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Sunday, April 1, 2018

1954 Hamilton Illinois Automatic D

Today is Easter, the most special holiday of the Christian faith, although Christmas seems to get more publicity.  Both holidays are important in their own ways, but without Easter there wouldn't be a reason to celebrate Christmas.

Is there an Easter message that can be connected to vintage Hamiltons?  Maybe, but to a different degree than Christmas since people don't tend to associate Easter with giving presents.  However, Easter is a perfect time to think about those who have died and have been born into eternal life thanks to Christ's conquering of death and resurrection.

Most collectors I know started in the hobby by inheriting a watch from someone special to them.  Their vintage Hamilton is, in some ways, a symbol of the promise and hope of Easter.

You might also associate the "resurrection" of a vintage watch as a metaphor of the meaning of Easter.  Most of the watches that I restore died and were placed in the tomb of a desk or dresser drawer.  Just as the apostles must have felt, vintage watch owners experience tremendous joy when they realize their beloved time piece has been restored. Okay, that's a bit of a stretch.

I recently did a post on the 1953 Illinois Topper B.  The Hamilton Illinois line of watches introduced Swiss-made movements to Hamilton's line.  By 1954 there were Hamilton as well as Illinois models with Swiss movements.  One of the Illinois-branded automatics introduced in 1954 was the Automatic D.  It was produced for only a single year.

The Automatic D came in a yellow gold filled case.  The embossed dial has luminous dots and luminous hands to match.  Tucked inside the case is an Illinois branded movement based on the ETA 1256.

Illinois models aren't too hard to find but the Automatic D is less common.  One reason is by 1954 you had other Hamilton automatics to choose from.  Also, you had less expensive stainless steel Illinois automatics too.

I recently came upon an Automatic D and it reminded me a lot of the early Accumatic line.  The dial appears to have had a golden band around the outer perimeter but it has faded a bit on my example.  The case has interestingly sculpted lugs that remind me of a Victorian sculpture or webbed feet on a duck.

The case back snaps on and off and there's a lip between the lugs to pry against with a case knife.  The tip of the lip has a little bit of wear, otherwise the case looks very good.

Illinois movements did not get unique caliber numbers but a trained eye would immediately recognize this movement is an ETA movement and, specifically, a 1256.  If it was branded with Hamilton info, it would be the Hamilton 672.

There are remnants of an o-ring in the groove between the bezel and the case back.  I'll pull the rest of the o-ring fragments out before cleaning it.  The movement is held in place with a movement ring that is keyed to the bezel.  This ring can sometimes be a pain to get out but it needs to come out in order to remove the movement.

Without a crystal blocking the view, you can see the dial is in good shape but showing it's 65 years of age.

The number 9517 on the back of the dial corresponds to the 9517 on the outside of the case back and it's the model number of the Automatic D.

Everything is completely taken apart and thoroughly cleaned before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.

It's running a little fast but I can adjust that simply enough.  The amplitude is a little low but I haven't wound it up all the way yet.  The beat error of 2.3ms is within my acceptable limits and it's not easy to adjust on this movement so I will leave it as is.

A new high dome crystal in 28.3mm will brighten up the outside of the watch.

I installed a new o-ring in the case groove.  Now the trick will be to close the watch.  That can be hard to do if the ring needs to be compressed.

Fortunately I have a crystal press and it also serves as a great tool for applying the even pressure needed to close stubborn snap-on backs.

Paired with a fresh lizard strap, this Illinois Automatic D has been restored to new life.  It certainly didn't take a miracle but it did require time and talent - two blessings bestowed by God.  So in that way it's also a symbol of Easter.

Happy Easter to you and your family.  May you find the renewal of hope, health, love and the spirit of God today and always.

1 comment:

  1. You wrote this blog post on Easter, but I only saw it after the Christmas holidays, after typing "Hamilton Illinois 9517" in a Google searchbox. It was a nice holiday present to get some information on this watch. As per the post, my interest in watches largely started from inheriting a couple of interesting pieces from my late father, including the Hamilton I am researching.

    His watch looks very similar to the one in this post, with the exception of some small differences in the dial. The word "Hamilton" is level, not arched, there is no "Swiss" under the 6, and there is no golden band. Otherwise, the dial, hands, case, etc look the same. The movement looks identical. The inside of the case back has "illinois 9517" and "10k gold filled" engraved on it, along with some hand scratched numbers.

    The watch had been sitting in a jewelry box since, I'm guessing, the mid seventies. About 10 years ago I put a strap on it and wore it for a while. It ran and kept good time. I recently pulled it out and wore it a bit, but stopped because the case back is loose.

    Thanks for posting this. Great blog! I'm glad I found it.