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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.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

1913 Hamilton 972 Pocket Watch for NAWCC 75th Jubilee

I try not to do repeat posts of models that I've done in past but I make exceptions when I have a good reason.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, or the NAWCC.  This organization is a tremendous resource for horologists and collectors from all over the world.  They are marking this noteworthy anniversary with a "For All Time" celebration.


The NAWCC is worth supporting and I started a "gofundme" campaign to raise $5,000 on behalf of "the friends of Hamilton Chronicles" over the month of June.  The month is half over and I'm almost halfway to my goal.  Can you help me get there?



Donations are 100% tax deductible, you'll get a receipt from PayPal for your records.  I get nothing from the campaign, other than the satisfaction of knowing I've developed friendships with fellow Hamilton collectors all over the world.

However, to sweeten the deal, I'm going to raffle off the watch in this post as part of the campaign.  Every $25 donation is a chance to win.  Donate multiples of $25 for multiple chances to win.  It all goes to a good cause and you've got a much better chance of winning this watch than you do of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightening - so that's something to consider too.

The watch in question is over a 100 years old and it dates to a time when Hamilton was known as the "the watch of railroad accuracy".  Wrist watches were "for women" - and no self-respecting man of distinction would be without a fine pocket watch.  There were none finer than a Hamilton.


There were a surprising number of different grades of pocket watches in 1913.  Men's models started at 12 Size and went through 18 Size.  Grades offered a minimum of 17 jewels and went through 19, 21 and 23 jewel variants.

The 972 was an excellent mid-level pocket watch.  It was "railroad approved" on some smaller regional lines as long as it met the dial and hand requirements.  You could also get it in a configuration for a hunting case, and that would make it a 973.  Back in 1913 you would select a movement and then a separate case.  The jeweler would then complete the assembly for you.


My project watch is in very nice overall condition.  The dial has a couple of hairlines and tiny fleabite  by the 50 second mark but otherwise it looks terrific.


The case shows no wear through at all and the bow is stiff.  So I don't think this watch got a lot of regular use.


The movement looks great and the jewel settings are fairly bright.  That means this watch was probably serviced at some point in the last 10 years, I bet.


This watch predates the jewelry standard of "filled gold".  I don't think it's solid gold but it's definitely very heavy gold filled at a minimum.


The movement is missing two of the three dial feet.  That was unexpected.  A donor movement will provide the needed spares.


This watch is negative set, so the sleeve in the case holds the watch in the winding position.  Once the movement is outside of the case, the springs under the dial move the watch into the setting position.


The screw holding on the balance cock is an obvious replacement.  It doesn't match the head design of the other bridge screws.


Up until the mid 1930's, Hamilton marked all of the main bridges with the serial number of the movement.  That makes it easy to spot if a part gets swapped.


The mainspring inside the barrel is a blue steel variety.  It could be okay but I'm willing to bet it has set and needs to be replaced.


Sure enough, the mainspring is still a tight coil, relatively speaking.


A new white alloy mainspring will make a big difference in how long the watch runs on a full wind.  They come pre-coiled and you get one chance to get them into the barrel - otherwise you have to rewind them.  Pocket watch mainsprings can really pack a wallop and you need to be careful when unraveling them.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  A pocket watch takes up a lot of real estate when it's all laid out.


Here's an oblong shot of the difference between the old mainspring (left) and the new spring on the right.  There's also an old 6/0 size mainspring in the gutter on the extreme right, for comparison.


It took a couple of tries but I finally got the mainspring into the barrel with the t-end lined up correctly.


The train wheels are all in place and I'm ready to put the barrel bridge back in place.


With the pallet fork in place, the movement is now ready to be wound up.  Then I can install the balance.


The best way to wind the watch is to install it in the case and use the crown.  That way you can use the crown to overcome the springs in the watch and put it in the winding position.


The watch is now running with good motion... it's off to the timer to see how it's performing.


That's not too bad.  If this was my personal watch I would stop right here.  A beat error of 1.5ms is well within my specs of under 3.0ms.  However, the closer to zero the better and since this is a special watch to celebrate Hamilton and the NAWCC, I feel obliged to see if I can improve it.


Alright... it doesn't get much better than that.


The movement goes back into the case.


The finished watch looks as great as it runs.   What an awesome pocket watch this will be for some lucky donor!


I'm going to hold the raffle at the end of the month.  If you appreciate vintage Hamiltons or you appreciate the work I do and what I share on the blog, please me to reach my $5,000 goal for the NAWCC.  Every donation counts and your generosity is appreciated!



Again, donations are 100% tax deductible, you'll get a receipt from PayPal for your records.  I get nothing from the proceeds of the campaign.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

1968 Dateline TM-4900

A new class of micro rotor automatics was released in 1968.  Some had calendar complications and some did not.  Those with calendar complications were included in the Dateline series and the designation TM was added, representing Thin-o-matic.

One of the new models was the 1968 Dateline TM-4900.  It was produced through 1971.


The TM-4900 came in a 10K yellow gold filled one-piece case with either a matching bracelet or on a strap.

My project watch has some obvious issues - like the crown doesn't seat on the stem tube.  The watch appears to run but the date does not advance.  So something is going on under the dial.


Some Thin-o-matics have ETA movements with a curved case back.  However, a flat case back is a sure sign that there's a micro rotor inside.


Uggh... do I really want to tackle one of these movements again?  These Buren-made movements utilize an offset center wheel (visible with the silver bushing just left of center).  They are notorious for having issues where the movement keeps excellent time but the watch appears to run slow, thanks to the cannon pinion that is integrated into the center wheel design.


The oscillating weight on the back of the movement has been rubbing the inside of the case back.  In fact, there's now a groove on the inside of the case at the extreme left side.  With the movement out of the way, the crown is now fully seated so the female side of the two-piece stem needs to be trimmed a bit for a better fit.


The oscillating weight is fully seated but it's wobbly.  The framework for it is either worn out or it has another issue.


There's some rust on the male-side of the stem and it's started to tone the date wheel at the number 18.


Fortunately I have a donor movement.  It has some issues too (like it's super-hard to wind) but between the two movements hopefully I can assemble one good one.


The calendar complication on this movement is very familiar to some other 1970s models.  As the hour wheel turns, it engages a couple of wheels that eventually turn a large golden wheel.  As the large wheel turns it will slowly stick out a finger that advances the date wheel counter clockwise.


The bottom of the oscillating weight is missing it's pivot... thus the wobble.


Fortunately the donor movement has a good part to utilize.


Everything is cleaned and readied for reassembly.  There are a variety of very small, but different, screws and it's important that they go in the proper places.


Well, it took a while... about twice as long as a typical movement, but I got the movement back together and running.


Hmm... something is making a little extra noise inside.  Could be the hairspring, could be the pallet fork, or it could be both.


I suspect it was the pallet fork and eventually I got it to run cleanly.  Now I just need to speed it up.


Okay - not too shabby.  I'll leave it here for now.


In order to put the hands back on I need to advance the time until the date changes.  I put it back in the case so I can use the crown.  Then I can install the hands on at "midnight" so the date will advance at the correct time.


The last thing to do is to trim the stem so the crown seats flush.  This is actually a different crown, with an H logo, but I still needed to trim the stem.


Unfortunately the dial has some speckling, probably thanks to the same moisture that rusted the stem.  There's nothing I can do to improve the dial but it doesn't look too terrible.  This is a sharp-looking 1960's watch but I still don't have any love for the 2nd generation of micro rotors.  I will need to observe the watch to make sure the hands move as they should... if they don't, I'll have to take it apart again and change the center wheel or try to tighten the cannon pinion.  Wish me luck!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Help Me Help the NAWCC!

Hey fellow Hamilton fans!  Did you know that this blog gets over 1,500 visits every day!  I started this blog to share my interest in restoring vintage Hamiltons and over the last several years I've gotten to know lots of fellow Hamilton collectors from all over the world!

If you're a fan of vintage Hamiltons and of my blog (HamiltonChronicles.com), then I invite you to join me in supporting the NAWCC For All Time Endowment and Capital Campaign as a Friend of Hamilton Chronicles. My goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of June and I'm hoping I can exceed that!

Donations are 100% tax deductible and every $25 donation is entered in a chance to win a 1913 Hamilton 972 pocket watch that will be restored by me later this month and shown right here on the blog!   Here's a sneak peak at the watch before it's spa treatment.



Check out the campaign here... and thanks for your generosity!  https://www.gofundme.com/friends-of-hamilton-chronicles

If you're into social media, I'd appreciate your sharing this campaign with your friends or any fellow collectors you know.

Every dollar counts and 100% of the proceeds (less GoFundMe fees) go to the NAWCC!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

1927 Illinois Canby / Rectangular

Illinois Watch Company was one of the premier American watch manufactures.  It's roots are in railroad-grade pocket watches but they are well known for their wrist watches too.  In fact, Illinois produced a large variety of interesting wrist watches when Hamilton was only producing a small handful of models.

The Hamilton Watch Company purchased the Illinois Watch Company in 1928 and continued to make wrist watches for several years.  Eventually the Great Depression put an end to that.

I don't know that much about the Illinois line but one of the interesting things about Illinois watches is the broad variety of dial and case patterns that were available within a specific model line.  There are several models that are highly sought after and collectors are very dedicated.

If you really want to learn more about Illinois watches then you need to purchase the new 5-volume book set that Fred Friedberg recently published.


The book set is a marvelous resource for watch enthusiasts.  It definitely qualifies as a Magnum Opus for Fred and he is generously donating the proceeds from the book to the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) and / or other charities.  Feel free to let Fred know that Handy Dan sent you.

I recently received an Illinois watch with a few other Hamilton models in need of some TLC.  I thought I would do a post on it so you can see some of the details that make Illinois a sought after line for collectors.

The watch in question is a Rectangular, also known as the Canby.  It was introduced in 1923 and made for several years.  It came in solid 14K gold and 14K gold filled, in both green and white gold.  Like Hamilton models, the model came in either "plain" or engraved bezels.



One of the attributes that made Hamilton the "premier watch brand" in America was the high quality of even the most basic movements.  All Hamilton wrist watch movements came with a minimum of 17 jewels.

Illinois, on the other hand, offered some models with 15 jeweled movements.  Depending on where the jewels were, some wheels in the train were supported only by metal bushings.

My project watch is in excellent aesthetic condition.  The white gold filled case has a little wear to the corners of the engraved bezel.  The dial and hands have been professionally refinished.  The crown is an obvious replacement but other than that, the watch looks fantastic.  It has the seconds at 9 pattern, which is always popular. 


The bezel and the case center are engraved.  I don't know if these engravings were originally filled with black enamel but I think it would look great that way.


This watch has the 15 jewel Illinois 903 movement.  You could have also purchased this watch with a 17 jewel or 19 jewel grade.  You can see that the 903 is not "jeweled at the center".  Instead, the center wheel is supported by metal bushings.  The center wheel doesn't move very quickly - in fact, it turns a complete revolution every hour.  So metal bushings are a big deal but they are prone to eventually wearing out.  Based on the serial number of the movement, this is a 1927 model.


With the dial out of the way you can see that the dial-side of the main plate is uncomplicated.  You can also see the lower 3rd wheel and the 4th wheel, also ride in metal bushings.  That means two of the 15 jewels are cap jewels for the escape wheel.


Ahh... nothing like a blurry photo... but I'll include it just to show you how the watch gets completely taken apart for cleaning.


The first parts back on are the pallet fork and then the escape wheel and the 4th wheel.


Next on is the rest of the train wheels, mainspring barrel and the barrel bridge.


Uh oh... I thought the upper 3rd wheel jewel looked a little funny.  When I looked very closely I realized it's cracked.  In fact, the metal pivot inside wobbles around when you wiggle the center wheel.  This jewel will need to be replaced but I don't have a donor movement.


There's no harm in finishing the installation of the balance.  Surprisingly this watch runs.  The beat error is way too high at 9/0ms but I won't bother trying to reduce it at this point.


Things are definitely a lot shinier now that the watch and case are cleaned.  Too bad this watch will still require some work.


After I wound the watch I found the cover of the mainspring barrel wouldn't stay on and it would pop off,  releasing the mainspring tension.  So that will need to be addressed too.   It's too bad though, this watch sure looks like it's ready for more wrist time.


I have to say that although Illinois made some fabulous models, I haven't caught the bug to want to collect them.  This watch is over 90 years old and most Illinois models are that, or even older.  15 jewel movements will show more wear and tear than a 17 or 19 jewel grade.  I suspect most Illinois watches have reached the end of their service life.

To be fair, Hamiltons from the same period can be equally finicky but unlike metal bushings, rubies and saphires don't wear out so Hamilton movements can often be saved.  Watches from this era should definitely be treated with great care and not exposed to the rigors of a more modern, shock jeweled watch, even a vintage shock jeweled watch.