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.

Friday, December 21, 2012

WWII 4992B Pocket Watch - Overhaul

During World War II, Hamilton produced a variety of time pieces to support the war effort.  In fact, all of Hamilton's production was dedicated to defense purposes.  However, they did still produce some wrist watches using excess movements produced in the 1920's.

One of the war-related watches was a pocket watch with a central sweep second hand.  The movement was based on the 21 jewel, 16 size 992B movement.  However, an extra jewel was added to support the second hand pinion, so the movement got 22 jewels and was called the 4992B.

The 4992B is known as a "Navigator's Watch" as it was used by aviators to aid in navigation.  In fact, the watch above was carried through the Pacific by my wife's grandfather while in the US Navy during the war.

Here's a couple of advertisements from WWII-era Life Magazines that featured the 4992B.

You'll often see 4992B's in a case or a box that was intended to isolate it and protect it from shocks or accidental damage.

If you look closely at the dial, you'll see that it's a 24 hour dial so it takes a full day for the hour hand to make a full rotation.  12:00 noon on a 24 hour dial looks like 6:00 on a 12-hour dial.  The minute hand still makes it around the dial in one hour, so the ratio of the minute hand to the hour hand is modified using a different minute wheel and hour wheel ratio.

Another interesting aspect to the 4992B is it "hacks" or stops when you pull out the crown to set the time.  This allows you to set a very precise time... the old, "synchronize your watches" phrase comes to mind.

I recently purchased a 4992B pocket watch with a somewhat unusual 12-hour dial set up.   I have seen them before but they're not as common as the 24 hour black dialed variety.  Oddly enough, this one does not hack.

I actually purchased it a few months ago but other than seeing if it ran, I haven't done anything with it.  If you don't know the service history of a vintage watch you really shouldn't run it very long without getting it serviced.  Watches need to have oil in the crucial spots or they will potentially wear themselves out.  They may run - but are slowly damaging themselves if the oil has evaporated out.

I finally got around to servicing this watch so I will show you what it takes.

The first step is to remove the hands.  That prevents any damage when you pull the watch from the case.  The movement comes out the front so once you unscrew the front bezel you can open up the back and prepare to pull the movement.

On the opposite side, you can see there are two case screws holding the movement into the case.  They are located along the edge, at about the 11 and 5 o'clock positions.  In addition to the case screws, you need to remove the stem and crown.  A few turns of the set lever screw will allow you to pull it out... just like a wrist watch movement.

In fact, the 4992B is a lot like a giant 987S movement... or specifically, the 2987 which has an extra jewel for the second hand.

With the movement out of the case, there are three dial foot screws on the side of the movement.  Loosen them up and the dial comes right off.

As you can see on the dial-side of the main plate, the watch looks a lot like a 6/0 sized 987S movement.  It's "positive set", meaning when you pull the crown out you move the keyless works into the winding position against the force of springs.  Pushing the crown back in releases the springs and puts the keyless works back into the winding position.  A "negative set" movement does the opposite... you effectively push the stem in against the force of springs to get to the winding position.   I know, that's confusing... my point is that prior to WWII, many Hamilton pocket watches were negative set, and they look a lot different on the dial side.

Anyway, removing the hour wheel from the center of the movement exposes the cannon pinion and the minute wheel just to the right of it.  Those come off next, as does the set bridge (with two screws) and the cap jewels on the upper left of the movement.

Working on the reverse... first all the mainspring tension is let off.  Then it's disassembled just like a conventional wrist watch movement.

The bridge for the second hand pinion and the pinion is removed.  Also removed is the main spring ratchet wheel.  Three screws hold the barrel bridge on... once they're removed the barrel bridge can be taken off.

In the shot below, you might be able to see that the larger seconds wheel on the top of the barrel bridge is on the same axle as the 3rd wheel below the bridge.  The pivot of the 3rd wheel is extra long and extends into the seconds wheel.  So, as the 3rd wheel turns it turns the seconds wheel, which then turns the seconds pivot and the seconds hand on the front.

I find removing the larger seconds wheel from the axle of the 3rd wheel to be a challenge.  The same is true on the 987S.  Eventually it comes loose after some gentle persuasion.  In the shot below you can see the mainspring barrel is still in the movement but the other wheels are off to the right.

The next to come out is the train bridge and the 4th wheel and Escape wheel that it supports.  That then leaves the balance assembly and the pallet fork underneath it.

With the balance out you can see the pallet bridge, also known as the anchor bridge, that holds the pallet fork in place.

Now everything is disassembled and ready to be cleaned.  The main plate is too large for my usual cleaning set up - which is one reason why it didn't service it until now.  I'll clean it separately from the the smaller parts - to protect them from accidental damage during cleaning.

With everything cleaned and dried, all the parts seem to sparkle now.  It's time to re-oil everything and put it back together.

I always put the cap jewels back on first and the keyless works since the main plate is on that side.

With the back side up, the parts go back in the reverse order from which they came off.  So the pallet fork and anchor bridge are the first things on.  Care is taken to make sure the pivots for the pallet fork go into their jewels before the bridge is tightened.

Next the Escape wheel and the 4th wheel go on.  In a 992B the 4th wheel has a longer pivot to support the second hand at the 6 o'clock position.  The pivot on the 4th wheel of the 4992B is a little shorter and doesn't pass through the main plate.

Then the barrel, 3rd wheel and center wheel go on.  In this shot you can see the serial number, 4C97207, that dates the watch to 1944.

With the barrel bridge installed and the mainspring ratchet wheel installed this movement is just like a 992B at this point.

The seconds wheel and seconds pivot are installed.  Then the little bridge for the seconds pivot goes on to secure it all in place.

Finally, the balance assembly is ready to go on.  The trick here is to re-oil the pivot jewel under the hair spring.  You need to thread the oiler through the hairspring to get to the jewel without getting any oil on the hairspring.  Even a tiny amount of oil on the hairspring will throw the timing off.

With the balance reinstalled and the watch running, the cannon pinion, minute wheel and hour wheel are installed.  The keyless works gets a fresh dose of microgliss lubricant.

I didn't like the corrosion along the perimeter of the original dial and I was lucky enough to find a loose 4992B dial, so I'll make the dial swap now.

With everything reinstalled the watch goes on the timer... running 3 seconds fast per day... good enough for my tastes.

And here it is all spiffed up and ready to be used daily for years to come.


A friend of mine pointed out that there were some 4992B hack springs on eBay so I snagged a pair of them so that I could restore this watch's hacking function.

Here's how it went.

You may recall from above that the hack spring is used to stop the watch when the crown is pulled out to set the time.  In order to get to it I had to remove the movement from the case and then pull the sweep second wheel, pinion and barrel bridge.

In the shot below the parts have been removed.  Turns out I needed to remove the dial and hands too, as well as the cannon pinion and hour wheel so I could get the center wheel out of the way.

Here's a close of the the hack spring bridge and mechanism, sans-spring.  The stem has a point on the end of it and when the stem is pull out (to the right in the shot below) a spring moves the hack mechanism.  When the stem is pushed back in, the point of the stem will move the hack spring back to it's original position.

Here's a close up of the new hack spring on the right and it's bridge is in the above right.  The old hack mechanism lost it's j-shaped wire

In this shot the new hack spring is installed and the stem is pulled out to the time setting position.  Note how the j-shaped wire is resting against the balance wheel (my tweezers are pointing to it).

Here the stem is pushed back in and the wire has been moved away from the balance wheel - so now the watch will run.

Swapping out this part was an easy operation and it's rewarding to return this fine time piece to it's correct hacking form.


  1. What a excellent page! A friend of mine in upstate New York is currently refurbishing a 4992B for me, and then posting it back to me in the UK. Can't wait to see it.

  2. This is excellent; i took the stem out and for whatever reason, it will not re-set to allow for time setting; that is, when i pull the stem, out it comes all the way; cannot figure out how to tighten the screw to get it to lock the stem.

  3. I have a working pocket watch the case back is marked AN5740–1, Stock No 8TAA-966000-42, MFR’s. Part No. 33106, Contract Number, DA-36-038-ORD-19668 Serial No. AF-56-920, Hamilton Watch Company. The dial is black marked G. C. T with white 24 hour numbers. can anyone tell me anything about this watch?

  4. That's the typical US Military Navigator's Watch - used by pilots in the Army Air Corps and US Navy for navigation. You can see another one here...http://www.hamiltonchronicles.com/2012/10/wwii-military-watches.html

  5. I'm certain this watch started as a 24 hour G.C.T. as well. I noticed the Spring Cap has been modified so that the new minute wheel would fit. The minute wheel that is currently installed is likely taller and would have bound up under the spring cap, hence the modification.

  6. Could very well be the case. The spring cap (aka set bridge) is definitely missing the tang that covers the minute wheel. The modification is very clean though and not sloppily done. I really don't know how many 24 hour versions where created vs how many 12 hour versions. I would say the vast majority of 4992B's that I've seen are 24 hour versions.

  7. My elderly cousin has a GCT 24 hour watch that her husband used in the Army Air Corp during WWII.
    Learned lots from your blog.
    About page 3 you mention a "14 hour watch." Think you meant "24 hour."

    1. Fixed the typo-o. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. Can you advise if the train bridge is the piece with the model # and the legend "22 JEWELS". Whatever the piece name the first 2 and the J are closest to what looks like a jewel and screw with a tiny strap between them. Can you advise what this is for. I'm looking at a photo of a 4992B and it appears that the end of the tiny strap with screw is bent upward. It's bit fuzzy and the only picture I have. I can send you the photo if that's possible and you can use it.

    Advise, thanks.

    Chris Cox

    1. That small part is a cap jewel for the escape wheel. It's a gold setting with a flat disc covering the escape wheel pivot and it's held in place with a screw. It should not be bent upward but it's possible that it's not properly seated.

    2. Is there anyway I could send you a photo? This cap is mangled and the screw is missing. How hard would it be to replace the cap, screw and jewel? I'm assuming the jewel is pressed into the cap, is that correct?

    3. You can send a photo to me through my Etsy shop or by clicking the "clicking here" link above my photo in the upper right.

      As for getting a jewel, any 992B or 4992B would share the same parts so look on eBay for a donor or call a parts house like Casker.com, BartonandChase.com or Ofrei.com.

  9. I have a Hamilton 4992b that has a 12 hour face with a sweep second hand and a second hand a 6 o'clock. The train bridge is marked 4992b 22 jewel. In all my looking I have never seen another. Is this just a unique conversion? I have had the watch for over thirty years and it is accurate to less that a minute a month.

    1. Having a sweep second hand and a sub second hand is redundant and would not have been the original set up. All it would take though is to use a standard 992B 4th wheel with it's longer second hand bit for the sub second hand. Then you could use any old 992B dial on a 4992B movement with the 12 hour setup. So it's not original but it could be easily converted.

  10. Thank you for your reply. I have been looking at watches on ebay and have noticed the the train bridge on a few watches has US GOVT. on it. Is this something unique and does it have any effect on the collection value of the watch?

    1. It is something unique in that it's not on every movement. Other grades like the 992B also sometimes have US GOVT. As for it's impact on the value of the watch... it's hard to say. While you're looking on eBay, record what you see. Do you see the watches on eBay sell for more money when they say US GOVT? If yes, then there your answer.

    2. I have noticed this also. I haven't seen a pattern for the additional markings of US GOVT. I think it was on the first and second runs of the 4992B.

  11. very very nice!!! thank you very much for I have the same watch also in 12 hours setup and I'm going to turn it to 24 hours setup like it was made, and I'll defiantly use your step by step to do so... May I ask what is your cleaning setup looks like?


    1. I use L&R non-ammoniated cleaner and rinse in baby food jars. One bottle of cleaner and two bottles of rinse. The baby food bottles go in an ultrasonic cleaner with water in the bath. 360 seconds for each cycle... more if needed. Dry thoroughly and you're off to the races.

  12. My grandmother recently died and I inherited a box of items from my grandfather one of the items is a 4992 b open face gold pocket watch 10 karat IWC case 22 jewels how do I find out the value of this watch? My email is rkilpatrick@peoplepc.com

    1. I'm not sure the movement is original to the case but regardless, it's not a common setup. You can look up sold auctions on eBay and get an idea of what things typically sell for.

  13. Have my uncle by marriage AN5740 SERIAL N0. AF 43-24381
    Robert Tucker from Rosenberg Tx, he joined Canadian AF, went to England
    ended up flying Mesquito's on night filming missions. He told me the vibrations of the Mesquito was so bad he had three of them this was his last one.
    He lived to 95 and is buried in the Tucker family place.
    Real small guy, great courage and not afraid of one darn thing.

    e-mail to vincentmurphy50@yahoo.com

  14. what is the military silver case in 4992b pocket watch?

    1. I don’t understand the question so I’m not sure how to answer it.

    2. Hi HandyDan

      I am sorry for de question, I have the Complete Price Guide to Watches book and it discribe two pocket watchs, 4992b Greenwich Civil Time silveroid and 4992b Military Silver Case, which is the diference?

    3. I've seen a few 4992B Navigation watches in IIRC .80 Silver cases. Not sure why the military had them, but they do exist.

  15. Hello Handy Dan. I am investigating my watch. It is a 4992B in a 10k rolled gold plate. There is a number on the inside of the back cover R215391. There is also some wording on the movement Bu.Aero. US Navy. Also should mention there is no second hand. No evidence it is missing. Just doesn't have one even though it has 22 Jewels. Thanks for any information you might be able to provide.

    1. The movement has been recased (Hamilton didn’t use RGP case at the time). The second hand is missing, it would have had one originally. Beyond that, I don’t have much to offer.

    2. Thank you. Just taking my first steps into understanding this watch. Would it be unusual to recase a watch? The inside of the back cover is engraved with Hamilton Watch company, a star, and the RGP designation. BTW, the watch stopped today. It did not restart after winding so I am interested in possible repair. Do you provide that service?

    3. It sounds like it's a Hamilton case but from later than WWII. The first Hamilton RGP 16 size case I'm aware of came out in 1952. Maybe the original was broken or damaged. If you contact me by email or by Etsy I will give you some recommendations on repair.

  16. I have a 4992bnpocket watch that I sent in for repair locally. When it wasnreturned the face orientation was upside down. I am not positive it wasn't like that originally but I don't think so. The shop told me it can only go together one way. I find this explaination somewhat suspect as I can find no examples of the upside down orientation anywhere online. Can you enlighten me please?

    1. Hmm. There are three dial feet so flipping it 180 degrees doesn’t seem doable to me. It sounds like dial was incorrectly refinished at some point.

  17. This was really well done - thank you!

    I have a Hamilton 4992B - at least the movement and a PART of the case is...
    The case has wired lugs offsetting the crown and "0" or "24" position to about 2:00. (As if it was designed to be worn as a driver's or pilot's watch).
    The dial is different though - it is black, but there is no "GCT", and the numerals count from 1-12 twice with an "am" at the left of center position, and a "pm" at the right of center. The train bridge does have "US GOVT" engraved on it, and the movement is clearly engraved with "HAMILTON WATCH CO USA" and "4992B 22 JEWELS"

    I'm not sure if this is a different version of Hamilton's 4992B, or if the dial has been replaced. I have seen ONE example where the numeral count was 0-23 rather than the (apparently) more standard 1-24. Mine is the only 1-12-1-12 I have seen, however.
    I love the watch, and would love to know more if you have any thoughts or perspective!

    Thank you!

    1. Sounds like a custom dial refinish and a modified case. The 4992B was never intended to be a wrist watch. That's a more modern phenomena.