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 23, 2016

1950 Keith

Hamilton's 14/0 sized movements were purposely designed in the mid 1930's for long and thin models.  Some models like the Carlisle and the Dickens are so long they are curved to fit your wrist.  Other models were more rectangular and there are a lot of very similar models in case materials ranging from 10K gold filled all the way through platinum.

There are several solid 14K gold models that easily confused, including the Wesley, Barton, Gilbert and the Keith.  The Keith was introduced in 1950 and produced for only three years.

Although the cases of these models are very similar, they are differentiated by their dial patterns.  Some models have all-numeral dials and others have numerals and different types of markers.  Some models have two tone dials and others are basic silver butler finish.

The Keith has a silver butler finished dial with solid 18K gold numerals and square-shaped markers.

Being a solid gold model, the Keith has a 19 jewel 982M movement.  The M is for medallion and the 982M was used in the solid gold models starting in 1940.  The 19 jewel 982 movement was used in 14K gold filled models and the 17 jewel 980 was in the 10K gold filled models.  Prior to 1940 you'd find the 982 in solid gold models and the 980 in gold filled models.

There isn't much of a difference between the 982 and 982M other than the damascening and printing on the back of the movement.

I recently landed a nice Keith project watch.   I knew it would need a new crystal but the seller's photos weren't very clear so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect overall.

The 14K case back is unengraved and will polish up nicely, I bet.

Without the crystal in the way, the dial is in great shape and appears to be original.

This 982M dates to 1950, just as it should, and it's very dirty.  It will definitely benefit from a trip to the spa.

There are no watchmaker's service marks inside the case back.  Sort of makes me wonder if I'm the first person to touch this movement since it left the factory in Lancaster PA.  I wonder what the staining inside the case is from?

The mainspring inside the movement is definitely set.  A new mainspring will give this watch 40+ hours of run time.

A new glass crystal will make a huge improvement in the watch's appearance.

Everything is cleaned and dried.   The staining inside the case back is gone now.

Check out the difference in shape of a fresh Dynavar mainspring.  This will be make a huge difference in the energy of the watch.

The watch is now running nicely so it's off to the timer to see how it's performing.

The performance looks great. its running a smidgen fast but that's easily corrected by a minor tweak of the regulator.

A genuine croc strap is an excellent choice for a solid gold watch and I really like the dark brown color.  The freshly polished case looks much different now, don't you think?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

1959 Accumatic VI

Sometimes you have to wonder what the marketing folks at Hamilton were thinking in the late 1950's.  For example, the Accumatic line started out with roman numerals denoting the various models and by the early 1960's they adopted the numerical nomenclature of the K-series automatics; where the model had 3 digits and the first digit was the case material and the second digit was a 5 if it had a stainless steel back.  It sort of makes you think Hamilton wasn't exactly sure how well the Accumatic line would do initially and then they realized it would do way better than expected.

Who knows?

Anyway, one of the earlier Accumatics to get roman numerals was the 1959 Accumatic VI... I suppose that means it was the 6th Accumatic model, although the VII, VIII and IV were introduced the same year.  The Accumatic VI was produced for two years and then replaced with the VI-B.

When you look at the catalog images there is no obvious differences between the VI and the VI-B.  They even came with the same bracelet.  Typically a B model will use a different movement and because of the that, it will have a slightly different case.  For a good example of this, check out my recent post on the Accumatic VIII from the same year.

If the VI and VI-B follow the same suit as the VIII and VIII-B, I would expect the VI-B to have a screw-on case back.

Both models have a 10K yellow RGP bezel with a stainless steel back.  Hamilton never stressed the grade of automatic movements used in models, other than to occasionally denote the jewel count.  So there's no saying definitively what would be inside a VI or a VI-B other than by finding examples in the wild.

I was recently sent two examples in need of some love.  

The first one is a dead ringer for the 1959 Accumatic VI. It's a little dirty but overall looks to be in good shape.

The case back snaps on, like the Accumatic VIII from earlier this month.

Tucked behind the dial is a 17 jewel 672 movement based on the ETA 1256.  I didn't realize until I downloaded my photos that I neglected to take a photo of the movement.  Oops.

I also have a black dialed Accumatic VI.  The hands don't match the catalog images for 1959 through 1961 but they do jive with 1962.  Does that mean this is a VI-B?

The black dialed watch has the exact same case back as the white dialed version.  Again, like a idiot I  didn't snap a photo of it - but it's the same snap-on design.  However, inside the case is a 17 jewel 689 movement.  The 689 was used in 1961, so there's no reason to think that this isn't a proper Accumatic VI-B - but I'm not 100% sure.

The first movement is disassembled, cleaned and thoroughly dried.

The 672 is a fairly straightforward movement and like most ETA automatics, without it's rotor assembly it looks like your typical manual winding grade.  It's now ticking away with good motion.

The timer tells me that something inside is making a little extraneous noise.  Perhaps there's a piece of lint or dust on the hairspring.

There - that's better.  After a slight tweak to the regulator there should be no complaints with this performance.

Now I can put the oscillating weight back on ... I guess I have a photo to prove there's a 672 in there after all.

With the white-dialed version "in the bag", as they say, I can turn my attention to the black-dialed version.  It's now thoroughly cleaned and dried.

It too look likes a garden variety manual winder without it's rotor assembly.  Like it's older brother, it's running with good motion so it's off to the timer.

It's running a little slow at 46 seconds per day, the beat rate of 2.2 is higher than it needs to be and the amplitude is just under 200.  I like the see the amplitude over 200 but I didn't wind this watch fully yet.

Without any additional winding, repositioning the hairspring stud reduced the beat error and a tweak to the regulator brought the beat rate up.  This watch is now running just as well as the other one.

The white-dialed Accumatic VI gets to enjoy some time on an original bracelet.  Looks pretty sharp, if I do say so myself.

A nice black genuine lizard strap complements the black-dialed version nicely.  Black dialed watches are always tricky to photograph, especially when there are a lot of reflections involved.

Here's another shot from a different angle.  You can see why black-dialed models are always popular - they're very striking while on the wrist.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

1968 Dateline A-585

There are 32 different Dateline Automatic models and another 12 Dateline Thin-o-matics.  There are a few other calendar models too but most of them fall into these two families.

One of the 32 Dateline Automatics is the A-585.  It was produced in 1968 and 1969.

As you might surmise from the model number beginning with 5, the case of the A-585 is stainless steel.   Inside the case is a Hamilton 694A movement.

My Dateline A-585 project watch arrived in good shape aesthetically but it wasn't running very well. The hands are a little different than the catalog image.  Note how the hands have a short section extending opposite the long side.  That's not depicted in the catalog.   It's not unusual for hands to be close but not a perfect match.  The factory was known to use what was available during the busy seasons preparing for gradation and Christmas.

The case is an obvious one-piece design so this watch opens through the crystal.

The 694A is a typical looking ETA movement.  The main difference is on the opposite side, under the dial, where the date wheel and calendar parts are located.

Once the dial and hands are removed, you can see the dial-soide of the main plate is rather complicated... I guess that's why they call it a "complication", right?   This is not that unlike the modern Khaki that I recently wrote about.  It's very similar, but a little different nonetheless.

As I was taking all of the parts out of the ultrasonic, I noticed I was missing a cap jewel for the balance assembly.  I know I had it, I had taken it out and put it with the other parts - but it was gone.

That reminds me a joke about a watchmaker that retired after 30 years of work.  As he was discussing his pending retirement, he mentioned how he really enjoyed his 10 years of watchmaking.  His colleagues reminded him that it had been 30 years and he said, "yes, well the other 20 years was on the floor looking for dropped parts.

There's no getting around a missing cap jewel - it's needed or the watch won't fork.  So onto the floor I went.  After about 5 minutes I found two dial foot screws and the missing cap jewel... phew!  You don't want to do this sort of work over carpet, that's for sure.

Here's freshly cleaned and dried parts,... all present and accounted for.  The two cap jewels are not the smallest parts in the watch - but they're pretty close.

The balance jewels are held in place with shock springs.  This particular style of spring is rather tricky to install but I eventually got both sides in place.

The watch is now running nicely with good amplitude.  It's a little slow and the beat error is higher than it needs to be but both of those are easily adjusted.

First I will tweak the hair spring stud location on the balance cock... 0.2ms is excellent, so I will stop there.  Notice how the two lines are now right on top of each other.

No I can tweak the regulator so I effectively shorten the hairspring and speed up the watch.  It doesn't take much movement... so I have to speed it up and slow it down and speed it up and slow it down, until I get it to just the right position.  I'll leave it running 8 seconds fast per day... it will slow slightly in a little while.

Now for the really tricky part... putting the date wheel index spring and lever back in.  It's not really that difficult but the spring is very easy to lose so I have to be very careful.  It's hard to make out in my photo but the u-shaped spring goes into the oval shaped cutout that my tweezers are pointing at.

Now the oscillating weight can go back onto the back of the movement.

The last trick to reassembling the movement is to put the dial on and then the hands.  The hands have to go on at 12:00 midnight - so I first have to set the time slowly until the date changes, then put the hands on.  The finished watch looks great now that the crystal and case are polished.  But more importantly, the watch is now running as well as it looks.  Sure am glad I found that cap jewel!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Modern Khaki Mechanical - H694190

One of the biggest drawbacks to collecting watches is they need to be maintained - at least if you want to wear them regularly.   That can add up to a significant financial obligation if you have a large collection.

A common question is how often should a watch be cleaned and oiled?  Back in the day, the recommendation was every year or two.  Today's watches are more robust than vintage watches and most manufacturers of fine watches recommend you get your watch overhauled every 3-5 years.

You might be tempted to only have your watch looked at if it starts acting up.  I would suggest doing that, or every 5 years, whichever is less, with the exception of if you ever see water get inside.  Then I'd suggest you get it checked our earlier.

Anyway, although I have seen my fair share of vintage Hamiltons, I actually have a handful of modern Hamiltons too.  Modern Hamiltons are a bit pricey but they are my go-to watches when I don't want to expose a vintage watch to whatever environment I will be in... for example, if I go camping, go to the beach, play golf, etc.

Some of the benefits of a high quality modern watch are...
  • They are well protected... if you drop them they will likely be undamaged and keep working
  • They offer sapphire crystals... very hard glass that is tougher to scratch than mineral glass or plastic.
  • They're larger and offer more wrist-presence, if that's your thing.
  • They're very precise... modern watches have a beat rate of 28,800 beats per hour or more instead of 18,000 that vintage watches use.
Some of the downsides are...
  • They're expensive and most retailers don't tell you what the cost of maintenance is going to be.
  • You have to be careful to not be fooled by replicas.
  • They don't have the same mystique of a vintage watch.  There's something to be said for wearing a watch that's older than you.
  • Some modern watch companies have anti-competitive policies and will only sell parts to watchmakers they have trained and "certified".  So if you want to buy a replacement crystal or crown... too bad, you'll need to find a middle man.  Independent watchmakers are being shut out of their profession - and that's a real shame.  Imagine if you could only buy spark plugs or tires for your car from the dealer?  
My first modern Hamilton was the Khaki Mechanical.  Actually I think it's official name is the Khaki Field Officer Handwinding... but I call it the Khaki Mechanical since that's what it says on the dial.  I've had mine for a few years but it's still being made today.

I realized the other day that my watch is probably due for an overhaul.   I bought it used and I've had it for a few years.  So I figured it would be a good opportunity to show you what today's mechanical watches look like relative to a vintage watch.

My watch looks "like new".  It has a replacement strap but otherwise looks perfect.  It has an olive drab dial and the design is a nod to the Vietnam-era military watches, although it's much larger with a 38mm width.

The back is marked with all sorts of information and the H694190 is the model number of this watch.  That would be needed if you wanted to buy parts from someone authorized to get them from Hamilton.

Unscrewing the case back, there's another number inside.  I have no idea what this number means.

There's a dust shield and a rubber o-ring protecting the movement from the elements.  This reminds me of WWII military models.

The movement inside is a Calibre 2804-2, made by ETA.  This looks like a bigger version of the Hamilton 674 used in the Dateline models.  A plastic movement ring secures the movement in the case.

The stem is held in place with a push detent instead of a screw.  You push it down to release the stem and crown and can then pull the movement out.

Flipping the movement over, there are two levers that hold the dial feet in place.  You need to pry them out so they're not pushing on the feet.  Then the dial can come off (of course you have to pull the hands first).

There's a ring under the dial that helps hold the date wheel in place.

The dial-side of the main plate looks familiar... very similar to the 674 with a couple of exceptions.  Mainly, the stem has three positions... winding, time setting, and date setting in between.

I took lots of pictures - partly to show you how the process goes and partly to show me too, so I can put it back together if I get into trouble.  In this shot the keyless works has been exposed so I can remove the parts on the right side of the movement.

Now the keyless works is gone and I can turn my attention to the calendar complication on the left side.  I know from experience that there are some springs involved here so I want to be very careful and not lose anything when I take the cover off.

I decided to go into my light tent for this part and I'm glad I did.  I didn't lose anything though and this design actually has a nicer spring set up for the wheel index... it's much harder to lose than the 1960s design.

With the front cleared of parts, I'll turn the watch over and remove the balance jewels by freeing the shock protecting spring.

With the balance out of the way you can see the main plate is stamped with ETA's logo and 2804-2, denoting the calibre of the movement.

There's another spring under the ratchet wheel.  You have to be careful not to lose this part too.

Once the barrel bridge is out of the way, you can see the golden colored hack mechanism.  This watch hacks, or stops, when you set the time - another nod to military field watches.

With the train bridge removed, this shot looks like any other 1960's ETA movement... well, maybe not the pallet bridge but the rest sure does.

The other balance jewels need to come out too.

Alright, everything is taken apart and ready to be cleaned in the ultrasonic.

The first parts to go back on are the main plate balance jewels and then the train wheels.

Next goes the pallet fork, mainspring barrel and the hack lever.

The movement is now ready to be wound a few times and I can put the balance on next.

Once the other balance jewels are installed the watch is now running very briskly.  The 28,800 beat rate is noticeably faster than a vintage watch.  If this was a 1960's watch I would be very concerned.

The watch is running a smidgen slow but it's nowhere near fully wound so I'll wind the watch fully and check it again.

That's pretty much right on the money in my book.

The parts for the date complication and the keyless works go back on now.

The date wheel goes on last - and then the dial can go back on.

Oops!  Almost forgot the little ring that goes over the date wheel.

Then the dial can go on - here's what the dial feet look like.

I seat the dial using the movement holder to keep the movement secure.

Then I can push the levers back into movement and lock the dial feet in place.

The last parts to go back on are the first parts that came off - the hands.

And here's the finished project... it looks just as good as it did when I started.  However, now I know it's good to go for several more years.  Feels a little like changing the oil in your car... you know it's the right thing to do to keep the car running like new.