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, June 25, 2017

1954 Wilson

I'm rapidly approaching my 600th restoration on the blog.  I have just a handful more to go, in fact.  You would think I would have surely covered all of the more common watches by now, which I probably have.  However, it's interesting that I'm just getting to my next project - because it's a fairly ubiquitous model.

The 1954 Wilson was produced through 1960 and even longer when you consider it was also used by the Awards Division.

Originally the Wilson was outfitted with a 12/0 sized 753 movement, as indicated by the 19 jewel remark in the catalog depiction.  There were only two 19 jewel movements in Hamilton's lineup at that time and the 754 was used in solid gold models.

In mid-1955 the Wilson received the newly introduced 22 jewel 770 movement and it stayed that way for the duration.  By 1960 the only thing that changed on the Wilson was the price tag... it went up a few bucks. 

I have tried many times in the past to land a Wilson but it seemed someone has always out bid me at the end.  However, I finally got one recently and it could be because it was a bit beat up looking.  Although the crystal is scratched up considerably, the case looks to be in better shape.  The dial looks good too, although it's hard to tell sometimes when the crystal is a wreck.

The back of the 10K gold filled case is in nice shape too.  There's a hint of wear to the corners of the case back but nothing too distracting.

The dial has a dull haze to it that indicates to me it's likely never been refinished.  It doesn't really need to be cleaned either, maybe just a little to get the 14K numerals to shine better.

The 770 movement looks very good - that's a bit of a surprise because I didn't see any watchmaker marks inside the case back.  This watch has obviously been used a lot, based on the outside condition but the inside looks great.

While everything is being cleaned I will prep a new glass crystal for installation.

Everything is completely disassembled in order to be cleaned and once it's all dry I can put it back together with fresh lubricants.

Before I can put the balance back on I need to installed the balance jewels in the main plate.  There are two of them for each end of the balance staff. One supports the sides of the staff then there's a cap jewel to cover the end.  The cap jewels are like tiny plates and there is a rim on one side.  You can see both of these cap jewels have the rims facing up... that side goes against the other jewel when they are installed.

The newly reassembled movement is now ticking away with good motion.  It's off to the timer to see how well it's running.

Good news and bad news, I guess.  Good news is it's running cleanly with good amplitude.  The bad news is the beat error is a bit high.  3.0ms is my usual upper spec limit and the closer to zero the better.  4.9ms is too high to let slide.

Adjusting the beat error on this style of balance is a delicate operation.  You need to rotate the brass collet that holds the hairspring to the balance staff so that you can effectively reposition the hairspring stud relative to the balance wheel.  You have to do this without the balance installed in the watch so there's a bit of trial and error involved.  Based on the position of the roller jewel on the other side of the balance, my guess is I need to move the hairspring stud a little counter clockwise so the silver-colored stud is closer to the balance wheel arm.

Nailed it on the first try.   I'll let it run for a little while before I try to slow it down.

My merciless light tent reveals every flaw on a watch and this Wilson doesn't have too many.  The dial appears more splotchy in my photo than it is in real life.  It's actually a very pleasing, authentic-looking dial.  Paired with a fresh glass crystal and a new genuine lizard strap, this Wilson is ready for 60 more years of wrist time.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

1955 Wynn

When is a watch not worth fixing?

That's a good question.  I think the answer depends on a lot of factors but the main one is how good the case is.  If the case is shot, then it's probably not worth fixing as repairing cases can be expensive - but even then you could make an argument.

Of course, you can take damage to an extreme.  For example, I once had someone send me a photo of a watch they found somewhere on a Pacific ocean beach.  I'd say this one was not worth fixing... wouldn't you?

Based on the general shape and the numerals and markers, I'd say it's the remains of a 1946 Norman.  All of it was lost to Davy Jones's locker except for the solid 18K gold numerals and markers.

Watches can certainly take a beating and my most recent project is no exception.  It caught my eye because I thought it might be a diamond in the rough.  It's a 1955 Wynn.  I was only made for two years so you don't see them very often.

The Wynn came in a 10K gold filled case and it's unique in that it spans the transition from the earlier 12/0 sized movements to the 22 jewel 770 movement.  Since the movement is the same size, there was no need to designate a B model when the movement changed.  So you will see the Wynn with a 19 jewel 753 movement or with the 770.  If it's got the 753, you know it's a 1955 model but a 770 could be from 55 or 56, as the 770 was introduced in mid-1955.

My project watch arrived without a crystal and apparently it spent a long time without one because it's got a serious case of dial rash.  It's also not running but that could just be because it's dirty.

The case back has a little bit of wear through by the crown but is otherwise unremarkable.

The dial has a clear outline of the bezel opening so I'm optimistic that the staining on the dial might be removable.

Based on the dull gray haze of the movement, I'd say it's been decades since this watch last saw a watchmaker.

There's a little bit of rust on the set lever and winding pinion but the ultrasonic will clean most of that off.

The case back makes identifying the model very easy.  I see two sets of watchmaker's marks inside so at least an attempt was made to keep this fine watch in ship shape.

A new cylinder style glass crystal is a necessary addition to this watch.

As you can see in the shot below, everything is clean and sparkling, except for the dial.  It will need to be refinished.  My best efforts to clean it up failed to make a significant improvement and I didn't want to lose the printing.

I found the pallet fork and the escape wheel both had broken pivots, which explains why it wasn't running.  Fortunately I so I had spares.  The movement is now running with good motion.

However, it's running a bit fast according to the timer.  I'll tweak the regulator and see what happens.

With the regulator set to full slow, the watch still runs fast...

Some folks might forgive a 60+ year old watch running a minute and a half fast (I probably would).  However, I can slow it down by adding some weight to the balance.

Each one of these tiny timing washers adds a modicum of mass to the balance wheel and slows it down slightly.  I just need to make sure to add the same amount to opposing sides, so I keep the balance well poised and don't create a heavy spot.

I tweaked the balance a little toward fast.

And now have better time keeping.  The beat error increased slightly but I think that's because the regulator might be changing the shape of the hairspring and effectively moving the position of the index jewel relative to the pallet fork.  I could try to reduce it but that risks goofing up the hairspring and I'd rather not push my luck.

Not long after I bought my project watch I saw a rather odd-looking bracelet for sale on eBay.  My first thought was, "That's a weird looking bracelet... surely no Hamilton would use that?".

Then I relooked at the catalog image of the Wynn and low and behold - it's the same bracelet!  So I bought it.

You'll have to stay tuned for an update to this post after I send the dial out to be refinished.  Other than a couple of flea bites to the lower left lug, I'd say the case is in great shape.  With the new old stock bracelet and a correctly refinished dial, this Wynn should turn out to be a great example.

I'd say this watch was definitely worth fixing.  Don't you think so?


Well my bubble was burst by one of my bracelet-crazy Hamilton friends who emailed me to let me know that my bracelet, though close, is not quite correct.  To prove the point, he sent me the photo below.

Both are made my Flex Let and other than the center links I'm not sure what exactly is different between the two.  However, he says he got his along with the watch at the same time so I'm inclined to agree that the other bracelet is correct.

It's the same bracelet that goes with the 1953 Adrian, by the way.


I decided to get the dial on the Wynn refinished.  Looks much better now, don't you think?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

1964 Thin-o-matic T-411

I think my least favorite line of watches is the Thin-o-matics.  That's not because they are bad watches.  It's just that their movements can sometimes be very finicky, especially when you get into the 1970's when the movement used as offset center wheel.   When you add in calendar complications, etc. they can really be a time consuming challenge to tackle.

However, some Thin-o-matics used ETA movements and I don't mind them at all.  In fact, they're not that much different than the ETA movements used the Accumatic line - just a little thinner overall.

I recently came upon a Thin-o-matic that was in desperate need of some attention.  It's a 1964 Thin-o-matic T-411 and it was made for two years.

The T-411 came in a 10K gold filled case.  You could get it on a strap or on a bracelet for a little more money.  $100 doesn't seem like a lot of money today for a quality time piece but $100 in 1964 was the equivalent of almost $900 today.  Interestingly, that's about in the range of what new Hamilton automatics will run you... give or take a little.

My project watch must have seen a lot of action, as it bears the scars of a lot of use.   Notice how the relatively slender lugs splay outward a bit.  Maybe a strap that was to wide was jammed in between them.

I was happy to see that the case back is pie-panned shaped.  That's a sure sign that there's an ETA movement inside and not a Buren micro-rotor.  Again, micro-rotors aren't bad movements, they're just a lot more complicated to work on.

The watch opens through the crystal and once the crystal is out of the way, it reveals a yellow reflector ring sitting on top of the dial.  Once I lift that off I will be able to see the joint in the two-piece stem and remove the movement.

The dial is pockmarked with dots that look like grains of sand adhered to the finish.  I don't think it's sand, it just looks like that.   I suspect it's just the result of moisture effecting the finish on the dial.  I'll have to be very careful handling the dial so that I don't lose the printing when I try to clean it up.

The movement is nice and shiny but also shows lots of fine dust or corrosion - it's hard to say what it is.

Everything gets taken apart and thoroughly cleaned and dried.  A micro-rotor would have almost twice this many parts.

The movement, without the rotor assembly, is now back to running condition.

The timer has something going on but it's hard to tell what.  The amplitude of 357 degrees is a bit high.  That would indicate the balance is almost making a full circle when it turns.  That's a bit much and would result in the balance impulse pin hitting the pallet fork from the wrong side.

I carefully reclined the hairspring and pulled a stray filament of fiber off the spring.  Now the performance on the timer is looking much better.  The two lines are running smoothly.  The amplitude of 229 degrees isn't a concern, as the stem doesn't have a crown so I haven't wound the movement up fully yet.

The beat error of 0.6ms would be more than acceptable on most watches but since it's so easy to adjust on ETA grades, I would feel guilty not trying to improve it even more.  I have to guess which direction to move the hairspring stud but eventually I dial it in even further.

With the beat error reduced to 0.3ms, I can tweak the regulator index and slow the watch down to almost perfect time keeping.

A new 28.1mm PHD crystal should do nicely and make a big improvement to the looks of this watch.

I didn't lose any of the printing on the dial but I didn't get it perfectly cleaned either.  Most people I know who were born in 1964 have a few spots so there's nothing wrong with a 1964 watch having a couple either.  I was able to gently coax the lugs back into proper shape and installed a fresh lizard strap.

Now that the watch is cleaned you can actually see that the bezel has a florentine engraving around the perimeter.  You can see that detail in the catalog image but the grime originally on the watch masked that detail.