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, April 29, 2014

1959 Trevor

There are a number of very similar square watches from the 1950's and 1960's.  It's sometimes hard to tell them apart.  They may differ in size, lug shape, the movement inside or the dial design.  One of the models you don't see very often is the 1959 Trevor - it was produced for only one year.

The Trevor was in the entry-level line up of Hamilton's models.  It came in a 10K yellow rolled gold plate case with a stainless steel back.  The embossed dial has a circular pattern with golden-colored numerals.

Inside is a 17 jewel Swiss-made Hamilton 673 movement that was made by A. Schild.

I recently picked up a Trevor project watch and you could describe it with just one word - Nasty.  It smelled as dirty as it looked.  I couldn't tell if it was a few decades of cigarette use, motor oil or maybe both.

But like many Hamiltons, it was given with love from someone to someone… in this case from FG to JD on November 24th, 1959.

Out from behind the beat up crystal, the dial is an old refinish - you can tell by the seconds track - it should be simple cross hairs.  Also, the finish on the right side has been compromised by moisture.  I'm going to try to clean it but refinished dials don't always clean up well and this is a textured dial - which would be a pain to refinish again.

It doesn't looks very dirty in the shot below, but I can tell this movement hasn't been cleaned in a long time.  One indicator is it's not running.

While everything is being cleaned in the ultrasonic, I'll replace the crystal with a new acrylic replacement.

Everything is cleaned and dried, even the dial cleaned up fairly well.

Well, right out of the chute, it's running about a minute slow per day but a little tweaking to the regulator will bring it inline.

Just a slight nudge to the regulator and the beat rate is brought right in line.

And here's the finished product on it's pillow shot.  The new crystal hides most of the dial finish loss on the crown-side so the watch looks pretty good, I think.  I may think about getting the dial redone anyway - just so the seconds track looks right.  However, I also noticed a little wear to the case on the left after I took the picture - so maybe this watch is as good as it is going to get.


I decided to get the dial redone since it was already refinished incorrectly and the lacquer was failing. Now it looks more like it should and is much more appealing to the eye, I think.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

1970's Ladies Pendant

I bet there are more ladies' wrist watch models than there are men's.  However, ladies' models seem to all look same - well mostly anyway - since the vast majority of them are cocktail watches of various ilk.      I have restored quite a few but they're not very popular, in my opinion, so they're not very collectible.

I recently did see an interesting ladies watch though… it's a pendant and comes on a golden chain.  What's cool about it is it's an acrylic sphere.

I wasn't able to find it in the ladies catalogs, although I seem to recall seeing it somewhere before - so I'll keep looking and post more info if I find it.

The acrylic dome magnifies the dial so once it's popped off you can see the dial and hands is actually quite small.. it's about the size of a penny.

Popping the other half dome off the back reveals the Swiss-made Hamilton 48.  It doesn't say who the Swiss maker is but I think it is A. Schild, based on the shape of the AS 1727 and the AS 1828… I don't  know the exact grade though.

Everything gets taken apart and cleaned, just like a larger men's movement - only everything is really small!

Also like a man's movement, the regulator is easy to adjust to try to tune in the timing.  Even a tiny adjustment can have a big impact on the rate, so it took me a little while to get it to even out.

And here's the re-assembled watch ready to go into my daughter's jewelry box.  She likes "sparkly things" so I'm sure this watch will be a hit.

I think the back is as interesting as the front!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

1920 992 Railroad Watch - Overhaul

I think the Hamilton grade with the longest production run is the 21 jewel 992 movement.  This railroad-approved pocket watch movement was a favorite or railroad me due to it's smaller 16 size (smaller than 18 size anyway) and it's Hamilton-quality.

The 992 was in production from 1903 through 1931.  In 1932 the 992 was outfitted with the "new" Elinvar hairspring and the movement called the 992E or 992 Elinvar.  The 992E was produced until 1940, when the 992B was introduced.  The 992B is a long production run movement too - it was made until the end of US production in 1969.

The 992 is a great movement.  It came lever set or pendant set, although lever-set was required for railroad service.  The train jewels are all set in solid gold chatons.  The center wheel is also solid gold.  The movements are highly decorated with complex damascening.

The 992 is an open-faced movement and it has a sibling for hunter cases called the 993.  But only open faced cases were railroad approved.

I recently picked up a 992 in need of some attention.  It actually was in very nice shape overall but someone had glued the plastic crystal on with crazy glue and done a lousy job doing so - it had glue all over the crystal and inside the bezel as well.

The back of the case could stand a gentle polish but it's unengraved and in great shape overall.

Under the back cover is a dustcover - which is also in nice shape and snaps on tightly.

The movement itself is in running condition but has a haze over it that a thorough cleaning will remove.  The serial number on the movement dates this to a 1920 model.

Lever set movement require you to remove the bezel in order to get to the lever (by the 1) that puts the movement in the time-setting position when it's pulled out.  This case's bezel is hinged so you don't fat finger it and drop it.  I wonder how many pocket watches have been dropped while setting the time… quite a few, I bet.

Two case screws hold the movement in place.  Once they're removed the movement comes out the front of the case.  Now the hands can come off and, once three dial foot screws are loosened, the double-sunk dial can come off as well.

Once the dial is out of the way you can see how the lever moves the clutch wheel down to engage the setting wheels.

Flipping the movement over, after all the mainspring tension is released, I can remove the barrel bridge and train bridge.

All of the wheels are shown below.  Notice the different color of the solid gold center wheel.  Once the wheels are of the way I will remove the balance assembly and the pallet fork underneath it.

There are a just as many parts in a pocket watch as there are in a wrist watch - but they're way bigger.  Now they're all ready to be cleaned.

The mainspring has set considerably.  It still has some openness to the coils but a fresh one will straighten out and coil the other direction.  Re-winding these springs so they can be installed in the barrel takes a large winder - they are too large to wind using just your fingertips.  They really pack a wallop if you accidentally let it loose.

Well, everything gets cleaned, dried and reassembled with fresh lubrication.  It's always gratifying to see the balance wheel start swinging vigorously when the balance is reinstalled.  It's usually a good sign that everything will turn out fine.

Well, there's no complaining about this timekeeping performance… perfect 18000 beats per hour, a healthy amplitude and a low beat error.  Now I just need to put it back in the case.

Well, here it is on it's pillow shot.  There's a hairline crack on the porcelain dial between the 1 and 2 and another at about 28 seconds but that's not too bad for a 94 year old watch.  Now I just need to order a new glass crystal to glue in place on the bezel.

And here's the movement, all cleaned up with a satisfyingly blurred balance wheel.

Friday, April 25, 2014

1962 Jeffrey

Back in February I showed you a 1963 Gregory.  When I bought it I thought it was another watch, a 1962 Jeffrey but I was fooled by the dramatic similarities.  That's okay though - it happens occasionally and I had never seen a Gregory before.  Plus, it meant I still had an opportunity to find a true Jeffrey.

The 1962 Jeffrey is the second model to bear that name.  The original Jeffrey came out in 1951 and is a totally different style watch.  The second Jeffrey was produced through 1964.

The Jeffrey came in a 10K rolled gold plate (RGP) case with a stainless steel back.  The white embossed dial has a radial finish and gold-colored markers and numerals.

Under the dial is a Swiss-made Hamilton 686 movement with 17 jewels.  The 686 is based on an A. Schild 1200 grade.

As I said above, I was still on the prowl for a Jeffrey and, as luck would have, I found one.  In fact, I double checked before I bought it to make sure it wasn't another Gregory.  As received, it was very grungy and the crystal was heavily scratched.

The back of the watch has a sticker.  It looks like it's been there quite a while.  I think it's funny that it says Not Running but the Not has been crossed out.

With the bezel removed you can see the crystal is rather beat up.  Deep scratches like this are tough to buff out - so I will just replace the crystal.

The movement is surprisingly clean, considering how dirty the rest of the case was.  It does have a giant  finger print on the back though.  Hopefully that will come off "in the wash".

The radial-finished dial is in excellent shape.  I like this style of finish - it's apparently brushed in all directions from the center when it's applied.  It's very reflective, almost like a giant pearl.

Everything gets cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh lubrication.

My newly reassembled movement goes onto the timer.  The timer listens to the ticking of the watch and compares it to what it should sound like.  The results are displayed on the timer's screen.  A running watch can look like total crap on timer.  It's really fascinating to "see" what it "hears" - and it's especially gratifying when it shows that I fixed whatever was causing a noise it picked up.

A little tweaking to the regulator is all that was needed to get the timing of the watch to be spot on.

And here's the finished Jeffrey, with a new crystal and paired with a new old stock vintage Gemex strap.  It's a sharp-looking watch with clean lines, don't you think?

Monday, April 21, 2014

1927 Ladies' Tonneau - Overhaul

Arguably, Hamilton's first wrist watches were ladies pendant watches that were presented on a rope "strap".  They go back to the early "-teens" of the last century.  But once the 6/0 men's models were introduced in the 1920's, other ladies models were also introduced.

The ladies line-up was similarly spartan - and only a handful of "geometric" models were available, named for their shape.  One of them was the 987 Ladies' Tonneau.  It was produced through 1931.  It was also available earlier than 1927 with a 986A movement - but the 987 model came out in 1927.

The Ladies' Tonneau came presented on a ribbon strap with what was surely a very attractive matching clasp.  I've never seen one though, so I can't say for sure.  Ribbon straps are extremely rare since very few have lasted intact for 80+ years.

You will find this model in green and white gold filled as well as solid gold.  There are also a number of different sterling silver dials that were available, as well as various hand styles.

The cases are always heavily engraved and their large size makes quite a statement on a lady's slender wrist.

I've actually restored quite a few ladies watches but "my better half" doesn't have the same affinity for watches that I do.  So most of the time I use their movements as donors for men's models I'm working on… especially if their cases are worn-through, which is common.

I recently received a Ladies' Tonneau in need of love and since I didn't have one on the blog yet it was a good opportunity to tell you a little about the model.  As received, the watch is in nice shape.  There's no wear-through because this one is solid 14K white gold.  The crystal has yellowed and there's a replacement crown installed that I think is probably stainless steel - it's color and shape aren't quite right so I will replace it.

Like the men's models, this watch comes in a three-piece case.  There's the back, the center (that holds the movement) and the bezel (that holds the crystal).  A metal stub on the center case aligns the back and the bezel with corresponding holes.

Here the bezel has been removed.  The movement comes out the front, once I remove the crown / stem and the two movement case screws.  This style of hands is called "spear".

One the other side, with the back out of the way you can see the two case screws that hold the movement in place.  Technically you could drop a 987A into this case but only the earliest 987A's have holes for case screws.  Otherwise the movement would only be held in the center by the stem.  Of course, a 987A really isn't appropriate for a 1920's watch, since it was introduced in 1937.

You can see by the blurred balance wheel that the watch is running.  It's actually running about 3 minutes fast per day (180+ seconds) and the regulator is set towards "slow" - so I may have to fuss with the timing screws on the balance to "speed it up".

With the movement out of the case, I can remove the hands and the dial.  First things off (after the dial) are the hour wheel and cannon pinion in the center.  I'll also take out the minute and setting wheels.

Next, the movement is flipped over and after making sure the mainspring is fully "let-out" I can disassemble the back.

Watches with 987 movements usually have a "set" mainspring so I'll open the barrel and check it out.  In this shot, when the mainspring is in the barrel you really can't tell what shape the spring is in.

But once the spring is removed, you can see that it doesn't splay out very far - this shows that the spring has "set" and lost most of it's energy.  The watch would run - it just won't run as long as it should… ~ 40 hours.

All the parts, save the balance and pallet fork, go into my baby food jar with cleaner.  Then the baby food jar goes into my ultrasonic.  I'll clean the balance and pallet fork separately.

The cleaning, rinse, and rinse cycle takes about 25 minutes from start to finish so while that's going on I will prep the case for a new crystal, etc.  First I have to remove the remnants of an old metal bracelet.  These can be a real bear to remove and it's not unusual for me to end up jamming a screwdriver into my finger tip.  Needless to say, there's no love lost between me and these metal clasps.

The case is now polished and ready for a new glass crystal.  Sometimes these engraved cases can be highlighted with black enamel.  I usually do that with the men's models but I'll leave this one au naturale - it looks great the way it is.

Glass crystals are held in place with UV glue - so you have to let it cure in either sunlight or under a UV lamp like below.

Now a fresh white alloy mainspring gets installed before the watch is reassembled.

Here's all the parts (except the bezel), ready for lubrication and reassembly.

These old balances have timing screws that allow you to adjust the speed that the balance turns.  If you've noticed a spinning ice skater, when they pull their arms in they go faster and when they put their arms out they slow down.  The same is true for the timing screws on the balance.  If you move them in the watch will run faster and if you pull them out, the watch slows down.  Of course, you need to adjust them correctly or you'll ruin the "poise" of the balance… so it's tricky business.

As you can see below, with the regulator still set towards slow, I was able to slow the watch down from 180+ seconds fast per day to 57 seconds slow per day.  Now I can move the regulator to speed the watch back up.

0 Seconds per day… that's pretty good.  Plus the amplitude is above 300 thanks to my new mainspring and the beat error is very good too.  This watch is running very well.  Now I can put the dial and hands back on and reinstall it in the case.

Well, here it is, all put back together and looking as great as it runs.  This watch looks 100% better with a new glass crystal and a correct crown.  Don't you think?

One of the challenges of cases with fixed lugs is how to put a strap on them.  In this case I fed a single piece strap through the lugs across the case back.  But you can also buy what are called "open straps" that allow you to pass a section through the lugs and either glue it or pin it closed.  This strap will do for now.