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 27, 2015

1949 Lange CLD

When I started collecting Hamiltons one of my first lucky acquisitions was a black dialed Brandon.  As I learned more about the CLD line, I realized there were 19 different models in the line up, even more if you considered dial color and case variations.  So there are well over 25 CLD examples to obtain if you wanted a complete collection.

After getting about half of them I realized the remaining watches were uber-rare and solid gold - too factors that mean "really expensive" and not likely purchases for me.  So I threw in the towel.

But if you're inclined to give it a shot, here's what you need to find... up until now I had found all but three.

1948 Brandon with flexible lugs
1948 Langdon
1948 Nordon
1949 Brandon with fixed lugs
1949 Lange
1949 Norde
1950 Steeldon
1950 Vardon
1951 Beldon
1953 Haddon
1953 Kingdon
1953 Lyndon
1953 Reardon
1953 Sheldon
1953 Tildon
1954 Automatic K-200
1954 Automatic K-300
1954 Automatic K-400
1955 Croydon

I have seen K-200's for sale but haven't landed one personally.  So I know they are out there.  I have never seen a Tildon for sale.  Sometimes you'll see the 1951 Scott mistakenly identified as a Tildon, but it remains elusive.

I did finally land a Lange recently.  I think over the past 5 or 6 years I have seen maybe four Langes - so they're surprisingly uncommon.

The Lange was introduced in 1949 and produced through 1952.  It looks identical to the 1948 Langdon but it's solid 14K gold and not 14K gold filled.

Tucked inside the Lange is an 8/0 sized 747 movement.  Two dial options were available; a butler finished AGN dial or a luminous dial.  Sometimes the dial says CLD and sometimes not.

My project watch arrived in typical beater fashion but I jumped at the chance to buy it and I was surprised that I wasn't out-sniped.  This is a VERY hard model to find and if you don't agree, as they say on Antiques Roadshow, "try to find another".

The Lange case is virtually identical to the Langdon - which is easy find - so you have to look closely to see whether it's solid gold or gold filled.

No denying this is a Lange.

The dial is very grungy but I'd give myself a 50:50 chance that it will clean up nicely.  You never know until you try and I know I can get it redone to look like new if I screw up.

Well, if the outside of the case didn't convince you this is a Lange, then the inside of the case sure should... the name is right inside.

I wonder if I sent this watch to Quantico if the FBI could tell me the original owner, as there's a big ol' fingerprint on the ratchet wheel.  The movement is dirty but I'm sure it will clean up nicely.

Everything cleaned up nicely except the dial.  The grime wouldn't budge so I will have to send it out to be redone.

Initially running a little fast, a quick adjustment to the regulator slowed the watch down to 3 seconds fast per day.  Amplitude is well above 200 and the beat error is on the higher side of acceptable.

A new crystal and vintage croc strap do a lot to improve the looks of this watch but no lipstick will make this pig-dial pretty.  Once the dial is refinished this watch will look awesome.  So be sure to check out this post in a month or so for an update.

UPDATE:  Jan 19, 2016

Here's a photo of the Lange with a refinished dial... a huge improvement I think.  With the vintage croc strap this watch looks like it's brand new!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

1956 Clive

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in Hamilton's board room while they talked about their strategic plan in the 1950's.  I bet it was not unlike what has happened in the last 15 years in board rooms around the US.  The fundamental question on the table was, "How do we compete in an ever-increasingly competitive global environment?".

In the early 1950's America was thriving in a post-WWII economy.  People had jobs, they bought houses for growing families, and there was a television on every street.  Hamilton had to compete with other technological advances that consumed discretionary spending, not just with other watch companies.  Sound familiar?

On the other hand, Europe was recovering from an apocalyptic war.  Labor was cheap and quality was good and getting better.

American brands started to use European movements more and more in their product lines... or they shut down entirely.

In 1953 Hamilton introduced their first models with Swiss-made movements.  They also reintroduced the Illinois brand that they purchased the Illinois Watch Company in the 1920's.  The Hamilton Illinois model line offered new price points for Hamilton as well as new capabilities like automatic (self winding) movements and date complications.

As an old Navy salt, I have an affinity for John Paul Jones, the father of the United States Navy.  Everyone has heard John Paul Jones's famous quote, "I have not yet begun to fight!" but I personally get the most inspiration from...

 "It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win."

So I think the introduction of Swiss-made movements into Hamilton's line up was bold with a hint of conservativeness.  The reintroduction of the Illinois brand was a bit of a hedge.  If it failed, the Illinois brand would take the hit and the Hamilton brand would be largely untarnished.  It sounds a little like GM's introduction of Saturn... something new from something old at a new low price point and a new "brand" to go with it.

The new Illinois watches were not as glamorous as their Hamilton cousins.  All of the manual-winding men's models were part of the Debonair series and known by their model letter.

For example, there was the Model C.   It featured a rolled gold plated case with a stainless steel back, a Swiss-made Illinois-branded movement, and an embossed dial.  You had a choice of a pigskin strap or a matching bracelet.

By 1956 Hamilton executives must have realized the sky had not fallen.  Many of the formerly Debonair models became official Hamilton models and the Illinois line was phased out.

The 1953 Model C was rebranded as the 1956 Clive.  It came with a new bracelet style at the same price point.  It was only produced for a single year.

My Clive project watch arrived with "good bones".  The case was in nice shape and the dial looks pretty good as well.

The case back is a carry over from the Illinois days and still says Illinois on the back.  I think the Clive existed for as long as Hamilton had remaining inventory to use up.

The silver butler-finshed dial is in good shape.  I don't see any obvious signs that it's refinished... the printing looks good, alignment with the markers is spot-on, says "Swiss" at the bottom of the dial, which was required because of the Swiss-made movement.

Authentic Hamilton models will usually say "Hamilton Watch Company, Lancaster PA" inside the case back - one exception being when it say's Illinois on the outside.

The watch movement is an Illinois branded 17 jewel grade.  The TXD on balance cock is the import code for Illinois and all Illinois movements say TXD.  There is no movement number for Illinois movements.  I believe this movement is based on an A Schild 1200 grade - which is what you'd need to know in order to purchase replacement parts.

This watch is not running - at all.  The balance looks okay so hopefully it just needs a good cleaning.

While taking it apart I saw the escape wheel had grown a tail... a hair of some sort has adhered itself to the wheel.  It doesn't take much to prevent a watch from running and this would certainly do it.

Everything is closely inspected after being cleaned.  It all sparkles like new.

After being reassembled, the movement is now ticking aways briskly.

Based on the timer, the watch is running a little fast.  The amplitude is over 200 and the beat error is on the high-side of acceptable.  It's not easily adjusted on this movement and I don't want to goof it up.  So a simple tweak to the regulator is all I'll attempt at this point.

There, the beat rate is much better now.  5 seconds fast per day is a good stopping point, in my opinion.

The minute hand on this watch looks a bit odd, to my eye.  I doubt it's original.  I'll have to see if I can find some better alpha-style (aka pointex) hands.  This movement has hour and minute hands with 1.30 an 0.70mm hole sizes.

I didn't have hands with those hole sizes so I used 14/0 hands for a 980 / 982 and opened the hands with a broach.  I think this looks much better. What do you think?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Ghost of Christmas Past

I woke up this morning and caught "A Christmas Carol" on TV.  Every Advent I try especially hard to  get in the Christmas spirit and "A Christmas Carol" is a great way to do it.  One of the things I like about Hamiltons is they were often given as Christmas presents.  Christmas watches are always appealing to me and I will usually pursue one when it's in good shape and in need of a little TLC.

After a good inoculation of Christmas spirit, I thought I'd share with you a Christmas Hamilton.  This one is from 1937 and it's a Clark... one of my favorite models too.

The Clark was introduced in 1936 and made through 1938 with a 14K gold filled case.  If you see one in a 10K gold filled case, it's a different model, the 1940 Yorktowne

The Clark is an easy watch to find but a hard watch to find in nice shape, as it's especially prone to wear through on the edges of the case back and tops of the lugs.  Mine has a hint of wear to the lower right lug but is otherwise in fine shape.

This watch was given to Edward from Gertrude on Christmas in 1937.  This was a very fine gift for the tale-end of the Great Depression and I imagine Gertrude was very excited to give it to Edward.  I wonder what became of them...?  One thing is for sure, this watch was initially given with love.

Gold filled models in the 1930's with a 14/0 movement received the 17 jewel 980.  There are actually three different variations of the 980 over the 1930's.  The first ones had 980 stamped on the balance cock.  This is the second variation, with the 980 on the train bridge.  I'll explain another difference later in this post.

While everything is being cleaned, I'll prep a new glass crystal to replace the worn plastic one in the watch now.

Ah... spic and span and ready for reassembly.

There are two moments of relief when reassembling a 980 or 982 movement.  The first is when you get the three-wheeled train bridge to seat properly and the other is when you get the balance seated and it comes back to life.  Now it's off to the timer.

The watch is running a wee-bit fast so I'll slow it down with the regulator. The amplitude is over 200, which is good, and the beat error is on the high side of acceptable.  These old 980's and 982's can be finicky... not as much as the pre-Elinvar 987's but almost as much.   Attempting the reduce the beat error means taking on the risk of goofing it up and, personally, I don't think "the juice is worth the squeeze".

A little tweaking brings the beat rate down a bit and the beat error too.  Notice how the two lines have approached horizontal (just under the 244).

Here's a shot of the dial-side of the movement and now you can see the next indicator of a second generation of the 980... the split set bridge.  This variation has two parts, one covers the setting wheel and minute wheel and the other holds the set level detent.  On the third (and later) variation, this is all one piece.  Also, note the balance cap jewel has one screw... later it has two screws.

Before the movement goes back into the case, I'll add my mark to the dozen or so other watchmakers' marks inside the case back.  Edward took good care of this watch and had it serviced regularly.

The Clark has a narrow 14mm lug width and that's a tough size to get in a manly strap.  I happened to have an old Speidel expansion bracelet that is a perfect fit and looks pretty good, I think.  This is a nice looking watch, suitable for a man or a woman by today's standards.

I wish all my Hamilton Chronicles fans and fellow collectors a holy and merry Christmas, whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I hope you have a nice week and a joy-filled New Year.  

May God bless us, everyone.

 photo ScreenShot2012-12-24at115431AM.png

Saturday, December 19, 2015

1955 Amherst - AGN dial

I try to only create new posts for new models that I haven't shown before.  I've had a bit of a dry spell recently and I was excited to land a watch I hadn't seen.  I thought it looked familiar, but there are a number of square models from the 1950's with dog ear lugs and this one was unusual.

Well, I was stumped when it arrived and not really sure what it was.  The applied gold numeral dial didn't seem quite right.  When I looked closely I thought maybe I had gotten a "pig in the poke", as the dial looked just like a Dewitt dial.

Dewitt photo Dewitt01.jpg

The watch uses an 8/0 size 730 movement which is a 2nd generation version of the 747 movement used in the Dewitt.  I figured, "Oh well, you win some and you lose some".

I wondered, if the dial was a Dewitt dial, then what is the case?  The best I could come up with was a 1955 Amherst which I did on the blog in May 2014.
Then I dug a little deeper and found that the Amherst actually had an applied gold numeral dial starting in 1957... mystery solved.
I further went on to re-learn that the Amherst was also available in a white gold filled case - which I have never personally seen.  In fact, I've only ever come across the marker-version of the Amherst so I thought I'd post the AGN version separately, as it was "new" to me.

Anyway, my project watch came with a presentation on the case back for 25 years of service in 1961.

The crystal in the project watch was a thick domed plastic version and distorted the dial.  With the crystal out of the way you can see the dial is very Dewitt-like.  If I still had a Dewitt I would see if it was the same... but I don't so it will have to remain an untested hypothesis.

Forgive my grungy finger tips.  The weather was very nice today so I painted some light fixtures outside and the paint on my hands wouldn't come fully off.

The 730 movement is largely identical to the 747 with the exception of the balance jeweling.  I like the 730 and the 747, they are simple and robust movements so they are easy to learn how to disassemble and reassemble a watch.

While the movement is in the ultrasonic, I'll prep a new glass crystal for the bezel.

Everything is nice and sparkly.  Time for reassembly.

The now-running movement goes onto the timer to see how it's performing.

Nothing too concerning about this movement's performance.

Everything goes back into the case and a fresh lizard strap completes the restoration.  I think the AGN dial makes a dramatically differently statement than the marker dial.  It looks like a totally different model and maybe a little older than it is.  Perhaps it's styling was too old fashioned and it was less popular.  That would explain why this is a much less common version.