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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

1966 Mystery Watch

It's not usual to find uncased movements for sale.  In fact, if you're really bored it's sometimes interesting to try to identify what model a loose movement came from.  Typically they come from solid gold cases that have been scrapped.  Sometimes you will find a movement and dial from a $2000 watch that someone scrapped for $250 in gold.  Seeing that is sad, so I'm rarely bored enough to go looking for uncased movements for sale.

One thing you don't often see is an empty solid gold watch case with a missing dial and movement.  Now that really makes me curious.

I recently had someone contact me about a family watch and all that he had was a solid 14K gold case, with crown and stem, and a very dirty Spiedel bracelet.  Initially I thought it would be easy to identify what the model the watch was, but it turns out that wasn't going to be the case (pun intended).

Looking at the empty one-piece case I can see several important details.  First, it's reeded around the perimeter.  That's definitely distinctive.

Looking at the stamped numbers, one of them ends with 66 so that's a good clue that this model is from 1966, even though it has a presentation on the back from 1969.

The case back is pie panned shaped - so it was originally designed for an ETA movement like a 689, 694, etc.

Armed with that info, the next thing to do is to look for models with those details.  The best I could do was to find catalog images of things that are close.   One is the 1966 Dateline A-279.  It would have likely had a 694 movement.  It appears to have some sort of engraving around the perimeter and the same straight lugs.

Another option was the Thin-o-matic T-210.  It's case looks like a nice match too.  Unfortunately, Hamilton didn't indicate what grades were in which models.  A Thin-o-matic could have a micro-rotor or a ETA movement like the 623 or 624.  You really can't tell from the catalog what the back would have looked like and without a dial you're missing a lot of information.

One thing is for sure, I'll need an ETA movement to go inside and a replacement dial.   Getting a replacement dial isn't as easy as it sounds.  It needs to be the right size (diameter) so even if I got a spare movement that came with a dial, it doesn't mean that I can use the dial.

Typically the dial is the same size as the movement ring, or even a little larger.  So I can use the movement ring that came in the case as a guide and not get anything too much smaller than the ring.

Measuring the ring, I get about 29.8mm.  That's pretty big, believe it or not.

It took a while but one of my Hamilton friends had a spare movement and a dial that was almost the right size, 29.5mm.  That would have to do.

It's hard to tell from the blur in my photo but behind the dial is a 694A movement.  It's not running but the balance looks good so I should be able to get it going after a good cleaning.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  I haven't lost any parts yet either.  So far, so good.

The 694 is pretty much like every other ETA automatic and goes together fairly smoothly.  Now the watch is running with good motion so it's off to the timer.

It's a little noisy so I'll reclean the hairspring and make sure any rogue pieces of dust, etc. are removed.

That's much better.  I will fine tune the beat error and the beat rate to get it even better.

There... not too shabby and pretty much right on the money.

A new crystal and alligator strap complete the restoration.  The dial that I got was a little worn but it's not as bad as my camera makes it out to be.  This isn't the correct dial for an A-279 or a T-210.  I think it's actually from a 1964 A-675, but that's just a guess.  In the end, it doesn't really matter.  Another family watch has been saved and the owner can enjoy wearing his dad's watch again, even if it is just the original case.


  1. Watch looks fantastic! It's an art form. Great Job.

  2. Really enjoying all of the restorations you've posted - this one is another work of art as stated above and a fascinating read!

  3. I do not think the case belonged to an A-279. I am no expert but I just picked up a Hamilton that I believe in an A-279 and the etching on the bezel is different. Here is a photo. Your end result looks great.


    1. I agree, the engraving on the bezel is definitely different on the A-279. It’s a mystery for sure.