic line was even more slender, as you would surmise.

Everything is cleaned and dried.

Without the rotor assembly, the watch looks like your average manual winding movement - and it runs just fine this way too.  It's not unusual to find automatic watches that are missing their rotors.  They don't wind automatically but they still work and look just fine.

According to my timer, this 661 gets a clean bill of health.  Everything looks great.

One of the reasons why the K550 was a one year wonder is the sleek design.  Maybe it's a little too sleek.  Where's the crown?  It's there, but it's just recessed into the side of the case.  So this watch is very hard to wind manually.  It can be done but it's more challenging than when the crown is a little more exposed.

This K550 is a sharp looking watch and you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer original example.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

1968 Sea Crest III

Hamilton introduced a number of watches in the last two years of the 1960's.  In fact, you could say the 1960's went out with a bang with well over 180 models in the line-up.  That means that 16% of all the watch models ever offered were still for sale in 1969.

One of the new models introduced in 1968 was the Sea Crest III.  As you would suspect there was a Sea Crest and a Sea Crest II, the latter being discontinued after 1964.  So the lineup was Sea Crest-free for a couple of years before the III was offered.

The Sea Crest III is a fairly blah, conservative-looking watch with classic 1960's styling.   It came in a one-piece stainless steel case with your choice of a strap or a stainless steel Kreisler bracelet.  The dial has luminous dots and thin luminous baton hands to match.

Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel 688 movement.  This grade is basically a manual-winding version of the ETA automatics used during the same period.

I recently received a Sea Crest project watch in need of some TLC.  It looked a lot better than it ran.

As you can see, the timer shows a whole lot of something going on.  It's running almost 10 minutes fast per day.  Something is definitely not right inside.

Being a one-piece case, the Sea Crest III opens through the crystal.  With the crystal out of the way you can see the dial is actually textured with vertical lines.

The watch is running, which is good, and the movement looks clean but even a trip past the demagnetizer doesn't have an effect on the performance.  I can tell by the position of the regulator (at full slow) and the placement of the hairspring stud, that something is wonky with this balance.

Everything gets fully taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.  Any oil on the hairspring can make the watch run fast and if that was the situation here, it would be cleaned off now.

The movement is nice and shiny and ticking away.  One thing I noticed is the crown wheel screw is stripped, or the barrel bridge is stripped... one or the other.  So it doesn't hold very well.  The crown wheel is the smaller of the two winding wheels and closest too the stem at 3:00.  I moved the hairspring stud counter clockwise a little to be closer to in beat.  Now I can see what the timer thinks.

Well, it's not running fast anymore... now it's running slow and the beat error is still maxed out.  Time to take a close look at the hairspring.

The hairspring has a nice coil all the way to the last turn, where it bends to go out and into the hairspring stud.  I suspect the shape of this last section is incorrect.  The last cm or so of the spring is also bent so the coil isn't flat when it's installed.  This little section needs to be reshaped.  I suspect someone's screwdriver slipped and went into the balance - bending the hairspring in the process.

To fix it is really a test of one's fine motor skills.  You need to take the hairspring off the balance, install just the spring in the regulator, and then observe where the center of the spring falls relative to the balance jewels.  Ideally they would line up but if they didn't, you'd have to shape the spring such that the center of the spring is moved into the proper position.   If you'd like to see such a process first hand, check out this video by the very talented Mark Lovick.

I happen to have a donor 694A movement with a good balance so I will just swap the balance and see if that does the trick.  As you can see, this balance is much better and with a few tweaks to the regulator you can see the beat error gets reduced to almost zero as the two lines come together.

I still have to so something about the loose crown wheel screw but the watch is reassembled in the meantime.  This watch has it's original bracelet as well.  It's a nice looking example of a relatively uncommon model.