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.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

1948 Dwight

Hamilton has a few "one year wonders" - but not too many.  The advent of World War II disrupted a number of models that were not introduced after the war but there really aren't that many models that were only produced for a single year.

One of the few examples is the 1948 Dwight.  It was only available for a single year.

The Dwight came in a 10K gold filled case and it was outfitted with Hamilton's 14/0 sized 17 jewel 980 movement.  The 14/0 sized movements (980, 982, and 982M) are narrow movements and were typically used in the tank-style, rectangular models.  If you look closely at the Dwight, it's almost square - so it could be that it was discontinued because Hamilton's "new" 8/0 sized round 747 movement would have been better suited for a design like this.  In fact, take for example, the Eric or the Lambert.  I think the Lambert is easily confused for a Dwight.

The Dwight features a sterling silver dial with a two-tone white & butler finish and solid gold numerals.  The easiest way to tell a Lambert from the Dwight is the Dwight has a round seconds register while the Lambert's is square.  That's actually an interesting bit of trivia as well - one most models the seconds register is the shape of the bezel opening... have you ever noticed that?

I recently picked up a Dwight project watch.  I didn't pay very much for it since it was very dirty and didn't work.  In fact, if I had to describe it with just one word it would be - Nasty.  It was plenty gross and bordering on disgusting.  Sometimes watches can be coated in "old man grime" and it seems that gunk will collect in every crevasse and corner.

As received, the watch came on an expansion bracelet that was non-original so that went right to the trash can.

The 980 movement cleaned up really well though and it started running strong once the old oil and dirt was removed from the works.  Notice in the shot below how large the dial is compared to the width of the movement.   You could probably fit an 8/0 movement behind this dial - which is pretty much what the Lambert does.

The dial on my project watch was previously refinished.  Although it looks pretty good overall, there are some spots here and there that I would normally try to clean off - but refinished dials have a tendency to clean up a little too well... as in you'll lose all the printing if you try to clean them even a little bit.  I've learned the hard way that sometimes it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

You can see in the photo above that this Dwight's case is seriously worn through on the corners of the bezel - that's fairly typical for the model.  But it's not bad enough to be scrapped - I usually draw the line at holes that go through the case and compromise the protection of the movement.   With a little polish, this watch will still look nice on the wrist.

UPDATE - as fate would have it, I scored another Dwight with a crappy dial but a nice case... so I just made the swap and now I've got a spare 980 movement to boot.

I looks much better without the gold loss and there's something to be said for a fresh crystal as well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

1931 Cushion B

Hamilton's first wrist watches were called geometrics - because their model names reflected their case shape.  So there were Ovals, Rectangulars, Squares, etc.  The very first watch was called simply "the Cushion", or more formally, "the Man's Cushion Model".

The earliest Cushions had a round bezel opening but a cushion-shaped (pillow-shaped) case.  Initially the man's model used a 0-size ladies pocket watch movement.

Then in 1924 (or so) Hamilton's "Man's Strap Model" switched to the smaller 6/0 sized 986A movement without a second hand.

Later cushions would have a cushion-shaped bezel opening and eventually feature a second hand when the 987 movement was introduced in 1926.  These are often called "Cushion Form Opening" although that's not how Hamilton referred to them in the catalogs - they were just Cushion - Plain or Cushion - Engraved.

Interestingly, one of the last "geometrics" to be introduced was the 1931 Cushion B, where the bezel opening returned to being round and a 987 (or 987F) was used.

All of the models came in 14K gold or filled cases - the Cushion B only in filled, however.   Yellow gold, white gold, green gold and even sterling silver was used, depending upon the model.  Yellow gold is exceptionally rare in the earlier Cushions... most of the time you'll see green or white models.

One other bit of trivia is during WWII, Hamilton cased excess ladies movements from the 1920's into Cushion cases.  They were not cataloged - but they definitely can add to the confusion around the various round-bezel opening models.  WWII Cushions are in 10K gold filled cases though - so that's the easiest way to spot them.

But enough about that... this is about the Cushion B, specifically.

I think it's really difficult to tell the difference between the original 6/0 sized Cushion and a Cushion B - other than the obvious second hand register and presence of a 987 movement.   The cases are very similar... but they are different nonetheless.

I recently received a Cushion B project watch.  It was the first time I have personally laid hands on the model.  It had some significant issues... namely missing the crystal, an incorrect crown, bent hands, and a broken mainspring.  But it was otherwise in decent shape and all of it's issues were correctible.

The 17 jewel 987 movement was very dirty but a little pressure on the center wheel set the balance in motion - so all this movement needed was a fresh mainspring and a thorough cleaning.

And here's the finished product under the protection of a new glass crystal.  The new crown fits over the case stem tube much better.  With a new strap - this watch is ready for more wrist time.

I'm sure you can tell there's no lume on the hands.  They often look better "skeleton-style" and fresh lume on the hands with old lume on the dial tends to look goofy - like new white shoelaces on dingy old sneakers.  If I really wanted to, I could "lume" the hands with model paint in a color consistent with the dial's numerals.  But I'll leave it as is, instead.

And here below are the three round-bezel opening models with the original Cushion on the left, the Cushion B in the center and the WWII Cushion on the right.  If you've got a good eye for details you should be able to spot some minor differences.

One of the differences is the Cushion B's lugs are a little shorter than the other two models.  The WWII is made of 10K gold filled - so that's easy.  The case backs on the Cushion B and WWII are thicker (deeper) than the original as well - I think that's mainly to accommodate the slightly deeper 987 movement.

Beyond that, it's a pretty close call.

Friday, September 20, 2013

1961 Holden

By coincidence, this post has a common theme with my last post... that being gold-colored watches.  I don't know how many Hamilton's had gold-colored dials but not so many that doing two back to back would be a probable.

This watch is a 1961 Holden - and it was only made for one year.

The Holden is an interesting watch.   It's main feature is an elongated, textured bezel that blends perfectly into it's matching bracelet.  Although the case looks cool with a strap as well.

The 10K yellow gold case comes in a single piece - and with the gold-colored embossed dial and gold hands, the watch is very distinctive.

Inside, you'll find Hamilton's US-made 18 jewel, 8/0 size 735 movement.

I recently worked on a great example of a Holden.  It's only distraction is a somewhat inauthentic looking crown - but that's easily changed if you have a correct one (which I don't).

Looking at the case, you can see that's it's all one piece.  So this watch will need to be opened through the crystal.

These types of waterproof cases are sealed by gaskets in the crown and a pressed-fit crystal.  Getting the crystal off requires a special tool that crimps down around the perimeter of the crystal - making it slightly smaller and allowing it to come out.  When the tool is released, the crystal expands out and seals the bezel.

With the crystal removed, you can see the dial and hands are in excellent shape.  Getting the movement out can be tricky at this point because you need to align the two-piece stem so you can separate the two parts.

Here's a shot of the male portion of the two-piece stem that is installed in the crown.  Notice how the cutout in the bezel is off center... I wonder what that is all about?

With the movement outside the case, you can see the female portion of the stem that is still in the movement.  The 735 movement is a shock-jeweled version of the 748 movement.

I took the movement completely apart, and then cleaned, oiled and reassembled it.  With the watch running on my timer you can see the effect of me adjusting the regulator... on the left side of the screen it's running about 60 seconds fast based on the slope of the lines.  As the lines level out horizontally toward the right, they show the watch slowing down - ultimately to 9 seconds fast per day.

In addition to it's original bracelet - this watch came with it's original box.

And here it is in it's traditional "Handy Dan pillow shot".  Notice how the center of the dial is textured to match the texture of the bezel and bracelet... a very comprehensive design and a sharp looking watch!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

1960 First Mate - Overhaul

It's been a while since I've posted a detailed step-by-step overhaul.  That's partly because I've already posted quite a few... you can check them out here.  But, there are still a few different movements to showcase, including this one.

My latest project watch was a 1960 First Mate.  It was produced through 1967.

One of the things that makes the First Mate interesting is pretty much everything on it is gold-colored.  From the yellow rolled gold plated case, to the hands, and even the dial - this is a golden watch for sure.  Only the stainless steel back is not gold colored.

Tucked inside the waterproof* case (* means as long as the gaskets are good) you will find a Swiss-made 686 movement.  So you know the First Mate was an entry-level Hamilton - designed to compete with other manufacturers at competitive price points.

If you've followed my blog, I'm sure you'll agree that I like to find watches that are pretty rough looking and my project First Mate was no exception.  It looked pretty beat up when I received it but it was mostly thanks to the severely gouged up crystal.  Normally plastic crystals will polish up pretty cleanly - but this one is definitely a candidate for replacement.

Part of the trick with these waterproof cases is to figure out how to open them.  Many times you need to remove the crystal and a two-piece stem allows the movement to come out the front.

This watch opens through the back though - and the little lip you see between the lugs is an indicator of where to open it.

Under the case back is the Hamilton 686 movement.  This is a variant of an A. Schild 1200, a 17 jewel movement.  Remove the stem by loosening the screw closest to the stem (on left) and the movement will come right out.

The front side of the movement has the dial and hands still installed.  You can see by the slight corrosion around the perimeter that the * in waterproof is there for good reason... some moisture got into the watch at some time in it's past.  Probably through the stem - since it's a little rusty too.

The hour and minute hands are removed with "hand pullers" but the second hand will come off when I remove the dial.  To do that, I need to loosen the two dial foot screws on opposing sides of the movement.  The moisture in the watch rusted one of them in place - that's never fun to deal with!  My ultrasonic cleaner will clean it up a bit.

With the dial off, you can see a little evidence of moisture - but not too much rust, thank goodness.  The  hour wheel and cannon pinion in the center come off now, so I'll be able to pull the center wheel out from behind (when the time comes).

Doing ANY work on a watch movement really requires mounting it securely in a movement holder.  This is not the sort of stuff you can trust your hands to hold and "fat fingers" are a rsure ecipe for disaster.

With the movement secure, the mainspring is "let off" by holding the "click" (to the right of the large ratchet wheel on the bottom right) open and letting the crown spin backwards while slowing it with your fingers... sort of the opposite of winding.  That releases all of the energy stored in the mainspring - so it doesn't go out through the gear train by accident.

Each of the screws in the "barrel bridge" and the "train bridge" come out so both bridges can come off and expose the wheels underneath.  Now you can see the mainspring barrel at the bottom, and then the center wheel, third wheel, fourth wheel and lastly, the silver colored steel escape wheel at the top left.

This shot shows you how the wheels relate to each other.  If you counted the teeth you could caluculate the gear ratios of each.  Since the 4th wheel drives the second hand the center wheel drives the minute hand you can also estimate the gear ratio too.

They all come straight out.

With the movement clear of wheels, the balance assembly comes off as well - to expose only the pallet fork remaining on the left.

Then, on the front side of the movement, the minute wheel and other parts are removed to allow thorough cleaning.  You can see on the left, the gold spring that provides the shock jeweling protection for the balance assembly.  Technically this should come off too - but it requires a special tool and you have a 99.9% chance of losing the spring if you're not extremely careful.

My ultrasonic does a very nice job of cleaning out any old dirt and grime, so I leave those jewels in place.

Everything spends about 8 minutes in cleaner and another 12 or so minutes in various rinses so once it's all laid out to dry things really sparkle.  It may seem like a lot of parts - but after you take a watch apart a few dozen times you learn to tell exactly where everything is supposed to go.

Re-assembly is basically the reverse of disassembly, except the balance assembly goes on last.  All of the jewels get a tiny droplet of oil.  With the mainspring wound up, the watch goes onto the timer.

Here you can see it's running just a little slow, 17 seconds per day, to be precise.

A little tweaking of the regulator speeds it up to closer to zero.  I like to leave watches just a hair on the fast side, as they will slow slightly as the mainspring releases.

And here it is, all cleaned up with a fresh crystal and a nice lizard grain strap in brown.  There's a tiny bit of moisture damage on the dial near the second hand but otherwise this watch turned out excellent.


In 1965 the First Mate was also offered with a white dial so both a golden dial or a white dial was available.  The white dial continued to be offered through 1967.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

1920 Model 972 Pocket Watch

Pocket watches are a fun and interesting genre of Hamilton collecting.  If memory serves, I think there are about 30 different grades of mechanical pocket watch movements when all the various sizes and forms are taken into consideration.   Some are quite scarce - and demand a healthy premium - especially the high grade 23 jewel railroad models but there are other uncommon variants out there as well.

But one of the more abundant models you're sure to come by is the humble Model 972.

The 972 was an entry level 16 size open faced movement.  In a hunter case (with a metal clam-shell style case) the model is a 973.  Hunter style movements are oriented with the stem on the side - and are sometimes called "side winders".  You can tell a hunter style from an open style based on the location of the seconds hand relative to the stem / crown.  You can check out a 973 here.

The 972 is not a "railroad approved" model but it's still a very nice time piece.

972's were produced for a LONG time too - from the late 1890's until 1924, so you'll see a variety of dial designs depending upon the era.  In addition, it was usually sold uncased to jewelers.  So you would pick out your movement and then the jeweler would show you different 16 size cases to install it in.

I recently picked up a 972 in a favorite local shop.  It was in rough shape with a yellowed plastic crystal and a broken mainspring.  But I could tell that a little tender loving care would go a long way in restoring it to a faithful timekeeper.

The back of the movement is heavily damascened.  Each of the ruby jewels is set in a solid gold setting.  The regulator on the balance cock also has a "micro-regulator" - which is a combination of a screw and spring to allow very precise adjustment of the regulator arm.  The regulator effectively lengthens or shortens the hair spring... and makes the watch run either a little slower (lengthened) or faster (shortened).  The regulator will typically allow adjustments to within a couple of minutes per day range.  Beyond that, a watchmaker can regulate the watch using the screws on the balance wheel.

In the shot below you can see the broken mainspring inside the barrel.  The barrel is technically the "first wheel" in the gear train.  When you wind a watch to store the power in the barrel and the barrel transmits the power through the gear train.

If you wind a watch and it just keeps on winding without the any tension build up then it's a good sign that the mainspring is broken - although other issues could also be present.   It could just be disconnected too.  You never know for sure unless you look but you can clearly see below that the spring is broken in the innermost coil.

New mainsprings usually come pre-coiled.  If you're lucky you can just slide them into the barrel.  Otherwise you need to let them uncoil and then rewind them using a mainspring winder to install.

Pocket watch mainsprings are very powerful though and will pack a wallop if you're not careful with them.  I'm going to install the nice white alloy spring below.  Once installed, this watch will run for two days or so on a full wind.

With the movement completely disassembled, cleaned, oiled and reassembled, here's a shot of the dial-side of the movement's main plate called a "pillar plate".  This version of the 972 is "lever set" where you slide a lever out at the 1 position to put the watch into the time setting mode.  With the lever pushed in, the watch is in the winding mode, as shown.  The "strawberry jelly" is microgliss lubricant and is used to keep the keyless works sliding smoothly.  It's kind of globbed on there but once I wind the watch and the parts move it will spread out.

Here's a shot of the freshly cleaned movement purring away inside the case.  I love the way a pocket watch glistens when everything is clean.  Even the gold jewel mounts sparkle.

And lastly, here's the dial side - all cleaned up and ready for a new glass crystal to be installed.  This really is a pretty watch.  Don't you think?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

1946 Donald

It must have been an exciting time in the Hamilton factory in 1946 as production returned to civilian models.  Production was limited though, and only 20 men's models were included in the 1946 line-up.

One of the models introduced in 1946 was the Donald.  It continued to be made until 1952.

The Donald came in a solid 14K yellow gold case with a sterling silver dial with applied18K solid gold numerals.

In 1946, all of the solid gold models had 14/0 sized  movement.  Being solid gold, each had the upgraded 19 jewel 982M (medallion) movement.  The 982M is virtually identical to the 982 movement, except it is finished to a higher degree of tolerances and decoration.

Being produced for seven years, the Donald is fairly easy to come by, relatively speaking.  It's not as common as similar gold filled models but it's certainly not rare.

I recently picked up an interesting example - and it came with it's original boxes.  The outer blue box has a label with the watch model name, along with the case serial number and the movement number.

Inside was a very nice example on a great, period-correct strap.

The dial pattern is correct for the Donal but the finish on the dial looks a little shiny to be original.  I suspect it has been refinished at some point.  That's not a big deal though - refinishing dials is very common with vintage Hamiltons and it was often included in the regular overhaul process.

Sure enough, behind the dial there are some numbers scratched in - confirming this dial was redone at some point.

On the back of the 982M you can see the gold "medallion" representing that this is a special movement.  Considering most people would never look at the back of the watch movement - the fact that Hamilton put so much attention to detail in the fine finish work of their movements is a testament to their premier quality.

To me, the best thing about a solid gold case is there's never any green verdigris to clean off like there is  on gold filled cases.

The overhaul process for a 982M is the same as any 980 or 982.  You can check one out here if you'd like to see the details.

With everything freshly cleaned, oiled and regulated, this Donald turned out to be a beautiful example.

Oddly enough, the case number and movement number do not match the outer box info.  So it's not a completely "matched" set.  It sort of makes you wonder how it came about though... was the box added later, was the watch returned for service and a different one substituted?

There is no way to tell for sure.  It will have to remain a mystery.