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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

1949 Clinton

Hamilton first introduced stainless steel in watches with the Lexington in 1941.  Other manufactures offered watches with steel alloyed case backs before Hamilton but Hamilton's quality-oriented lineup typically matched case backs to case bezels and didn't cut costs by substituting a less expensive material.

However, stainless steel does have it's advantages - first and foremost is durability.

In 1949 Hamilton introduced another two all stainless models - the Raymon and the Clinton.

The Clinton was produced for 4 years.  It's the second model to bear the name.  There was an earlier Clinton (aka Greely) that was introduced in 1931 but wasn't shown in catalogs.

There are actually a variety of Clintons out there.. all four have sterling silver dials.  One dial has rhodium plated numerals and dots (to appear silver) on a silver butler-finished dial. Two all-numeral dials have solid gold applied numerals that are rhodium plated or black painted and came on black finish or a silver butler finish, respectively.  There was also a luminous dial with glow in the dark hands and numerals.

I have never seen the black figured dial with matching black hands... I think that might be the rarest variety.

Behind the dial is Hamiltons 8/0 sized, 17 jewel 747 movement, which was introduced in 1947.

Although stainless steel is extremely durable, I have found that you often see Clintons for sale with missing lugs.  I guess the weld that held the curved lugs to the case could fail over time.  It can be repaired though.

I've only had one Clinton, the luminous version.  It's a decent looking watch, I suppose.  However, it's a bit on the small size by today's standards.

With the hands set to 10:12, the usual time that Hamilton displayed its watches in advertisements, the luminous hands look like cat's eyes peeking out of the dial.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

1963 Lord Lancaster C - Overhaul

Hamilton's line up of asymmetric watches is full of very popular models.  Some of Hamilton's asymmetric models sell today for well north of $4,000!  Many of them are Electrics but a good portion of them are manual-winders or automatic models too.

Electric watches are very special, to be sure, but they're a little too complicated for me to work on and require specialized skills that most watchmakers are not familiar with.  So, you aren't going to see many Electric models on my blog - if any.  I don't even like changing the batteries in them, to be totally honest.

The good news is there are a bunch of manual and automatic watches that you might eventually see me post (although most asymmetric watches are way out of my price league).  One example I've already shown is the Sea Ranger

As another example, I recently purchased a Lord Lancaster C - it's a mechanical asymmetric watch.  It was introduced in 1963 and produced through 1969, when Hamilton ceased manufacturing in the USA.

The Lord Lancaster C is a white gold filled model with diamonds on the dial.  There are a number of Lord Lancaster models and each is white in color with diamonds on the dial.

The Lord Lancaster C looks very similar to another asymmetric model called the Blade, which was introduced in 1962.

As you can see, the Blade looks very similar (especially in black and white) although it only came in a yellow gold filled case.

Behind the diamond dial of the Lord Lancaster C is a 12/0 sized, 22 jewel 770 movement.

The Lord Lancaster C that I purchased came with a rather funny story.  I saw it posted on a "buy it now" price that was a real bargain - as this watch routinely sells for north of $500.  I also knew the seller and I thought he may have made a mistake in selling it... so I bought it so no one else would get it first.

As it turns out, he recognized me by my eBay ID too - and I could tell he had some seller's remorse in selling it.  So I offered to overhaul it for him, fix it up, post it on my blog and send it back to him.

So, it ended up being a win-win for both of us!  I get to say I've owned a Lord Lancaster C (and show it to you) and he gets a much improved watch that he can keep or sell (hopefully for top dollar).

Anyway, here's what I started with... it was mighty dirty and needed some serious cleaning.

The inside of the watch was equally dirty and although the 770 ran, it was definitely in need of some TLC.  The white gold filled crown was also very worn... it's amazing what a difference a new crown can make in the appearance as well as in winding a watch.

The dial was pretty dirty.  It's hard to tell if some of the diamond hour markers are crooked or not.  They're riveted on and could potentially be rotated but that's risky business to attempt.  This style of hands is call "dauphine".

With the dial removed, a close inspection of the back side shows some grime from the past 50 years of use but no other indicators of past refinishing.  That's good, as original dials usually clean up much better than refinished dials.

I'll spare you the blow by blow details of disassembling and reassembling a 770.  If you're curious you can see me do it here.  However, this 770 went back together very smoothly and was easily regulated to keep very good time.  The shot below of my timer shows the watch runs slightly fast with good amplitude (well north of 200 degrees).  The beat error is a little high but I don't like messing with that on this style of balance so I'll leave it as-is.

And here it is all cleaned up.  The expansion bracelet is not original to the watch.  This watch really should have a black suede strap.  However, I did have a nice lizard strap to match it to at least for the photos.  The crystal still needs to be replaced - I have one on order - and once it's installed this watch will be ready to go back home.

I think the dial cleaned up okay but it's certainly not "new" looking.  You have to know when to stop with cleaning dials because there's a very fine threshold between "clean" and "ruined" by losing all the printing.

This shot below of the watch from the right side shows the newly installed Hamilton crown with the H logo - a vast improvement over the other crown.  It looks and functions great.

Friday, July 26, 2013

1941 US Navy WWII Comparing Watch Model 2974B

I find the concept of time to be fascinating.  It seems like such an arbitrary standard.  Yet somehow, the entire world has adopted a consistent standard for it meaning and measurement.

In a macro sense, at least on Earth, we can measure time by the passage of four seasons.  Native Americans measured time by moons.  Even on a daily basis you might think about time as broken up in daytime and nighttime - but depending upon your latitude that standard isn't very robust.

At some point early mathematicians figured out how many days were in a year and broke up those days into hours, and so forth.  You could use the position of the sun to estimate the time of day and the position of stars to assess the time at night.

But have you ever pondered how the term "watch" come about?

Beats me... but I wonder if it has a connection to the tradition of mariners.  Sand-filled hour glasses could be used to accurately measure the passage of time and indicate when a change in "watch" was called for.  Every half-hour a bell would be rung and once you reached 8 bells it was time for the next watch to come on deck.  Perhaps that's where the term "watch" comes from?

Accurately measuring time is critically important to accurately navigating.  Recording the angles to certain stars at different times will yield the change in your relative position... if you can accurately measure time you can also assess your speed.  Knowing your speed, direction and where you are is critical to navigating to where you want to go.

Of course, making sure everyone on board has the correct (and same) time is also important.  That's where the US Navy Comparing Watch comes into play.

You may recall a post from last October on Hamilton's Model 22 Marine Chronometer.  This very large  deck watch was the official standard of time for the ship and was very carefully maintained.  Although it would run for 60+ hours, it was customary to fully wind it with every change in watch.

Every marine chronometer came with a comparing watch.  The comparing watch was synchronized to the ship's Marine Chronometer and the comparing watch was used by the Navigator or his assistant (called the Quartermaster), when they left the bridge to take measurements.  It would also be carried throughout the ship to ensure than any other clocks onboard were precisely set to the exact same time.

I recently picked up a Model 2974B Comparing Watch and it looks pretty much like your basic 16 Size Hamilton pocket watch.

This watch has a white porcelain dial with black figures and the black hands are called the baton style.

The case back will often show different engravings, depending upon how it was used.  This one is clearly marked Bureau of Ships (aka BUSHIPS) along with US Navy Comparing Watch.  The circle with the N inside stands for the US Naval Observatory followed by a contract number (I suspect) and the year 1941.

A comparing watch should have a dust cover under the back cover.  This is often missing and it's very desirable to have the correct cover with the watch.

Under the cover you'll find the 17 jewel, 16 size 2974B movement.  This movement is very similar to the 21 jewel 992B and, in fact, shares a number of the same parts.  It's also very similar to the military 4992B, which has 22 jewels and a center sweep second hand.  The 2974B basically doesn't have all the same cap jewels.  However, like the 4992B, the 2974B is a hacking movement and will stop when you pull out the crown to set the time.

You will often find different engravings on the movement - and the engravings can add to the collector appeal of the watch.  For example, although this movement says "US Navy BU SHIPS", it will sometimes just say US GOVT or not say anything at all.  It could also say "Elinvar" above the Hamilton on the barrel bridge - although that is quite rarely seen.

One final bit of trivia is the case number of the dust cover should be stamped with the same serial number on the back cover.  You can just sort of make them out on the photo below

Saturday, July 20, 2013

1957 Jason

I recently purchased a Hamilton watch that for a little while I thought might be a "franken".  A franken is a watch that looks like it's a real model but is actually a mixture of parts.  In other words, it has a case from one model with a dial from another with hands from something else.  Or it could be a Hamilton movement inside of a jewelers case with a generic dial and hands.  Frankens can sometimes even come in solid gold cases - but from a collector's point of view they are of no real interest.

Anyway, once I was able to identify it I realized the watch I purchased is a 1957 Jason.

The Jason came in three different dial options.  A marker dial with a pearled track in either white or black, as well as an all numeral dial with pearled track in white.  All the dials have luminous hands and dots on the dial's hour markers so you can read the time in the dark.

The Jason was made for only two years and came in an all-stainless steel waterproof case.  In 1956 the watch was called the Jason B - because it used a Hamilton Illinois movement.  The 1957 and 58 Jason models use a 17 jewel Hamilton 671 movement.

One thing to note in the catalog ad is the shape of the hands.  I believe the shape is called an "open dagger".  I have seen several Jasons but never one with an all numeral dial and never one with the style hands in the catalog.  Most of the time the catalog advertisements were very accurate renditions of the actual watch - but they are always artists renderings.  There are rare occasions where the rendering doesn't match the reality.  There are also known Hamilton documents that dictate the use of other parts when necessary (for example during the Christmas season).  If parts got low other parts would be substituted.

The interesting thing about my Jason is it is essentially new old stock (NOS).  I don't think it was ever used.  It had a lot of dust on the outside but the inside was pristine.

When I serviced it I noticed the "set bridge" was broken.  The set bridge is a spring mechanism that helps hold the watch in the winding position or the setting position.  It holds the stem out when you set the time.  A broken set bridge can make setting and winding difficult.  I suspect that's why this watch was never used.

So without any further ado, here's a photo of my "new" Jason.  Note how the luminous material on the hands burned a mark onto the dial because they never moved away from the 10:10 position that Hamilton usually set the watch to prior to sale.

Update - 9-3-2014

I recently landed a black-dialed version of the Jason with the numeral and marker dial.

Here's before...

and here's after.  It's amazing what a difference fresh lume and a new crystal can make to a tired old watch.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

1953 Hamilton Illinois Debonair Model D

In the late 1920's the Hamilton Watch Company purchased the Illinois Watch Company.  Illinois branded watches continued to be produced for several more years but by the mid-1930's all Illinois production ended.  Hamilton continued to own the Illinois trademark though and in the 1950's they reintroduced the Illinois brand with a line of entry-level watches warranted by the Hamilton Watch Company.

The "new" line of Illinois watches really has nothing in common with the old Illinois brand, other than the name.

An example of a "new" Illinois watch is the Debonair Model D.  As you might surmise, there's a Debonair Model A through F.  There are also other men's and ladies series with similar model nomenclature.

All of the Illinois models featured various Swiss-made movements.  The Debonair Model D was produced for three years, after which it appears Hamilton gave up on the Illinois brand and marketed Swiss-made movement-based watches as the entry level Hamilton lineup.

Inside the Debonair Model D is a Swiss A-Schild AS 1200.  This is the same movement used as the Hamilton 673, but it's marked "Illinois Watch Company".

The case is 10K yellow rolled gold plate (RGP) with a stainless steel back.  The embossed dial is textured and looks like a woven linen.

I recently purchased a Model D just out of curiosity.  The seller listed it as "not working, the battery is dead".  This isn't the first mechanical watch I've bought with a "dead battery".  Had the seller bothered to wind it they would have realized it was actually working!

As received it was pretty dirty.  I cleaned it up a bit before getting around to servicing it so it doesn't look too bad in the picture below.

Without the crystal in place you can really see the details of the textured dial.

The movement was in decent shape.  I find it interesting that the Swiss manufactures used shock-resistant cap jewels on their balances before Hamilton introduced them on their own movements.

All taken apart and waiting for assembly, it looks just like any other Hamilton movement.

Here is an interesting shot of my watch timer.  Horizontal lines indicate the watch is running "on time".  Trending up (from left to right) would indicate it's running fast.  Looking as the chart below, you can see originally this watch was running quite fast (about 200 seconds per day) and you can see the slope decrease as I tweaked the regulator.  By the time I finished it was down to running about 4 seconds per day fast.

Interesting, huh?

And here it is all reassembled.  The dial has a smudge near the 2 that I couldn't clean off with gentle cleaning.  I didn't want to try too hard and risk losing the printing on the dial so we'll just have to accept it as is and call it an "age spot".

Saturday, July 13, 2013

1953 Stafford - Overhaul

It's rare that I get my hands on a vintage Hamilton where I know the original owner.  Like most collectors, I caught the bug by inheriting some family pieces.  But 99% of the watches I've seen have been "anonymous" to me.

My favorite watches are Christmas watches - given with love as presents with an inscription engraved on the back.  To me, those are very special watches and even though I may not know the parties involved, I like restoring them so the sentiment in which it was given will carry on.

I recently received an extra special watch to work on.  There are several aspects that make it special to me... I've known the owner my whole life, it's a Christmas watch, it was carried in the Vietnam war, and it's a Hamilton.

The watch is a 1962 Stafford.  The Stafford was initially introduced in 1953 and it was made for 10 years... a very long time for a Hamilton model.  Most models were made for five years or less.  Very few were made for more than 5 years - let alone 10.

The Stafford came in a solid 14K gold case.  Several dials were available, depending upon the time.  Each was sterling silver with solid 18K gold accents.   There are two different numeral / marker dials, a masonic dial, and a less common all numeral dial.

Early on, the Stafford had a 12/0 sized 19 jewel 754 Medallion movement.  The 754 was replaced by the 12/0 sized, 22 jewel 770 movement when it was introduced in the late 1950's.  So you can approximately date a Stafford by the type of movement under the hood.

The watch I worked on was a 1962 model - I know that because it's inscribed 12-25-62 on the back.  This watch arrived with it's original box - which is always interesting to see.  I had not seen this style box before - it's for a strapped model and one side of the strap goes through a slot in the velvet backing so the watch will lay flat.

This watch arrived with an after-market Spedel bracelet.  I'm not a big fan of this style bracelet because the ends are spring loaded to accommodate a variety of lug widths.  Eventually the springs will wear grooves into the case.  As fate would have it, the spring bars were frozen solid so I had to cut the bracelet to get it off.

It will look nicer on a strap anyway.

It's a little hard to tell in the photos but the dial finish has been compromised by a cracked crystal.  Moisture has gotten in there and lifted the varish off the dial.  I'll try to clean it up but this usually doesn't bode well for the results.

One the other side of the dial is the 22 jewel 770 movement.  This is regarded as the best movement Hamilton ever made... it's shock jeweled and there are cap jewels over most of the wheels to prevent dirt from getting inside the bearing surfaces.

My camera didn't pick up the case back markings too well.  The best thing about 14K gold cases is you don't get the green funk (called verdigris) that gold filled cases will usually exhibit.  There's only one watchmaker mark inside - indicating that this watch was only serviced once since 1962.

All the parts are cleaned and ready to be reassembled.  The dial cleaned up "okay" but I lost some of the printing in the compromised areas.   You'll see it close up later on below.

With everything put back together and regulated, the watch is running with very good accuracy and amplitude.  The "beat error" is 6.8 ms.  That's not great but it's tricky to adjust in this movement.  You adjust the beat error by adjusting the hair spring stud relative to the balance impluse pin.  The stud is fixed on this movement so you need to rotate the other end of the hairspring on the balance staff - which is usually a great way to goof it up.  So I'll leave it as-is.

The beat error is how far the balance rotates to one side versus the other.  If it's zero, then each side swings the same amount.  If it's "too high" the watch will stop a little sooner (as the mainspring lets out) than if the beat error is lower.

With a 19mm genuine lizard strap, this Stafford is almost ready to go home to it's rightful owner.  I want to install a new crystal so moisture will stay out of the case.  It will also look a lot better.

And here's a better shot of the dial.  It looks better than before but with the lost marking it's a good candidate for a refinish.  It can be redone to look like new.  It's a tough call though... it's battered look tells the story of it's life.

This watch went to Vietnam for a few years and served it's owner and it's country.  Maybe we can cut it some slack for being a little rough around the edges.


We decided to go the distance and get the dial redone so now it looks as good as new.

Friday, July 12, 2013

1955 Ward - Restoration

Part of the challenge of maintaining a blog is having new posts of watches I haven't already shown before.  After 180 posts, it's really hard not to have repeats.  However, I've got a few new things in the hopper to show you during July - so stay tuned.

For starters, here's a 1955 Ward.  The Ward was produced for three years and I think there are two dial varieties out there... one with gold dots and one without.  As you can see in the 1955 catalog, the dial is described as having "black numerals and yellow pearled dots"

And then in 1956 the catalog describes the dial as having "black numerals and pearled dots".

The Ward has a 10K yellow gold filled case with a stainless steel back.  Inside is an 8/0 sized American-made 17-jewel 747 movement, or possibly the 730, as Hamilton replaced the 747 with the upgraded 730 around the time the Ward was in production.  The hands on a Ward are yellow alpha style.

I recently picked up a Ward in need of some TLC.  I got a pretty good deal on it since it was in pretty rough shape.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and call this a 1956 or 57 model since the dial has black pearled dots.  The dial appears to be original and there are no markings on the back of it to indicate otherwise.

The 747 inside had a broken balance staff - easily diagnosed since the balance (on left) wobbles.  The hairspring on the balance is also a mess - so this balance will need to be replaced in it's entirety.

Everything get's disassembled, cleaned and set out to dry.  I've also got a new old stock glass crystal to install in the bezel.

With a new balance and a fresh mainspring, this 747 is back in action and ready for another 60 years of use.  It's running 3 seconds fast per day with great amplitude.

And here's the finished product, all polished up with a clean dial and new lizard-grain leather strap.  Not a bad restoration, if I do say so myself.