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Greetings!

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, December 10, 2017

1959 Thin-o-matic T-402

The first Thin-o-matic models were introduced in 1959 and one of the initial gold filled versions was the T-402.  It would be produced through 1961.


Although the model was shown in the 1961 catalog, it appears to have been "sold out".  It's interesting that the price was changed to be the same for the strap or bracelet.


The T-402 has a 10K yellow gold filled case and featured solid 14K gold numerals and markers along with a pearled track.

The first Thin-o-matics featured the newly introduced micro-rotor automatics that were made by Buren.  Hamilton would eventually acquire Buren in the 1960's.  The micro-rotors are arguably the most complicated movements in the Hamilton lineup.  There's a lot that can go wrong with them.

I recently came upon an interesting version of the T-402.  It features the Budweiser Beer logo on the dial.  I've seen this model before but this one was listed "in need of repair".   Just looking at it, I can tell that it's in need of a second hand as well as a new crystal.  Looking really closely I can see that there's no marker at the 8 position.  Is it in the case?  We'll find out.


Not all Thin-o-matics have micro-rotor movements but the flat case back is a good sign that this watch has one.


The crown came right off and did not appear to be in contact with anything.  Notice it has a female portion of the stem attached to it.  That implies the male side is in the movement.  Often it's the other way around and the male hub is in the crown.


With the crystal removed the dial appears to be in decent shape.  It's a little bent at the 10 marker but maybe I can smooth that out.  At least the finish is intact.  So a little cleaning might go a long way with this dial.


This may not be the dirtiest movement I've seen but it's arguably in the top 5.  Notice anything unusual?  There's a big empty space where the oscillating weight should be.  This is a 663 movement.


Here's a good reason for the crown coming off... there is no stem inside the movement.  All that can be seen is an empty hole.


There is evidence inside the case back that this watch had a rotor at one point... it must have gotten a little loose and rubbed the case.  Micro rotors make a lot of noise in general but I'm sure the rubbing oscillating weight didn't improve things.  Maybe it was removed to quiet things down.  You can still wind the watch manually and a lot of people are of the opinion that micro rotors are a bit underpowered anyway.


With the dial out of the way I can see that all of the necessary parts are still there.   Why the stem is missing is a bit of a mystery.


I happen to have a donor 663 movement and by coincidence it has a T-402 dial on it.  Notice the dial is actually textured with an interesting spiral detail.  You don't see that in the catalog depiction.


I've used this donor movement for other projects but it still has lots of useful parts.  I can use the oscillating weight for this project and also steal one of the hour markers to replace the missing one on the Budweiser dial.


My donor movement also has a male stem.  So I should have everything I need to get my project watch operational again.


The solid gold markers are actually riveted on.  To remove them you just push on the tiny circles where the rivets pass through the dial and then lift the marker off.


I put all of the parts into a baby food jar with fresh cleaning solution.  The jar then goes into my ultrasonic cleaner that is filled with water.  The ultrasonic waves pass through the water and into the jar.  You can actually see little bubbles form as the parts get cleaned.


After 6 minutes in the ultrasonic the fresh cleaning solution has turned into a hazy cloud.  Now I can remove the parts and put them in another baby food jar with rinse solution.  After that I put them into a second jar with rinse solution and then all the parts are thoroughly dried.


Everything looks bright and shiny now.  There are a LOT of parts to this movement and it can be a daunting task to take one of these apart for the first time.  Actually, the daunting part comes when you try to put it back together again.


The reassembled movement is now ticking away.  It's off to the timer to listen to the ticking.


Well, it's running a little fast but that's easy to adjust.  The amplitude is low but that's mainly because I haven't wound the watch yet.  I just wound it a little to get the balance to move.


Now that the watch is running I can install the replacement oscillating weight.  There are six wheels involved in getting the motion of the rotating weight transmitted to the mainspring barrel.


The crown on the watch is fairly worn and it's not a Hamilton crown.  It appears to have a logo with two J's... maybe a Jules Jurgensen?  Regardless, I will replace it with a new generic crown of similar size.


A new crystal and fresh lume go a long way to brighten up this tired old Budweiser watch.  Paired with a nice brown genuine lizard strap, this watch is ready for some well deserved wrist time.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

1962 Whitford

"Thin was in" in the early 1960's and many watch models took on sleek and elegant styling.  In fact, Hamilton had a full line-up of manual winding and automatic models with Swiss-made grades and "thin" case designs in the Thinline and Thin-o-matic series.   However, that didn't mean Lancaster didn't also produce thin models with US-made movements too.

I recently came upon a fairly obscure model that was a little hard to identify at first.  I thought for sure it would be a late 1960's Thinline model but the word SWISS was missing from the dial.  A little further investigation revealed it was a 1962 Whitford.


I knew it was a 1962 Whitford because it was only produced for a single year.  The model changed in 1963 to the Whitford B - I presume because the case design was changed to strengthen the lugs.  The B model was produced for two years.


The Whitford has a uniquely designed case that came in solid 14K white or yellow gold.  The lugs are attached at the center in an almost reverse "hidden lug" design.  I wouldn't be surprised if this design proved to be problematic and necessitated the change to the Whitford B case with traditional lugs.

Tucked inside the solid gold case is the 22 jewel US-made 770 movement.

As you can see below, my project watch further exemplifies what's depicted in the catalogs.  The bezel is engraved with a florentine finish and the applied hour markers at 12, 3 6 and 9 echo the same finish.  The lugs on my watch appear to have expanded a bit but I should be able to reshape them.


Looking at the back of the watch, it's easy to see why the lugs could be a challenge.  Notice the case back says HAMILTON.  You will often see white gold watches on eBay that lack this detail and that's a good sign the watch is not an authentic model.  If you don't see Hamilton on the case back, you'll definitely want to see the inside of the case back before you decide to purchase - otherwise "buyer beware".


I had to look very closely all the way around the perimeter of the case to see how it separated.  Initially I thought it might open through the crystal.  With the bezel out of the way you can see the dial has a silver band around the outside circumference.  It has a little corrosion from the case but it's not visible when the bezel is in place.


The movement is held tightly within the case back but if you slip a screwdriver into the two opposing slots of the case back you can gently pry the movement out without worrying about damaging anything.  You don't want to pry against the dial and you also don't want to accidentally hit the balance wheel.


Based on the dull haze on the movement, it's been a while since this watch was cleaned.


Looking at the inside of the case back, I don't see any watchmaker's marks.  I wonder if I'm the first person to service this watch in the past 55 years?


Everything is disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.


The reassembled movement is definitely brighter and more sparkly after a trip to the spa.


Well... it's keeping good time but the beat error of 4.2ms is a bit too high for my tastes.  The beat error is a measure of how well centered the balance wheel is with the pallet fork.  To be perfectly "in beat" the balance should be centered so that it swings the same distance to each side.  If it's not centered, it will swing a little further to one side than the other and eventually the watch will stop a little sooner than if it would if it was better centered.


Adjusting the beat error on a watch like this requires removing the balance from the balance cock and moving the hairspring collet in the right direction and the correct amount.  If that sounds challenging... it is.  Is also a great way to screw up a decently running watch.

My first attempt to adjust the beat error was a good guess.  I cut it almost in half.  Had this been the performance when I started I would probably have left it as is.  My personal upper spec for beat error is 3.0ms, unless it has a moveable hairspring stud.  I guess I've made it this far, why not try to go a little further?


Third time's a charm... it doesn't get better than this.  I'll leave the watch running a little fast as it settles back in.


Wow!  This watch turned out fantastic.  It's amazing what a new crystal will do to improve the looks of a watch.  But the straightened lugs and a fresh strap help a lot too.  I think the lugs are bent down (as if to follow the contour of the wrist).  Based on the catalog depiction they probably would have been flatter but I don't want to risk breaking one off by trying to reset it.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

1963 Accumatic A-601

 1963 was a historical year of epic proportion... the Beatles launched their first album, "Please Please Me", Martin Luther King gave his epic "I have a dream" speech, and President John F Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open car in Dallas, Texas.  Lots of other things happened too, of course, including the launch of the Accumatic A-601.


The A-601 only stuck around for two years so it's not a frequently seen model.  It was the second Accumatic in the 600-series line with 10K rolled gold plated (RGP) cases.  Tucked inside was a 17 jewel 689 self-winding movement, although a 1964 model might have a 689A grade.

If the A-601 looks vaguely familiar it could be because it looks a lot like the 1963 M 100-3.

My project watch came courtesy of another collector.  As received, right away I can see it has a refinished dial.  There are a couple of obvious tells starting with the fonts used for the printing and the general appearance of the finish.  It's not bad, but it's not a good match to the original either.  Another minor issue are the globs of luminous paint on the yellow ring around the perimeter.  Based on the catalog depiction there should be luminous dots outside the ring, not on it.


The back of the case has a deep pie-pan shape indicating there's likely an ETA-based automatic inside.


Things don't look that much different with the crystal removed but you might be able to see that the finish is a little different than most butler-finished Hamilton dials.  This dial seems almost speckled, especially if you zoom into it a little.


I think most of the times that I open a vintage "waterproof" case I find that the case was anything but waterproof.  In actuality it's probably that the gasket in the crown wasn't waterproof.  This movement is a welcome exception though and it looks to be in great shape and rust-free.


There are about a half dozen various watchmaker's marks inside the case but my camera didn't pick them up.  So many service marks imply this watch was well cared for.  It also implies that this watch has seen a lot of use.  It's always interesting to work on a watch that other people have worked on previously... it's not unusual to find the wrong screws in certain places and random accidental tool marks.  It's cause to wonder if the previous guy knew what they were doing?  This watch didn't have any of those issues though.


Everything is taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.


A new crystal always goes a long way toward improving a watch's appearance.  The one that came on the watch is a bit beat up and has a slight yellowish-green tint.  So I will replace it with another 30.8mm high dome crystal.


The basic reassembled movement is now ticking away with good motion... off to the timer.


Something is making extraneous noise inside.  It could be a piece of dust on the hairspring or even on the pallet fork.  It's amazing what the timer can pick up by listening to the watch tick.  The only thing I know for sure is there is something going on inside.


I didn't see anything obvious but I recleaned the hairspring and pallet fork to be on the safe side.  Now the watch is ticking away with a clean signal.  There's only one line visible because the beat error is right on the money at 0.0ms.


A couple of ever-so-slight tweaks to the regulator index speeds the watch up.  I like to leave freshly-cleaned watches running a little fast.  They tend to slow slightly as they settle back in.


I removed the lume from the dial the best I could and reapplied fresh luminous paint to the hands and outside the ring at the 12, 3 6 and 9 positions.  It's not perfect but I think it looks way better than what I started with.  What do you think?