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, March 26, 2017

1959 Thin-o-matic T-200

Watches often have engravings or personalizations on the back.  Most collectors I know don't mind a personalized watch, as long as it's done well.  In fact, I personally prefer Christmas watches, even over non-personalized examples, as I think they are extra special.  But that's just me.

There is one type of watch that I also think is special - and that are watches that Hamilton gave to their own employees.  This was a practice they started in the 1940's and you will occasionally see them come up for sale.

Hamilton awards are often engraved with, "To a Craftsman a product of his craft..." which I'm sure was very fitting.  I do find it a bit ironic sometimes though, as often the watch contains a Swiss-made movement.  I suspect the recipient got to choose the model though, so I doubt anyone ever felt slighted by their award.

In fact, if you wanted an automatic model, the only movements available were Swiss made and that was the case with my project watch.  It's a 1959 Thin-o-matic T-200.  This award watch was received the very first year that Thin-o-matics were introduced, so I'm sure it was very special.  The T-200 continued to be produced through 1963.

Being a 200-series watch, the case is solid 14K gold.  It features a butler-finished dial with solid 14K gold numerals and markers too.

My project watch came courtesy of another collector who needed help with it.  Upon arrival I didn't realize it was an awards watch so I was puzzled by the distinctive H logo on the dial.  This stylized H came about when the company acquired the A. Huguenin Fils watch company of Bienne, Switzerland in the late 1950s.  You'll see that logo on Hamilton as well as Huguenin watches.

The back of the watch has the classic Hamilton presentation to employees.  When I clean the case I'll take extra care to not damage the engraving.

A fellow collector helped to do some research on the watch and found out who Harvey Law was.  Turns out, he worked in the cafeteria.  How's that for a company that valued it's employees?

Looking at the movement, it looks like it's due for a cleaning.  The only issues I noticed is if I try to set the time the crown with rotate off - so it needs to be tightened onto the stem.  Also, the rotor doesn't want to swing.  Maybe it's gummed up.  I'll have to investigate further.

I don't see any watchmaker's marks inside.  I wonder if this watch has even been overhauled before?

Well, the reason the rotor won't spin is the arbor framework is bent.  Notice there's a slight gap at the base, on the right.

From a different angle, you might be able to see the slight bend that causes the weight to rub when it swings towards the center of the movement.

The framework is held in place with three screws with a series of wheels underneath.

The the framework removed, you can surely see the bend now.  It should be perpendicular.

I'll try to press the part back to flush but since I don't know why it failed, I'm not convinced that this is a good repair.  Plus there's a good chance I'll crack the jewel inside the post.

Yup, the jewel cracked.  Oh well, I have a donor part that I intended to use anyway.  The staking process was really plan B, I'd rather use a part I know is right than one that I "hope" is right.

Everything gets thoroughly cleaned and dried.  The hands still had radium paint on them so I removed that in the ultrasonic too.  It was starting to take it's toll on the finish of the dial and removing it stops that process.  It didn't glow anymore so new paint will be a nice addition.

The hard part of reassembly is complete.  Now I just need to reinstall the balance and it's jewels.

Success.  The watch is ticking away with good motion.  It's off to the timer to listen to how well it's ticking.

Not too shabby.  The beat error of 1.6ms is acceptable to me.  It's hard to adjust on this movement and I'd rather not goof up an otherwise good balance and hairspring.  I'll slow it down a smidgen and then let it settle in.

The oscillating weight / rotor goes back onto the post and it's now swinging nicely, just as it should.

Fresh lume on the hands and the pointed markers freshens up the watch nicely and will keep the center of the dial from toning further.  I polished the crystal so it looks factory-fresh too.  The dial has some minor age spots but it looks a lot better than my merciless camera makes it out to be.  This fine Hamilton awards watch is ready for another 50 years of service.  Hopefully it won't wait another 50 years before it sees another watchmaker for a cleaning.  That should be done every 4-5 years.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

1973 Mystery Thinline 912373

The early 1970's were chaotic years for Hamilton.  Designs changed dramatically and control of the company shifted frequently as production was moved to Hamilton's former Buren facility in Switzerland.

I guess it's understandable that there are lots of models that were uncatalogued from this period.  They may have been used for export markets other than the US.

One such model is a Thinline example that is known only by the number on the back... 912373.  Generally speaking, the serial number of cases is irrelevant.  It mattered only to the maker of the case.  However, in the 1960's two sets of numbers started to get added to cases.  One was the unique serial number of the watch case, and the other is a number that indicates the model that the case was used for.  Most of the time the watch had a model name but sometimes all you have to go with is the model number.  Typically the last two digits of the number represents the year the watch was introduced.  When there's a dash at the end, the number after the dash represents the case material.

Anyway, I recently landed a Thinline project watch and at first blush I thought for sure I'd be able to identify it.

The 12, 3, 6 and 9 hour markers have a black stripe, which I thought would be a good clue.  However, the best I could come up with was a 1968 Thinline 6505.  There are some key differences though.  For example, the hands are luminous and the other hour markers are about as long as the 12, 3, 6 and 9.  Close but no cigar.

When I looked at the back I saw several interesting tidbits.  First, there are a few scratches from someone trying to open the case.  Stainless steel backs on yellow cases always tempts the uninitiated to try to remove the stainless back.  Also, the model number is stamped there, making it clear this is a 1973 model.  Lastly, the case material has a "base metal bezel".  That's very unusual in pre-1969 models... pretty much unheard of for vintage Hamiltons, in fact.

Removing the crystal gives access to the dial.  Positioning the two piece stem allows the movement to fall out the front of the case.  The radial-finished dial looks great.  No moisture appears to have gotten into this watch.

Inside is a Hamilton 639 movement based on a Buren grade.  This is a classic Thinline movement and appears to be untouched since it was first installed.

The inside of the case back is properly stamped, so it's a legitimate Hamilton model.  The serial number inside is unique to this watch.

It's nice to work on a manual-winding watch for a change.  I feel like most of the watches I've done as of late have been very challenging micro-rotors.  This is a nice break.  Everything is cleaned and dried.

The reassembled movement is ticking away nicely.  Now it's off to the timer to see how well it's performing.

Not too bad.  On most watches all I would do is slow it down a smidgen but this caliber is easy to adjust so I will try to dial it in more precisely.

A tweak here, a tweak there, another tweak to correct the other tweak... eventually I get everything to line up where I want it.  It doesn't get any better than this.

Thinline models with sub second hands have very low profiles.  In fact, from the side you can just barely see the hands.  So I will use a PK-style low profile crystal to celebrate this watch's thin-ness.

It's actually a pretty large crystal.  This watch is a little bigger than your typical pre-1969 model.  30.8mm will do the trick.

With a new crystal and a fresh lizard strap, this Thinline 912373 looks and runs like a brand new watch.  It's a sharp looking watch, especially for something from the 1970s.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

1960 Thin-o-Matic T-502

Some of Hamilton's models have what appear to be parchment dials.  They have a texture that you would think would be very hard to replicate at a dial refinisher.  A good example is the 1960 Thin-o-matic T-502.

The T-502 has a silver-colored dial with a  textured finish.  The model was produced through 1965 but the last two years the model was referred to as the T-502B.  It looks the same but it's not clear what changed to make it a B model.  It could have a one-piece case or it might have a significantly different movement.

The movement inside the T-502 is a 17 jewel 663 micro rotor movement.

I've had a T-502 project watch on the bench for a while and I've finally gotten around to doing it.  As received, it appears to be in decent shape.  The crystal is a little yellowed and scratched up but otherwise it looks fine.

This stainless steel case has a snap on case back.  There's a slight lip in between the lugs that you can slip a case knife into and pry the back off.

The movement is quite dirty but looks to be in decent shape.  It's definitely overdue for a cleaning.

The case back has a rub mark from the rotor spinning.  I'll have to make sure it's more deeply seated when I reinstall it.

I didn't initially realize that the hands on my watch have been painted black.  They should be silver and have luminous paint on them.  So I'll have to strip the paint off these to restore them.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly.

I noticed one of the wheels for the automatic gear train is missing a pivot.  I'll replace it with a part from a donor movement.

The movement is back to looking and running well.

Looks like everything is operating just as it should.  I'll leave it running a little fast for now.

A new crystal, fresh luminous paint and a nice black lizard strap complete the restoration.  I have to say the watch looks a lot better without the black paint on the hands.  This is now a sharp-looking watch.  I wouldn't want to have to get this dial refinished though - as it would probably lose dome details in the process.  Fortunately this dial is in excellent condition.  I'm sure the watch would look very interesting with it's original bracelet.  It had a textured finish to match the dial.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

1968 Dateline TM-2901

Did I mention I'm not a big fan of micro-rotor calendar movements?

I recently did a Dateline TM-5901 with a 629 movement and it was very challenging and established a new threshold for least favorite movement.  As fate would have it, I received another Thin-o-matic calendar watch and I was really, really, hoping it would have 624 movement but alas, it was another 629.  So it was another opportunity to validate if it's really my least favorite movement.

The watch in question is a Dateline TM-2901.  It was produced in 1968 and 1969.

The TM-2901 has some interesting styling.  The lugs look a lot like a Secometer C from 1948.  Like the Secometer C, the TM-2901 has a solid 14K gold case.  The hands and dial have very 1960's styling for sure.

Tucked inside the model is the 17 jewel 629 movement based on a Buren 1281 platform.

As received the watch was in above average shape for an almost 50 year old watch.  The crystal is a little scratched up but a polishing should clear that up nicely.

The back is engraved with a presentation from 1968.

The 629 has a slight haze so it's probably due for a cleaning and oiling.

The only issue I found while taking the movement apart is the reversing wheel that's under the large pink jewel is missing a few teeth.  Missing one tooth usually isn't a big deal but missing three teeth is a lot.  I recalled that I had a donor movement so I can replace this part.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly.

Oops.  You might be able to tell that the Incabloc shock spring for the balance cock jewels broke an arm off.  That means the upper jewel setting and cap jewel are not properly supported, especially in the dial up position.  I tried my donor movement but it's shock spring arm broke off too!  Grrr!!

Why do I enjoy this hobby, again?

The watch is running dial down so I'll put it on the timer to see what it looks like.

Looks pretty much spot on so that's a good sign for when I get a replacement Incabloc spring for the upper jewels.

The watch runs about 4 minutes slow dial up but I reassembled it while I wait for the replacement parts needed to complete the balance.  It's a fine looking watch and, with the crystal nicely polished, this watch looks "factory fresh".


A friend of mine supplied me with a new Incabloc shock spring of the correct size for a Buren 1281.  The next challenge was to figure out how to install it.  In order to do so, I had to take the balance assembly fully apart and use my staking set to punch the shock setting out of the balance cock.

Just to give you and idea of how small these parts are, check out the shock jewel (my tweezer tips are pointing to it) compared to a dime.

It took a while, and just about all of the language I learned in the Navy, to get it back together and running nicely.  In the shot below everything is just as it should be.

After the watch ran for a while, I realized the minute and hour hands were not moving.  Will this blasted movement ever release me from it's evil clutches!

To fix that I needed to remove the train wheels again and tighten the hub on the center wheel.  This is a "goldilocks" setting and it needs to be just right... not too tight, and not too loose.  Too loose and the hands don't move.  Too tight and it's hard to set the time.  

It took me three tries to get the friction just right.  Unfortunately, while reassembling the final screw for the crown wheel, it flipped from my screwdriver and disappeared into the ether.  After about two hours of cleaning my workshop, it was not recovered.  It's a left handed thread and, like all the other parts of this watch, not something that I can scavenge from another Buren grade.

So, now I need to order a replacement but at least the really hard part of this overhaul is complete.