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, November 26, 2017

1966 Thinline 2017

What would be the one bit of advice you'd give a collector if you could only offer them one bit of advice.  That's a tough question to answer since there is just so much one needs to learn when it comes to vintage Hamiltons and vintage watches in general.  I'm often asked if I work on other brands and although they occasionally sneak onto my work bench, I focus primarily on Hamiltons because that's the brand I know the most about (not to mention they're the best too... right?).

Anyway, the one bit of advice I would offer anyone is to first buy the seller, then buy the watch.  That pearl of wisdom really only applies to buying expensive watches and, especially, watches that are represented as being "serviced" and "all original".   If you're new to the hobby and you're not absolutely sure the seller knows their stuff then you should assume they don't and proceed accordingly.

I'll give you a good "for instance" with my next project watch.  It's a 1966 Thinline 2017.  It's an interesting model and only shows up in the 1966 catalog.

The Thinline 2017 came in either a solid 14K yellow or white gold case.  Tucked inside is a 17 jewel 687 movement.  As part of the Thinline series, the 2017 is a very sleek and elegant looking model and the bezel is partly engraved with a florentine finish and partly bright - so it has a lot of sparkly interest.

I recently purchased a Thinline 2017 and since it's solid gold it didn't come cheap.  It seemed to be in  decent shape though.  The seller had less than 80 feedbacks and their percentage was 97% positive.  That should make anyone's spider senses tingle.  The listing also didn't have a movement shot.

The description was short and sweet, "1950's manual wind Hamilton watch in a 14k gold case and back in near mint condition. Serviced and ready to wear. 33 mm case in near mint condition."

The 14K and the 33mm diameter part of that description is correct but the rest is debatable.  First off... I didn't know watches were made in a mint.  I thought they were made in a factory.  What exactly is "mint condition" and how do you know when you're "near" it?  If you can't be clear about that, should I even ask what "serviced" means?

I've bought a lot of "serviced" watches that were anything but serviced so now I assume every watch I buy needs to be overhauled.  I've met too many people that think adding oil to a dirty watch implies "serviced".  That's like putting on extra deodorant and calling yourself clean.  You may smell pretty but the dirt is still there.

As received the watch looks to be okay.  However, the first thing I noticed is the second hand is rubbing the dial and has left a ring where the tip has dragged.  The seller's photos lacked that detail.  The case looks okay but is it mint-like?

The back of the watch is unremarkable... but that's a good thing, in my opinion.  I wouldn't expect to see anything too interesting back here.

I thought for sure this watch was going to open through the crystal but when I lifted the crystal the dial wouldn't budge.  So I quickly realized it has a two piece case and the bezel pops off.

Check this out... the lower of the two numbers inside the case back ends with 64.  That would imply this watch was introduced in 1964 but didn't make the catalogs until 1966.  The number starting with a C is unique to this specific watch.  Somewhere out there is a number ending with 443 and a 445 case - unless they have been scrapped.

I think it's sometimes hard to tell if a movement is recently serviced.  Looking at the case back I don't see any marks but there was a faint mark ending with a 92 that the camera didn't pick up.  Does that mean 1992?

Looking at the movement below, it's not "dirty" but I do see what appears to be some finger prints or dust marks on the bridges.  Hard to say for sure if I'd call that clean.

The dial side of the main plate doesn't look freshly serviced to me... does it look that way to you?  I would expect the hour wheel, dial washer and the minute wheel to look brighter than they do.  The area by the barrel looks almost a little rusty.  I don't see any lubrication around the set lever or set bridge.

I do see some grime under the ratchet wheel so even though the shot is a little blurry this movement is starting to peg my Bull Shit-meter.

This mainspring and barrel has obviously not been cleaned any time recently.  You can compare it with the shot below to see for yourself.

I would expect a "serviced" watch to not have scratches on the crystal - wouldn't you?

Everything is fully disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.

The mainspring is reinstalled and will get a nice dollop of clean grease after I reinstall the arbor in the center.  Then I'll close it up tight with the cover.

This is what a "freshly serviced" movement should look like... everything is bright and shiny.

Well, the balance is out of beat but that's easy to correct.

A tweak here and a tweak there... eventually the beat error is reduced to zero.

Although I could have polished the original crystal to remove the scratches, I thought it was a little loose so I elected to install a slightly larger (and tighter) low profile crystal.  28.2mm vs the 27.9 that was in it.

The finished watch now looks and runs like it left the factory... or the watch mint, as some believe.  The circular mark on the dial caused by the second hand is still there but it's not as pronounced.  This is a fine looking watch and a new black lizard strap complements the black in the hour markers very nicely.

It's possible the original seller though the watch was serviced.  Maybe they "know a guy" or brought it to a jeweler who "serviced it"?  I wouldn't presume to say.  That's why my advice to anyone spending "good money" on a serviced watch would be to first make sure you believe who you're buying from knows their stuff and then make sure you know what you're buying from them.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

1970 Thinline 2053

Which came first... the chicken or the egg?  I suppose a Hamilton corollary might be which came first, production models or awards models?

Typically I would have said regular production models came first.  The Awards Division seemed to create variants of regular production models that had been discontinued.  Organizations that purchased awards watches typically didn't want the recipients to find their award in their local jewelry store.  Awards Division watches are easy to spot because they often say "Masterpiece" on the dial.

A good example for consideration is the 1958 Courtney.  It was produced for three years and was shown in the catalogs from 1958 through 1961.  In February of 2016 I restored a Courtney with a presentation from 1969.  It was definitely an Awards Division watch, as it was engraved with a presentation and had "WE" on the dial, representing Western Electric.

I recently had someone contact me about a very similar, but different, watch.  Check it out below... sure looks like a Courtney... doesn't it?  This one is a bit different though because it has a presentation from 1971 and it doesn't have a 770 movement inside.  Notice the second hand has fallen off.   It is floating around inside and is on the right between the 3 and 4 markers.

Looking closely at the catalogs, the first time this watch shows up is in 1974, identified as the Thinline 2053.  However the dial in the catalogs is a little different (and looks like a Courtney).  So how did my project watch come before a cataloged model?  Did the chicken come before the egg?

By Coincidence my project watch is also a Western Electric presentation with a classic Awards Division engraving.  Notice, however, the model number on the case back... 913470.  That would indicate that this is a 1970 model.

Looking at the inside of the case back, it's clearly not designed for a 12/0 size 770 movement.  There are three or four watch makers' marks inside so this watch has been fairly well taken care of.

Under the dial is a 17 jewel Swiss-made 637 movement made by Buren.  By 1970 production of movements in the US was over and only Swiss-made grades were used in Hamilton models.

Taking a closer look at the dial you can see that it has clearly been refinished at some point.  First, check out the gloppy-looking H logo... that's clearly not original.  I wonder if this dial used to have a WE on it?  Also, there's a notch on the top of the dial above the 12 marker.  Notice also that the word SWISS is missing from under the 6 position.  Lastly, the cross hair for the second hand is clearly too large.  Those are all obvious signs of being refinished.

If that evidence wasn't enough to convince you, then looking at the back of the dial clearly shows scratched-in characters denoting the dial was refinished.

With the dial removed, I can see immediately that the set bridge has been broken.  The missing piece was not inside the watch so I'm left to assume that the last watchmaker to open this watch didn't bother replacing the part.

I happen to have a donor 637 movement.  As long as the set bridge is okay then I can simply substitute it.

Talk about luck... check out the dial I found when I flipped the movement over.  Does it look familiar?  It's from a Thinline 2053!  It's also an Awards Division dial - as defined by the word "Masterpiece" under the Hamilton logo.  If you've got a great eye for detail you might spot it has a marker at the 6 position though - the catalog depiction doesn't show that.

My luck continues - the set bridge on this movement is intact.

Now you can clearly see the difference between the donor and the broken bridge on the left.  The arm that sticks out holds the set lever in position.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  Time for reassembly.

It took a bit of tweaking but I finally dialed in the beat rate and the beat error to very acceptable specs.

The second hand is an obvious replacement and is a bit too tight to go onto the 4th wheel bit.  I'll need to open the hole just a teensy bit and in order to that I'll need to use a very tiny broach.

Since I happened to have the correct dial I decided to turn this awards watch back into a catalog-worthy Thinline 2053.  I didn't change the crystal on the watch yet.  The current one isn't quite correct but it'll do for now.  This is a sharp looking watch and from the outside it would be easy to confuse with the 1958 Courtney but it's actually a 1971 Thinline 2053.  Go figure.


I purchased a new crystal for the Thinline 2053.  I believe it's the same as for the Courtney.

The finished watch looks better with a proper-fitting crystal.  It's interesting that the dial has a marker below the second hand, like the Courtney, but the dial has SWISS like it would for the Thinline 2053.  The catalog depiction for the Thinline 2053 doesn't show a marker though... very odd, isn't it?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

1965 Accumatic A-504

The last of the mechanical asymmetric models to be introduced was the 1965 Accumatic A-504.  It wasn't the last to be produced though - as the Blade and Lord Lancaster Lancaster C continued to be made through 1969.  However the A-504 was the last asymmetric model to be introduced and it was only made for a single year.

If the A-504 looks familiar it might be because it was based on another one-year-wonder, but from 1959 - the Electric Regulus.  In fact, the A-504 used left over Regulus cases but with one major caveat, as you'll see below.

Being a 500-series watch, the A-504 came in a stainless steel case.  It's also featured a 17 jewel 689 movement inside.  That's an interesting fact as well - in that by 1965 the 689 had been replaced by the 689A movement so I suspect the A-504 was an "inventory eater" and was only made for a single year because it used up excess inventory on hand.  That's just a guess though.

My A-504 project watch came courtesy of a fellow collector and it was in serious need of help.  Obviously it needed a new crystal and a crown.  The dial has an odd water spot between the 1 and 2 hour marks.  The red-tipped second hand could be a replacement because it doesn't match the catalog depiction but it does look like a Regulus second hand so maybe it's original?  The minute hand seems to have a slight bend to the side too.  Hopefully I'll be able to straighten it out.

Notice the lip on the case back.  That leads me to believe this is a two piece case.  In fact, the Regulus  did have a two-piece case along with an odd D-shaped gasket to make it "waterproof".  However, by 1965 Hamilton decided that one-piece cases were more water proof so the A-504 case was soldered closed and cannot be opened.

Based on the scratch marks on the case back, I don't think I am the first person to thing this to case should open but when I saw it didn't budge, I decided to trust my instincts and open it from the crystal.

Sure enough, with the crystal out of the way, the movement lifts right out - especially since there's no crown holding it in place.  The 12, 3, 6 and 9 markers on the dial are textured - presumably to match the texture on what would have been on the original matching bracelet.

Here's a shot of the 689.  Other than a slightly different oscillating weight framework and kif shock jewels, it's identical to the 689A.

The inside of the case has a couple of previous watchmaker marks and it looks like the rotor has rubbed a little on the case back.

I don't see any signs of a stem in the movement - at least from the front.  However the set lever is still there - so that means the watch should be able to retain one when I replace it.

One of the dial foot screws is buggered up and cannot be turned.  I suspect a past watchmaker put the wrong screw in there and it got jammed in place.  The head on the dial foot screws is very small, relative to the bridge screws.  Fortunately it wasn't holding the dial so I was able to lift the dial off without issue.  Without that screw to secure the dial, the movement won't be properly supported - which is probably why the rotor was dragging on the case back.  There's no easy way to get this screw out so I'll replace the main plate instead.  I have a donor 689 so that's the easiest path to resolution.

From the inside I can see the remnants of the stem.  It must have snapped off somewhere to the right of the winding pinion.

Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.

While everything is being reassembled I'll add new luminous paint to the hands.

This movement has the option of a long or short female stem.  Since I don't know which one was originally used on this model, I'll try the long version.  You can see how much is missing in the shot below.

Notice the stamp on the main plate under where the balance will go.  This movement is also a calibre 63.

The basic movement is put back together and is ticking away with good motion.

Not too shabby performance but I can reduce the beat error a little further.

There, that's pretty much right on the money now.  It will slow a little as it settles in.

The stem tube on the case is a little larger than I typically see and will require a crown that will accommodate a stem tube diameter larger than 2mm.

In addition to a new crown, I will also need the male portion of the stem called a "hub".

There's not much I can do about the dial - it is what it is unless the owner wants to get it refinished.  I did not try to clean it since the printing was already a bit faint.  However, with a new crystal, new crown and the hands straightened and relumed, this A-504 looks more than presentable.  This is a rare watch and very pricey when found "in the wild" so even with a so-so dial it would still be the "pride of the fleet" in anyone's collection.