Coral Gold, or rose gold as it's usually called, was very fashionable in the early 1940's. You'll often find rose gold models of pocket watches and wrist watches from all the major brands that date to the late 1930's or early 1940's. Hamilton was no exception and it made several coral models in gold filled as well as solid gold. The advent of WWII brought an end to the trend, as the copper used to alloy rose gold was needed for the war effort.
In 1940 Hamilton introduced the Coral Essex at the same time as it introduced the regular yellow Essex. The two models are basically the same but they were separated in the catalogs to highlight the unique case material. The Coral Essex was produced for only two years, 1940 and 1941.
The Essex looks like a driver's watch, or a model that's intended to be worn on the side of the wrist, rather than on top of it. However, the lugs don't move on the Essex and the strap goes over the lugs, not between them, so the watch can only be worn comfortably on top of the wrist. It's not usual to see Essex models for sale with the straps incorrectly installed.
The Essex came in a 10K gold filled case and received the 17 jewel 14/0 sized 980 movement to power it. The sterling silver dial has a special coral finish and the solid 18K yellow gold numerals were rhodium-plated to appear silver, as were the hands.
I recently picked up a Coral Essex that was listed as non-running but the case was in above-average condition so I pursued it. Typically the tubular lugs show extensive wear from the strap and the corners of the case back are often worn down as well - sometimes to holes! My project watch was missing it's second hand but other than that, I thought it would be a nice example when it was all fixed up.
There were a few models in Hamilton's line up with flexible lugs, most notably the Wilshire and the Contour, but the Essex's lugs are fixed in place.
Although this case back could stand a bit of polish, there's no wear through to my eye. In fact, that is very unusual for this model.
Without the crystal blocking the view, the dial appears to be original, or at least very old. The hands have a little bit of tarnish but you have to be careful polishing rhodium plated hands as the plating is thin and they will turn yellow with too much polishing. I can see the second hand bit inside the hole, that's a good sign that all I need is a new second hand and not a new 4th wheel too.
The movement is a little hazy so it's been a while since this watch was last overhauled but the jewel settings are still bright so it hasn't been decades. The serial number of this watch dates to late 1940 - just as it should.
As you can see below, the mainspring is broken. Of all the reasons for a watch not to run, a broken mainspring is my favorite. It's usually a very easy fix and I almost always replace the mainspring anyway.
I'll prep a new crystal for the case while the parts are in the ultrasonic.
Everything is prepped and ready for reassembly. A new white-alloy mainspring is installed and will give this watch about 40 hours of run time.
The watch is running... yay! The motion looks pretty good so it's off to the timer to see how it's really doing.
Well, it's running a little slow but the amplitude of 159 degrees is a bit concerning. The amplitude is a measure of how far the balance swings from side to side. That's an indicator of how much energy the watch is transmitting to the balance. Ideally it should be over 250 degrees but 200 degrees is my lower spec limit. 159 degrees means something is robbing the watch of energy. There are lots of possible reasons but I'll start with the mainspring barrel, as that is where the energy is stored. First I'll check out the barrel and then work my way through the gear train.
Ah ha! The mainspring barrel isn't closed completely. The lid didn't seat fully on one side when I reinstalled the mainspring and I didn't notice. The mainspring barrel is the "first wheel" and this issue would cause the barrel to rub inside the movement, losing energy to unnecessary friction.
With the barrel fully closed, you can see the watch is now running with an amplitude of a vigorous 274 degrees. The beat error of 0.2ms is excellent. All this watch needs is a slight tweak to the regulator to bring up the speed slightly.
There... 16 seconds fast per day. I like to leave watches running just a smidgen fast after an overhaul as they tend to slow slightly after they settle down.
A new glass crystal completes the restoration of this very authentic 1940 Coral Essex. It doesn't look "new" but it does look like an excellent 76 year old example of an Essex.
This model is typical of a 1940's men's watch but it's quite small by today's standards. The strap is 11/16" wide so that gives the watch a little more wrist-presence but a woman could easily pull of wearing this watch today.
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.