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, July 28, 2018

1954 Automatic K-200 CLD

Hamilton's first automatic models were introduced in 1954... 1953 if you want to start with the Hamilton Illinois line.  The 1954 model year had several watches cased in 14K solid gold, 10K solid gold, gold filled and stainless steel.  Starting in 1955, solid 18K was offered too!

Interestingly, three of the first 12 automatics were CLD models, as in "sealed" from the elements.  You could develop an impressive Hamilton collection by focusing solely on the CLD models, as there are 19 of them (25 if you want all the dial variations).  I started out way in collecting with an interest in finding all the CLD models but I realized fairly quickly that you stand a better chance of spotting Big Foot than of spotting a 1953 Tildon, or so it would seem.   I know there are Tildon's out there some where... maybe Big Foot has one?

If you want to land a full CLD collection, one of the more expensive CLD models you'll need to find is the 1954 Automatic K-200.  It was produced for three years so it's fairly easy to spot in the wild but it doesn't come cheap.  It has a heavy two-piece solid 14K case with integral movable lugs.  The dial is sterling silver and it features solid 18K markers and a pearled track.

In 1954 you could purchase it with a matching solid 14K bracelet.

However, by 1955 the bracelet was dropped and genuine croc strap was the go-to choice for outfitting the K-200.

Hamilton's first choice for automatic movements were ETA/Eterna-made, although fairly quickly the Kurth Freres (Certina) movements were predominantly used in K-series models.  Anytime I've seen a K-200 it had the Eterna movement, as you'll see in a bit.

My project watch came to me courtesy of a friend who caught the CLD bug early in his collecting years and he made a lot more progress than I did.

His watch is in very nice shape.  One of the lugs is a little more floppy than the other but overall it's a nice example.

The back of the case is nicely engraved with a Christmas dedication from 1955.  Based on the variety of marks on the case back, and my friend's warning, this case back is going to be a challenge to remove.

Just using a case knife proved futile so I had to resort to my "Persuader".  This special tool is a spring loaded punch so when you press it into position, eventually it POPS! and sends an extra dose of pinpoint force toward the business end of the tool.

The tip of the tool is a wedge and it will definitely leave a mark if you put it in the wrong spot.

With the case back out of the way, the movement inside is what I expected to see.  The five ball bearings in the center are still reflected in the logo of Eterna today.  This is the only Hamilton-marked movement to not have been given a caliber number.

One of the things my friend is known for is finding the unfindable... for example, he found what appears to be a new old stock K-200 case.  It is noticeably crisper than the other case, and I thought that case was very good.  So this is quite a find.

Once the stem is removed, the movement and it's movement ring come out of the back.

Once I removed the dial and hands, the first thing I noticed is this watch has a broken set bridge.  The broken part is missing so the last guy inside this watch didn't replace the set bridge.

My friend also included a movement from a K-400 in case I needed any parts... hopefully it has an intact set bridge.

The large screw holds the oscillating weight in position.  Once it's unscrewed the weight lifts right off.

Here's another missing part, the automatic framework is normally held on with three screws.  The last guy must have thought only two will do the job, as he left this one out.

This movement looks like an ETA 1256 or a Hamilton 672 at this point.  One difference is the balance shock jewels on this watch are a very early design.

Based on the stamp under the balance, it looks to me like this movement is based on an Eterna 1248 UC.  That grade was made from 1950 through 1954 so it could be that Hamilton switched to the Kurth Freres movements out of necessity.

Here's another little bit of trivia for you.  This movement is the only automatic movement to have received unique serial numbers.  Of course, after 1955 none of Hamiltons movements received serial numbers.

Everything is cleaned, dried and ready to be reassembled.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.

It's running a smidgen fast.  The beat error is acceptable and the amplitude is a little low, but I haven't fully wound it yet.

A quick and slight tweak to the regulator makes an immediate change to the beat rate so that the two lines are now approaching horizontal.  The lower the beat error, the closer the two lines will get.  If the beat error was zero, there would only be one line.  Lowering the beat error on this movement is a great way to screw up an otherwise fine balance.  So I won't tempt fate unnecessarily.

Here's what a proper set bridge should look like.  It's a spring loaded detent to hold the watch in the winding position or the setting position and it's what you feel pop when you pull the crown out or push it back in.

Okay... everything is ready to go into the new case.

When is the last time you've seen brand spanking new vintage spring bars?

Well, this K-200 would be the pride of anyone's CLD fleet, that's for sure.  The dial isn't perfect but it's definitely better than most original K-200 dials I've seen.  This watch now runs as well as it looks.   I'm sure my friend will be very happy to give it some wrist time.

Saturday, July 21, 2018


One of the really interesting complications a watch can have is an alarm.  Hamilton's first alarm watch was introduced in 1957 and called the Chanticleer.  The model was produced through 1959.

The Chanticleer is a popular model and always sells for a good price.  It has two small windows to indicate if the the alarm is on and another to indicate if the watch is wound.

Then in 1971 Hamilton introduced four different Alarm models, cleverly named the A, B, C and D.  They are also very popular and are very hard to come by.

Although the Chanticleer and the Alarm A-D models had alarm complications, they didn't use the same movements.

The Chanticleer used a variant of the Venus 231 branded the Hamilton 675.  The 1970's models used a ulcain 120 branded as the Hamilton 642.

I haven't personally landed a Hamilton alarm yet and I've been reluctant to take on any one else's, less I goof it up and not be able to replace it.

Fortunately, a friend of mine made me an offer I could not refuse.  He had recently been to Russia and picked up a Poljot Soviet-made for minimal expense (less than $25 as I recall).  So if I screwed it up he wouldn't be too upset with me.

What made the offer even more enticing is he was able to pick up two.  So if I really goofed up and lost a part or something, I might still be able to scavenge together one.

I figured since I haven't done a Hamilton alarm yet, it would still be interesting to see what makes one tick - pun intended.  It turns out, the movement in the Poljot is a little similar to the Venus 231, but not exactly.  The movement inside is a Poljot 2612.1.

I decided to work on the rougher of the two watches, just in case something happened.  The back of the case has a pie pan cover with a screw-on ring.  It also has a thick layer of communist funk.

The inside of the back cover has an anvil that the alarm hammer smacks against.  It's offset so you can rotate it adjust the force of the clatter is makes.

The movement inside an 18 jewel grade and if you look closely you may notice there are two mainspring ratchet wheels.  The smaller one is for the alarm and the larger one powers the movement.

The watch has two stems, one for the movement and one for the alarm.  They are not the same.  The one on top is the movement stem.

There are four hands on the dial, the extra one with the arrow tip is the alarm hand and when the hour hand aligns with it the alarm will go off.  There are two ways of keeping the alarm from going off... one is to let the alarm mainspring unwind and the other is to pull the alarm crown out and "hack" the alarm mechanism.

About a third of the back is used by the alarm power train.  My tweezers are pointing to the hammer that rapidly swings back and forth when the alarm is activated.  My first task will be to make sure both mainsprings are relieved so there's no power left in either gear train.

Once the hands are removed, there are two dial foot screws on the side of the movement that will release the dial.

This doesn't look too complicated... ha ha!  I see four different springs under the various bridges so I will need to be very careful not to lose any of these parts.

Turning my attention to the back, the first part that I will remove is the balance and the pallet fork.  That will get them safely out of the way and also make sure the power is gone from the mainspring.

Interestingly there is a shim under the balance cock.

Three screws hold the train bridge in place and once they're removed the gear train is revealed.

Next I'll remove the barrel bridge so I can get the mainspring barrel out.

Removing the center wheel bridge allows access to the center wheel.  So now those parts can be removed.

Two final screws hold the alarm barrel bridge in place.  Once they're removed the bridge can be removed and the alarm train can be removed.

Everything gets thoroughly cleaned and dried.  I think I still have all the parts - so that's helpful too.

Putting it back together occurs in a few phases.  First I'll get the movement running again.  Looks like its running now - off to the timer.

Not too shabby... I will tweak it again later.

Apparently I forgot to take a photo of the alarm train being reassembled but it's not that difficult.   After that I flipped the movement dial side-up so I could reassemble all the other bits and pieces.  Everything is now lubricated and ready for the dial to go back on.

I've never reassembled an alarm before so I wasn't really sure how to put the hands back on.  I figured I'd set the alarm hand to midnight and then set the time forward until the alarm goes off.  Then I'd know it's midnight and the alarm works.

The alarm hand is secured to a wheel that is outside of the hour wheel.  Then the hour hand goes on the hour wheel and the minute hand goes on the cannon pinion.  All the hands need to be parallel to each other so they don't rub on one another.  Finally, the second hand goes on the pivot of the 4th wheel that protrudes through the center of the cannon pinion.

Success!  The watch works just as it should.  The crystal on the watch is acrylic and thoroughly crazed so it will need to be replaced but I'm excited to have successfully fixed the worse of the two project watches that my friend entrusted to me.  Hopefully the second one will go even more smoothly than this one.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

1965 Thinline 4007

I'm approaching my 700th blog post - I think I've done around 680 different models so far.  If I'm going to make it to the 1000 or so mechanical men's models then I'm going to have to track down a whole slew of Thinlines, as there are almost 100 of them and half are solid gold models.

It's going to be a while but I can mark another off the list, it's a 1965 Thinline 4007.  It was produced though 1967.

The Thinline 4007 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case and what's also interesting about it is it has a yellow dial, although you can't really tell from the catalog depiction.  It's also unique in that it doesn't have a second hand.

My project watch is in excellent condition and came complete with it's original bracelet - that's always fun to see.  There are a couple of light scratches on the crystal but they should polish out without much difficulty.

The movement inside is a Hamilton 687A grade, also known as a caliber 55 and it's based on the Aurore 4200.  It looks great but that doesn't mean it doesn't need fresh oil inside.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  The best thing about these Thinline movements is they almost reassemble themselves.  The arbors on the train wheels are so short that once you have the pinions set in the manipulate, the train bridge almost always drops right into place without any fidgeting or fussing.  Of course, you can still goof up the hairspring or lose something if you're not careful.

Voila!  The movement is back together and ticking away with good motion.  Now it's off to the timer.

Well, that's not too bad at all.  The amplitude is a little low (but not bad).  I haven't fully wound the watch yet since there is no crown on the stem.  I just turned the ratchet wheel a couple of times to get the movement energized a little so the balance would move when it was in place.

A quick tweak to the hairspring stud on the regulator and the beat error is brought to zero.

Looking inside the case, there are two numbers.  The top one is a unique serial number for this watch and the lower one is the product number for the Thinline 4007.  Notice it ends with 65 - that's the first year of production for the model.

Even my merciless light tent can't find a flaw with this beautiful Thinline 4007.  It is showroom-new looking and runs as great as it looks.  It's definitely read for some wrist time.