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, October 14, 2018

1960 Automatic K-460

One could acquire an impressive collection of Hamilton watches by just focusing on "one year wonders", or models made for just a single model year.  There are quite a few of them.

The reasons for one year wonders are a mystery but the logical guesses would be either they were unpopular and didn't sell well, the movement inside became obsolete, they were disrupted by something more significant, or they were an experiment with a new material or design.  I suspect there are plenty of examples of all of the above but not being popular probably isn't a bad guess.

A better way of saying "unpopular" might be to simply say unremarkable.  Being unpopular doesn't mean being unliked, it could just mean unknown or otherwise indistinguishable from everything else.

Take for example the 1960 Automatic K-460.  It was made only in 1960.  I wouldn't say that it's an unattractive watch or even unlikable in any way.  However, it does look like a lot of other models so if it wasn't included in the lineup you probably wouldn't miss it.  It came on a strap or on a bracelet and the bracelet was also used by several other models.

Yes, I think having a K-460 in the collection would be great.  Especially if you wanted to focus on rare watches that most collectors wouldn't have in there collections.

My K-460 project watch came to me courtesy of a friend and fellow Hamilton collector.  It arrived in well preserved state.  There are a couple of minor dings here and there from wrist wear but it looks in great condition for pushing 60 years old.

The back of the watch is stainless steel and clearly marked Hamilton.  The curved spring bars are the original design.

Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel Hamilton 667 movement.  This caliber replaced the 661 that was used in the earlier Automatic K-series models.

Everything is completely disassembled and ultrasonically cleaned before being reassembled with a variety of fresh lubricants.

The partially reassembled movement is now ticking away with good motion.  Now it's time to see what the watch timer thinks of the ticking.

Not too shabby at all.  I might slow it down a smidgen but it will also settle down a little on it's own after a while.

This watch came with it's original Kreisler bracelet and the original spring bars complete the assembly with a level of precision that surely must have been intentional.  Everything fits together perfectly.  This watch still shows just a tiny amount of wear but it's close to museum quality, in my opinion.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

1938 Endicott

One of the first Hamilton wrist watches I bought was an Endicott.  It's also one of the first models that I put on the bog when I started this in 2012 (over six years ago!).  The Endicott is one of my top favorite models and I always notice them when they're for sale and take a run at them when they are priced right.

The Endicott was made for several years, starting in 1938 and going through 1948.  It has five different dial options and I thought I'd do a post on what I consider to be the rarest dial pattern for the model... the first generation applied gold numeral dial.

In 1938 and 1939 the Endicott had black enamel numeral dial or an AGN dial. The AGN version has black rectangles at the 5 minute marks.  It was introduced in October of 1938.

In 1939 the same AGN pattern was offered along with the black numeral dial and a luminous pattern was also introduced.

In 1940 the black zone (and gilt) dial was introduced and if you look closely the AGN dial changed slightly to having black triangles at the 5 minute marks.  So by this time there were four dial options to choose from.

I believe the original AGN pattern with the black rectangles is the least common.  In fact, I've only ever seen 3 or 4 since I started collecting.  Hamilton records indicate there were 5 Coral Endicotts plus 1 solid gold Coral Endicott produced - so really there are six dial patterns out there but good luck finding a Coral one!

Over the years I've sold four of the Endicotts to a fellow collector who appreciates the model as much as me.  The only one he didn't have is the original AGN dial.  I happened to see one on eBay recently and he purchased it, then he sent it to me to restore for him.

As received it's not too bad.  It's a little dirty but nothing too concerning.

One of the ways to tell a good Endicott from a great Endicott is to look at the case back.  A good one will show some wear to the lip of the back where a case knife can open the watch.  A great Endicott will not show wear and this is a great Endicott.  It will clean up very nicely.

This dial appear to be original and it's a two-tone white/butler finished pattern.  The numbers on this dial are closer to the center than on the later AGN dial so you cannot finish this dial pattern on the later dial - the number will run into the minute track.  The hands on the dealer version are also a little shorter than on the later version.

The only thing not original on this watch is the crown, it's white in color and would be great for a white gold filled model but the Endicott should have a yellow crown.

This is an early 987A, just as it should be for an early Endicott.  At this point in time Hamilton still included recesses for case screws to secure the movement in a three-piece case.  Some of the early 1930's models with three-piece cases were still being made by the late 1930s.

The back of the dial has no marks whatsoever, another sign that it's original.

The mainspring inside the barrel is a typical blue steel spring.  I'd wager that it's "set" and has lost most of it's energy by now.

Yup - the spring expands to about the size of a quarter.  This watch would probably run about 12-16 hours on a full wind, if that.

I'll put in a nice white alloy Dynavar spring - that will power this watch for upwards of 40 hours.

The now clean and reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.

Well... it's not too bad.  The timing is good, the amplitude is great, and the beat error is under 4ms but it's pretty close to 4.0.  The closer to zero the better so now I have to decide if I feel lucky enough to risk goofing up an otherwise good balance by removing it from the balance cock and trying to reduce the beat error.   Hmmm.....

I decided to go for it since I have a spare balance if something bad happens.  The beat error is caused by the balance not being centered on the pallet fork.  To correct it you have to remove the balance and rotate the hair spring how ever far is needed to center the balance.  Normally it's just a few degrees one side or the other.  It's not always easy to see which way it needs to go so you have a 50% chance of being right.

As you can see below, on my first attempt I chose poorly - and the beat error increased. Now I have to do it all again and rotate the spring the other direction and then a little more.

There... nailed it.  A couple of tweaks to the regulator bring all the numbers into more than acceptable  levels.

I realized I had another Endicott project watch lurking on my bench (I told you I found them hard to resist).  In the shot below you can see the two different AGN patterns, the placement of the numbers and the differing lengths of the hands.  Only the cases are the same.

My project watch turned out pretty good I think.  The dial is almost 80 years old so you should expect a little aging, no?   I think it looks excellent and no my friend will have a complete set of Hamilton Endicotts.  We've been looking for this one for at least a couple of years, I think.  It is not an easy watch to find.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

1930 Secometer (pocket watch)

Before there was a Secometer, there was the Secometer, but there was never a Sectometer.

Say what?

If you've been around vintage Hamilton watches for long, you probably know there were several Secometer models, starting in 1946 but there is also a B and a C model too.

However, in 1930 Hamilton introduced a new dial option for 12-size pocket watches called the Secometer.  It featured a small window in the dial through which you could see a small wheel with the seconds printed rotating.

The Secometer dial was an option for all of the 12 size pocket watches starting in 1930 and there are several dial patterns in the Secometer line, including with applied gold numerals.

I have found that pocket watches with Secometer dials are very popular and I have never been able to score an example because someone always outbids me.  However, I recently landed an uncased example from somewhere in Eastern Europe, of all places.

This example came on a 12 size 912 movement.  The 912 is an entry level pocket watch and extremely common.  It shares a lot of parts with the more expensive 12 size watches though so they make good donor movements.  Although this watch was sold "as running" it didn't arrive as such.  The balance staff isn't broken though so I'm not sure what's up with it.

The back of the dial is pretty easy to identify, don't you think?  The dial is recessed for the hour wheel and for the larger seconds wheel

With the dial out of the way, you can see the seconds wheel that is pushed onto the 4th wheel pivot.  I'm not sure how to get the wheel off so I'll just pull the 4th wheel out from the other side as I take apart the movement.  That way I can use the main plate to put even pressure on the wheel and not bend the pivot.

You can see in the photo below that the 4th wheel for the Secometer dial requires a slightly modified 4th wheel and the pivot or seconds bit is shorter than a conventional movement.

One of the banking pins it severely bent.  Hopefully I can straighten it without breaking it off.

Well, I can see why the watch isn't running, the impulse jewel, aka roller jewel, is missing from the balance.  So there is nothing to engage the pallet fork.  There's just a small nub of jewel and I suspect that whatever bent the banking pin must have also broken the jewel off.  Oh well, I have another balance to use.

Everything is cleaned and ready for reassembly.

The reassembled movement is running a little fast but I can slow it down without too much difficulty.

There... everything is looking great now.

My donor movement came in a slightly earlier 1920's Decagon case in green gold filled.

Well, I can see why Secometer models are so popular.  This is a really cool looking pocket watch.  Considering the small wheel under the dial is so unimpressive, it's completely different when a portion of it is displayed through the decorative window.

And in the video below you can see it in action.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

1972 Accumatic A-515

It's not unusual to find Hamilton watches for sale with unique colored dials.  What is unusual is to find Hamilton watches with authentic dials with unique colors.

For the most part, Hamilton designers used white, silver, or black for dials and on a few occasions gold and sometimes rose-colored dials were used.  Of course there are exceptions to every rule but if you find a Hamilton model - especially from before 1960 - with a boldly colored dial, then buyer beware.

All bets were off in the 1970's though.  All sorts of colors were introduced and even the 1960's had models with very unique dials.

Take for example, the 1974 Accumatic A-515.  It was produced though 1974 and featured a bright orange dial.  The catalog image just doesn't do the real watch any justice.

I think the Accumatic A-515 is an interesting blend of old and new, at least as for as the 1970's concerns.  To look at the watch, it looks like the typical funky, chunky 1970's styling but it has a 1960's movement under the hood.

My project watch arrived with a noticeable clunk coming from the inside.  I thought for sure the oscillating weight must have come off.   I was unable to open it though, as the screw on back was on TIGHT.

Looking at the case back reveals it to appear like the usual 1970's models.  However, there is one interesting detail to be seen - the model number for this watch is 689032-3.  The -3 means it has a stainless steel case.  The 689 is an indicator of the movement inside.  You will usually see this type of watch start with an 8, for an 825 or 818, etc. movement.

I had to purchase a new case wrench in order to open the watch.  It's a high quality wrench and costs 10 to 15x the price of a "cheap" wrench.  In this case (pun intended) it was worth it, as I was able to get inside.

You can see below that the movement is a 17 jewel 689A, also known as a caliber 63 - although the 63 has 4 additional jewels in the automatic framework, bringing the total to 21.  You can't really tell in the photo, but the rotor has come slightly unscrewed from the framework and is wobbling.  That was the cause of the clunking noise and will be an easy fix (tighten the screw).

While the parts are in the cleaner I will try to polish and dress the case.  This case has a brushed finish on some surfaces and a bright finish on others.  First I'll try to de-scratch the brushed finish and then tape it off so I can polish the bright surfaces.

Everything is cleaned, dried, and ready for reassembly.

The basic movement is back to running order.  It has good motion so I suspect the timer will bring good news.

No complaints here... good beat rate, good amplitude, no beat error.

Other than a couple of tiny pieces of lint on the crystal, I'd say this watch turned out very well.  I'm sure an orange dial isn't for everyone but I'm sure there are plenty of Clemson or Virginia Tech fans that might like to have one.

My light tent is merciless when it comes to photos, so here's a wrist shot with the watch in more flattering light.  Definitely makes a bold statement.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Modern-ish Khaki Field Watch

I suppose a watch from the 1990's would be considered "vintage" by many standards.  I think you could make a better argument that it would be considered a classic, at least this next post anyway.

Back in June I did a post on Hamilton's most modern military watch, the Mil-W-46374D, Type 1.  There are a number of Hamilton military models and quite a few fakes out there too, by the way.  The 46374D is arguably the best, in my opinion.  The GG-W-113 is a very close second.  The Mil-W-46374B is okay and looks almost identical but it's really meant to be disposable.   Unless it was in great shape, I'd pass on most 46374Bs.

One thing you'll find often posing as a military watch are the early Khaki models.  You'll also find Khaki models with the LLBean logo.  They're basically built the same way as military watches and even use the same movements.

Back in the Spring I restored a GG-W-113 as well as a British military W-10 field watch.  They both feature the Hamilton 649 movement which was based on the ETA 2750 caliber.  As I found out, there are a variety of Hamilton models from the 1970's and 80s that used the 649 movement.  One of them was an early Khaki field watch.

I recently came upon another Khaki field watch in serious need of some TLC.  I suspected it would also have a 649 movement, but I was pleasantly mistaken.

As received, you can see it has seen better days.  It's quite beat up and the minute hand has lost most of its lume.  Notice this watch doesn't have fixed spring bars.  It was intended to be used with a two-piece strap.

The case is a two-piece design, which I personally prefer since you don't need to contend with a rusty two-piece stem like on most front-loader designs.  The model number of this watch is 9415A.  I'm not exactly sure what years this was made but my guess is mid-to-late 1990's.

Low and behold, inside is an ETA 2801-2.  This is the same movement that is used in Hamilton's new Khaki Field watch that was re-introduced this year!  It's also what you'll find inside a Mil-W-46274D Type 1.

Once the hands are removed, there are little levers on opposing side that you swing out to free the dial feet so the dial can be lifted off.

The 2801-2 can be outfitted with a date complication and you can see the empty spaces where those parts could go.  Based on the luminous dust under the dial, this watch is long overdue for a cleaning.

This movement has a hack mechanism and the golden lever is temporarily attached to the bottom of the barrel bridge.

You can see 2801-2 and the ETA logo stamped under the balance wheel.

While the parts are in the cleaner I will clean and repaint the luminous hands.

I will also need to install a new crystal.  These models have a reflector ring that is a matte silver, just like the case.  So I will save the reflector ring and use it in the new crystal.

Looks like 28.5mm will do the trick.

I like the profile of Stella WRA crystals and they're my go-to choice for these applications.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

I need to remember to reinstall the gold hack lever.  Most watches don't hack so it's easy to forget this very specialized part.  It engages the clutch wheel and pivots when the watch is in time-setting position.  The long side of the lever will just touch the balance wheel and stop the watch until the clutch moves back into the winding position.

The watch is ticking away.  The 2801-2 has a 28K beat per hour rate so it's noticeably faster than a garden variety vintage watch with an 18K BPH rate.  28K is crazy fast in comparison.

Whoa... something isn't right.  Maybe a spec of dust on the hairspring or pallet fork.

I recleaned the hairspring several times and finally got a clean signature.  The amplitude is a little low but that could be related to having not wound the watch up a lot.

Well, a new crystal and fresh luminous paint makes a world of difference, don't you think?  This watch looks very similar to the new Khaki field watch but it's a little smaller.

Here's a photo of Hamilton's new Khaki Field Mechanical.  I think it's more closely inspired by the Mil-W-46274D but there's no doubting the strong family resemblance.  The new model is 38mm in diameter while my project watch is closer to 33mm.

Before the 9415A there was the 921980 (I'm guessing from the 1980s).  Can you spot some of the differences?  First, the older model uses the stylized H and modern italic Hamilton logo.  The 9515A used the more vintage sans-serif logo that WWII-era watches used.  It's the same logo the new Khaki Field Mechanical uses too, by the way.  Also, the numbers on the 9415A are slightly bolder than on the 921980 version.  You can't tell from the outside that the two Khaki models use different movements.  The locations of the dial feet are not the same so dials are not interchangeable, even though they are both based on ETA grades.

Just to spice things up a little more, here are the two Khakis with their big brother, the Mil-W-46374D.  The military watch (with the red strap) does not say Hamilton on it - at least on the outside. The hour markers are triangles, as opposed to dots.  So you can see the new Khaki Field draws most of it's inspiration from the Mil-W-46374D, including using the same movement - the ETA 2801-2.