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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

1966 Boatswain III

Hamilton has a lot of nautical themed watches and I've always wondered the reasoning for that.  It's obviously purposeful, because some nautical names were used multiple times.  A good example is the 1966 Boatswain III.  A Boatswain (Bosun) is the senior crewman of the deck department.  When you hear someone "piped aboard" with a whistle, the whistle is a "bosun's pipe".

Anyway, as you may surmise there was an earlier Boatswain and Boatswain II.  The Boatswain III was introduced in 1966 and made through 1969.

Like the other two Boatswain models, the Boatswain III was an entry-level Hamilton watch with a Swiss-made movement and a rolled gold plated case.  It was still a fine watch but it was designed to be price competitive in an ever-more challenging marketplace.

In addition to the cushion-shaped RGP case with integrated stainless steel back, the Boatswain III featured a faceted crystal and a four-markered dial so the watch sparkles on the wrist.

Inside the case is a Hamilton 688 ETA-based manual winding movement.

I had seen a non-working Boatswain III listed on eBay for several months and in addition to not working, it had something going on inside the crystal so I wasn't too tempted to get it.  I was concerned that it might something on the dial and getting the radial-finished dial redone properly could be a challenge.

However, to be totally honest, I got tired of seeing it over and over and since the price was right, I finally bought it.  Once I had it in hand, I realized that the funk inside the crystal was on the crystal and not the dial - so that was fortunate.

The case was exceptionally grungy.  Although the case has a stainless steel back, it's integral to the RGP bezel so the watch opens through the front by removing the crystal.

Here's another shot of the grunge.  I should be able to clean this up fairly well though and a little elbow grease will make a huge improvement.

Without the crystal in the way, the dial actually looks fantastic.

The movement is very clean looking.  I don't know why it's not running but at least it's not corrosion-related.  Hopefully a good cleaning will do the trick.

Everything is taken apart, cleaned and set out to dry.

This ETA movement is similar to the ETA automatics that are based on the same basic design.  The most tricky part of putting it back together is to get all four wheels to line up with the train bridge.  I do that without the pallet fork in place - so the escape wheel is free to move as I tweak it in place.

You need to look at the wheels from this angle while you gently prod the various wheels into their respective jewels.  When everything lines up the bridge will drop into place.  No force at all is needed and if it doesn't drop into place, you know something is not aligned properly.  Forcing it down will just break a pivot and then you're screwed.

The rest of the parts go back on and the now-running movement goes onto the timer.

Based on the noisy pattern, something isn't right with the balance.  Even the slightest piece of lint or dust will throw the timing out of whack.  It is truly fascinating that a timer can "hear" this noise.

Cleaning the hairspring and running it through the demagnitizer seemed to speed the watch up but there's still something not quite right.

"Once more unto the breach..." I had to remove the balance again and give it a good cleaning.  Upon very close inspection I saw a tiny filament of lint on the roller table... too small to photograph but big enough to cause problems.  Once I removed that, the watch began to run properly.  A slight tweak to the regulator slowed the timing down so that the two lines run horizontally.

There are no watchmaker marks inside the case.  I bet one reason this watch was a non-runner was simply because no watchmaker has opened the case since it left the factory almost 50 years ago!

A gentle polishing of the case and crystal makes this watch look almost new again.  A nice black lizard strap completes the restoration.  I bet if I put this watch on eBay now, it wouldn't stick around for very long - its a real beauty.


  1. Hello Dan, other Dan who loves Hamilton's here. I just purchased a boatswain and am interested in tracking down a NOS crystal. Any advice?



    1. You want to get a Stella DEC crystal in the appropriate diameter (28.9 maybe?). Measure it first and then look here... http://www.ofrei.com/page999.html

    2. Thanks, Dan!

  2. I have a similar watch, but it has a date complication and is an automatic. Is there such a model? I have been searching everywhere.

    1. Could be an A-658. That's an automatic in a cushion-shaped case with numerals at 12, 6 and 9 and markers at the other hour positions and a date at 3. The crystal isn't faceted though. So it's similar to the Boatswain III but different as well.