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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, July 16, 2017

1968 Seaward II

If you ever come across a round Hamilton watch with a sweep second hand and manual winding Swiss-made movement you stand a pretty good chance being right if you guess it's a "sea something".  There are 43 models in the Hamilton line up with a name that starts with "sea".  The first Sea-model was the Seabrook from 1957.  The number of Sea-related models increased quickly through the 1960s and continued well into the 1970s.

One of the late 1960 "sea something" models is the Seaward II from 1968.  It was only available for two years.


The Seaward II came in a stainless steel case with what appears to be a brushed finish on the bezel, at least according to the catalog depiction.  It was available on a strap or on a bracelet.  The model was an entry level Hamilton and priced around $50.  That may seem cheap by today's standards but that was the equivalent of about $375 in 2017 dollars.  That would still make it an inexpensive models by Hamilton's current standards.

Tucked inside the one-piece case is a Hamilton 688 manual winding movement based on an ETA grade.

You don't tend to see Seaward II's very often.  That might be because they are fairly common-looking and may just blend in with all the other round stainless steel watches out there.  What is a little unique about the Seaward II's dial is there are no numerals, not even at 12.  All the dial features are 12 identical faceted markers at each hour position.

I recently picked up a Seaward II and it arrived in very nice condition.  All it really appears to need is a little sprucing up.  It's always a good idea to treat a newly acquired used watch to a trip to the spa, regardless of how nice it looks on the outside.  Unless you know the watch was overhauled in the last couple of years, then there's a good chance that the oil inside has evaporated.  Even though a watch may look "new", if there's no oil inside then it will damage itself if you run it too long.


The back of my project watch is as unremarkable as the front.


The watch opens through the crystal and you have to separate the two-piece stem in order to remove the dial and movement.  This 688 looks great, like it just left the showroom floor.


The inside of the case back has no marks at all, other than a single finger print that someone possibly left 50 years ago.  There are no watchmaker's marks inside.  It's interesting to see the model number ends with 67.  That would indicate that this is a 1967 model but there is no 1967 catalog to confirm the existence.  There's only a 1966/67 catalog and the Seaward II isn't in it.


I think a 29.6mm crystal would be a perfect fit for this watch but I don't have one.  The best I can do is a 29.8, which might be a smidgen tight but should work nonetheless.


Everything is cleaned and laid out to dry before being reassembled.


My reassembled movement looks as clean and sparkly as when I started but now I know there's oil inside to keep the parts lubricated.  The balance is ticking away with good motion so it's off to the timer.


It's running a little fast and the amplitude is a bit low but I haven't wound it all the way since there's no crown installed.


After a little tweaking I've slowed the watch down and gave it a couple more winds.  Things are looking good now.


The fresh crystal and a new lizard strap give this Seaward II a new lease on life.  The faceted hour markers really shine in my light tent and reflect all of the light outward.  The only minor distraction that I can see is there's a tiny amount of corrosion on the second hand, but you'd have to look very closely to see it.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

1956 Casino

In my last post I presented a fantastic Lord Lancaster M with a diamond-studded bezel with 1 carat's weight of diamonds.  In June I also showcased another watch with diamonds, the Lord Lancaster D.   Diamonds were always a feature of the Lord Lancaster line but diamonds were included on lots of earlier models.  Take for example the 1956 Casino.


The Casino was part of the Medalist line and featured a solid 14K gold case in either yellow or white.  In the first year you could also get a solid gold bracelet but that was dropped in 1957.  The model features five diamonds at the even hour markers (except the 6).

The Medalist line featured a mix of solid gold and gold filled models but common denominator was they had Hamilton's 8/0 sized 730 or 735 movement inside.

I don't think the Casino is a particularly rare watch but you don't see them all that often either.  You can find them in yellow or white.

I recently landed a Casino project watch and it was pretty hard to tell what color gold it was.  I have found that although pure gold doesn't oxidize, when it is alloyed into something like 14K the other materials in the mixture can tarnish a bit.  Often white gold cases can take on a yellowish hue and my project watch is a firsthand example.


The back of the watch has a very slight dent near the center and a flea bite on the edge.


Looking really closely at the dent, I think there's just some crud inside and it's not a hole.  I could take it to a jeweler to be filled but if it's not a hole I doubt I'd bother.


The 730 movement appears to be in good shape but the watch is wound tight and is not running.  Nothing looks broken and the 730 is shock jeweled so it probably just needs a good cleaning.


The dial is interesting.  It's in very good shape and there are no signs that it's been refinished but the Hamilton font isn't with I'd expect.  The concentric circles in the seconds register are often lost in a refinished and they look crisp - so I'm not sure if this is an old refinish or an original dial.  There's nothing on the back to indicate it's been refinished either.  If these markers look familiar, they are the same as what was used on the Lord Lancaster D.


There are about 8 watchmaker's marks inside the case back so this watch has been serviced many times in it's 60 year existence.  That's pretty good, although it also indicates this watch has had a lot of use too,  I bet.


When I checked the mainspring I was surprised to see it had a blue alloy spring inside.  It has set and will need to be replaced.  This watch would have had a white alloy Dynavar spring originally.


There are several different mainspring options for the 8/0 models in varying strengths but I only have the standard strength on hand.


Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.


The reassembled watch is noticeably brighter now that it's clean and the watch is back in running order.


The amplitude of 233 degrees is a little lower than I like to see.  250 or better is my typical goal.  233 isn't terrible and my only option is to find a stronger mainspring.  I'll see how this watch runs over time.  The beat error of 2.3ms is within my specs for a movement like this.  I could try to reduce it but that risks goofing up the hairspring.  In this situation I don't think the extra juice is worth the squeeze.


The watch came with a glass crystal that was still in great shape so all I needed to do with the reassembled watch is put a strap on it.  This model takes a 16mm strap, a but narrow for a 1950's watch.  My finished watch is much whiter than what I started with and if you didn't know better you might think this was part of the Lord Lancaster line.  Perhaps it was part of the inspiration for it... could be.



Sunday, July 9, 2017

1966 Lord Lancaster M

 - 600 - 

This is my 600th post to the blog.  Now that's a milestone worth celebrating and what better way to celebrate it than to feature an almost unheard of model?

There are 21 various Lord Lancaster models in the men's lineup.  There are even more if you throw in the ladies Lord Lancaster models.  I've only gotten to eight of them after close to 10 years of collecting.  So it's probably safe to say that many of the Lord Lancaster models are on the uncommon side.  But what makes them so rare?

One reason is they all feature diamonds in one way or another.  They say diamonds are a girl's best friend so it's possible diamonds featured on watches just didn't resonate with men.  After all, Hamiltons were expensive and would you rather have a manly dive watch like the 1966 Aqua Date Skindiver or a fancy pants diamond-laden timepiece with a two-tone suede strap?

Of course I'm being a bit facetious, as diamonds were included on lots of Hamilton models going back to the 1940's.  Diamonds make a special watch even more special.  But there were lots of other great models to choose from in the 1960s so that was probably a factor.

Another reason for rarity is total cost.  The finest watches were especially expensive.  In fact, several of the Lord Lancaster models didn't even list a price in the Hamilton catalog at all!  I suppose if you had to ask how much the watch was, you couldn't afford it.

One of the non-priced models is the 1966 Lord Lancaster M.  It was produced through 1969.


The Lord Lancaster M featured a 17 jewel movement but you might say it was a 57 jewel watch, as it had 40 diamonds surrounding the bezel.  The diamonds combine to a total of 1 carat weight!

The two-piece case is solid 14K white gold.

You might wonder what the Lord Lancaster M sold for.  I will tell you... I don't know.  The most expensive Lord Lancaster with a stated price was $400.  So if you assume it was more expensive than that, then you can at least make an educated guess.  $400 in 1966 is well north of $3,000 in today's dollars.

Now you have to be careful with a watch like the Lord Lancaster M.  It looks a lot like a "jeweler special" where a jeweler recased a Hamilton movement in an aftermarket case.  Often the cases are solid white gold or even platinum on occasion.  They are not authentic models and as such they are not desirable by knowledgeable collectors.  These franken-watches are mainly worth the scrap value of the materials they contain - which can still be significant.  However, on any given day you can find aftermarket jeweler-cased watches on eBay listed for ridiculously high buy it now prices.  Buyer beware, they are arguably worth $350-$400, tops.

With that in mind I was a bit incredulous when I saw a Lord Lancaster M listed for sale.  It wasn't in very good condition and I had my doubts about it's authenticity until I saw the inside of the properly-marked case back.  I put in a ridiculously high bid to make sure I wouldn't lose out to a last-second sniper.  Fortunately I wasn't competing with anyone with deeper pockets.

As received you can see that it was very dirty and the dial had a bit of a green funk growing around the perimeter.


The diamonds don't really sparkle thanks to all the grime but none of them are missing - so that's a good thing.


The back of the case is scratched up - not too deep but enough that the light reflects off it.  Perhaps this watch was engraved at some point?  The case back says Hamilton - that's something a jeweler cased model would not say.  All 40 of the holes for the diamond settings are filled with what I assume is the DNA of the previous owner.  Yuck.


The movement comes out once the snap-on back is removed.


This relatively large watch has a very small movement inside.  My photo is a bit blurry but you can see the outline of the movement recess.


This model uses a Hamilton 680, based on an ETA 2512.


Working on tiny movements like this presents a challenge that larger movements don't involve.  Although many of the parts are basically the same size, holding the movement steady is difficult.  You don't want to accidentally flip the movement and break the balance staff.  I have to use my smallest movement holder.


Just to give you a perspective of size, here's the 680 movement in it's holder relative to my larger Bergeon holder that I typically use.  The other holder looks huge by comparison.


The dial-side of the main plate is a classic ETA design.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  This looks like a straightforward movement when it's all laid out like this... way less complicated than a micro-rotor automatic, that's for sure.


Putting the four wheels of the train back in place is the first step for any ETA movement.  They should spin easily if everything is properly lined up.


Then the pallet fork and the mainspring barrel go on so I can wind the watch and re-energize it.


Once the balance is dropped into place the watch movement comes back to life.


Based on what I see from the timer, this movement is ready to roll.


It would be great to find a vintage two-tone suede strap like what would have originally come on the Lord Lancaster M but in the meantime a nice black genuine lizard strap will have to do.  Unfortunately I lost a little of the printing when I tried to remove the green funk on the dial.


But thanks to my friends Rob and Elizabeth Miller at International Dial Co, I've got a brand-spanking newly refinished dial to show off to you.  I've actually had this project waiting in the wings for a couple of months while I got the dial refinished.  The results were worth the wait, they nailed it.


Boy do those diamonds sparkle now.  I think this watch looks fantastic but don't expect to see it for sale.  I showed it to my bride and she said, "Is that for me?"... and you know how that story ends.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

1959 Thin-o-matic T-201

I recently came across an interesting bit of trivia.  There are only 13 known models in 18K gold, most of which were shown in catalogs but not all.  One of them is identical to another model that was available also in14K gold.  The only difference between them is the case material.  The 14K model is fairly rare too.  It's the 1959 Thin-o-matic T-201.

If you look closely at the catalog depiction, you'll see that the T-201 came in a solid 14K gold case and you could get it on a strap or a matching 14K bracelet.  You'll also see that it was available in an 18K gold case as the T-101 for an add it also $25..  The T-201 was made for four years.


In 1960 the T-201 offered a second dial option, this time in gold and the T-101 was still available.


However, you'd have to wait until the 1962 catalog to see the T-101 depicted.  A lot of people consider it to be a one-year wonder as a result.  It featured the original dial from 1959.


So if you happen to see a T-201 for sale you may want to look closely to see if it's actually a T-101.  Interesting, huh?

Inside a T-201 you will likely find a Hamilton 666 or 663 micro rotor movement.  It may depend on the year, although I don't know which one came first or what really makes them different.  In the T-101 you might find the Hamilton 691.  It's the same movement but with 25 jewels instead of 17.  The catalog doesn't make mention of what movements are inside.

You don't tend to see the T-201 very frequently and the T-101 is arguably even more rare.  You will find "masterpiece" models that are close in design though with a slightly different dial.

I recently scored a T-201 and it was in rough shape.  The seller had a very generic listing so all I could really go on was the photos and there was no movement shot.  I could tell that the dial probably had issues but you never know what you'll until you see it in your hands.  I thought the Speidel expansion bracelet was a decent attempt to match the original bracelet shown in the catalog - although I bet it wouldn't come close to a real life example.


The case back is a bit worn and although you can't really see it in my photo, the watch has a presentation to someone with almost the same last name as my own.


The movement is a little rattly in the case and once I opened it up I could see why.  One of the movement case screws is broken off and it's not held inside the case.  The movement is very dirty but it does run, which is always a good sign.


The inside of the case back has clean signs that the rotor has been rubbing.  I suspect that is a result of the missing movement case screw but the rotor was a little loose too.


The finish on the dial appears to be compromised.  I could try cleaning it but I might lose the printing.


What's this?  Did the dial magically clean itself?  Nope - by coincidence, after I bought the watch I saw a loose movement for sale and it had the exact same dial but in much better shape.  The real question is did the seller scrap a $1000 18K T-101 case for $300 in gold or did this movement come from a T-201?  Well, regardless at least one Hamilton watch will be restored as a result.


My donor has a 663 movement and since it is in slightly better shape I will use it for my project.


Everything is cleaned and readied for reassembly.


The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter now and is ticking away with good motion.


According to the timer I need to make a slight adjustment to the regulator to speed the watch up a few seconds per day.


A new crystal will go a long way toward improving the looks of the finished watch.


How's this for a remarkable improvement?  This T-201 looks like a brand new watch.  I relumed the hands dial so they will glow in the dark again.  A fresh lizard strap completes the effect.


If the T-201 looks familiar, its probably due to it's timeless styling.  In fact, a few years ago Hamilton introduced a throw-back model to the Jazzmaster line called the Jazzmaster Thin-o-matic.  At 38mm it's a bit bigger than the T-201 and it also has a date complication.  However there's no debate that the similarities are striking.


The back of the Jazzmaster is a similar too - but it's not solid gold.