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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

1960 Thinomatic T-475 Calendar

Made for only one year, the 1960 Thinomatic T-475 Calendar is a very cool looking watch that just oozes 1960's styling.

The watch is sleek and surprisingly thin.  Behind the dial you will find a micro-rotor 668 movement.  I don't know that much about these micro-rotor automatic movements... there are several very similar grades ranging from 663, 668 and 666.  The latter I think is aptly named as I find trying to reassemble one of these movements to be "the devil's work".  Some parts are so small that it's hard to believe they could even make them - let alone that they serve a useful purpose.

The case is 10K yellow gold with a screw-on stainless steel back.  The dial has embossed numerals and markers with pearlized dots.  I'm not sure how to describe the textured dial... it sort of has a linen look to it and I'd hate to have to try to get it refinished.  The date window at 6 is a very classy touch.  Some modern Hamiltons have also adopted this design aesthetic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1937 Elliott

The 1937 Hamilton Elliott may be the smallest man's watch that Hamilton made... if not the smallest, it's in the top 3 for sure.  By today's standards the Elliott is better suited to a lady who appreciates fine vintage watches.

Made for only three years, the 1937 Elliott was the first version to bear that name but not the only one.  There's also another Elliott model from 1962.

Behind the dial is a 17 jewel 980 movement and it pretty much fills up the case and extends beyond the dial into the lug area.

The 14K yellow gold filled case is prone to wear through on the corners of the bezel near the lugs.

Two dial varieties were available, an inlaid black enamel dialed version (shown on the ad) and an applied gold numeral dial - which is more commonly found.

I purchased an Elliott project watch a while back and although it turned out well, it's so small that it doesn't really get any wrist time.  It takes a 16mm strap and as you can see in the photo below, the watch is only about 20mm wide overall.  There are similarly narrow models in the Hamilton line-up from the 1930s, but most of them were much longer, curvex-style watches and they wear a little larger on the wrist.

Monday, November 26, 2012

1948 Dyson

The 1948 Hamilton Dyson is a surprisingly common watch.  It was produced for four years and Hamilton must have sold a gazillion of them based on how frequently you see them for sale.

Behind the white finished sterling silver dial is a 17 jewel 8/0 sized 747 movement.  The case is 14k yellow gold filled and the tops of the lugs are prone to wear through.

I've had the opportunity to restore several Dysons - as when they're in poor shape they tend to be very inexpensive.  If I recall correctly, I purchased the project watch below for about $25.

After cleaning the dial, overhauling the movement and installing a new glass crystal and leather strap, this Dyson was ready for wrist time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

1951 Carlton Overhaul

The Carlton is an interesting watch.  Why?  Because there are several unique varieties to it that depend upon the year it was made.

The Hamilton Carlton was produced for four years.  Each year from 1951 to 1954 it received a different bracelet design.  In addition, in 1954 it had two different dial patterns to choose from.  So, technically you could collect five different Carlton varieties with unique bracelets and dials - plus more if you wanted one or two on straps!

Here's the 1951 example...
                        and 1952...                          1953....                          and 1954...

The Carlton's case is 10K gold filled.  The dial is a butler finished sterling silver and the applied numerals and dots are solid 18K gold.

Personally, I'm satisfied with just having one Carlton.  I recently obtained a 1951 example - as you can use the original bracelet to identify the year.  As received, it was in really nice shape - just the usual amount of "old man funk" on the bracelet that a few minutes in the ultrasound would clean up.

This bracelet is a Hadley.

Outside of the case, the dial is original and in excellent condition.  The other dial you might find on a 1954 example would be all numerals.

After removing the hour and minute hands, you can remove the dial by loosening the two dial feet screws located on opposite sides of the movement.  You can see one of them in the photo below.  I use the dial to remove the second hand - as trying to remove it with tweezers risks accidentally sending it into the stratosphere - never to be seen again.

With the dial removed, you now have access to the hour wheel (center) and the cannon pinion below it.  These two parts need to be removed in order to pull the center wheel from the reverse side.

The 8/0 sized, 17 jewel 747 is probably the easiest movement to work on and in my opinion the best movement to learn how to take apart and reassemble a watch movement on.

With the movement completely disassembled and put in to the ultrasonic cleaner, I can polish the case.  It was already in the ultrasonic cleaner and the crystal came right out - which makes cleaning the case even easier.

All the parts are cleaned and set out to dry before reassembly.

Here, the pallet fork is reinstalled as well as the escape wheel and fourth wheel beneath the "train bridge".

Next to go in is the third wheel and the center wheel, along with the mainspring barrel.

Once the barrel bridge is reinstalled, tension can be re-applied to the mainspring and the movement is ready for the balance assembly to go back on.

With the watch running, I put it on my timer to see how it is running.  12 seconds fast per day... that's not too bad.  It will change slightly with temperature, position, and mainspring tension so I'll leave it as is.

Here's the finished product - all cleaned up and ready for another 60 years of service.

Just for reference, here's the other 1954 all-numeral Carlton...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

1959 Thor & 1963 Thor II

In the late 1950's and early 1960's Hamilton introduced a variety of "space age" watch designs that coincided with the United States' space program.  These watches are known as "Asymmetrics" and they often got space-inspired names (but not always).  Most asymmetric models also featured the electric movements like the 500, 500A or 505.  However, there are also a few asymetric models that featured mechanical or automatic movements.

A good example of a mechanical asymmetric is the 1959 Thor.  It was only produced for three years and was discontinued in 1961.  However, a similar model, the Thor II was introduced in 1963 and produced for two years.

The original Thor came in a gold filled case in either white or yellow gold.  It also featured the 22 jewel, 12/0 sized 770 movement.

Dial options varied... yellow cased models got a butler finished white dial with solid gold numerals and markers.  White cases models could get the white dial or a black finished dial with rhodium plated gold numerals and markers.

The Thor II is very similar except the dial only has numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 (in a different font design) and under the dial is a Swiss-made movement.

Here's a couple of wrist shots of Thors - the first is a yellow model on my relatively hair-free arm.  The latter is a white model courtesy of the apparently much hairier, Tom Diss.

And here's a nice example of a Thor II courtesy of another Hamilton-collecting friend, Dave McCamon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

1935 Wayne

Issued only for one year, the 1935 Hamilton Wayne was one of the first watches to feature the newly introduced 19 jewel, 14/0 size 982 movement.

The Wayne was introduced with another watch called the Ardmore.  Both are towns on the historic "Main Line", the railway that left Philadelphia and headed West toward Lancaster PA and points beyond.

The Wayne is a solid 14K gold tank-style watch with highly polished surfaces tapering down to the lugs.   It was only available with an applied gold number (AGN) dial.

At this point in Hamilton's production, the solid gold watches received the 19 jewel 982 movement and the gold filled watches got the 17 jewel 980 movement.  Later on, Hamilton introduced the 982M Medallion movement that would be used in solid gold models.

One interesting factoid about the Wayne is it has male lugs and requires female spring bars to attach the strap.  That means instead of holes in the case to receive the spring bar, the case has metal tangs that stick out and the spring bar is more like a spring tube with holes on the ends to receive the tangs.  Finding spring bars with holes large enough to accommodate the male stubs is always a challenge.

I recently had the opportunity to overhaul a friend's Wayne and I found it interesting that the movement had a very low serial number... 5000-something.

It's a nice looking watch and it turned out great... and the best thing of all is there's no wear through!

1960's Automatic Mystery Watch

Sometimes you come across a nice Hamilton watch and find out you don't know what model it is.  Finding an obscure model is part of the fun of collecting watches.  Some watches are extremely rare.

At the same time, some watches were never actually made.  Collectors will often refer to these watches as Frankens, as in Frankenstein, where someone may have re-cased a movement and dial in a non-Hamilton case, or assembled a complete watch using various parts of authentic models.

Personally, I think Frankens are interesting since you can come up with some nice looking designs and as long as all the parts are authentic you could de-franken them if you wanted - so no harm done.  I'm not a big fan of Hamilton dials and movements in private label cases masquerading as authentic models though - to me those are just spare movements waiting for a new home.  That's more common with ladies models than with mens but you will come across both fairly often.

There are many Hamilton watches that were not cataloged.  Usually they are "presentation watches" provided to employees to mark service anniversaries.  In fact, Hamilton had a separate awards division to cater to this important business segment.  Part of the intention of not cataloguing these watches was because customers did not want their employees to see their "award watch" for sale in their local jewelry store.

I recently purchased a 1960's Hamilton Automatic in a stainless steel case.  As received, it was pretty beat up but running so it made for a nice project watch.

Identifying a Hamilton model is a two-step process...  First you note the case material and design details like the shape of the lugs, along with the dial details like the hour markers and printing.

The Second step is to go through the myriad catalogs and look for a match.  I like to use the "resource center" on an online forum I participate on...  check it out by clicking the link below if you need to identify a Hamilton watch.

Once I pulled the beat up crystal, I was able to remove the dial and movement.  Both were in very nice shape and appear original to my eye.  A little bit of rust on the hands was the only distraction.

Since the stainless steel cased is marked Hamilton Watch Company, it's an authentic case.  Knowing the details of the dial, I then consulted the catalogs.

I was able to narrow down my new addition to two possible models, but neither is an exact match.

First is this 1960 Automatic K-304.  Note the numerals and markers match, as do the hands and the printing of the Hamilton logo and Automatic.  Only problem is the case is yellow gold, not stainless steel, and it looks like the case has a step around the circumference where my watch's case is smooth.

Going into the catalogs a little further, I found the Accumatic VIII.  Case shape and material matches, the hands look right.  Just the Hamilton logo is a little different and the markers and numerals don't quite agree with my model.

So what model is it?  I don't know for sure.   Sometimes the catalog images were "artistic representations" of the model - so it's possible that it's an Accumatic VIII, but that's a tough call and a long shot.

One thing is for sure though.  Now that it's all cleaned up with a fresh crystal it looks great.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

1951 Jeffrey

I like the 1951 Hamilton Jeffrey because it shares the same name as one of my best friends... the sort of friend you can go years without seeing but immediately take up where you left off the moment you see them again.

The Hamilton Jeffrey was produced until 1953.

The model comes in a 10K gold filled case and features solid 18K gold numerals on a two-tone sterling silver dial.

The Jeffrey also bridges two periods of 17 jewel movements.  It started out with the 14/0 sized 980 movement and when that was discontinued it received the 12/0 sized 752 movement.

Like similarly shaped models, the Jeffrey will often show wear to the ridges of the lugs, as well as on the case back.

It's a nice looking model in my opinion, especially with the two tone dial.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1956 Cross Country II

One of the really interesting aspects of Hamilton watches from the 1950's is the variety of innovative and unique designs that were introduced.  One good example is the 1956 Cross Country II.

It was only produced for two years.

There are a lot of oddities to this watch.  First off is the dial itself.  The hour hand is actually the black disc in the center of the dial.  It has indicators for 5 time zones.  You set the hour hand to the time zone you're in and the other indicators will tell you the time relative to where you set the hour hand.   For example, in the catalog add above, the hour hand is set to "central time".

It's very similar to two other models made during the same period, the Transcontinental A (10K gold filled case) and the Transcontinental B (14K gold case).  Both of those models use a rotating disc to represent the hour hand but they use a graphic of the United States and Great Britain to indicate the time zones.

I can only find the Cross Country II in the Hamilton catalogs but I think there's an identical looking Cross Country watch that used a 17 jewel Illinois movement.  However, in the Cross Country II you will find an 8/0 sized 735 movement.  At least that's what I found in the example below.

This Cross Country II also has it's original bracelet - a rare find!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

1928 Hastings

In 1928 Hamilton introduced a series of new watches that dramatically expanded the list of available men's strap watches.  Included in the new model line up was the Hastings.  It would continue to be produced through 1933.

The Hastings was available in both solid gold as well as filled gold, in both yellow or white.

Interestingly, the "exploding numeral" dial pattern shown in the 1928 and 1929 catalogs is either extremely rare, or was never actually produced.

The later catalogs showed the traditional luminous dial pattern for the model, although a black enamel dial pattern exists (but wasn't referenced in the catalogs) as well as a couple of applied gold numeral dial patterns that were purchased from Flukiger, Switzerland and are exceptionally uncommon.  There were a lot of oddities to the Hamilton watches back in this period.

Behind the dial you will find a 6/0 sized,17 jewel, 987 movement in the earlier models or a 987F in the later models.  Either movement is just as likely to be found but a 987E or 987A would surely be a later replacement.

The Hastings is very similar to another period model called the Greenwich (see my earlier post).  The main difference between the two models is the bezel shape.  The Greenwich's bezel is thicker and has steps to it while the Hastings is thinner and has a single rounded contour.  The watches are basically the same size but the Greenwich appears a little smaller since the thicker bezel requires a slightly smaller crystal.

The vast majority of the time you will find the watch with an older luminous dial and hands.  Sometimes they can look pretty rough and it's really a judgement call when and if to refinish an old dial.  

My personal opinion is "it depends".  If the dial and hands match nicely and there's no glaring distractions, like dark spots or damage, then I lean toward originality.  If the hands don't match or the dial is on the ugly side, then I prefer to refinish. 

Here's a before and after of a Hastings that I restored for my personal collection.  Note in this before shot that the luminous material on the dial and hands doesn't match and the dial is very spotted, especially on the right side.

Afterwards, this watch looks crisp and is a striking improvement.

Here's another "after shot" of a different Hastings that I restored for someone else.  I've done several of these Hastings over the last couple of years and every one of them has been in white cases.  In fact, I've never personally seen a yellow version.

But, just to prove that the yellow ones do exist, here's a photo of a yellow Hastings with the black enamel dial - a really nice example in my opinion - courtesy of my friend, Tom Diss.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1962 Accumatic A-652

Hamilton's lineup of automatic (self winding) movements is a entire genre of watch collecting unto itself.  The first automatics showed up in 1954 with a series that started with K... as in K-400, etc.  Over the next 16 years other automatics with models starting with A and T were introduced with prefixes like "Accumatic", "Thin-o-matic" or just "Automatic".  Auto's with calendar functions were often part of the Dateline series.  It's quite an alphabet soup, really.

I have a few automatics in my collection and one of them is the 1962 Accumatic A-652.  This model was produced through 1969 with slight dial variations available over the seven years it was manufactured.

As best I can tell, the A-652 came with three potential dial options; the numeral and marker dial in white, the numeral marker dial in black, and an all numeral dial.

Identifying an automatic watch's model can be a challenge... the best way to go about it is first to identify the material the case is made of (solid gold, gold filled, gold plate (RGP), stainless steel, etc.), then you look at the case shape (with focus on the lugs), and finally the dial configuration and even hands.  It can be pretty tedious and even then you still might not be able to identify it, as there are lots of  models that were not catalogued - especially presentation watches (like 25 year service anniversaries).

All of the automatic movements were purchased by Hamilton but made elsewhere - typically Swiss movements made by ETA (some by Buren).

The Accumatic A-652 originally came in a 10K yellow Rolled Gold Plate (RGP) case with a stainless back.  However, in 1965 it appears to have come in a fully RGP case.  Regardless of the case back, it opens through the crystal and this watch has an 11.5 ligne 689A movement behind the dial.

I recently installed a new old stock (NOS) original bracelet on mine.  Collecting original bracelets is another genre of collecting that very few have the attention to detail to effectively pull off.  I'm not one of them but one of my friends is - and he hooked me up with this one.

Hamilton's bracelets were provided by several manufacturers... Kreisler, Gemex, Champion, etc. but never by Speidel.  So if you see a Speidel bracelet on a Hamilton watch and you wonder if it's original there's an excellent chance that it is not.