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Greetings!

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, August 27, 2013

1940 Emerson

Well, I started out this month showcasing some of Hamilton's smallest men's watches and I guess I'll close out the month with another one.  This one is the 1940 Emerson.

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The Emerson is an interesting watch with hidden lugs so you can't see (from the front) how the strap attaches to the 10K gold filled case.  The sterling silver dial with solid 18K applied gold numerals is shared with the 1939 Bowman, which was produced only in 1939.

Being in a 10K gold filled case, you'd assume the movement inside would be a 17 jewel 14/0 sized 980 - and you'd be correct.  14K gold filled models would have a 19 jewel 982 movement.

The Emerson was produced from 1940 through 1946, with a slight disruption due to WWII military production.  A modern "registered edition" version of the Emerson was produced by Hamilton as a ladies watch.  It's a very accurate homage to the original - although it has a quartz movement - and you'll see from time to time on eBay.

I've restored several Emersons over the past few years.  It's not the smallest watch Hamilton ever made but I'd probably put in the top five.

I recently picked up another project watch.  The case was in great shape but the dial was very dirty and the crystal obviously in need of replacement.

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With the bezel removed from the case back, you can see that the dial is very dirty but appears to be original.  That's a good sign, as original dials will usually clean up better than a refinished dial.

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Behind the dial is the 980 movement.  At this point in time, the 980 was a pretty plain looking movement without damascening.  The serial number on the barrel bridge dates the watch to 1946 - the last year of production for the Emerson.

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The movement was completely disassembled, cleaned and oiled with a fresh white-alloy mainspring.  Once it was re-assembled, after a little tweaking it ran great on my timer (below).  Interestingly, when I put the watch on it's side (with the 9 down) it would slow down considerably.

I'm just a really advanced hobbyist - not a professional - so I occasionally get stumped by a movement that runs like this.  Every "wheel" in the watch runs on an axle (called an arbor) with tiny metal pivots on the ends that ride in a jeweled bearing with oil in between the pivot and the jewel.  When a watch is dial up or dial down, it's only really running on one end of the arbors but when you put the watch on it's side, all the pivots are in action so twice the friction is applied.

Running poorly in one position but not others could be caused by a variety of things ranging from dirty jewels to bent pivots to cracked jewels.  So I had to take it all apart again and inspect every pivot and every jewel.

I didn't see anything obvious but it still took me about 2.5 hours to get all the pivots and jewels cleaned to the point that it would run well in all positions.  But I eventually got it.  What exactly was the cause is still a mystery though.

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The dial cleaned up really well, I think.  Still a little bit of toning around the perimeter but when cleaning dials the trick is to know when to say when - as too much cleaning will wipe the printing right off the dial.

Paired with a period-correct pigskin strap and with a new glass crystal installed, this Emerson looks much improved over what I started with.

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I also replaced the crown with a less worn example - so this watch is ready for another 70 years of service.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

1930 Langley

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Hamilton introduced a variety of new models in 1930 - many of which are "holy grails" for Hamilton collectors.  It seemed that the company cut it's wrist watch teeth on the geometrics of the 1920's but really hit it's stride in 1930 and beyond.

One of the very nice "entry level" solid gold models introduced in 1930 was the Langley.
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The Langley was produced through 1934.  Originally it featured the 987 movement but eventually was marketed with the similarly sized, 19 jewel 979 (or 979F) movement that was used in the other solid gold models.

The Langley was produced in 14K yellow gold and 14K white gold.  There are about twice as many white versions as yellow versions.  There are even a small handful of 18K Langleys manufactured for Tiffany with Tiffany branded dials.  You'll also occasionally find specially engraved "ask the man who owns one" Langleys produced for the Packard Motor Car Company.

The Langley came with a luminous dial as well as a less common Raised Gold Figure dial with applied solid gold numerals.  Hamilton would later call this an Applied Gold Numeral dial.

The Langley can be found in a three-piece case as well as a two-piece case.  In the three-piece case the movement is held in a center section that hinges into the case back - and the case back snaps into the front bezel.

I've had the pleasure of working on a couple of Langleys for other collectors I know.  Here's a yellow gold version... notice the female spring bars needed for this type of case.  These types of bars are used when the case has pins instead of holes.  The bars go over the pins rather than sticking into holes in the bezel lugs.

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Here's what a three-piece case looks like with the 19 jewel 979 movement inside the center section that is hinged into the case back.

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And here's a white version of the Langley.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

1954 Automatic K-502

Automatic, or self-winding, watches date back to the early half of the last century.  Hamilton was not on the cutting edge of innovation when it came to this type of unique watch movements.  In fact, Hamilton didn't offer any automatic models until 1954.

In 1954 Hamilton introduced a dozen new automatic models into the product line, including it's first-ever calendar watch (the K-575).  From then on, automatics would grow in significance within Hamiltons offering.

Hamilton also introduced the model nomenclature it would use going forward, where the first number denotes the type of material the bezel is made of... 1xx would be 18K gold, 2xx is 14K gold, 3xx is 10K gold, 4xx gold filled and 5xx is stainless steel.

One of the twelve new models was the Automatic K-502.  It was produced for only one year.


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The K-502 is a sturdy watch thanks to the stainless steel case.  The embossed dial features luminous dots and the dauphine style hands are also luminous.  Behind the dial you will probably find Hamilton's 661 movement - but I'm not 100% sure though, as I sold my only example and don't have a movement photo.  The 661 is used in most of the early automatics though.

The Automatic K-502 is a nice looking watch, but a little plain in my opinion.  I'm sure if it came in a black dialed version it would have been much more popular.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

1953 Dixon

Hamilton has a number of watches with "recycled" model names.  In some cases, three different models  each share the same name.  Normally there's about a 15 year or more span between versions -which at the time probably seemed like a lot.  But when looking back over the 50 years that Hamilton made wrist watches in the USA, 15 years doesn't seem so long in hindsight.

Sometimes the different models looked similar to each other with the second model being a modernized version of the earlier watch... for example the Grant

In 1935, Hamilton introduced the original Dixon.  Then, in 1953 Hamilton reintroduced the model name with an entirely different design.  The "new" Dixon was made for three years.

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The Dixon came in a 10K gold filled case.  The sterling silver butler-finished dial features 18K solid gold numerals and markers.

Behind the dial is an 8/0 sized 17 jewel 747 movement.

The Dixon is a great example of 1950's styling, when cases became very sculpted and featured a variety of angles and sharp details.  It reminds me of some of the cars from the 1950's that featured the same sort of styling... big fins, and all.  These watches often came with bracelets that celebrated the same angular details featured in the bezel.

Of course, these design details are not for everyone... you either "love them" or "hate them".  I think you can probably put me in the latter category... I'm not a big fan, to be honest

Below is a picture of a Dixon I used to have.  If you look closely at it you might realize that something isn't quite right... can you see it?

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The hour markers are different than the catalog ad!  Is this watch a "franken"? If so, that's a big deal as having the correct dial is important.  You might have also noticed the second hand is a different style.  That's usually not a big deal though, it's nice to have the correct style but it's also very easy to change.

Turns out, in 1955 Hamilton changed the Dixon to feature "gold numerals and squares".  So this Dixon is 100% correct - it's just a 1955 example.  Identifying these little unique style changes is part of what makes collecting Hamiltons an exciting challenge.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

1935 Rutledge

Just like swimming pools and boats, sometimes it's nice to have friends when it comes to watches.  A friend of mine recently asked me to check out a new acquisition he made... a Rutledge!

Hamilton made watches in all sorts of materials ranging from stainless steel to silver, from gold plated to solid 18K gold, and in some rare circumstances - even platinum!

I would be willing to bet that most of the time you see a platinum-cased Hamilton watch it's a "franken" - or a Hamilton movement in a private jewelers case.  However, there are a small handful of legitimate platinum models.  One of which is the Rutledge.

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The Rutledge was introduced in 1935.  It's not the first platinum model, there were earlier models like the Oval where a tiny number of watches were cased in platinum.  But I do believe the Rutledge was the first catalogued model to be only available in Platinum.  Considering the model was released in the depths of the Great Depression, this was not an inexpensive watch.  It was about twice the cost of other solid gold models.

One little bit of trivia is the Rutledge originally came with a platinum buckle to match but as the Depression wore on, Hamilton changed the buckle to white gold and offered platinum as an option for added cost.

The Rutledge continued to be offered through 1951, when a new platinum model called the Cambridge was introduced and produced through 1953.

The case of the Rutledge is alloyed with iridium to give it additional hardness.  The silver dial has rhodium plated solid 18 gold numerals with matching hands in the "spear" style.

As I said above, a friend of mine recently purchased a Rutledge and he asked me to check it out for him.

As received, it came presented on an expansion bracelet - which would not be correct for a watch of this caliber.  It turns out, one of the most challenging things of a Rutledge is to locate a 19mm (or 3/4") strap in gray... try doing that sometime!

Of course, the second most challenging thing is to get female spring bars to accommodate the strap - as this case has little pins in the lugs as opposed to holes to receive the spring bar.   The spring bars are actually open tubes on the end and they are very hard to locate in a big enough size.

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As you can see, this watch is in fantastic shape.  It even still featured the brush marks on the case back that you rarely see with previously worn watches.

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The Rutledge, like all precious metal-cased Hamiltons with a 14/0 movement got the 19 jewel 982 until 1940 and after that was outfitted with the 982M medallion movement.  This movement needed a little tweaking to the regulator to slow it down a smidge but otherwise it looks and runs clean.  Based on the serial number, this watch is a 1937 model.

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It was a real treat to see this watch as I'm not likely to lay hands on another one anytime soon.  But that's okay - once is enough.

Friday, August 9, 2013

1954 Blair - Overhaul

I've got one more micro-mens watch to show you but I'm waiting on a new crystal for it.  So in the meantime I'll share with you a recent overhaul instead.

In the early 1950's Hamilton replaced it's 14/0 movements (the 980, 982 and 982M) with slightly larger 12/0 sized movements.  The 17 jewel 980 was replaced by the 17 jewel 752.  The 19 jewel 982 was replaced by the 19 jewel 753.  The 982M medallion movement that was used in solid gold watches was replaced by the 19 jewel 754 -which was also a medallion movement.  The 754 is identical to the 753, except it is finished with finer details and is "prettier".

Oddly enough, by 1955 they were all replaced again by the 22 jewel 770 movement - which is also 12/0 sized and a drop in replacement.

In 1954 Hamilton introduced the Blair.  It was produced through 1958 so you'll find it with the 19 jewel 753 as well as the 770 - but the 753 is less common since it was only used for the first year.

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The Blair comes in a 10K gold filled case.  It has a sterling silver dial that is finished with an interesting two-tone design and features solid 18K gold numerals and squares.

I recently picked up a Blair project watch and since it's been a while since I've shown you what an overhaul entails, I'll give you a pretty close step-by-step description.  Plus, it's a 753 movement - which I don't think I've show cased before.

As received, it was considerably beat up and in need of love.  The crystal was so scratched, it was hard to tell what was going on beneath it.

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Turns out, the dial and hands were in excellent condition.

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If you look closely at the picture above, you may note the two grooves in the case back at the 5 and 11 positions.  These are the two locations where there is a slight lip on the movement.  You simply slide a screwdriver into the slots and gently pry the movement up and out of the case back.  A lot of folks will try to push the movement out using the crown - but that just risks bending the stem.  So try to refrain from doing that - as it's very tempting.

With the dial and movement out of the case, you can see this is a 753 movement - although the engraving is a little hard to make out with all the decorative damascening.

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Next, the hands are removed using "hand pullers" and the two dial foot screws on the side of the movement are loosened.  This allows the dial to come off and the second hand comes with it.

With the dial removed you get to see the dial-side of the main plate.  Directly in the center is the hour wheel (drives the hour hand) and the cannon pinion inside of it - that drives the minute hand.  Tucked just to the below right of the hour wheel is the minute wheel.  The cannon pinion turns the outer diameter of the minute wheel and the inside of the minute wheel turns the hour wheel - and that's how the two hands stay in sync.

The hour wheel and cannon pinion come off now.

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With the cannon pinion removed, the movement is flipped over to the back side.  My screw driver below is pointing to the "click".  The click has a little spring that keeps the click against the ratchet wheel next to it.  That's what you hear clicking when you wind the watch.  Underneath the ratchet wheel is the mainspring barrel - that's what stores the energy when you wind it.  The screw in the center of the ratchet wheel connects the two parts together.

You need to release the mainspring energy before going any further - or it will release on you when you take the ratchet wheel off and possibly damage something.  To release the energy, you turn the crown to wind the watch and then hold the click open with the screwdriver.  Then you let the crown slowly freewheel backwards and "unwind".

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The ratchet wheel and barrel bridge come off next - and expose the mainspring barrel below along with a portion of the center wheel.  The barrel is technically the "first" wheel.  It drives the center wheel which is technically the "second wheel".  The cannon pinion is attached to the center wheel arbor (shaft) on the other side of the movement.  That's why I had to take it off first - otherwise I wouldn't be able to take the center wheel out.

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Three screws hold the "train bridge" on and with them removed the bridge just lifts right off - and exposes all the wheels.  Now you can see the mainspring barrel, the center wheel, the "third wheel", the  "fourth wheel" (which the second hand attaches to) and finally the silver-colored "escape wheel".

They can all come out now along with the balance assembly - which is still held in place with one screw on the left.

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Now my screw driver is pointing to the pallet fork and the bridge that holds it in place.  One screw holds it together and once that's out the back of the movement will be completely cleared of parts.

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Oops, I lied.  There are still three parts remaining on the back - they are three tiny screws that hold the cap jewels on the front of the movement in place.  More on that in a bit but first they have to come out.

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Here we are back on the front of the movement again.  The cap jewels mentioned above are still in place but will come right off with the screws removed.  I also removed the "set bridge" which holds the minute wheel and the set wheel in place (they're still in the photo below, just right of center)

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By comparison with the above, you can now see the front of the movement is cleared of parts.  I usually leave the set lever, stem, clutch wheel, etc. in place.  They will get cleaned when I clean the rest of the parts.

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Here's a shot of the three cap jewels that get removed.  One of them covers the balance staff, and the other two cover the two ends of the escape wheel.  The balance staff and escape wheel do the most moving when the watch is running, followed closely by the fourth wheel.  That's why they usually get cap jewels - to keep crud from getting caught in the jewels.

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While everything is in the ultrasonic, I turn my attention to the case and give it a light polish.

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I've got a new old stock crystal to install in the case.  If you've ever wondered about how that's done, check it out here.

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Well, everything is cleaned and dried and it goes back together pretty much in the opposite way that I took it apart - although I like to put the balance on last.  All of the jewels get a tiny droplet of oil.

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While I'm reassembling the watch movement, the new crystal that was installed in the bezel is placed under a UV lamp so the glue will cure.

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The first thing to go back in is the cap jewels and believe me, you don't want to lose one of these tiny screws.  As you can see below how small they are based on my finger tip.

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Here's a shot of the pallet fork, sometimes called an anchor - for obvious reasons.  You can also see the two pallet jewels sticking down.  Those count as two of the 19 jewels in the movement.  They are specially shaped to engage the escape wheel and they are held in place with shellac.  That's why you never clean a movement with alcohol - as it dissolves shellac.

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With the pallet fork back in position and secured by it's bridge, all the wheels go back in at the same time.  The 12/0 sized movements have a four-wheel train bridge so it can be a little tricky to get them all to line up properly.

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To aid in reassembly, I put the barrel bridge back in place first.  I can use that to guide the train bridge next.

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If all the wheels are lined up correctly, the train bridge will simply drop in place.  Normally some tweaking is required to get one of the wheels into position and this is the angle by which you can see which wheel(s) to adjust.  In this shot, everything is lined up and the train bridge is in place.

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All the screws go back in and the ratchet wheel is reinstalled.  So now I can wind the watch up a little and put some energy back into the gear train.  Next the balance assembly gets oiled and put back in place.  If everything is good to go the watch will start right up and do it's thing.  If it doesn't start... well that means something is not right.   Fortunately, this time everything started right up.

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After a little tweaking, this movement is purring like a kitten.  Runs pretty much spot on with great amplitude and minimal beat error.

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And finally the dial and hands get reinstalled and everything goes back into the case.

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And here it is presented below with a black croco-lizard strap.

Notice how the two tone dial changes tones depending upon the lighting versus the picture above.  This is a tricky dial to photograph.  I think the watch really turned out great.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

1940 Paige

Continuing my posts on micro-men's models, another enticing model for the unsuspecting collector is the 1940 Paige.  This very stylish model is quite attractive but it's dial is no larger than a nickel.

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The Paige came in a 14K gold filled case with a choice of an AGN dial or a black zone gilt dial.  The latter is very similar to the Endicott, which was also available at the same time.

The Paige was only produced for two years.

Under the dial is a 19 jewel, 14/0 sized 982 movement and it pretty much fills the tiny case that comprises the model.

Here's a photo of a Paige I restored a while back.  The domed crystal gives the dial a bit of a gold fish bowl effect.

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And here's an example of the black zone dialed version alongside an Endicott with the same style dial.  The photo is courtesy of fellow-collector, Tom Diss.

Keep in mind the Endicott has a 6/0 sized movement and is about 28mm wide.  So you can imagine just how much smaller a Paige is when on the wrist.

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Still, the Paige is an attractive model in my opinion and would be a great gift option for a special lady who appreciates vintage time pieces.