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, March 31, 2013

1961 Accumatic A-600

Hamilton had a variety of automatic watch lineups... some were called "Automatics", some "Thin-o-matics", some were called "Accumatics" and when calendar-watches were introduced there was a "Dateline" model line.

The first Accumatics were introduced in 1956 and all had roman numerals (I, II, IV, etc).  In 1961 the Accumatics started to get numbers and one of the watches was the Accumatic A-600.  It was produced for four years (through 1964).

The A-600 comes in a Rolled Gold Plate (RGP) case that opens through the crystal.  I don't recall what movement is under the hood, probably a Swiss-made Hamilton 689 or 689A would be my guess.

Update - November 16, 2014:

I had an opportunity to overhaul another A-600 with it's original bracelet.  It had a 689 movement under the dial, as suspected.  The 689 has two holes in the rotor carrier to inspect the balance below it.  The 689 has a cutaway section to provide more access.  There are a few other minor differences too... but that's the most obvious one.

With the original bracelet, the A-600 is a sleek-looking watch.

UPDATE September, 2015:

Well, I finally got around to servicing my original A-600 pictured above.  Turns out it has a 17 jewel 679 movement inside.  So I guess the A-600 has either a 679 or a 689, depending upon the year it was produced.  The 679 is also an ETA movement and looks virtually identical to the 689, which I believe replaced the 679 in the early 1960's.

Friday, March 29, 2013

1956 Paxton B

The Hamilton Paxton is an interesting anomaly among Hamilton models.  It has a "B" model that precedes the regular, non-B model.  Generally the B model follows the regular model and represents a change in the movement used.  Many times the catalogs don't even state the change... the B just shows up inside the case.  You can't tell the difference between a regular model and a B model from the outside.

For example the Boulton uses the 19 jewel 982 movement and the Boulton B uses the 19 jewel 753 movement that replaced the 982 in 1952.  There were lots of B-variants in the 1950's.

In 1956 Hamilton introduced the Paxton "B".

Then the Paxton was introduced in 1957.  It was also produced in 1958.

I recently received a Paxton B project watch.  As received, it was quite dirty and a little scratched up.  However, it was running so I knew it would make a nice project watch.

Under the dial is a Hamilton Illinois 12/0-sized movement.  I'm not that familiar with the Illinois movements from the 1950's so I'm not sure what the model number is for this movement - it says TXD on the balance bridge but that's the import code for Illinois.  Imported Hamilton movements have HYL on the balance bridge.  I suspect Illinois movements didn't get a specific caliber movement.

The dial was dirty, but original with a nice white finish and embossed gold numerals and markers.

The Illinois movement is Swiss-made and it's stamped ETA and 1220 under the balance.  So this is an ETA 1220 - which is what I would need to know if I needed to buy a part for it.

And here it is all cleaned up and timed after a fresh overhaul, the crystal polished, the dial lightly cleaned and a new black alligator-grain strap installed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to Change a Crown

I've received a couple of questions recently about how to install a crown.  This is definitely a do-it-yourself project if you have the basic tools that are required.

To change a crown you will need...

  • a small screwdriver, probably .70mm would be fine. 
  • flat pliers or a pin vise
  • a piece of cloth to work on
  • a movement holder would be very helpful

Let me show you how to go about it.

In the photo's below is a typical project watch.  This one is a 1955 Murray.  The gold filled crown has worn along the circumference so the disc-shaped cover has actually fallen away, leaving bare brass showing.  A new crown would be an important element to this watch's restoration.

The first thing to do is to pop the bezel off the case back.  This model has a two-piece case and the movement is retained in the case back.  Sometimes the movement is held in the bezel.  Regardless, you need to separate the front from the back.  When you have a three-piece case the movement is retained in the center and you'd only have to take the case back off.

Since the movement is inside the case back, a small screwdriver can be inserted under the dial and the movement gently lifted up and out of the case.  Anytime the movement is outside the case you have to be VERY CAREFUL not to damage the balance wheel.  Take great care not to drop the movement as it is very easily broken.

If you don't have a movement holder you can gently place the movement dial down on a piece of soft cloth.  With the .70 mm screwdriver, you must turn the "set lever screw" counter-clockwise about 2 turns... maybe slightly more.  The set lever screw is usually the smallest screw you see nearest where the stem enters the movement.  Loosening it will back off the set lever from the stem and allow you to pull the crown out (like you're setting the time) and the crown and stem will come out of the movement.

It's the set lever that holds the stem in the movement.  If you ever experience getting a "new" vintage watch and the stem and crown come out when you try to set the time - it probably just needs to have the set lever screw tightened.  Although it's possible the set lever needs to be replaced.

If the stem doesn't come out, push it back in to the winding position and turn the set lever screw 1/2 turn more (counter clockwise) and pull the crown out again.

Now the crown and stem are removed from the movement.

At this point you should grip the square portion of the stem in a pin vice so you can hold it firmly.  The stem is quite small, as you can see relative to my finger tip.

Or you can hold it firmly with flat pliers.  You do not want to mare the square portion of the stem so avoid pliers with a serrated surface.

With your finger tips, turn the crown counter-clockwise while holding the stem firmly and the crown will unscrew off the stem.

The threaded portion of the stem has a specific male thread size and the new crown has to have the same female threads.  6/0 and 14/0 size Hamiltons are Tap 8.  8/0 and 12/0 Hamiltons are Tap 10.  Most of the Swiss Hamiltons are also Tap 10 (I believe - I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure they're Tap 10 and not Tap 9).

Anyway, my project watch is an 8/0 sized 730 and it takes a Tap 10 crown.  Just screw it back on the stem in a clockwise direction until it's "finger tight".

Then you slide it back into the movement by carefully aligning the square portion of the stem with clutch inside.  When it's aligned correctly it will slide right in.  Once it's fully seated you should be able to wind the watch.  Then tighten the set lever screw clockwise until it stops turning.   Now when you pull the crown out the watch should go into time setting position.

At this point the crown has been changed.  Sometimes the new crown doesn't seat as far on the stem as the old one and it ends up sticking too far out of the case.  When that happens you need to shorten the stem slightly by gripping it in a pin vise and rubbing the threaded end on 600 grit sand paper until it's the right length.

If the new crown seats too far down the stem, the stem might now be too short and go into the setting position when you install it into the case back.  When that's the case, you'll need to install a new stem too.   You already know how to do that... you just need to be able to shorten the threaded section to the correct length.

In the case of this Murray - it was a perfect fit.

Here's the new crown on the outside of this still pretty rough looking Murray case.  This crown has the Hamilton H logo.

And as you can see, it's a perfect fit.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

WWII US Navy Diver's Canteen Watch

I used to be an Engineering Duty Officer in the US Navy.  That was back in the 1990's.  EDO's work in shipyards and in various capacities related to the procurement, construction and maintenance of US Navy ships.  Today, this activity falls under the command of the Naval Sea Systems Command or NAVSEA.

Back in "the old days" NAVSEA was known as the Bureau of Ships - or BUSHIPS for short.  There are a couple of Hamilton military watches that were made for the Navy - and specifically for the Bureau of Ships.  These watches have USN BUSHIPS printed on the dial.

One of the less common watches is the Canteen watch.  It has a special waterproof case with a captive screw-on crown cover so the case looks like a canteen on its side.  The glass crystal is actually held in place and waterproofed with lead solder.

The back of the case USN BUSHIPS and H2 is typically engraved, sometimes with a serial number.

This case was made by Wadsworth - which is denoted by the W between the lugs.

Under the screw-off case back you will find a rubber gasket surrounding a dust cover that snaps onto the movement ring.

Under the dust cover is a 17 jewel 987S movement.  This was Hamilton's first sweep second movement.  It shares most of it's parts with the 987A, which has the sub-second hand at the 6:00 position.

On the dial you can see HAMILTON printed in black on black, just above the 6.

As part of the overhaul, I had to replace the mainspring.  As you can see in the photo below, these old mainsprings can become "set" and lose a lot of their resilience and run-life.

And here's the finished product, all cleaned up but definitely not a candidate for water-environments.  These watches are quite valuable - and too valuable to risk getting wet.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

WWII 2987 Naval Aviators Watch

Hamilton's watch production was completely dedicated to the war effort during WWII.  The 14/0 980 movements were used for bomb timers (timing bombing runs, not ticking down to exploding).  The 6/0 987A and 987S movements went into military wrist watches.  The 16 size 992B and 4992B pocket watch movements were used for navigation and transportation purposes.  And of course, there were the 36 size marine chronometers.

One of the variants of the 6/0 watches was the 18 jewel 2987.  This watch was similar to the 987S but has one extra jewel - to support the second hand pinion.  This watch was specifically made for Naval Aviators.

I recently overhauled a 2987 watch and it was the first one I have ever seen.  They're not overly rare - but they are usually quite expensive to purchase.

As received, the crystal had long-turned yellow.  The watch would wind and wind and wind - a good sign that the mainspring is either broken or something is not connected inside.

These watches feature a different engraving on the case back... the FSSC 88-W-800 was the contract that procured these watches for the Navy.

The case is made by Star Watch Case Company - as indicated on the case back as well as by the "S" stamped between the lugs.

Inside the case you should find a dust cover and a rubber gasket.

With the dust cover removed, you can see the 2987 is very similar to a 987S.  There are a few slight differences in addition to the extra jeweled bridge that supports the second hand pinion in the center.

Once the stem is removed, the movement can come straight out the back.  The movement ring that secures the watch in the case can be removed from the circumference of the watch.

With the hands and the dial removed, the dial-side of the movement looks pretty much the same as your typical 987A movement.

The 2987 is a hacking movement - which means it stops when you pull the crown out to set the time.  In the shot below you can see the hacking linkage now that all the wheels and bridges are removed.  The hacking mechanism is a J-shaped spring that rests against the balance and stops it.  It's in the stop position below.

Inside the mainspring barrel, you can see the mainspring is clearly broken.

A new white alloy spring comes precoiled to go into the barrel.  You get one shot at installing it like this.  Otherwise you need to rewind it with a mainspring winder.

Now that everything is all cleaned and dried, it's time for reassembly.  I hope I can remember where all these parts go!  Actually, after doing this a few dozen times you develop a clear understanding of where every part goes.

It turned out this watch had any iffy balance.  One of the pivots was just a smidge short so it had a wobble when it ran.  Changing balance staffs is a fine art for only the most accomplished watchmakers.  So I just swapped out a balance from a spare 987A parts movement.

Now the watch is running fairly well and with great amplitude.  A little tweak to the regulator will slow it down.

I like to get the watch running and timed before I put the large seconds wheel back on.  That way I can check the timing after it's installed.  Everything checked out so the nice and clean movement (with the dial and hands) goes back into the case.  The movement looks a lot cleaner in this shot than the one above... no?

And here it is again - ready for another 70 years of service.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

1937 Merritt

The Hamilton Merritt is a pretty uncommon watch, I think.  Less than 7,500 were produced.  It was introduced in 1937 and produced for three years but you don't tend to see them very often.

According to the catalogs, the Merritt came only in natural yellow gold filled.  However, white gold filled examples are known to exist.  Two dial options were available... an AGN dial as shown in the catalog and also a two-tone black enamel dial.

The hand style on the Merritt is called "lozenge".

Under the dial you will find a 6/0 sized, 17 jewel 987E movement or possibly a 987A, if it's a later example.  Either movement is acceptable.  A 987F or 987 would be too early to be in a Merritt.

One of the interesting bits of trivia about it the Merritt is it takes a surprisingly wide strap at 19mm.  Most watches from this era take a 16mm or maybe an 18mm (actually they would take the fractional inch equivalents... 11/16, etc.

I recently purchased the first Merritt I've ever laid hands on.  I got lucky on an auction with a few bad photos and an even worse description.  In addition, the watch was described as "self winding"... which I guess in this case means you have to wind it yourself since this is obviously not an automatic.

Here's a wrist shot of a the white Merritt, also with the black enamel dial... a striking watch for sure.