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Saturday, February 27, 2016

1959 Thinomatic T-401

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more... Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height...

What does William Shakespeare's "The Life of King Henry the Fifth" have to do with Hamilton watches, you say?

Sometimes taking on a project requires a little courage, or at least a firm resolve.

The last time I tried to tackle a micro-rotor automatic it was a complete disaster, a total write off, a miserable failure.  Actually, it was worse than that.  It was so bad that I swore off ever attempting another one.

How's that for bad?

Well, it's been probably four years since my last attempt and I bet I have 600+ additional watches under my belt.  So I decided I might give it another go.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends.

There are 57 different Thin-o-matic models and not all of them use micro-rotor movements but the majority of them do.  Micro-rotor movements were made by Buren.  In the 1960's Hamilton partnered with Buren and eventually acquired them.  But the master became the servant in 1969 when Hamilton's US production was shut down and production moved to Buren's factory in Switzerland.

One of the more interesting Thin-o-matics is the 1959 Thin-o-matic T-401.  It was produced for four years.  It's one of only two square automatics... the other is the 1956 Automatic K-405.

The T-401 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case.  The white-finished dial featured solid 14K gold numerals and markers with an engraved pearled track.

Inside the T-401 is a 17 jewel Hamilton 663 movement.  There are a number of very similar micro rotor grades and I don't know precisely what makes them different.  My experience with them is very limited.  One of the grades is 666... the number of the beast.  That's a fitting number, I think.

My T-401 project watch arrived in fair shape.  The crystal was beat and the waterproof crown isn't correct.  It should have dress crown, as this is not a waterproof model.  The crown also has a long tube so it sticks out the side of the case.

The T-401 case is substantial. Although this one is pretty dirty, it doesn't show a lot of excessive wear to so it should shine up nicely.

What makes micro-rotors interesting is all of the parts are on one plane.  Half the watch surface is for winding and the other half is the gear train.  A small rotor spins around as the watch is moved and it transmits energy through a series of wheels to the mainspring.  You can also wind the watch manually, which is good since a lot of people feel the small rotor isn't powerful enough to really keep the watch energized.

Flipping the watch over, you can see the dial-side of the main plate looks like pretty much every other watch.  However, there are a number of bushings from about 1:00 to 7:00 that hold the pivots of all the winding parts.  The large pink jewel to the upper left of center supports a wheel that has no arbor at all - it's just sandwiched between two parts - it allows the rotor to wind the watch, regardless of which direction it turns.

And so it begins...  I learned from my last attempt that energy from the mainspring goes two directions... one toward the balance and the other back up stream to the rotor.  One way to release the mainspring energy is to remove the balance assembly and then remove the pallet fork.  Without the pallet fork, the gear train is free to move and the mainspring unwinds unconstrained.

In the shot below, the balance is removed and the pallet fork can come off next.

The pallet fork is now gone and the wheels spun to a complete stop.  I can safely start taking the rest of the movement apart without risking accidentally releasing energy at the wrong time.

Micro-rotors have two ratchet wheels.  One is driven by the crown mechanism and the other by the rotor assembly.  The two wheels can move independently but a small spline connects them so the crown can turn the wheel the rotor also turns.  In the shot below, the top wheel is removed and the second wheel below it is now visible.

There's a small bridge than covers all the winding pinions and it's been removed below to expose the winding wheel.  You can see the winding wheel doesn't engage the ratchet wheel - there's a series of gears that connect the winding wheel to the ratchet wheel and they have been removed.

Now I can turn my attention to the rotor.  A large screw holds the rotor to it's arbor.  I can unscrew it and lift the rotor up and off.

With the rotor removed, you can now see the bridge that covers all of the gears that convey the rotor's energy to the large golden wheel that drives the ratchet wheel.  Did I mention there are a gazillion parts in a micro rotor?

Here's a shot of the backside of the rotor's bridge.  The silver gear is what the rotor turns when it rotates.

There is a very long and delicate spring inside that operates as a click and keeps the energy from the mainspring from coming back through to the rotor.

Here's what that spring looks like relative to my wedding ring.  Can you say tiny?  It makes me wonder if this part is really necessary?  (it is)

Some more of the bridges are removed to show you how the gear train is organized.

There, all of the winding parts have been removed.  Now for the other half of the movement.

One piece of spring wire serves two purposes with the "click" of the watch.  It's very small and you probably wouldn't even notice it unless you stab your finger with it, like I did.

You can see the spring wire a little better in this shot of the other side of the barrel bridge.

All that is left now is the gear train... but there are a lot of parts there too.  Two screws hold the train bridge on.

If you look at the movement from this angle you can see there are two wheels nested together.  Also, the center wheel is held in place with it's own bridge and a pinion goes through the center of the center wheel to drive the second hand.

The train bridge is removed to reveal the third wheel, fourth wheel, escape wheel and what ever the wheel nestled on top of the third wheel is called.

Here you can see that the two stacked wheels can move independently.

Finally!  I'm down to the last wheel to come off.

The last parts to come off are the balance jewels.  They're held in with spring loaded "shock springs". that are easy to open so you can get the jewels out for cleaning.

The balance jewels are actually two jewels... one has a hole and the other is a cap that covers the end of the balance staff.

I reinstalled the balance so that I could remove the jewels from the balance cock too.

While everything is being cleaned I will prep a new crystal for installation.

How's this for a daunting sight... look at all these tiny parts.  There is easily twice as many parts in a micro rotor than your typical manual winding movement.  They all need to be cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh lubrication.

The first challenge is to get the train bridge back on.  It took a little finessing but I was able to get it into place fairly quickly.

The barrel goes in next.  Now I can install the pallet fork and balance and be left with a manual-winding watch.

Reinstalling the balance means I have to reinstall the balance jewels.  That's easy as long as I don't squeeze them too hard with the tweezers and shoot them off into oblivion.

Now I can work my way back to the rotor by just doing the opposite of what I had to do to take it apart.

Here's another very tricky part... getting the bridge to cover all the auto-winding wheels.  The little silver circles are bushings for the various arbors.  Even the little spring has to be lined up just right in order for the bridge to seat properly.

Now the rotor goes on and the watch is back into running order.

Well, it's running fairly well.  Good amplitude and a beat error on the high side of acceptable.  I'll leave it like this for a while and see if it settles down.

Getting the dial and hands back on is a piece of cake compared to what I had to go through for the rest of it.  I think the watch turned out great.  The dial is a bit dirty but it's not bad enough to risk goofing up the pearled track with a refinish.  I replaced the crown with a slightly better crown but I need a longer stem to fit a proper dress crown.  It doesn't look too bad as it is though.

If you're curious about the Shakespeare text I referenced above, here's the full version.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Sunday, February 21, 2016

1948 Kirk

In 1947 Hamilton introduced the 8/0 size 17 jewel 747 movement and discontinued the 987A.  The 987-series of movements included the 987, the 987F, 987E and the 987A and had a 20 year run which was a long time for a wrist watch movement.  Of course the 987A (and 987S) was a bit of a departure from the earlier 987 grades, but it shared many of the same parts.

Anyway, the 747 is slightly smaller than the 6/0 987A and it's also a bit thinner.  In 1955 it was replaced by the shock-jeweled 730 movement and then that was replaced in the early 1960's with 731 grade.  So if you consider the 747, 730 and 731 to be the same line, that was an even longer production run.

One of the earliest 747-equipped model was the 1948 Kirk.  It was produced for six years.  The Kirk was produced through 1953 and in 1953 the Neilsen was introduced.  The Neilsen looks a lot like the Kirk, except the Kirk is solid 14K gold while the Neilsen is gold filled.  Plus, the Neilsen only has numerals on it's dial.

The Kirk predominantly has a 14K yellow gold case.  If you're really lucky you might come across a white gold Kirk - it was only offered in white during it's last year of production.  The sterling silver dial is adorned with solid 18K numerals and markers.  There's also a version with diamonds on the dial in lieu of markers.

Kirks are relatively easy to find since they were made for several years but they're not overly common since they're solid gold.  It's not usual to find loose 747 movements with Kirk dials, meaning the case got scrapped at some point.

My project watch is in fair condition.  A metal bracelet has taken it's toll on the inside of the lugs - but it's not too terrible.  The dial has been refinished and it looks decent but not perfect, especially around the seconds register.

The case back is unengraved and could stand to be polished.

The 747 is a great movement.  It's easy to disassemble and reassemble and a great movement to learn on.  This one has a low serial number... 8442 so it's from the first year of production.

Sometimes the inside case back has the model name and sometimes not... this is a not situation.

Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.

The running movement goes onto the timer... not too shabby.  I can slow it down with a slight tweak to the regulator.

A new 27.9mm PHD crystal will spruce up the watch's appearance.

And here's the finished project, all shined up and running as nice as it looks.  The Kirk is large for a 1940's watch but it's still fairly small by modern standards.  It's a sharp looking dress watch and I think a man or a woman could wear this watch today.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

1968 Dateline S-577

Most Hamilton collectors I know are mindful of the end of US production in 1969 but not overly concerned about collecting only pre-1969 models.  Although Hamilton has a proud heritage of made-in-the-USA watches, not all pre-1969 watches used movements that were made in Lancaster, PA.  In fact, some of the most innovative models used Swiss-made grades from a variety of makers.

For example, Lancaster didn't make any calendar models.  The first watches with date complications were introduced in 1954 using ETA-based movements.  ETA still makes Hamilton's movements today.

Most of the calendar models were also automatics but there are a handful of manual winding calendar models too.  One of the is the 1968 Dateline S-577.  It was produced for only two years.

The Dateline S-577 is an awkward looking combination of 1960's and pre-1970 styling.  It has a traditional one-piece stainless steel case with brushed finish.  The silver dial has rectangular hour markers along with a rather wide hour hand and a very skinny minute hand.  It reminds me of a fiddler crab.

Inside t.he case is a 17 jewel Hamilton 674 movement.  The 674 movement is basically the same setup as Hamilton 688 movement, but it has a date complication.

I recently landed a Dateline S-577 and it arrived in decent condition.  The second hand was a little bent so it hit the minute hand and stopped the watch. The minute hand is so thin, you can hardly see it compared with the second hand.

Looking at the case back, it's easy to see that this is a one piece case and the watch opens through the crystal.

The 674 looks just like a 688 from the back side.

Once the dial is removed, you can see the variety of parts that make up the date complication.  The hour wheel in the center (that the hour hand attaches to) drives a wheel that drives a smaller pinion that drives the date wheel.  There are a couple of critical springs that enable the mechanism to index the date wheel one date at a time.  I'll show you how it goes together after it's cleaned.

The date complication adds about twice as many parts to the movement over a basic manual winding grade.  This watch also has a movement ring to fit into the case and a reflector ring that goes around the dial.  It's all cleaned now and ready to go back together.

The first parts back on are the center wheel, which is off center, the third and fourth wheel, and the escape wheel.  The train bridge covers all four at one time.

With the train bridge secured, the pallet fork goes on next, along with it's bridge.

Next, the mainspring barrel and the barrel bridge go into place.  I can give the mainspring a few winds to energize the watch.  Sorry for the blurry photo!

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

Good amplitude but a high beat error. That's easy to adjust though.  There's a little extraneous noise too.  Upon close observation there was a tiny piece of lint attached to pallet fork bridge.

There, a few tweaks to the hairspring stud and the timing is brought right in line.

Now I can turn my attention to the other side of the movement.  First I'll put some oil on all the moving surfaces of the date indexing parts.

A little oil is applied between the cannon pinion and the brass wheel surrounding it.

The minute wheel and the setting wheel go on next, along with the wheel to connect the hour wheel to the date complication.

For the next couple of steps I moved into my light tent because the next two parts are so small that they are very easy to lose if they are dropped.  One of them is a spring - and it's prone to flying off into the ether.

I need to rotate the indexing wheel so that I can get the date wheel into position.

Now the tiny index lever and spring go in next.

There, it's in position and I haven't lost it... phew!

I can breathe a sigh of relief once the cover goes over the date-related parts.

And the set bridge goes on next to cover the setting wheel and minute wheel.

And finally the hour wheel goes on last... mission accomplished.

A new crystal will give this watch a like-new appearance.

One of the requisite steps for a date model is to set the time to midnight before putting the hands on.  With any other model you can just put the hands on, but with a calendar model you need to put them on once the date switches.

I didn't care much for the Speidel bracelet that came with the watch.  It wasn't a good match with its curved ends.  A brown strap is my choice for now.  You can't really see the second hand because it's aligned with the line at 30 seconds, but it's there.  The dial has a few spots that I couldn't remove but it looks a lot better than my camera makes it out to be.  It's not a bad look watch, even with the fiddler crap hands.