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, October 30, 2016

Personalized Dials

If rarity is desirable in a watch, then there is nothing more desirable than a personalized model.  Of course, that logic isn't quite complete.  A personalized dial alone doesn't necessarily mean a watch is desirable, even if it is the only one like it the world.  I suppose it really depends on who's name is on the dial and if it's your name it would be extremely desirable... no?

Hamilton thought so too and they even offered customers the ability to special order dials and use letters or figures in the spaces for the hour markers. Pocket watches were the most commonly personalized watches but eventually wrist watches were too.

Hamilton often made their own dials and did for many years.  However, they also purchased dials.  In the 1920's and 30's you will come across dials marked "Switzerland" on the back.  In the 1950's and 60's Hamilton also purchased dials from Schwalm Dial, which was also located in Lancaster PA.

Schwalm dial made a LOT of dials for Hamilton and especially specialty dials.  These dials could feature applied gold figures as well as "flush gold" or simply printed dials.  Flush gold looks like gold leaf where the gold figures are very thin but not printed.

The most common personalized dials you'll likely come across are Masonic dials with Masonic symbols as the hour markers.  Don Aukamp is a fellow NAWCC member and worked at Schwalm Dial for many years.  Don and I have conversed about dials a few times and it's always interesting to hear the experiences of someone who lived through Hamilton's heyday.

Here's a photo that Don shared with me with a variety of Masonic dials from the early 1970s.  I think it's from the 70's since some of the dials are for day & date models.

I've seen a lot of interesting watches with organization logos on the dials.  Whether it's Chevrolet, Mack Trucks, Budweiser or just a generic company logo, I've often wondered where the dials came from.  I suspect the answer is likely Schwalm Dial, as they had a close relationship with Hamilton.

I recently landed an example of a personalized model and thought it would be a good topic for the blog.  The first thing that came to mind is "what model is this?".  It's a bit hard to say for sure but I suspect it's a Sea-Mate II.  This one is in need of a little TLC though, as it's not currently running.

Flipping it over, I can see from the number on the back that it's from 1965.

65 is the last two digits of the number, but it's upside down in the photo above.  If I flip it over and enlarge it you can see the 65 at the end of the string a little better.  65 is consistent with the Sea Mate II.

With the beat up crystal out of the way you can see the nicely radial finished dial is printed with letters.  What does is say though.... Ryan something?  If you look at it long enough you'll realize that the name is Henry McKenna.

This watch opens through the crystal and I can see from the service mark inside that it's been to a watchmaker at least once in the last 50 years.

The movement is a bit dirty but nothing seems broken so hopefully a good cleaning is all that it requires.

While the movement is in the ultrasonic I will measure the old crystal so I can get out a new one.  I need to covert 1.156 inches into millimeters.  Multiplying by 25.4 indicates that 29.4mm will do the trick.

All I have on hand is a 29.5mm but it should be fine.

Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.

Well, it's running - but the beat error is too high and it's a little noisy so it's going to need some tweaking.

There... it's running much cleaner now.  I had to reclean the balance and then make some slight tweaks.  The amplitude of 222 is on the lower side of acceptable.  I like to see the amplitude be over 250 degrees but 200 is my lower spec limit.  It may pick up as the watch settles in.

A new crystal and a fresh strap go a long way toward making this a sharp looking watch again.  Now I just need to find someone named Henry McKenna to offer it to.

Of course, anyone who likes whiskey might be interested in this watch, as Henry McKenna is also a maker of bourbon.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

1971 Thin-o-matic TM-4801

Some Hamilton models are meant to be paired with a bracelet and the bracelet is an integral part of the design.  In fact, there are a few solid gold men's and ladies models that came with matching solid gold bracelets.

I suspect that more than a few watches met their demise when gold prices got high enough that people thought melting down grandpa's watch was an idea too good to refuse.

As you would suspect, a solid gold watch and bracelet would have been pretty expensive back in the 1960s but Hamilton offered similar models at a more modest gold filled price point.  Take, for example, the 1971 Thin-o-matic TM 4801 - it was about a third of the cost of solid gold models.  It was offered for two years.

The 1970's ushered in newer movements with higher beat rates than the typical 5 ticks per second that watches had used for the previous 70 years.  At 5 beats per second, or 18,000 beats per hour, you could only be precise to 1/5th of a second.  Greater precision needs finer resolution so models evolved to 6 or more beats per second and sometimes upwards of 10 for "high frequency" models - that's 36,000 beats per hour.

Anyway, the micro-rotors that Hamilton had been using in the 1960s evolved to newer grades with faster beat rates.  The TM-4801 received the 628 grade with a 19,800 BPH rate, or 5.5 ticks per second.

A fellow collector recently sent me one of his TM-4801 watches.  As received is was in decent shape and appeared to run.  Although the second hand moved I don't think the minute and hour hands were moving.  So this watch has something going on inside.

This is the first time I've seen one of these models with an integral bracelet so I wasn't sure if the bracelet was a part of the case or if they some how attached.  You can't tell from the catalogs how the bracelet functions but this one operates much like a strap and has a clasp to join the two sides.

Looking at the back of the watch, you can see the bracelet hides traditional lugs and wraps over them to give the appearance the bracelet and watch are integrated.  You could put this watch on a strap but it would have to be very narrow to fit between the lugs.

The TM-4801 opens through the crystal and the movement and dial pivot out until the two-piece stem releases.  The 628 is a 17 jewel grade and is similar to other micro-rotors but also different in several ways.  Notice there is no "center wheel" visible.

With the dial and hands removed, you can see the dial side of the main plate.  It looks typical of most watches but something is going on under the set bridge.  I'll have to take the two screws out to see how this watch works - but first I'll make sure the mainspring is relieved.

I removed the cannon pinion and hour wheel so now you can see the larger minute wheel next to two setting wheels and the smallest silver wheel is actually part of what would typically be called the center wheel - although it's not in the center in this case.  How does this watch work?

Here's another shot of the front without the extra wheels.  In a typical watch the center wheel is driven by the movement and the cannon pinion is mounted to the center wheel post.  The cannon pinion has to be able to slip on the center wheel post so that you can set the time without jamming the movement to a stop.  The cannon pinion also has to be tight enough that the center wheel can turn it - as the minute hand is attached to the cannon pinion and it also turns the minute wheel and then the hour wheel with the hour hand.  It has to be "just right", not too tight and not too loose.

I've never seen this sort of setup before but I suspect the silver portion of the wheel shown below is actually meant to slide on the center wheel - and allow you to set the time as well as drive the hour and minute hands.  This part comes out the back of the movement and it's a good thing I let down the mainspring or all of the power would have been released when I removed the set bridge.

The center wheel is not supported by jewels, just bushings on the set bridge and the train bridge (below).

The first things I'll take off from the back are the rotor and the balance.  They free up about half of the real estate on the back of the movement.

I pull the pallet fork and the ratchet wheel next, to make sure there's no power inside the watch.

Now I can remove the barrel bridge.  The barrel itself is stuck inside the movement until I remove the wheels that are covering it.  One is the center wheel and the other is the winding wheel for the automatic gear train.

Two screws hold the automatic gear train bridge in place so once that's out of the way I can pull out the five wheels used to transmit power from the rotor to the barrel.  One of the wheels is under the  large pink jewel.  That wheel floats inside the watch and allows the watch to wind regardless of the direction the rotor spins.

Now I can remove the two screws that hold the train wheels in place.

It's good to take photos like this so that I know how these wheels are supposed to nest together.  There's a tiny seconds pinion in the center of the movement with it's own bridge supporting it.

Everything is now off the main plate and it can all go into the ultrasonic cleaner.

While everything was drying I spend about 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the seconds pinion.  It flipped up into the ether when I grabbed it with my tweezers.  I felt it hit my elbow - good thing I was wearing a short sleeve shirt.  Look how tiny this part is... but it's important if you want to have an operable second hand.

Phew!  All parts present and accounted for.  Time to put it back together.

Alright... almost there.  I can now wind the watch and put the balance back on.

The watch is now running.  That's a bit of a relief - these micro-rotors are very complicated.

Hmmm.... this beat rate is too fast so it doesn't really matter what the two lines look like.  I'll re-clean the hairspring, perhaps a couple of the coils are sticking.

Alright, getting warmer.  The beat error is a bit too high but the rest is looking better.

Adjusting the beat error is proving harder than I expected but I'm getting there slowly but surely.

A man's got to know his limitations... this will have to do.

Now I can put the rotor back on and then flip the watch over and install the dial and hands.

Ta da!  This watch was a real pain in the arse and I think I may have to get some therapy before I tackle another micro-rotor.  It looks pretty good though.  I ended up having to change the center wheel with another from a spare - as the original wheel was slipping and that's why the hands wouldn't move with the watch.  The watch looks and runs just as it should now.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

1958 Clearview

Some people think round watches are "boring".  Maybe they think there is only so much you can do to make a round watch unique.  Although I would tend to agree that a lot of round watches look similar, there are quite a few models that are unlike any other.

For example, check out the 1958 Clearview.  It was made for three years but you will be hard pressed to find one in the wild.  It is not a common model.

The Clearview came in a solid 14K yellow gold case.  It has long lugs that remind me a little of bunny ears.  What makes the model really pop is the sterling silver dial with embossed golden colored markers and solid 14K gold markers at 3 and 9 and numerals at 12 and 6.

The diamond shaped marker below the Hamilton name indicates the Clearview is part of the Masterpiece line.  Not all Masterpiece models had the diamond shaped marker, depending on the year, but this marker is a definite indicator of a Masterpiece watch.

Tucked inside the case is an 8/0 sized 735 movement that was made in Lancaster PA.

I recently received a Clearview project watch.  Although this model is very uncommon, it looks familiar because there is an Electric model called the Converta III with a similar, but different dial.  The Converta III came out after the Clearview though - so it's more likely the Clearview inspired the Converta III.

Looking at the narrowness of the bezel (the crystal goes all the way to the edge) and then at the case back, it appears like this watch may open through the crystal.

However, when you look closely at the edge you can see a seam, so this is a two-piece case and the bezel pops off the back of the case.

The dial goes almost to the edge of the case too - so this bezel is very thin.  Now the dial and movement can be lifted out the back.

The 735 movement is not running for some reason.  It's a little dirty and nothing looks unusual so it could just be gummed up with old oil.

It's easy to spot a solid gold case because there is never any green verdigris like you'll find on a gold filled case.

I pulled the hour wheel and cannon pinion and the watch didn't start running, so whatever the issue is with the movement, it's on the back side of the main plate.  You can tell in this shot that the crown is worn and is actually coming apart, so I'll replace that after the movement is back in good shape.

Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.

The white alloy mainspring that was in the watch can be reused.  I just cleaned it and rewound it with my mainspring winder so I can reinstall it in the barrel.

The 8/0 sized 748 movement and the 735 that replaced it are tricky to put back together because you have to get four wheels to come together perfectly before the train bridge will fall back in place.  It's very easy to break a pivot off the escape wheel if any force is applied.

I got this movement back together and then realized I forgot to put the winding wheel back on.  Normally that part goes on later but it has to go on now because the third wheel blocks access to it.

In the shot you can see the winding wheel (on the left) is in place .  Notice that one of the two screws that hold it down is visible.  The other screw is blocked by the third wheel.  Now the reassembly can proceed.

Putting the pallet fork on last makes lining up the four wheels easier and it also ensures the escape wheel doesn't accidentally damage the pallet jewels.

The next step is to install the balance.  In order to do that I need to put the balance jewels back under their shock springs.  These incabloc springs are like tiny tuning forks and you squeeze the open end to allow the spring to open and swing out.

The balance jewel and cap jewel are inserted and then the incabloc spring goes back in place to hold it all in place.

With a little tension added to the mainspring, once the balance goes back into place the watch should start running.  The balance is swinging away nicely and the next step is to add the other balance jewel assembly in the balance cock.

Although the watch is ticking, the performance looks like crap on the timer.  So I'll run it through the demagnetizer and reclean the hairspring.

It took a little tweaking but the watch is now running nicely, just a little slow but that's easily adjusted.

There... nothing wrong with this movement's performance now.  The beat error of 1.4ms is well within my usual specs of acceptable.  Adjusting it is a pain and the benefit doesn't out weigh the potential risk of screwing up the hairspring.

The finished watch looks as good as it did when I started - but now it's running as nice as it looks.  Actually it looks even better because the new crown is much better than before.  This is a really cool looking watch and I bet even people who think round watches are boring wouldn't mind giving this watch a little wrist time.