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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, February 26, 2017

1959 Thin-o-matic T-450

"Thin was in" in 1959 and well into the 1960's.  In 1959 Hamilton introduced the Thin-o-matic line and many of the models featured new Buren-based micro-rotor movements.  Hamilton had relationships with a number of Swiss ├ębauche makers but Buren was special... so special, in fact, that Hamilton purchased the company in 1966.  So you will find lots and lots of models from the 1960s with Buren-based Hamilton movements.

One of the new models introduced in 1959 was the Thin-o-matic T-450.  It was produced through 1963 - a pretty good run for model.


By 1963 a Masonic dial was also offered.  It's interesting to note the price also dropped a little.  How often does that happen?

As you might guess, the T-450 has a 10K gold filled case with a stainless steel back.  The 4 and 5 digits reflect that aspect.  The 0 means it was the first Thin-o-matic with a 10K gold filled case with stainless back.  Another model, the T-451 would be introduced the next year.

I haven't really figured how how Hamilton chose which movements to use in models.  Their catalogs don't really get into the specific grades used.  So I don't know if the T-450 used the same Buren grade for all five years of production.

My project watch came courtesy of a collector in Canada.  I've seen the T-450 for sale before but never successfully landed one, so it was good to have an opportunity to see one first hand.  As received, it was in fairly good overall condition and running.  The crystal was a little beat up but that's easily replaced.


The stainless steel case back is flat all the way across - a sure sign there's a micro-rotor movement inside.  This type of back design is usually easy to open and it doesn't look like anyone has buggered it up in the past.


You can see why this is called a Thin-o-matic... it's definitely a very thin watch.


Inside a Hamilton 666 movement... the number of the beast.  That's fitting, as taking apart these movements and then reassembling them can be a real chore.  It's been a while since this watch has been cleaned but it doesn't look too bad.


Apparently the oscillating weight has been rubbing the inside of the case back.  I see a couple of watchmaker's marks inside so this watch has been serviced at least a couple of times in it's almost 60 years of existence.


The dial has a faint radium burn from the hour hand staying at 3:15 for many years, I bet.  There's also a little dent in the dial from a past watchmaker's hand removal tool.


The dial-side of the main plate looks good - just a little dirty.  The large red jewel supports an axle-less wheel that moves side-to-side and allows the watch to wind regardless of the direction the rotor turns.


Boy there are a lot of parts in a micro-rotor movement.  I haven't done a calendar micro-rotor yet.  I can't say I'm looking forward to it either.  That could add another 50% to the overall parts count.


The movement is now bright and shiny and ticking away with good motion.


It's running a little fast but nothing that a slight tweak to the regulator won't address.


There... that's not to shabby.  The amplitude is a little low but I haven't fully wound the watch yet.


A new crystal will be a great improvement.  30.3mm should do the trick.


If you compare this movement shot to the one above, I think you'll agree that this movement is much brighter now that it's been cleaned.


I relumed the dial and hands so there's no more risk of radium burning the dial.  A fresh crystal and new alligator strap complete the restoration.  This watch looks as good as it runs.



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Saturday, February 25, 2017

1957 Cadet

One of the interesting ways to dress up an otherwise ordinary round watch is to add distinctive lugs.  There are lots of examples but a great one is the 1957 Cadet.  It would be a very plain watch if it wasn't for the unique see-through lugs.  They remind me a little of lobster claws.


The Cadet came on a bracelet that celebrated the curve of the lugs or you could get it on a strap too.  It was made for only two years, 1957 and 1958.

The model is unique in that it's got a two piece rolled gold plated case.  Most of the time RGP models had stainless steel backs - but not the Cadet.

My Cadet project watch appears to be in decent shape.  The dial has a milk-chocolate patina - which is odd since the watch has no lume.  The crystal is a bit beat up, just replacing that will be a nice improvement.


The back looks to be in good shape, especially since it's not stainless steel.  The outside edges of the lugs are worn through though, but not too bad.


With the bezel removed, you can see the dial is an older refinish.  I can see that because the font for Hamilton isn't correct.  It's also off center - typically the I is centered with the 12 and you can see it's a little too the left on this dial.  Also, the word "SWISS" is a bit smaller than you'd expect on an original dial.


The 673 movement inside is obviously dirty but it should clean up nicely after a trip to the spa.


One of the dial foot screws are missing.  There are only two so replacing this one will be a good idea.


While everything is in the ultrasonic, I'll measure the old crystal and get out a new one to install later.  My micrometer measures in inches so I need to multiply 1.140" by 25.4 to get millimeters.


This watch has a low profile crystal so I'll try a PK style instead of a PHD that I typically use on models with sweep second hands.


Everything is clean and shiny.  I didn't clean the dial at all... I wouldn't be surprised if the printing came off if I tried to clean it.  Refinished dials don't often respond favorably to cleaning.  Now it time for reassembly.


The 673 is a very straightforward design and relatively easy to reassemble.  The watch is now running so it's off to the timer.


Not too shabby.  I'll leave it like this as it settles down.


I'll take a dial foot screw from a parts movement.  That will keep the dial secured to the movement.


The watch looks fantastic with a new crystal and a fresh strap.  The dial could be refinished to look like new but it's not terrible as is.  I suppose the off-center Hamilton might drive you crazy if you looked at it long enough but other than that, it's a sharp looking watch - especially with those crazy lugs.


Update:

Here's the same watch with a refinished crystal.  It was definitely a nice improvement since the old dial was already an incorrect refinish.


Monday, February 20, 2017

1966 Mystery Watch

It's not usual to find uncased movements for sale.  In fact, if you're really bored it's sometimes interesting to try to identify what model a loose movement came from.  Typically they come from solid gold cases that have been scrapped.  Sometimes you will find a movement and dial from a $2000 watch that someone scrapped for $250 in gold.  Seeing that is sad, so I'm rarely bored enough to go looking for uncased movements for sale.

One thing you don't often see is an empty solid gold watch case with a missing dial and movement.  Now that really makes me curious.

I recently had someone contact me about a family watch and all that he had was a solid 14K gold case, with crown and stem, and a very dirty Spiedel bracelet.  Initially I thought it would be easy to identify what the model the watch was, but it turns out that wasn't going to be the case (pun intended).

Looking at the empty one-piece case I can see several important details.  First, it's reeded around the perimeter.  That's definitely distinctive.


Looking at the stamped numbers, one of them ends with 66 so that's a good clue that this model is from 1966, even though it has a presentation on the back from 1969.


The case back is pie panned shaped - so it was originally designed for an ETA movement like a 689, 694, etc.


Armed with that info, the next thing to do is to look for models with those details.  The best I could do was to find catalog images of things that are close.   One is the 1966 Dateline A-279.  It would have likely had a 694 movement.  It appears to have some sort of engraving around the perimeter and the same straight lugs.


Another option was the Thin-o-matic T-210.  It's case looks like a nice match too.  Unfortunately, Hamilton didn't indicate what grades were in which models.  A Thin-o-matic could have a micro-rotor or a ETA movement like the 623 or 624.  You really can't tell from the catalog what the back would have looked like and without a dial you're missing a lot of information.


One thing is for sure, I'll need an ETA movement to go inside and a replacement dial.   Getting a replacement dial isn't as easy as it sounds.  It needs to be the right size (diameter) so even if I got a spare movement that came with a dial, it doesn't mean that I can use the dial.

Typically the dial is the same size as the movement ring, or even a little larger.  So I can use the movement ring that came in the case as a guide and not get anything too much smaller than the ring.


Measuring the ring, I get about 29.8mm.  That's pretty big, believe it or not.


It took a while but one of my Hamilton friends had a spare movement and a dial that was almost the right size, 29.5mm.  That would have to do.


It's hard to tell from the blur in my photo but behind the dial is a 694A movement.  It's not running but the balance looks good so I should be able to get it going after a good cleaning.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  I haven't lost any parts yet either.  So far, so good.


The 694 is pretty much like every other ETA automatic and goes together fairly smoothly.  Now the watch is running with good motion so it's off to the timer.


It's a little noisy so I'll reclean the hairspring and make sure any rogue pieces of dust, etc. are removed.


That's much better.  I will fine tune the beat error and the beat rate to get it even better.


There... not too shabby and pretty much right on the money.


A new crystal and alligator strap complete the restoration.  The dial that I got was a little worn but it's not as bad as my camera makes it out to be.  This isn't the correct dial for an A-279 or a T-210.  I think it's actually from a 1964 A-675, but that's just a guess.  In the end, it doesn't really matter.  Another family watch has been saved and the owner can enjoy wearing his dad's watch again, even if it is just the original case.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

1965 Dateline T-478

If I had to guess which movements are the hardest to come by they would be some of the calendar models.  It's a complication that's typically added to a basic movement, manual or automatic.  There aren't that many calendar models and there are several possible movements so that makes them much less common than the basic models.

One of the less common movements is the Hamilton 624.  It was used on some of earlier Dateline Thin-o-matics.  One of the models that used the 624 was the Dateline T-478.  The T-478 was produced through 1969.


The T-478 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case on either a strap or a matching bracelet.

The 624 movement inside the case is based on an ETA 2522 movement and it's also a Hamilton caliber 74. It looks a LOT like the 694 movement, which is also ETA-based and is a caliber 64, but it's quite different as you will see below.

My T-478 came as a project watch from a new collector who received a family piece.  Its hard to say if it works or not, as it's missing the crown and male stem.  The crystal is deeply crazed and will definitely need to be replaced.  I would guess by the texture of the strap that it's a shark skin strap, but it's hard to say anything for sure, other than it's old.


The case is a one piece design and based on the slight dome it's a safe guess that it's got an ETA movement inside and not a Buren micro-rotor.  A micro rotor case would be flat across the back and makes for a really thin Thin-o-matic.


What's this?  A Bulova strap on a Hamilton watch!   Better than Elgin, I suppose... ha ha!


With a little unexpected blur my photo of the movement would make you think this was a more common 689 or 694 movement.  The non-calendar version of the 624 is the 623... and it's quite a bit thinner than the 689 but looks quite similar.


With the dial out of the way the calendar complication looks familiar but it's actually quite different than what you'd see on other ETA movements.


For starters, the index lever to jump the date wheel from date to date is over on the stem-side of the movement.  Still has the dreaded spring that I've been known to lose from time to time.  There's another spring on the other side, by the 26 number, that is used to push the date wheel at midnight.


I should have flipped this photo 180 degrees as it look upside down relative to the photo above, but all the parts are removed except the set bridge... which actually fell out after I took this photo and took a mini-vacation in my shop for a few hours.  I eventually found it on the floor behind my chair.  The set bridge is different than a set bridge from a 623 though - so I had to find it in order to get the watch back together.  Losing parts temporarily is all part of the "fun" of working on watches... as I'm sure every professional watchmaker will attest.  That's why it pays to keep the workshop clean.


Flipping the watch over, after removing the oscillating weight assembly, the movement looks familiar but also different.  Check out the silver winding wheel that engages the golden ratchet wheel.  The big teeth on the winding wheel actually look like the teeth on an 800 series automatic, but it's moveable like on the earlier 694 movements.  It's a bit of a hybrid design.


Everything is cleaned and dried... well, almost everything.  Do you see the set bridge?  Me either.  I actually looked at this photo to try to determine when it disappeared.


Putting the train bridge back on is just like all the other ETA automatics... all four wheels have to be perfectly aligned before the bridge falls into place.  There's no force needed, just get the pivots into their respective places.


The barrel, barrel bridge, pallet fork and it's bridge all go in next.  I'll put the golden ratchet wheel on and give the watch a few winds to energize it.


I put the running watch onto the timer... it was running a little oddly so I re-cleaned the hairspring.


A few tweaks to reduce the beat error and the watch is running fairly well.  The amplitude is low though but that's because I didn't wind it very much.


A more substantial winding brings the watch back to life.  This is a good exemplification of why you want to wind an automatic fully by hand before you put it on your wrist.  That way you get the best performance and the automatic just keeps it topped off.


I fit a new male stem to a new crown.  I like to use waterproof crowns with a medium tube is this situation so the tube on the crown is supported by the stem tube on the case and I don't get too much wobble when setting the time.


The rotor can go back on now... it gets in the way of making adjustments but I'll leave the watch running as it is for now.


This watch takes a 30.8mm crystal... not the biggest crystal I've used, but close.


As you can see, with a new crystal, a fresh strap and a crown, this watch looks like it just left the showroom case.  I'm sure the owner will treasure this family watch now that it can actually be worn.