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.

Monday, July 27, 2015

1954 Kevin

Hamilton made a handful of watches in platinum, but the second most-precious metal cased models came in 18K solid gold in white and yellow.  Only 13 models were made in 18K.

One of them is the 1954 Kevin.  It was produced for 4 years as part of the "Masterpiece" line.

In 1956 the Masterpiece line received a solid gold diamond-shaped marker on the dial under the Hamilton name.  So if you see a Kevin with this marker, you know it is from 1956 or 1957.

If you look closely, the 1954 Kevin came with a 19 jewel movement - that would be the 12/0 sized 754 movement.  Then in 1955 the Kevin would have received the "new" 22 jewel 770 movement.  

So, if you see a Kevin with a 754, it's likely from 1954 and if it has a 22 jewel but no diamond-shaped marker, then it's from 1955.

One of the most remarkable features of the Kevin is it has swing lugs.  The metallic portion in between what appears to be the lugs is actually a hinged portion of the case that the strap attaches too.  You might think that was a part of the strap but it's actually part of the case.

I recently received a project Kevin in serious need of some TLC.   It arrived very dirty, non-running and beat up.

The back is inscribed with a presentation from 1957.  You can see the hinge structure for the case in the photo below.

This dial is an obvious refinish from long ago.  It's got some water damage around the perimeter and the hands have lost a lot of their gild.  Notice the seconds register is incorrect.  It should be a simple cross hair pattern.  The font for Hamilton isn't quite correct either, but it's closer than the seconds register anyway.

It's not often you come across a watch with 18K stamped inside the case back.

The 22 jewel 770 is very dirty.  It will tick slightly but it won't run for long.  The stem won't stay in either, so you can't set the time.

With the dial out of the way, you can see the set lever, indicated by my tweezers, is a rusty mess.  There's a little post on it that engages the stem so I assume that it has rusted away - so the stem won't stay in.  There's also a screw missing from the "set bridge" in the shadow of my tweezers.

Flipping the movement over, I noticed two of the bridge screws are incorrect replacements.  One is located on the balance cock, the other is up by where the train bridge says "22 jewels".  Apparently this watch was last serviced (long ago) by someone who was really good a losing screws.

With the parts removed from the back, I'll flip it over again to remove the cap jewels.  At this point I noticed the shock jewel spring is broken on the balance jewel.  So that will need to be replaced.

The balance jewel is actually a replaceable assembly held in place with a tiny screw.

Now it's been removed and you can see it's empty hole.  Now I'll remove all the rusted setting parts.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  The mainspring doesn't look very good to me - it's not quite set but it's not splaying out like it should.  So I'll replace that now too.

I like to use genuine Dynavar white alloy mainsprings whenever possible.

Here's what a proper mainspring will look like.  Notice how it actually splays out in the opposite direction.  There's a huge amount of difference between a fresh and a set mainspring in terms of stored energy.

Here's the difference between a rusty set lever and a nice set lever.  Notice the post that engages the stem.

Well, it took a couple of hours to get everything cleaned and reassembled.  Now I just need to reinstall the balance assembly.

Uh oh... it's running way too fast.  See how the timer thinks it should have a beat rate of 19800 beats per hour instead of the 18000 it should have.

A pass through my demagnetizer sets it straight.  Now I just need to tweak the regulator a little to speed it up.  The amplitude is a little low, but anything over 200 is fine.  I haven't wound it fully yet though since I haven't installed the stem.

Before I can put the stem in, I need to replace the rusted winding pinion and clutch wheel.  The larger diameter wheel is the winding pinion.  The square portion of the stem engages the square hole of the clutch.  The clutch engages the winding pinion on one side, or the setting wheel on the other, depending on the position of the stem (winding or setting).

With the stem and setting parts back in place, I need to put the dial spacer back on.  This is always fun since I can never remember which side is up, down, etc.  I remembered this time that the small hole next to the big hole is for the second hand.

There, that's where the spacer goes.  The hour wheel is back on in the center, along with a golden dial washer.  So all that's left is the dial and hands.

How's this for an improvement?  I put a genuine turtle strap on (try finding one of those).  I polished the plastic crystal so now it's clear but I'll replace that with a proper glass one.  The dial looks "okay" but I think a refinish is in order and that's a good opportunity to get the hands re-gilded too.  Pretty nice save though, if I do say so myself.


A watch this nice really deserves a full restoration so I got the dial refinished.  The new dial along with a new glass crystal really makes this watch pop now.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

1960 Romanesque S

If you want to have a very unique, but small, Hamilton watch collection a good option for you would be to try to find the five Romanesque models from 1960.  You could even try to find the handful additional matching ladies versions.

One of them you'd have to locate would be the Romanesque S.  What's that you say?  How did they get to S if there are only five?  Well, in the words of Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof", I'll tell you...

I don't know.

But you'll find there is a Romanesque M, N, R, S and T.    The ladies got the B, C, D, E F, G and H.  Apparently the rest didn't make the cut.  Go figure.

Anyway, the Romanesque S was only offered for one year.

You might think you've seen the Romanesque before.  Maybe you did and maybe you didn't.  I'd wager you probably saw a Trent.  The Trent and Romanesque are very similar, especially in black and white.  But in real life they are dramatically different.

The Romanesque S came in a 10K yellow gold filled case with a stainless steel back.  It was paired with a specially matched Flex-Let bracelet.  The sterling silver dial on the Romanesque is a very funky golden color with a linen-like texture that matches the bracelet well.  The applied numerals, markers and hands are black.

Tucked behind the dial is Hamilton's flagship movement, the 22 jewel 770.  This top-of-the-line movement was proudly made in Lancaster PA from 1955 until 1969.

I recently was watching a Romanesque on eBay and had every intention of making a go at it but I wound up being distracted when the auction closed and forgot to bid.  I know, there are services to help you not miss out like that but I'm old school... I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and prefer to pull my own trigger.  Of course that also means I get to enjoy the agony of defeat as well.

However, as fate would have it, one of my Hamilton buddies landed it instead.  My neglectfulness was his profit - as we didn't end up bidding against each other.  So the watch came my way after all.

It arrived in great shape.  I think it's been worn but probably only for special occasions.  Other than being a little dirty, it looks like a "cream puff, only worn by a little old lady to church on Sunday".

Watches that have never been worn sometimes concern me... sort of makes you wonder what's wrong with it.  But this one started ticking when I gave it a wound.  It even has the original sticker on the case back.

It also has an original tag on the bracelet.

With the front bezel removed, you can see the dial is very unique.  I will take extra, super-duper care of this dial as I doubt it could be redone correctly.

The movement is bright and shiny, that's a good sign.  I don't think a watchmaker has opened this case since the watch originally left Lancaster 55 years ago.

The dial-side of the main plate is equally unremarkable.  You don't often get to see such a prestine, factory-fresh movement.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  The hardest part of this overhaul was cleaning the nooks and crannies of the case.

The movement is running so it's off to the timer.

Hmm... a little fast and a little noisy too.  I'll recline the hairspring and see what happens.

It took a couple of more attempts but I got the balance to run cleanly.  A slight tweak to the regulator slowed the beat rate to an acceptable +6 seconds per day rate.  Nothing wrong with this movement.

With the dial and hands installed and the case reassembled, I just need to reinstall the Flex-Let bracelet using the original 1960 spring bars.  You don't see those too often either.

And here's the finished project on it's pillow shot.  This is really a very sparkly watch.  My camera does not to do it justice.  The bracelet is a little short... it would be most comfortable on a person with a 6-3/4" wrist.  However, it is expandable if you have the proper links.

And what would be better to go with an almost new-old-stock watch?  How about it's original box.  Oddly enough the retail tag on the box is slightly higher than what's shown in the catalog but I don't doubt that this box and watch have been together since the left the jewelry store in 1960.

Monday, July 20, 2015

1961 M 89-1 (or -2)

Ah, the M-series watches... it seems that any time I can't identify a watch from the 1960's I can always fall back on the M-series.

There are plenty of well known Hamilton models from prior to 1950 that don't show up in the catalogs.  However, when I can't identify a watch that is obviously a 1960's era model I normally declare it an M-series watch and call it a day.

In 1961 Hamilton introduced a line of men's and women's watches called the M and F series.  Rather than a formal name, each model was known by it's gender, price and order of arrival.  I've only seen a catalog from 1964 with images of the M-watches but I know the line was produced through 1967.

The conventional wisdom is the line was specially marketed to a large retail chain - exactly which one is unknown but if you were around in the 1960's, '70's or even the 1980's, you might recall the stores that had a small display area with catalogs to peruse and a warehouse in back to get anything you saw in the catalog.  Stores like Service Merchandise and Best come to mind.

Anyway, I recently landed a nice project watch that I couldn't readily identify and another knowledgeable collector-friend of mine figured it was either an M 89-1 or an M89-2.  That would mean it was the first or second model to be priced at $89.  Unfortunately I don't have a catalog image to prove it.  However, I've seen the M 89-3 and 4 and I know it's not one of those.

My project watch arrived in classic, fresh from an old desk drawer condition.  It was in non-running condition without a movement photo - which is always a crap shoot.  If you can't see a movement photo and a watch is listed as "not running" you may want to seriously reconsider purchasing it.  There will always be another.

But as they say... sometimes it's hard to practice what you preach.  The seller included in the box a set of new fishing hooks - which was very nice as he noticed I like to fish as well as fix watches.

One thing I noticed right away, other than the beat up crystal, is the crown is way too big for the watch and it proved to be a little wobbly.

The stainless steel case is a one-piece design although the case back almost looks like it could separate.  It's heavily worn by what must have been a one-piece strap that went over the back.  It's hard to wear into stainless steel so I'm curious what would leave such a mark?

As you can see from the side, it's a very thick case and if I didn't know better, I would guess it was a K-series watch in the 500 line (due to the stainless case).  It's definitely too thick to be an Accumatic or Thin-o-matic.

With the crystal out of the way, the dial looks to be in decent shape... a little spotty but nothing to complain about.

Whoa... the movement is super dirty and I doubt it's even seen a watchmaker since it was first cased.  Some water got in too and its rusted around the perimeter.  I can't even see the bridge screws through the rust.

The movement is a 667 which is a variant of the 661 that was used in the K-series line.  The 667 was introduced in 1961 so this is a 1960's watch for sure.

With the rotor out of the way the rotor carrier is looking okay.  The rust seems to just be around the outside.

With the dial and hands now removed, the front of the main plate looks great - much different from the back, that's for sure.

It took me a while but I eventually broke all the rusted screws loose and got the movement completely apart.

My ultrasonic runs for pre-set periods of time and I always run the cleaning solution for 480 seconds, or 8 minutes.  You can see how dirty the cleaning solution was after the first pass.  This is probably one of the dirtiest watches I've seen.  It was so dirty that I decided to clean it again for another 480 seconds in fresh solution.

Here are the parts after the next 8 minutes.  This is normally what a movement will look like after being in the ultrasonic.  The next step is to rinse it in two separate jars with rinsing solution.

Things are nice and shiny now.  I'd say 90% of the rust is gone and none of it was on the important parts like the hairspring, wheels, etc.

The partially assembled movement is now in running condition so it's off to the timer to see how well it's performing.

It's running fast and a little oddly - so I'll pass it through my demagnetizer to see if that shakes things loose.

That's better - now I just need to slow it down a little.  The Amplitude of 209 is a result of not fully winding the watch.  It will increase if I wind the watch more fully.

Now the oscillating weight carrier can go back in place.  This assembly contains the reversing wheels that enable the rotor to wind the watch regardless of which way the rotor swings.

Since this is a one-piece case design, I need to reinstall the weight before I put the movement back in the case.  I just lubricate the post and jewel in the center, drop the weight in place, and flip the toggle to the right to lock it onto the movement.

A new crystal will make a big improvement to the exterior of the watch.  30.6mm diameter will do the trick.

A black teju-lizard strap complements the freshly polished case and completes the restoration of this very nice 1961-ish M-series watch.  I think it turned out very nice, considering I didn't know what sort of mess was awaiting me inside the case when I bought it.