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, February 25, 2014

1937 Cameron

If you have followed my blog for a while, you may recall that last October I purchased a 1936 Dorsey under the mistaken impression that it was a Cameron.  I have a very special Cameron in my life and that's the only model, at least in the men's line, that is a family name.  So my pursuit for a Hamilton Cameron continued.

There are actually two Cameron models but the first one was released in 1937 and produced through 1940.

The Cameron comes in a solid 14K gold case and depending upon the year, both white or yellow (natural) gold was offered.  Only one dial was available, the sterling silver dial with solid 18K gold applied numerals.

I recently received a Cameron in need of some tender loving care.  It came on an old expansion bracelet - which wasn't original to the watch so it will have to go.  I don't care for bracelets because they tend to wear into the watch lugs if they're not a perfect fit (and even if they are).

The dial is very dirty and based on it's looks I can't really tell if it's original or a very old refinish.  The mottled patina in the field makes me wonder if the watch was attached to a smoker's wrist - maybe it's just nicotine and will clean off?

With the dial removed, there are no marks on the reverse and it looks untouched - so I'm going to say this dial is an original.  That's good, because original dials usually clean up better than a refinished dial.

The 19 jewel 982 movement is correct for the watch and the serial number dates to 1938, perfect for a Cameron.

Although the watch is running, it's running very poorly.  With the watch on my timer you can see the tell tale sign of a shot-gun pattern of noise.  It should be two lines, fairly close together.  So this watch really needs help.

 Uh oh - this model happens to have female spring bars.  That means there are pins in the lugs, as opposed to holes.  Replacing these spring bars is a challenge as the holes in new spring bars are usually too small and need to be enlarged to accommodate the size of the male pins.

Here's a shot of the pins.  The female bar will fit between the pins and then expand over them to secure the new strap.

Sometimes you get lucky and can reuse the old spring bars.  But not this time, these spring bars are shot.  I wouldn't risk a valuable watch to potentially falling off because of worn out spring bars.

While everything is being cleaned in the ultrasonic, I'll turn my attention to the case and replacing the crystal.  First, I'll polish the case.

With the case all spiffed up, a new glass crystal will be fitted for the bezel and glued in place with UV glue.

Not surprising, the mainspring is set - it's in a coil about the size of a nickel.  A new mainspring will dramatically energize this 76 year old watch.

My first choice for mainsprings is a white alloy (unbreakable) Dynavar spring.

Everything is cleaned and dried so all that's left is to reassemble everything.

A good cleaning returned the watch to vigorous life.  It's running a little fast right out of the chute but a little tweaking to the regulator will slow it down.

Here, from right to left, you can see the effect of my moving the regulator as the slope of the two lines slowly moves towards horizontal.  Gone is the shot gun pattern - thank goodness!  23 seconds fast per day is a good set point for now.  It will probably settle in as it runs longer.

Now that I know the watch runs properly I can move on to the final task of modifying new spring bars to fit over the male pins.

And here's the finished product paired with a new old stock vintage Hamilton pigskin strap, just like what would have come on the watch in 1938 (as shown in the catalog image above).  The dial cleaned up very nicely, I think.

This watch is ready for another 76 years of faithful service!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

1968 Thinline 6504

The 1960's was a time of turmoil for Hamilton.  I guess it really started in the 1950's when Benrus attempted a hostile takeover.  Oddly enough, Hamilton outlasted Benrus as the last great American watch manufacturer of the age.  You have to hand it to the Hamilton executives though - they put on a "full court press" all they way through to 1969 when the last US-made movements were produced in Lancaster PA.  Hamilton had a deep product line of offerings.

One of the models that was introduced in the "bitter end" was the 1968 Thinline 6504.  It would be produced in 1969 too.

There are over 80 different Thinline models in all different shapes, sizes and case materials.  It would be a fun challenge to try to collect them all.

The Thinline 6504 came in a 10K rolled gold plated case with a stainless steel back.  The dial has a pearlescent finish with applied figures.  Under the dial is a Hamilton 639 movement - you don't see that very often.

I recently scored a very nice original Thinline 6504 with it's original bracelet.  Surprisingly, I was able to get it for a real deal too - which is nice.  I've noticed a lot more competition for watches lately - I hope it not due to my blog!  Ha ha!

My new project watch came with it's original sticker on the back of the case.  It made identifying it very easy - that's for sure.

The Swiss-made 639 doesn't say inside who the maker is.  However, a little research revealed that it's based on the 10.5 ligne Buren 280 movement.  Buren and Hamilton were in the process of merging in late 1960's.

When looked at from the side you can see why the 639 was used in Thinline models.  It is very skinny.

Everything gets taken apart and cleaned.  There are no marks inside the case back to indicate the watch had ever been serviced.  In fact, other than a couple of minor scratches to the bracelet, it's very hard to tell if the watch was ever even worn.  It was surprisingly dirty inside though - based on how the color of my cleaning solution changed.  And it's always good to make sure there is fresh oil in any "new" vintage watch you obtain.

A little tweaking to the regulator gets it to balance out pretty much on a perfect 18,000 beats per hour.

And here's the finished product all cleaned up and purring away as it should.  My photo makes the case and hands look like they have black accents - those are just reflections.  The case has a matte finish (brushed) on the sides but it's bright around the crystal.  The hands are bright too so they are reflecting the darkness outside my light tent.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

1965 Accumatic A-507

If someone wanted to focus their collecting passion only on Hamilton Automatics, they would assemble a collection of over 150 watches before all was said and done… assuming they could find them all.  Add in the dial variations and it would be an even larger feat to pull off.

Of course, one might become bored with trying to locate and differentiate the myriad round cases, that automatics typically are found in.

Take for example the 1965 Accumatic A-507.  It was produced through the end of US-Hamilton production in 1969 and continued to be offered until 1972.

The A-507 comes in a single piece stainless steel case that opens through the crystal.  Two different bracelet designs were available, depending on the year.  You'll also find different luminous hands.  The white embossed dial has a textured finish like grooves with applied numerals and luminous dots at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions.

Depending upon the year, behind the dial you will find a 17 jewel Hamilton 689A or equivalent movement.

I recently obtained an A-507 project watch that was running but definitely needed a thorough cleaning. The crystal was all beat up and a piece was actually missing by the 12 so a replacement was necessary.

Out from behind the dial, the textured dial is in very nice shape - which is very fortunate since the hole in the crystal could have easily let a lot of moisture and dirt inside.

Other than a little minor rust to the female portion of the two-piece stem, the movement is in good overhaul condition.

Everything gets disassembled, cleaned and set out to try before reassembly.

A little tweaking to the regulator brings the timing into fine control.  This movement allows for easy adjustment to both the regulator and the hairspring stud for the beat rate and beat error can be effectively managed.

The now cleaned movement looks as good as it runs and will go back into the case.

And here's the finished project, with a fresh crystal and a new gray leather strap.  This is a very clean design and reminds me of photos of working men in the 1960's with narrow ties and blue suits.  It's a sharp looking and simple design.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

1953 Hamilton Illinois Automatic B

Hamilton acquired the Illinois Watch Company in the 1920's and although Illinois watches continued to be made into the 1930's, the brand eventually went dormant.  Hamilton reintroduced the Illinois brand in 1953 and I've heard different reasons why.

One has something to do with trademark ownership… sort of a use it or lose it situation.  The other reason, which I think is potentially more plausible, is Hamilton realized that it would need to be able to provide watches at lower price points to be more competitive with other manufacturers or risk losing significant market share.  Reintroducing the Illinois brand allowed the introduction of less expensive Swiss-made movements without disrupting Hamilton's status as a premier brand.   After a few years though, I think Hamilton executives realized that the Illinois brand wasn't needed and that the Hamilton brand could effectively represent both US-made and Swiss-made watches through differing product tiers.

One thing is for certain, the Hamilton Illinois watches paved the way for a new generation of Hamilton watches.  The first calendar watches and automatic models were Hamilton Illinois models.

For example, in 1953 Hamilton introduced the Illinois Automatic Model B.  It was produced for two years.

The Model B came in a stainless steel case with either a bracelet or strap.  The dial has embossed numerals and markers with luminous material applied to both the dial and the hands.

Under the dial is an ETA 1256 automatic movement.  ETA still makes Hamilton's movements today, 60 years later.  Back then, however, ETA was largely an ebauche manufacturer - meaning they made blank movements or partially completed movements that other companies could build upon and complete or customize.

I recently received a Model B in need of some TLC.   Although it was running, the hands had fallen off - a sure sign that attention is warranted.

The stainless steel back screws off.

Here's a bit of a surprise.  The rotor is unmarked.  There's nothing on the movement to indicate it's an Illinois movement other than TXD on the balance cock - which is an import code for Illinois.  I suspect there was a problem with the original rotor and it was easier to install a generic rotor in it's place.

The back of the dial has the number 9515 on it - that's the same number that is on the back of the case back and I suspect that's the model number of this watch.

The rotor is held on with three screws and once they are removed, the rotor assembly can be lifted off.  That leaves what essentially is a manual winding movement underneath.  The triangular shaped train bridge is a classic ETA detail.

ETA movements are usually marked under the balance with the ETA logo and the model grade… in this case 1256

Everything is cleaned and dried.  I also polished the crystal and case as well as relumed the hands and dial.

A little tweaking to the regulator on the reassembled watch gets it to level out at 14 seconds fast per day with good amplitude.

And here's the finished product on a new old stock Gemex leather strap - which would be correct for the period and style used originally on the watch.  The red second hand is rather interesting - I don't know if that's original but it adds a bit of flare to an otherwise mono-chromatic design.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

1960 Automatic K-414 Overhaul

Hamilton's Automatic K-series of watches was introduced in 1954 and extended into 1961.  There are 58 different Automatic K-something models - and even more when you consider dial variations.

One of the K-watches that entered toward the end of the run was the Automatic K-414.  It was produced for only one year - 1960.

The K-414 came in a 10 yellow gold filled case with a white dial.  The dial has yellow embossed numerals and markers with a pearlized track.  The hands and dial are lumed as well.

Behind the dial you will find a 17 jewel Hamilton 667 Swiss-made movement.  It's a variant of the 661 and 665 made by Kurth Freres (Certina).

If you look over in the menu on the right, I have posted a number of "Overhaul threads".  These show set-by-step how I disassemble and / or reassemble a movement - in case you ever wanted to try your hand at it.  I haven't done a 667 before so I'll show you in detail what's involved below.

I recently purchased a project K-414 from a local favorite shop.  One of the proprietors was kidding me about the great deal I got on the watch and told me when I left I would be "driving a getaway car".  Actually I paid a fair price ($50) considering the shape that it was in.  Although it was extremely dirty, it was running - but you never really know how well until you see it on a timer.

The back of a K-414 screws off.  These can be a real bear to get off sometimes, depending on the condition of the gasket inside.  Fortunately for me, I was able to open it without much difficulty.

Wow, this movement is surprisingly clean.

Once out from beneath the beat up crystal, the dial and hands actually look really nice.  The dial has a slight case of radium burn from the hands.  I'll remove the radium in my cleaner so that will put an end to that.

First to come off the movement are the hands, then the dial, and the hour wheel / cannon pinion below it.

Switching to the back, like the 661, the rotor is really easy to remove from a 667.  You just "flip the switch" and rotate the rotor until it lifts right off.  That leaves the movement below with an exposed rotor carrier.

Three screws hold the rotor carrier on.

The other side of the rotor carrier shows the business-end of how the rotor transfers motion through the series of gears to the winding wheel on the movement.

At this point, the movement is your basic manual winding movement.  The gold ring on the right is the winding wheel.  It engages the larger wheel above it called the ratchet wheel.  The ratchet wheel is connected to the mainspring arbor.  The wheel below the winding wheel is a clutch that allows the rotor to turn the winding wheel but not vice versa.

The barrel bridge is the next to come off.  Two screws hold it on.  The winding wheel has also been removed.

This movement has a large train bridge that is held on with four screws and encompasses the winding wheel too.

With the train bridge and barrel bridge removed you can see all the wheels in the watch.  The fourth wheel in the center drives the second hand.  The third wheel is next to it.   They can come out now.  I can also take off the balance assembly and the mainspring barrel.

That leaves a bridge for the center wheel.  Two screws hold it on.

Now the center wheel, escape wheel, and pallet fork can come out.  The pallet fork is blocking the center wheel so the center wheel is the last part to come off.

And the back of the movement is now clear of parts.  Nothing to it, right?

Everything gets cleaned, rinsed and set out to dry.

Normally the first part I put on is the pallet fork but for this movement I have found that it is easiest to put that on after I get the other wheels installed.  Installation is just the reverse of disassembly.  Getting all the wheels to line up can be a bugger on this movement so I find it best to tweak the parts with my tweezers from this angle - using the empty space left by the missing balance assembly.

Now the pallet fork and it's bridge can be installed.

The mainspring barrel, barrel bridge, winding wheel and ratchet wheel go back on next.  Now I can wind the watch and put the balance assembly back on.  When it starts running I'll put it on the timer.

Well, that's not too shabby, 1 second fast per day with good amplitude and a low beat error… maybe my truck was a "getaway car" after all!

The dial and hands go on next and the movement is ready to go back in the case.

The movement is surrounded by a movement ring and secured with two screws.

The rotor goes on last.  It's easier to put the rotor on last and not have it flopping around while the movement is outside the case.

And with a polished case, new crystal and fresh lizard strap - this Automatic K-414 looks awesome!  I think I may need to wait a few weeks to go back to my favorite shop and let the heat die down… ha ha!