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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, January 29, 2017

1964 M 69-3

There are over 1,100 different Hamilton wristwatch models for men.  To collect them all would be a real feat.  To collect all of the combinations of case material and dial variations would be a staggering accomplishment.  You'd be hard pressed to complete the collection though - as you'd have to find a Coral Endicott and a Barbizon in order to claim the title of "World's Most Complete Collection".

A smaller, but still challenging, objective would be to collect all the M-series of watches.  There are 21 known examples but it's hard to say for sure how many there really are.  The M-series was produced in the 1960's and believed to have been sold through a catalog chain store, like Service Merchandise or Best... if you happen to recall those brands.

One of the models you'd have to find is the 1964 M 69-3.


The M-models were identified by their retail price and the sequence in which the model was introduced at that price point.  So the M 69-3 was the third watch to be introduced at the $69 price point.  That may not seem like a lot of money today but that's the equivalent of over $530 in 2017 dollars.

The M 69-3 came in a stainless steel case with a matching bracelet made by JB Champion.  Inside you'll find a 17 jewel Swiss-made 688 movement that is based on an ETA ├ębauche movement.

I haven't seen too many M 69-3 models in the wild but I was able to come by one recently.  It was a little grungy and the bracelet was changed to a generic Spiedel expansion ban.  The band will have to go, this watch will look a lot better with a nice strap once it's overhauled.


The case is a one-piece design and the watch opens though the crystal.


With the beat up crystal out of the way you can see the dial is a little dirty but otherwise in good condition.  The hands are a little rusty, probably from the luminous paint.  So I'll remove that and the lume on the dial and replace it with fresh paint.


The 688 manual winding movement is basically the same as a 689 automatic movement but without the automatic parts.


Everything is cleaned and dried, now it's time for reassembly.


The watch is obviously a lot brighter and shinier than before it was cleaned.  It's now running with a brisk motion.  The timer will tell me how well it's performing though.


I'm always amazed at how the timer can pick up noises that don't belong in there.  The timer is picking up something amiss.


Well, it took me quite a few tries to find out what was wrong.  I found a tiny filament of dust under the pallet fork and reclined the pallet fork, pallet bridge and balance three or for times but I finally got a clean signature.  The amplitude is pretty low but that's because I haven't fully wound the movement yet.  It will increase when I wind it a little more.


A new 29.3mm crystal will make a big difference to the watch's appearance.


I removed most of the rust on the hands and then relumed them, along with the dial.  The dial cleaned up great.  Paired with a fresh strap, this watch is ready for another 50 years of wrist time.



Saturday, January 28, 2017

1969 Mystery Model

It's been a while since I was stumped by a watch.

It was not unusual for Hamilton movements to outlast their original cases.  So you will often find Hamilton movements that have been recased.  They're not mystery models, they are jeweler-cased watches, often referred to as mules or frankens (like Frankenstine).

As a general rule, Hamilton marked the inside of their case backs with "Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster PA".  So I use that as a guide for ensuring a watch is a legitimate model.  There are some exceptions though - but mostly from the 1930's with models with Keystone cases.  See the Turner for an example.

There is one model from the late 1960's that is also an exception to the rule - and that's the uncatalogued 1969 Liberty Coin.  This model is rumored to have been made partly to use up excess inventory of 770 movements when production in the US was discontinued.

I have seen a number of examples of another watch that I believe was produced under similar circumstances and I finally landed one.


I've seen this watch in both yellow and white.  It has a radial finished dial with diamond markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9.  It would be fair to presume that this watch would be part of the Lord Lancaster line.

It's a little unusual that the dial has 18 Jewels printed on the it.  That's not unheard of but it's often a sign of a franken.  However, the Liberty Coin says 22 jewels on it.

One thing I've observed when I've seen this model is the back of the case appears to be poorly crafted and pock marked.  Notice how the back says Hamilton on it - that's something frankens do not typically have.  But also notice the stamp isn't centered very well... that's not something you will typically see on Hamilton-produced watches.


This watch happened to have a Hamilton bracelet on it but it's not really appropriate for this style watch.  It just doesn't quite look right, as you'd probably agree.  So I'll save it for another watch someday.


Close observation of the case reveals that it's a two-piece design and a case knife will separate the bezel from the back with a little prying.


Without the bezel in the way, you can see the dial looks to be in good shape.  The inside of the case back looks as poorly crafted as the outside though.


The inside lacks any Hamilton Watch Co identification... I'd be concerned but the Liberty Coin is similarly marked.  Notice there is no serial number on the inside or out of the case.  It looks like this case back could use a little cleaning, I'm sure the movement is the same.


Turning the dial over, there's an 8/0 size 18 jewel 736 movement inside.  This movement replaced the 735 in the 1960's and offers a glucydur balance.  This is clearly a late 1960's watch.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  Now it's time for reassembly.


The reassembled movement is ticking away and appears to have good motion.  So it's off to the timer.


Uh oh, there's something definitely not right.  The 52 degrees alternates with the beat rate and the timer is thinking this should be a 19600 beats per hour beat rate.  I'll run it past the demagnetizer and reclean the hairspring, then see how it's doing.


Well, that's much better.  Good beat rate, good amplitude.  However, the beat error of 4.3ms is a bit high.  I prefer it to be under 3.0 and as close to zero as I can get it.  Adjusting the beat error on this style of balance is a very delicate process and it's very easy to goof up the hairspring if you're not careful.


Alright, now I'm down to 2.6ms.  I'll call it quits at that.  I could probably get it lower but why tempt fate?  A high beat error will cause a watch to stop a little sooner than a watch with a low beat error, but the overall time keeping is largely unaffected.


A quick tweak to the regulator slows the watch back down to a nice beat rate.  Notice the timer now says it's picking up an 18000 beats per hour rate - that's 5 ticks per second, just as it should be.


A fresh crystal and lizard strap completes the rejuvenation of this old Hamilton watch.  It looks fantastic from this perspective.


Of course, the back doesn't look much better.  However you don't see this side when it's on the wrist.  Now if only I could find out the real story behind this watch.  I suspect this model was produced to use up excess inventory of 736 movements - but that's just a guess at this point.


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Sunday, January 22, 2017

1963 Thin-o-matic T-408

There were a lot of one-year wonders in the early 1960's.  I guess Hamilton was pulling out all the stops while trying to compete in an ever-increasingly competitive watch market, and trying to make sure they had exactly what every potential customer might want.

One of the watches only made in 1963 is the Thin-o-matic T-408.  The T-408 came in a 10K gold filled case with a matching bracelet.


You can't tell from the catalog depiction that the T-408 has a textured dial.  I'm sure that was part of the rationale for the bracelet choice.

I recently received a T-408 project watch from a fellow collector.  It was his father's watch and it had some issues... not the least of which was it went through the laundry process.  Needless to say, it wasn't running.  It looks like the finish on the dial is a bit compromised but the owner said it looked like that before the washing machine got a hold of it.  So who knows what I'll find inside?


The back of the case is very flat so I suspect there will be a Buren micro-rotor inside.  I don't know what's up with the back of the lugs... are they bent or are they supposed to look like that?


This watch is a front loader and opens through the crystal.  The crystal is a bit scratched up so even though my first picture looks pretty good, once the crystal is removed you can see the dial has an interesting vertical texture.

This is a good time to point out a couple of oddities.  First, the dial is crimped at the positions... 12:00, 21 minutes and 42 minutes.  I'm not sure what that's all about and I doubt it's original.  Also the dial is dented near the N in Hamilton and above the C in Thin-o-matic.  That may have been from a past attempt at removing the hands.


One thing I noticed is I couldn't set the time on the watch.  The minute hand moved but not the hour hand.  It also set only in one direction. That may be related to the dented dial... time will tell, pun intended.

In order to get the movement out, I need to align the joint in the two-piece stem.  That allows me to swing the movement outward and pivot at the joint.  With a little finesse the two parts with separate without damaging the female side of the stem.


The movement looks greasy, like its got a thin coat of oil but it doesn't show any signs of being in a washing machine.  There is no rust anywhere.


There's a mark inside the case back from the rotor dragging.  I see two watchmaker's marks inside so I'm following in someone's footsteps for sure.


Someone has tried to work the dents out of the dial based on the scratches on the back.


Here's one reason why the watch might not be working, the click is stuck under the barrel.  It should ride on top and engage the upper ratchet wheel.  The little wire visible on the outside of the movement circumference is the spring that pushes the click against the ratchet wheel.  It's a bit mangled, as you can probably see.  This spring is easy to not notice, until you stab your finger onto it while holding the movement.  It's long enough to draw blood so I always give it a wide berth.


The wheel below is also shown in the photo above.  It's what transmits the power from the rotor to the mainspring barrel.  Notice this wheel is missing a tooth and will need to be replaced.


Well, I think the legitimacy of the bent lugs can be determined by the fact that the spring bars are compressed and cannot be removed.  In other words, the lugs have been bent inward so that the spring bars cannot be compressed any further.  I'll have to cut them out and then straighten the lugs.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  I think the micro rotor movements have the most parts of all the movements I usually work on.  It takes for ever to put one back together.  Fortunately this movement doesn't have the calendar complication - that's even more parts to keep track of!


The reassembled movement is now ticking away and sitting on the timer.




It's running a little fast but that's easily corrected.  The beat error isn't too bad and this movement has a fixed hairspring stud so I'm not going to tempt fate by trying to reduce it.


There... 22 seconds fast per day is a good place to stop while the watch settles in.


This watch didn't have a dial washer so I will add one from my stash.  A dial washer is a flat spring and keeps the hour wheel away from the dial and in contact with the minute wheel - so the hands will stay in sync.


A new 30.8 mm crystal will improve the looks of the watch, even if the dial isn't 100%.


Here's the finished project on a new croc strap.  I relumed the dial and hands as well as straightened the lugs.  Looks pretty good, in my opinion, and much better than my merciless camera makes it out to be.

The M and part of the C in Thin-o-matic disappeared somewhere during the process.  The finish on the dial was lifting off and it must have flaked off.  I treated the dial to a "poor man's refinish" and sprayed a light coat of lacquer on it - so now it's sound and should present well for a few more years.  Textured dials can be tricky to get refinished well.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

1963 Accumatic A-450

Things sure had changed in the 40 years between when Hamilton first introduced men's wrist watches and the last decade of US production.  By the 1960's the Accumatic and the Thin-o-matic lines were dominant models in the lineup, with all sorts of designs to choose from.  Of course, there were still plenty of Electrics and manual winders to choose from.  However, Automatics could come as calendar models too, something the US-made Electrics and manual winders didn't do.

One of the short-run Accumatics was the 1963 A-450.  Based on the look of it I would say it may have been ahead of it's time.  It looks like it could have been a 1970's models based on the chunkiness and the bracelet pairing but it was produced only in 1963 and 1964.


The A-450 is a little unique in that it's got a 10 gold filled case with a stainless steel back.  The use of rolled gold plate was very common by this time so the gold filled case is a bit of an upgrade over the 600-line of Accumatics.

Tucked inside you will find a 17 jewel 689 or possibly a 689A, depending on when the watch was made.  They're basically the same and the only obvious difference is the rotor carrier covers the balance cock a little more and the 689A has a section removed for better access to the balance.

My project watch comes by way of someone whose father had owned it.  As such, it's has great sentimental value.  Family pieces are the best, in my opinion, and always worth restoring and enjoying.

This watch is a little beat up and has a replacement Spiedel bracelet that has broken.  The dial looks really good, but it's hard to tell under the scratched crystal.  The watch isn't running but I can get it to tick a few seconds so that's a good sign.  It doesn't take much to prevent a watch from running, even dried up oil will create enough friction to stop it.


The stainless back is obviously worn but it's hard to damage stainless steel.  There are a few marks from past attempts to open it with a case wrench but that comes with the territory.  They can be tricky to open.


The inside of the watch is bright and shiny - so at least no moisture has been getting inside.


Without a crystal to block the view, the dial looks great - way better than my slightly blurry photo makes it out to be.


Looking at the inside of the case back, I can tell this watch has seen a watchmaker at least once in the last 50 years.


Everything is completely taken apart in order to be cleaned and then totally dried before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.


A 30.6mm crystal will go a long way toward improving the looks of the finished project.


The watch is now running with nice motion.  Off to the timer to see what it thinks of the movement.


Pretty good performance but something is making extraneous noise... perhaps a spec of dust on the hairspring or pallet fork.  On any other watch I'd be happy with a beat error of 0.8ms but this type of movement has a moveable hairspring stud so I should be able to dial in the beat error even better.


Nailed it... this is what I'd expect from a new watch, not a 50 year old watch.


The oscillating weight goes back on now that everything is running nicely.  Notice you can barely see the balance.  I wouldn't be able to make any adjustments with the rotor installed and I think that's why the 689A has a section removed so you can see the balance better.


Here's the finished project outfitted with a genuine Ostrich strap in black.  Ostrich is an interesting choice - it sometimes looks like lizard and sometimes looks like gator.  I bet it also tastes like chicken... most things do, right?