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, April 25, 2015

1952 Kennett

There are a number of watches that don't show up in the catalogs for whatever reason.  The Oval, Vancott, Automatic K-451 immediately come to mind but there are quite a few others.

Another to add to the list is the Kennett.  The conventional wisdom is it's a 1952 model.  I'm not sure how long it was produced.

My Kennett project watch arrived in relatively nice shape.  The glass crystal was a bit scratched but otherwise it looked very promising.  Sorry for the slightly blurry photo - too late now to replace it.

Tucked inside the 10K gold filled case is a 17 jewel 12/0 size 752 movement.  This one is missing a lot of the black enamel in the lettering but it say 752 at the bottom between the two bridge screws.

Fortunately the inside of the case back says Kennett - so even though the model doesn't show up in the catalogs it's very easy to identify.

All the parts are cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

I noticed the crown stands a little far away from the side of the case.  I could fix that by shortening the stem a little.  However, I can't move the set lever screw.  Some moisture got in there and rusted it solid.  I could possibly bust it loose but this is probably better treated as one of those... if it ain't broke... situations.

The white alloy mainspring has been rewound in my mainspring winder... now I just need to reinstall it in the barrel.

The movement is back to running order so next stop is the timer.

Just a little tweaking is in order to bring the beat rate in line.  Everyhing else looks fine.

The dial and hands go back on and the works goes back inside the case.  A new black lizard strap completes the overhaul and this 1952 Kennett is ready for some more wrist time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

1968 Accumatic A-508

The last hurrah of Hamilton's US production at the end of the 1960's included several new models that wouldn't be produced after production in Lancaster, PA ceased in 1969.  One of the models introduced in the 1968 / 69 model year was the Accumatic A-508.  It was made for just those two years.

The A-508 came in a waterproof stainless steel case with a white dial and silver-colored markers.  There's also a shiny silver chapter ring going around the perimeter.

Like all Hamilton automatics, the A-508 features a Swiss-made movement.  A lot of people turn up their noses at the Swiss-made models and presume the American made models are "better".  Certainly the American made models are excellent watches but the models with Swiss-made movements are still high quality watches.  In addition, the only way to get an automatic watch or one with a day or date complication was to purchase a model with a Swiss grade tucked inside.

I recently landed an A-508 project watch.  It was in nice condition and running fine but like all new purchases I wanted to make sure it had fresh oil inside.  It came on a generic expansion bracelet that didn't do much for me so it will have to go.

The casebook is very plain and the rounded contour is a good indication that there's an ETA-based automatic inside.

Here's a bit of a surprise, the rotor on this watch is not marked Hamilton and it's 21 jewels.  It's clearly an ETA rotor due to the cutouts on the oscillating weight.  I suspect it was a replacement for a worn rotor at some point.

With the rotor out of the way you can see the balance cock is stamped "HYL" which is the import code for Hamilton.  So this is definitely a Hamilton movement with a replacement rotor.

Here's the project watch rotor on the left with a Hamilton parts movement on the right.  They are almost identical.

The only difference is the unmarked rotor's reversing wheels have four red jewels as indicated by my screwdriver tip.  Add those four jewels to the 17 inside the watch and you get 21.

The A-508 should have an 689A inside and I happen to have a parts movement to use.  It's in better shape that the movement that came in the watch so I'll just swap it out.

Everything gets cleaned and readied for reassembly.

The trickiest part of this movement is to get the train bridge in place.  It supports four wheels and you need to get them all lined up correctly in order for the bridge to drop in place.  When everything is lined up you can spin the four wheels and they'll whirl around for a second or two.

Once the train bridge is on I next install the pallet for and then the mainspring barrel and it's bridge.  The mainspring is under the golden ratchet wheel and that wheel is turned by either the rotor assembly (in automatic mode) or using the silver ratchet wheel that the crown will turn.

The balance goes on next and it's spinning away, doing it's thing.

The timer reveals that the beat error is a bit a high but it's easy to adjust on this movement.

There, that's better.

Now I can reinstall the dial and the rotor assembly is the last thing to go in place.

I'll use a new crystal to seal up the watch.

I happened to have an extra expansion bracelet that I think looks better with the watch... plus I'm out of straps.  This A-508 turned out to be a sharp looking watch.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

1964 M115-2

Part of the fun of collecting is trying to figure out what you're looking at.  With over 1,100 unique models, there are a lot of options when it comes to Hamilton watches.  The best way to narrow the search is to identify what the case material is, then what movement it has, and of course, the general shape of the watch.  Armed with that information, the number of candidates drops very quickly.

I recently picked up a 1964 M115-2.  It's not a common model but it looks like other watches I've seen so I had to look especially hard to find it.

The M115-2 is one of the M-series of watches that was produced in the 1960's in a separate line from the regular models marketed through jewelry stores.  The conventional wisdom is they were marketed through a nation-wide catalog chain.  It was priced at $115 and it's the 2nd model to be listed at that price.  There's also a M115-3 in the 1964 line-up... so it was the 3rd watch at that price.

The M115-2 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case with what appears to be a silver dial with gold markers inscribed into the dial and an applied gold H as the 12:00 marker.

Tucked behind the dial is a 17 jewel 689 automatic movement made by the Swiss-maker ETA.

My project watch arrived in nice shape.  Mechanically it was in better shape than aesthetically but a little TLC should probably improve both.

The case is a one-piece design so this watch opens through the crystal.  The back is inscribed with a presentation with a scratch going from the crown to the engraving.  The engraving wasn't very deep and I actually removed part of it when I polished the case to get rid of the scratch.  So I kept buffing it until the presentation was just about gone.

Actually, there are two steps to "polishing" a case... the first step is buffing and 90% of the work is done there.  The last step is polishing and very little is done there other than to clean everything up perfectly.  The act of buffing doesn't really remove material, it actually moves the material from high spots to low spots at a microscopic level.  Its really rather fascinating to see what a talented watchmaker can do with a buffing wheel to restore a beat up case.

Anyway, back to the project.  A crystal lift is needed to remove the crystal from the bezel in order to extricate the movement from the case.  This diabolical-looking tool compresses the crystal all the way around the perimeter so that it takes a smaller shape and can come out of the ledge that holds it in place.

One-piece cases require a two-piece stem and in this movement shot you can see the fork-like female side of the stem protruding from the movement.  The 689 movement is a fairly common design that was used throughout the 1960's.  It has a sibling called the 689A that has a slightly different rotor carrier design and thats the only difference, best I can tell anyway.

The dial looks pretty good in my photo but it has some spots here and there... maybe it will clean up, maybe not.  We'll see.  I really like the arrow-tipped second hand.  That seems to be a nod to Hamilton's past as it was much more common on the 1940's and early 1950's models.

Everything is taken apart and thoroughly cleaned and dried.  Now it's ready to go back together.

Without the rotor in place, the 689 looks just like a typical manual winding movement and it will operate the same way.  The balance has been reinstalled and it's purring like a kitten.

A simple tweak to the regulator will speed up the beat rate.  Otherwise everything looks good.

With the movement regulated I can put the rotor back on.  The balance is under the oscillating weight so you can't see it.  It's a pain to try to regulate the watch with the rotor in place as the carrier partially blocks the balance.  That part was changed on the 698A and it's a little easier to tweak the regulator on a 689A.

The movement and dial go back into the case and I can then install the hands since I have the benefit of a crown to set the time to 12:00 - that way I know they are synchronized.

A new 29.3mm high dome GS acrylic crystal will be a nice finishing touch and will seal the watch up tight again.

A genuine croc strap is a nice complement to M115-2.  The lugs are fairly short though so I had to curve my spring bars in order to install the strap.

While I was looking up the info needed for this blog post I realized the original bracelet on the M115-2 looked vaguely familiar.  I went back into my workshop and dug through the extra bracelets I've acquired and sure enough, I have an original Kreisler bracelet for this watch.  I save my croc strap for a future project.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

1956 K-576 Calendar

Hamilton first introduced watches with calendar complications in 1953 as part of the Hamilton Illinois brand.  Those watches used an ETA-based 1256 movement with a calendar complication.

In 1954 Hamilton introduced it's first Hamilton-branded calendar watch, the Automatic K-575.  Two years later it was replaced by the K-576.  The K-576 was produced for four years.

The K-575 came in a stainless steel case with a silver butler-finished dial.  The embossed dial also featured luminous dots and hands so that you could read the time in the dark.

Tucked inside the case is a Kurth Freres-based Swiss-made movement that Hamilton branded the 662.  It's almost identical to the 661 used in the non-date models, the main exception being the necessary parts to drive the date wheel.

I recently landed a K-576 project watch and I was very happy to get it as it is the only example I've ever seen.  I've seen plenty of the Hamilton Illinois models from the earlier 1950's but the early Hamilton K-575 and 576 are rather uncommon, I think.

It arrived with a cracked crystal and a dial that appears to have lost a lot of it's original lacquer finish.

The stainless steel case back screws off with a little elbow grease.  Stainless steel threads are easy to mess up so you need to be careful not to cross thread them when you screw the rear cover back on.

Here's a shot of the 662.  This is the first 662 I've laid eyes on.  From this side it looks just like a 661, which I've overhauled dozens of times.  I'm not exactly sure what to expect on the other side though.

The inside of the case back makes identifying the model very easy.

Here's one difference I found on a 662... the dial foot screws thread into the main plate on an angle (one of the screws is shown on the left, near my thumb).  On a 661 they screw in perpendicular to the side.  The 662 dial foot screws go in on a tangent.

With the dial out of the way you can now see the date wheel.  In the center is the hour wheel that the hour hand attaches to.  The hour wheel drives another wheel that is currently covered by a plate.  The covered wheel drives the index wheel you can see at the 6:00 position.  You can see a little spring tab sticking out to the left on the index wheel.  When the index wheel goes all the way around the tab will engage the date wheel and move it clockwise to the next position.  The little index bar near the number 20 at the top of the photo is spring-loaded and will center the date in the date window of the dial.

Here's a shot of the back of the hour wheel showing the gear that drives the date complication.  A 661 hour wheel would not have this gear.

Here's a photo of the back of the cover plate.  It reveals the spring that presses the index bar up against the date wheel.

With the cover and hour wheel removed you can see a little better how the date complication works.  To set the date you just move the hands past midnight, then back to say 10:00 and then past midnight again until you get to the date you want.

Everything is out of the way now so I can flip the movement over and tackle the backside.

The rotor, aka oscillating weight, is easy to remove on a 661 or a 662.  All you do is flip the little toggle on the rotor to the left and then rotate the weight until it lifts off.  Then you're left with the movement and the rotor carrier that is attached to the movement.  The rotor carrier is held in place with three screws.  It contains a series of reversing wheels that transmit the motion of the rotor to the winding wheel below.

Everything is taken apart and cleaned.  I still have a bit of work to do though... I need to relume the hands and try to improve the dial as best I can.  Oh, and I have to put the movement back together too.

The movement gets reassembled without the rotor carrier.  At this point it's just your typical manual-winding movement.  It's now running so it's off to the timer to find out how well it's performing.

No complaints here... good beat rate, amplitude and a low beat error.

Now I can put the rotor carrier back into place.  The rotor will be the last thing I put on after I get the movement back into the case.

Putting the date wheel, et al, back on is a breeze once you know where everything goes.  This is a LOT easier to put back together than the ETA movements from the same period.

Putting the hands on requires first setting the time until the date changes... then you line everything up at what is effectively midnight so the date will change when the hands reach 12:00.

A new GS PHD style crystal will be a nice improvement over the yellowed and cracked crystal that came with the watch.

The movement, sans rotor, goes back into the case.  There's a movement ring to help keep things nicely aligned and snug inside.

The rotor goes on next and I'll slide the little toggle over once it seats properly on the rotor carrier.  There's also a little gasket that will go in on top of the movement ring to seal things up.

A new lizard strap completes the restoration of this 1950's K-576.  I was able to clean up the dial fairly well and I treated it to a light coat of fresh lacquer.  The new lume on the hands and dial are a nice finishing touch as well.

UPDATE - 2/23/2019 - here's another example of this rather scarce model.