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.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1928 Oval - Restoration

There are a few Hamilton models that were never catalogued.  One of them is the "Oval" - which did show up in the price lists but not the catalog.  The Oval was one of a few watches that were named after their shape... like the Rectangular, Barrel, and the Square... to name just a few.

The Oval only showed up in a couple (if only one) advertisements.

The Oval came in solid green and white gold as well as in gold filled.  About 400 where made in solid white gold and 200, or so, in solid green gold.

Bezels came as Plain or Engraved.  1,876 Plain Ovals were made in white gold filled and about the same were made with Engraved bezels.  Half as many (791 / 797) were made in green gold filled.

So they are a rather scarce model - especially in green.

There are a few platinum Ovals known to exist too - now those are RARE!

Behind the dial you're likely to find a 17 jewel, 6/0 sized 987 movement.

A friend of mine recently sent me an Oval Plain that he had picked up and asked for some help restoring it.   All I can say is, "Never again!"

Turns out, Ovals are really a pain... here's just a few reasons why.

  • The oval shaped bezel and back cover are tricky to remove and even more challenging to snap back on.  It's a pretty complex shape, and getting it perfectly aligned is necessary.
  • Shaping a glass crystal to fit an oval opening is equally challenging - again the oval shape is surprisingly complex to fit just right.
  • The lugs are shaped to accommodate curved spring bars that go around the elongated case.  Bending spring bars to fit the shape is very challenging.  Spring bars are easily broken.
  • Getting a strap thin enough to fit the small space between the curved shape of the case and the spring bar is also a challenge.
Other than that - there's nothing to it!

Here's a picture of what I started with.  All four lugs were terribly worn - in fact, a couple were worn completely through.  I was very concerned that the pressure of a strap would blow them out completely.  The silver dial was very tarnished and could stand a good cleaning as well

I sent the case out to Buchkosky Jewelers in Minnesota http://buchkosky.com to have their very talented gold smith, Mike Wigen, work his magic on the lugs.  He has done a few other yellow gold filled cases for me in the past.

Turns out white gold filled is a different story and a little trickier to pull off - but in the end, Mike did a nice job and I think the case turned out well.

Add the installation of a freshly serviced 987 movement and a new glass crystal to cover the cleaned up dial (with freshly lumed hands).  A black cotton canvas strap completed the assembly and I think it turned out really nicely.

I could get the dial professionally redone but I think the mottled patina of it looks very interesting and fitting of a 85 year old watch.

What do you think?

Monday, May 27, 2013

1904 Hamilton 927 Pocket Watch

A hundred years ago Hamilton had 22 different watch styles in it's lineup starting with 0-size ladies pocket watches and ranging upwards to 18 size men's models.   All of Hamilton's watches were high quality but some were extremely high quality with accuracies within a few seconds per month.

To me, there's something special about an 18 size pocket watch - and especially so when it's a hunter style model.  Hunter style watches have a clamb shell case with a metal cover over the glass crystal.  In a Hunter case, the stem and crown are located at the 3 so the movement is rotated 90 degrees versus the traditional open-faced case.  This allows you to open the case with the cover toward the left (by the 9) and be able to clearly read the dial.  With the pendant at the 3, they are sometimes called "side winders".

A good example of an 18S hunter-style Hamilton pocket watch is the 927.

There were several 18 size pocket watch movements.  The 927 was a very basic movement with 17 jewels and entry-level features.  It's not a railroad approved model because it was only adjusted for temperature and not for isochonism or 5 varied positions.  It also has a single roller balance and not a double roller - like the railroad models would have.  In an open style case, the movement was a 926.

Isochronism is the ability of the balance to maintain consistent accuracy as the mainspring unwinds.  In other words, it's accuracy 1 hour after a full wind is the same as after 10 hours later, etc.

The 5 positions that a watch would be adjusted to were (1) dial facing up, (2) dial facing down, (3) vertically with the12 up, (4) 9 up and (5) 3 up - the latter two simulating the watch on it's side in your pocket.

Although the 927 wasn't the highest-end watch Hamilton made - it was still a very fine pocket watch for the time.

I recently restored a very cool 927 and it came with an interesting story.  Well, interesting to me anyway.

I found the movement in an open faced silveroid case - nothing too special really although the dial had the seconds at 3 - which was very unusual.

I also found a non-working 7 jewel Elgin pocket watch in an 18S hunter case.

Way back when, Hamilton's watches were made to standard sizes and could drop into any generic case that jewelers had on hand (or you could buy them cased from Hamilton as well).

Anyway - I popped out the Elgin movement and dropped the Hamilton 927 into the hunter case and voila - a perfect match!

The front of the heavy gold filled case is the classic engine turned design with a shield in the center, suitable for engraving someone's initials.

Here you can see the interesting "seconds at 3" dial.  I have no idea if this is an original dial and you can see that it has the orientation for an open style case - but the gold highlights on the dial look silly in a silveroid case.  It looks much better in a yellow case - and now I can hang this watch under a glass dome and display it as desk clock.

Here you can see the balance wheel happily swinging away - 5 beats back and forth each second.   That's over 157 million beats per year!

And here's the best part of all!  Check out this excellent engraving of a locomotive on the case back!  This case is a thing of beauty and deserves to be displayed.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

1918 Aviators Watch / Trench Watch

It's common watch lore that wrist watches made the transition from pocket watches in the trenches of Europe during the First World War.  The logic being that it was easier to tell the time by looking at your wrist than to pull a watch out of your pocket.   Wrist watches also included metal screens over the top called "shrapnel guards" to protect the glass crystal from breakage.

In many cases, soldiers had jewelers fashion custom wrist watches from pocket versions but there are solid documentation examples of manufacturers getting directly involved with the trend.  Check out this Hamilton advertisement from 1918.

Hamilton's first wrist watches used their smallest hunter-style pocket watch movements at the time... the 0-size (zero size) ladies pocket watches in both 17 and 19 jewel grades like the 981, 983 and 985.  They make a nice sized watch, even by today's standards, but they were very large compared to what would be produced 10 years later.  Hamilton did make smaller ladies 6/0 sized watches (the 988 and 986) but those are open faced movements with the stem at 12.  A hunter-cased movement has the stem at 3.

Cases were sterling silver and predominantly made by Fahys.  The cases had fixed wire lugs that required a special strap designed for this specific attachment type.

The dials are porcelain with luminous figures and lume on the hands to match.

Here's a very nice example of the earliest of Hamilton's wrist watches.

In the shot below, you can see your typical 17 jewel Hamilton 983 movement.  If you look closely you can see that it says "Lady Hamilton" on the barrel bridge.  It's also missing it's micro-regulator, a little spring-lever attachment on the balance cock to precisely adjust the regulator arm.  You can see the two little holes where it would attach.  The spring portion probably broke at some point in this watch's past..

And here's a good shot of the case back, clearly showing the Fahys trademark.

Lastly, if WWI trench watches are your thing, check out this site... "LRF Antique Watches".  Stan does an incredible job with his restorations and many of his projects are for sale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

1959 Orson

In 1959 Hamilton had over 100 different models in it's lineup - and that's not including all the variations within models.  So it's not surprising that some models were popular enough to be readily found today and some are harder to come by.

I just purchased a 1959 Hamilton Orson in need of some serious TLC.  It's the sort of watch that fits into the category of models you just don't see very often.

The Orson was produced for two years and is a middle-of-the-line watch model.  It wasn't an entry level watch and it's not a high end model either.

What makes it a mid-grade watch is it comes in a 10K gold filled case (not rolled gold plate) and it runs an American-made 17 jewel Hamilton 730 movement.  The 730 is a shock jeweled version of the 747 and features a more robust balance assembly to withstand impacts like banging into door jambs or being accidentally dropped.

I picked up my example of the Orson recently because the price was right.  Looking at the photo below, it's not exactly the kind of watch that will draw a lot of attention.  I suppose it's the equivalent of a Chevy station wagon running a 409 V-8 under the hood... it's worth getting just for the engine.

This watch was a retirement presentation given to a man in 1960.  Based on how beat up it is, it was a valued keepsake and the man must have worn it quite a bit.

I think it's interesting to see how many watchmakers marks are inside the case back to indicate that the watch has been serviced.  Sometimes there aren't any at all and sometimes there are dozens.  I could only find one inside this watch - which might explain why it was sold as "not running".

Watches (and clocks) need to be regularly maintained.   Given the proper maintenance they will last a long, long time.  It's better to overhaul a working watch than to wait for it to stop working - just like it's better to get your car serviced before it breaks down.

I get a lot of questions through my blog about getting watches repaired.  There are lots of watchmakers out there and resources like the AWCI can point you in the right direction.  However, if you want a recommendation or two, shoot me an email.

As for the Orson, the watch cleaned up really well.  With a replacement crystal and an overhaul of the movement, the watch is back to looking and running like new.  For all it's frustrations (and there are many) restoring an old clunker back to it's former self is what makes this hobby very rewarding.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

1962 Thinline 4002

Well, if you follow my posts this next watch will look slightly familiar.

In the late 1950's Hamilton introduced a line of watches called the "Thinline" which featured specially designed movements that were super-thin so the watches would lay very flat on the wrist.

Earlier this month I posted a thread on the Thinline 4003 - a very cool looking watch with a lollipop hour hand and stick / baton minute hand.  It had caught my eye while surfing eBay because earlier in April a guy contacted me via my blog to ask about his grandfathers watch - which was also a Thinline.  His was a Thinline 4002.  While trying to identify it for him I found out it was a pretty rare watch and definitely worth restoring.

The Thinline 4002 was introduced in the 1962 and produced for three years.

As you can see in the catalog image, the Thinline 4002 is similar to a 4003 with it's lollipop hour hand and baton minute hand.  The dial has no figures other than the Hamilton H logo.  But what makes the T4002 really unusual is the crown is located at the 4 position which shifts the second hand to the 7 position.  This crown location was probably inspired by the myriad electric models with crowns at 4 - but it's very uncommon for a mechanical model.

With a gold filled case and a Swiss movement, this was one of Hamilton's entry-level watches and was intended to compete at a price point low enough to contend with other manufacturers imports from the period.  I guess it's uniqueness made it less popular, as today the Thinline 4002 is a very rare watch and it commands a healthy premium when it comes up for sale.

Recently, as fate would have it, I happened upon a Thinline 4002 for sale and I jumped at the chance to get it.

On the wrist, the Thinline 4002 wears well and is very sleek - living up to it's name.  My only criticism would be the hands are so thin that it takes a little extra effort to tell the time... but that little extra effort is also a good opportunity to enjoy the watch a little more.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

1958 Newlin

In the mid-1950's Hamilton introduced their flagship movement - the 12/0 sized 770 movement with 22 jewels.

A watch is considered fully jeweled at 15 jewels.  Hamilton marketed it's status as a premier manufacturer of high grade watches by producing no movements with less than 17 jewels.

A fully jeweled watch typically has jeweled bearings at each end of each wheel... the center wheel, the third wheel, the fourth wheel and the escape wheel - that's 8.  The pallet fork adds four more jewels... two for the arbor (or axle) and two for each pallet - that's 12.  The balance wheel adds three more... two for the ends of the balance staff and one for the impulse pin - that's 15.

Two cap jewels covering the ends of the balance staff jewels bring the count to 17.  Two more cap jewels covering the escape wheel's jewels gets you to a 19 jewel movement.

Two more cap jewels over the pallet fork gets you to 21 on a 21 jewel pocket watch.

On the 770, in addition to the basic 17, there are cap jewels on the escape wheel, the dial side of the pallet fork, and over the escape wheel, fourth wheel and third wheel on the train bridge - for a total of 22.

The 770 was used in round watches, rectangular watches and even asymmetrical watches throughout the 1950's and 1960's.  It was the last movement Hamilton made in the US when Hamilton ceased production in 1969.

A good example of the 770 in a round watch is the 1958 Newlin.  The Newlin was produced for four years.

The Newlin comes in a 10K yellow gold filled case with a choice of two different sterling silver dials... one with solid 14K gold numerals and the other with solid gold markers.

I've only come across one Newlin example... the one with the numeral dial.  It's a good sized watch, especially for a vintage model.  It's about 32mm wide, excluding the crown and 40mm lug tip to tip.

It's a very clean, elegant design and a sharp looking watch.  Don't you think so?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

1964 M 59-3

Hamilton produced a number of M-series watches during the 1960's but I've only seen them in the catalogs for one year - 1964 and I'm not really sure what the background on the models is.  There are at least a dozen different M-series watches from 1964 in both manual winding and automatic movements.  One theory is they were specially marketed through a discount channel and were thus not affiliated with the regular Hamilton line sold through fine jewelers.

A good example of a 1964 model is the M 59-3.

The M 59-3 comes in a yellow rolled gold plate case with a stainless steel back.  As you can see in the photo below, it's hard to tell if this watch opens through the crystal or opens through the back.  A lot of period watches will open through the crystal as part of it's waterproof design.

Looking very closely at the side of the watch, I can see an ever so slight gap.  It wasn't big enough to get my usual case knife into so I pulled the crystal off just to see if it would come out.  I wouldn't, so I knew I was going to have to separate the bezel from the back without tearing anything up.

That's a job for a case opener like the one below.  This tool is great for snap-together cases that just don't want to separate (not the screw down type though).  It's spring loaded so what when you push the rounded red section toward the watch it compresses to a certain point - after which it snaps and seems to fire the point into whatever it's touching.  You have to be careful with it, of course, but this little tool packs a wallop-full of persuasion right where you need it.

With the bezel and crystal removed, you can see this watch dial is in excellent shape.

Inside the case back, you can see the M 59-3 runs a Swiss-made 686 movement.  This looks very similar to the 687 I just overhauled for the Thinline 4003 from a recent post.  However the 686 is a slightly thicker movement.

With it all disassembled, cleaned and set out to dry, the movement is ready to be lubricated and put back together.

A lot of Hamilton collectors stop their collections at 1969, after which Hamilton was no longer US-owned.  Some collectors limit their collections to US-made movements and exclude the Swiss-made movement-based watches.  The Swiss-made models were slightly less expensive than the US-made movement models.  But say what you will, you have to admit that the Swiss-made movements still run really well as evidenced by the photo below of my watch timer.  I could adjust the timing to be 0 sec/day but I like to leave it slightly fast to account for the energy in the mainspring releasing over time.

And here's the finished product, all cleaned up and ready for wrist time.

When I bought this watch in a local shop, it came on the bracelet shown.  I was hoping it would be the original bracelet.  I could very well be original to the watch - but it's not the one shown in the catalog.  It looks great with the watch though - so I'll leave the two together.

Monday, May 6, 2013

1962 Thinline 4003

Super-sleek designs became very fashionable in the 1960's.  Think about how the first generation Chevy Corvette evolved into the Stingray.... sweet!

Hamilton had all sorts of stylish watches in a variety of grades and some of the ultra-thin models were in the Thinline lineup.  A good example is the 1962 Thinline 4003.  The Thinline 4003 was only produced for two years.

In person, the Thinline 4003 is very cool looking watch.  I love the funky hour hand and baton minute hand!

I recently purchased a project watch and it was in great shape.  All it needed was a fresh overhaul and a strap.  It's interesting to see how the catalog's artistic representation has a slightly different crown than the real watch.  I know mine is correct because the case has stem tube that protrudes so the gasket in the crown can provide a waterproof seal.

Under the dial is a 17 jewel 687 movement.  The outside circumference of the watch movement is tapered or beveled to give it the ability to fit into a very thin case.

The dial is super nice too with a gold band going around the perimeter.  It gives the impression of a large reflective ring inside the crystal, but it's really a part of the dial.

The overhaul went great all the way up to my installing the screw into the mainspring barrel arbor - and then I broke it off!  %^&%*!!!  I was able to back the broken part out of the arbor - but now I need a new screw so that I can wind the watch.

I reassembled it and it looks fantastic - but, alas, it will just have to wait until I get a new screw for the ratchet wheel.


I happened to score another 4003... this one came in it's original box with it's original bracelet... sweet!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

1941 Lester

A lot of the watches Hamilton produced in 1941 were re-introduced after WWII ended.  Some watches, like the coral gold models, were not reintroduced.  In fact, I don't believe Hamilton ever made coral gold models again.

One 1941 model, the Lester, was reintroduced after the war but only with one dial option.  The Lester was produced through 1950

Originally, the Lester came with two dial options - an AGN dial with solid 18K numerals or a black enamel numeral dial.  Regardless of the dial choice, the case came in 14K yellow gold fill.

Under the dial is the 14/0 sized, 19 jewel 982 movement.  After 1940, the solid gold models got the 982M.  10K gold filled models got the 17 jewel 980 and the 14K gold filled got the 982 movement.

The Lester is readily found but hard to find without at least a little bit of wear to the bezel corners where the lugs attach to the case.

I recently picked up a black numeral dialed version and I was happy to get it.  I think I've only seen a couple of other examples - ever.  I'm not saying it's ultra-rare, but it was only produced in 1941 so there are loads more AGN versions out there.

My black numeral dialed Lester came in an excellent case.  The hour hand was a little loose and probably not original to the watch.  It looks a little too big to my eye.

I also have an AGN version.  If you look closely you'll see a little of the typical wear through on the outside corners - but it's not too bad in comparison to many examples I've seen.

I really like the case, regardless of the wear through, because it's a Christmas watch with a nice engraving, "To A Good Skipper USCG 12-25-42".  The wear through just shows you this was a treasured watch.  As an "old Navy man" myself, the engraving touches a soft spot.  After all, during a time of war, like in 1942, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of the Navy.