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, March 31, 2018

1963 Thinline 4004

Hamilton had a special relationship with Buren in the 1960's and eventually ended up acquiring the Swiss watch company.  Buren movements were very thin and they were often used in the Thin-o-matic and Thinline models.  I say often because other makers like ETA and Aurore Villeret also provided movements for "thin" models, especially in the earlier 1960s.

One of the models to feature an AV movement is the 1963 Thinline 4004.  It features the 17 jewel 687 which is based on an Aurore 423.  It was produced only in 1963 and 1964.

The Thinline 4004 is the fifth Thinline model to have a gold filled case, hence the 4004 designation.  Why not 4005?  Simply because the first one was the Thinline 4000.  It came only in yellow gold filled.

I recently picked up a Thinline 4004 and it caught my eye because it had its original box and bracelet.  As you can see in the photo below, it's seen some wear but it also came with another aftermarket bracelet and I think that is what was on it most of the time, as the original bracelet looked new.

At first I thought the dial might be incorrectly refinished since there are no vertical marks on the seconds cross hair.  But if you look at the catalog image that is what it is supposed to look like.

As you can see, the crystal on my project watch is cracked and will need to be replaced.

The Thinline 4004 opens through the crystal.  Without the crystal blocking the view, you can see the dial has a unique vertical texture and would be difficult to get refinished correctly.  There's a little mark between the 9 and 10 markers but I think it's just dirt.

The 687 movement appears clean but that doesn't mean there's any oil still inside.

A new crystal in the 28.0 mm range should work nicely.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.  These movements are very easy to put back together.  Since the movement is so thin, the wheels have very short arbors.  That means the train bridge almost always just drops right into place.

The reassembled movement is on the timer and ticking away with good motion.

Not too shabby.  The amplitude is a little low but I haven't wound the movement up fully yet.  The beat error of 0.8ms is very good but I can easily lower it even further.

There... that's much better.  I'll leave it running a little fast for now as it should settle down after a while.

I don't have 28.1mm but I tried 27.9 and it was too small so I'll go a little larger with 28.3mm diameter in a PK, low profile, crystal.

The smudge between the 9 and 10 markers was just dirt so the dial cleaned up very nicely.  This 50+ year old Thinline 4004 looks and runs factory fresh now that it has a new crystal.

Tucked within it's original box, the watch looks like it ought to be sitting in a showroom display case.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

1938 Dunkirk

When Hamilton first introduced wrist watches you could count the number of models on one hand... well, really you could do it on one finger but very quickly there were a few different options.

One of the ways Hamilton differentiated models was to offer multiple different dial options.  This was already a long-standing standard practice for pocket watches and by the 1930's there were a couple of dozen men's models and many of them had two or three different dial options.

One of the first catalogued models to feature a black dial was the 1938 Dunkirk... although the honor of first to offer a black dial is shared with the Otis from the same year.

Originally the Dunkirk only had a black dial but the following year (1939) it was also offered in a traditional silver butler finish.

I've often wondered why Hamilton chose the name Dunkirk for the watch.  It's not a traditional men's name or a famous resort or explorer.  One thing is for sure, it wasn't in remembrance of the battle of the Dunkirk, as that didn't occur until 1940.

Although the Dunkirk was produced through 1940 I don't think you see them for sale very often.  That could be because it retailed for $125, the same as the solid 18K gold cased Richmond, and was considerably more expensive than other solid 14K gold models of the period that retailed for $100 or less.  Conversely, the gold filled Otis retailed for $65... now that would be a bargain as today a nice Otis will fetch upwards of $2.000.

My project watch came courtesy of someone who inherited it from their father.  As a family piece, it's a wonderful heirloom and definitely worthy of being restored and enjoyed.

Looking at the watch, it has the silver dial so it's either a 1939 or 1940 model.  It's a bit grungy and needs a new crystal but it should clean up nicely.  The metal bracelet is't original but it is period correct and I think it looks great with the watch.

The back of the watch is unengraved and shows very little wear.  The only thing that looks a little off is the crown is protruding from the side of the case and could be set a little deeper in the recess on in the side.

The design of the case is very interesting.  The back is complicated and the bezel actually snaps into the inside of the back on the sides but the outside of the back on the top and bottom.  This gives the Dunkirk bezel a two-step frame appearance.

The silver dial on the Dunkirk is the same pattern as the dial on the 1939 Brock, although the Brock did not have the black dialed option.  Of course the Brock came in yellow, white and coral gold with three different dial choices, so there were still lots of options - but not black.

Speaking of the Brock, the bezel of the Dunkirk looks just like the bezel of the Brock and the two models share the same crystal (I believe).  To put it in perspective, the Brock is also solid 14K gold but it retailed for $77.50 in 1939 - considerably less than a Dunkirk.

The Dunkirk was outfitted with a 19 jewel 14/0 sized 982 movement but in 1940 the 982M "medallion" movement was introduced for models with solid gold and platinum cases.  This Dunkirk has a 982M movement with a serial number that dates to 1940 making it easy to date the watch.

Here's a shot of the uniquely shaped case back.  This watch has four or five past service marks inside so it was well cared for.

Most of the 980 / 982 movements I see have a blue steel mainspring that has "set" and needs to be replaced.  The mainspring in this watch's barrel is a white alloy spring so I will clean it and reinstall it.

A new crystal will be a nice improvement to the watch's appearance.

Everything is clean and ready to be put back together.

I like the 982M.  It's not my favorite movement to work on but it is my favorite in terms of the appearance and overall design.  A lot of care and craftsmanship went into the creation of every 982M and the solid gold medallion in the train bridge is a testament to the quality of the movement.  This movement is a beauty to behold, which is interesting since only watchmakers would ever have the opportunity to look at it.

The reassembled movement is running very well.  I might speed it up a tiny bit but it's running pretty much right on the money.

Looks like I need to trim about 1/32 of an inch off the length of the stem.  That will bring the crown in a little closer to the side of the case.

The dial on the watch has a 70 year old patina on it and it looks very good in normal light.  My light tent gives the dial a slight green tint.  One thing I noticed in the light tent is the 1 and 2 in the 12 has some sort of tarnish on them.

I used a sharpened piece of peg wood with a tiny amount of Simichrome polish to remove the spotting on the numerals and then cleaned them off with rodico putty.

Just to show you what it looks like in regular day light, check out this finished project.  The bracelet is too short for my wrist but I'm sure the owner will love to give this wrist some well-deserved wrist time.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

1975 Auto Date Explorer

If you see a vintage Hamilton watch with a day of the week complication, you'll know it's a 1970s model or younger.  Pre-1970 models only had date complications.  There are lots of models with day-date options but you need to accept that most of them come with funky chunky 1970's styling.

An example of a chunky watch is the 1975 Auto Date Explorer.  It was only available in 1975, based on the catalogs, anyway.  A lot of gold-colored models were electroplated but the Auto Date Explorer has a gold filled case.

My project watch came courtesy of a fellow collector who loves 1970's styling.  As you can see in the photo below the watch has seen a lot of use.

The back of the case is also gold filled (as opposed to stainless) and should polish up nicely.

Did I mention this is a chunky watch?  There are a couple of interesting elements when you look at the side.  First, notice the line between this lugs - this is clearly a two-piece case.  Also, notice the model number for this watch is 911372.  The last two digits are usually the year the model was introduced so even though the Explorer only showed up on the 1975 catalog, perhaps it was available earlier, possibly in other markets.

Try as I may, I was not able to open the case.  I used every trick in the book to no avail.  I even went so far as to let the owner know that I wasn't able work on the watch.  After a couple of days I gave it another try and I realized the watch actually opens through the crystal.  I guess it's a one piece case that was made from two pieces.

Once opened, the movement inside is revealed to be a 17 jewel 825 movement with classic ETA styling.

Without a beat up crystal blocking the view you can see the dial is in decent shape and it might clean up even better.

Under the dial all you can see are the wheels for the day and date.

I didn't test the functionality of the watch before taking it apart... someday I will have to start doing that but I usually assume that if it's not working I'll fix it anyway so why bother?  However, if I did try the watch first I would likely have found that the date wheel didn't advance and couldn't even be set.  One reason is the wheel for the quick change complication has separated from the screw that holds it in place.

Most of the parts are now cleared from the front of the main plate and I can flip it over to work on the other side.

The first thing to take off the back is the oscillating weight.  It's held in place with a single screw in the center.

The framework that supports the weight is held in place with two screws that are traditionally blue in color.

Now the movement looks like most other ETA-made sweep second movements.

A new crystal is definitely in order and a 29.4mm diameter high dome crystal will do the trick.

Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.

The first parts to go back on are the train wheels.  All four need to be lined up before the train bridge will drop into place.

Getting the train bridge to fall in place sometimes takes a little finessing and other times it just drops right on.  It can be a frustrating task but normally it's not too bad.  Notice the ETA grade is stamped onto the main plate.  The Hamilton 825 is based on the ETA 2789.

Next to go on is the pallet fork and it's bridge.  It's better to put the pallet fork on after installing the train wheels, that way the pallet fork won't block the escape wheel when you're trying to get the train bridge to go on.

Installing the mainspring barrel and the barrel bridge is a breeze compared to the other parts.  Now I can wind the watch and install the balance.

The movement is running with a good balance motion so it's off to the timer to listen to the noise it's making.

The human ear only hears "tick tick tick" but for every tick tock that we can hear, the timer hears several additional noises.  For example, the timer hears the impulse pin hit the pallet fork and then the side of the pallet fork hit the banking pins.  Immediately the escape wheel rotates and hits the next pallet fork jewel and the pallet fork hits the impulse jewel again as it pushes the balance away.  The timer makes a bunch of calculations based on the noises it hears, compares it to what it expects to hear and then displays the results.

This movement is running a little slow at 43 seconds per day slow but the amplitude of 266 degrees is good and the beat error is under 1.0ms - which is great.

ETA movements are easy to adjust so I can dial in the performance even better.  Now it's right on the money although the amplitude hadn't registered by the time I took the photo.

All of the parts go back into the place, including the star-fish shaped wheel in the lower right.

Getting the day wheel to set properly is a little tricky since there's a spring-loaded lever to index the day but as long as the wheel sits flush you know it's in place.

A new crystal and a little polishing go a long way towards giving this Auto Date Explorer new life.  It looks like a completely different watch now, don't you think?