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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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

1958 Automatic K-412

It's been a while since I've come across a new Automatic K-series model.  Someday I'll have to make a "most-wanted" list and identify the models that I haven't come across yet.

As fate would have it, I was recently contacted by someone who inherited his grandfather's watch and it serves as a great reminder that all Hamiltons are worthy of being restored, especially family pieces.

The model in question is the K-412.  It was introduced in 1958 and produced for only two years.  It was introduced in the waning years of the K-series and the start of the Accumatic line.  So it could be a fairly rare model.  There are no production records from this time period, unfortunately.


The Automatic K-412 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case and was outfitted with a white dial embossed with yellow markers and numerals.  It also has a pearled minute track with tiny golden dots at each minute position.  Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel 661 movement.

Check out my project watch below... notice anything unusual?  Where should I start?  The good news is at least it ticks - ha ha!  It has a serious case of dial rash and I don't think I'll be able to do much to improve it.  I could send it out to be refinished but embossed dials with pearled dots are very hard to get done properly.  The figures always seem to come back soft, like they've been over polished.


The gold filled case back is unremarkable and it's loose so I can get it off easily.  These types of cases are very robustly built.


I don't know where the hands went but I can tell you definitively that the second hand is missing because there's no bit to attach it to.  The tip of the 4th wheel is very easy to break off if you're not careful.


The movement appears to be in good shape but it's very dirty.


Although the watch is ticking, that doesn't mean it keeps accurate time.  I rarely check a watch on the timer before I take I work on it... I just assume it's not going to be very good and I'm going to take it apart anyway.  However, just for fun, let's see how this watch is doing?


There is no clear pattern to the trace on the timer although it is moving upward on a steep angle.  According to the sound of the ticking, the timer thinks this watch is running just over 5 minutes fast per day.

I looked in my stash of donor movements and check out what I found!  It's a K-412 dial.  It's not perfect but it's way better than what I started with... plus it has hands.


Here's a picture of the movement's 4th wheel (right) along with a replacement on the left.  Notice the extra portion on the end, called the "bit".  This is what the second hand attaches too.


I think I know which dial I would choose, how about you?  Refinished dials are not a problem with Hamiltons, as long as they are done properly.  That said, a nice original dial is always preferable to a refinished dial.


Everything is ready to be reassembled with fresh lubricants.


The moment of truth has arrived.  The partially reassembled movement is now ticking away with a good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it now.


Well that's much better!  Now it's just a minute fast per day and the amplitude is well over 200 degrees.  The beat error of 0.2ms is right on the money.


A quick adjustment to the regulator index and this watch is now running like it just left the Hamilton factory.


The reinstalled movement is noticeably brighter and shinier than what I started with.


A fresh 28.7mm high dome crystal is definitely called for on this project.  Something needs to keep the hands on, right?


My merciless light tent reveals a little extra tarnish or finish loss on the dial but it looks way better in person.


I also relumed the hands and the dial so it will glow in the dark, when charged first with light.


Here's a wrist shot in more flattering (and realistic) light.  This is a remarkable transformation and I'm sure the owner will be delighted to get his grandfather's watch back.  Now he can enjoy it with pride rather than let it rattle around in a drawer somewhere.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

1967 Thin-o-matic TM-5800

There are three different kinds of Thin-o-matic models, well, actually six if you want to include the ones with date complications. 

The first Thin-o-matic models used Buren-made Swiss ebauches with small oscillating weights, a.k.a. micro rotors.  These movements include the 663, 666, et al calibers and were unique designs where all the parts were attached on the same side, or plain, of the main plate.  This allowed the overall thickness of the movement to have a very thin profile.

Also included in the early Thin-o-matics were ETA calibers that looked like the familiar ETA movements in the Accumatic line (689, 689A, et al) except the profile of the oscillating weight and overall movement was much narrower. 

You can easily tell what type of movement is inside a Thin-o-matic by looking at the back of the case.  If it's wide and flat it's a micro-rotor and if it's pie-pan shaped it's got an ETA movement inside.

In the 1967 time frame Hamilton had acquired Buren and a new generation of Thin-o-matic models were introduced.  The new micro-rotor movements look similar to the earlier generation but there are a number of critical differences.  One of the biggest is the center wheel is offset in the second generation calibers and that can present a significant challenge to collectors today.  The other, more obvious, difference is the earlier micro-rotors were plated with a pink plating while the second generation are nickel plated.

Hamilton changed the model nomenclature for the new generation of Thin-o-matics from T-something to TM-something.  So if the model name begins with TM then you know it's from after 1967.

One example of the new TM models is the 1967 TM-5800.  It was introduced in the 1968 catalog and made through 1970 but based on the model number it appears to have been created in 1967.


My project watch has seen some use but appears to be in decent enough shape.  Stainless steel cases can really take a beating.  The bracelet is a period correct Kreisler design but not the same as what's shown in the catalog.  It seems to still go nicely with the florentine pattern on the bezel though, so I'll reuse it.


Here's a shot of the case back showing you clearly the wide flat profile of a micro-rotor case.  I wasn't sure what model this was originally so I was hoping to see a pink movement inside.


Kreisler was one of several bracelet makers that made bracelets for Hamilton models.  I think between Kreisler and JB Champion, you probably cover 90% of the models but makers like Gemex, and others, where used too.


Without the crystal installed you can see the dial is actually in good shape.  Now that the crown has been separated from the male-side of the two-piece stem, the movement can be lifted out.


Darn... the movement inside is a 628 movement.  Although this looks a lot like the earlier 663, 666, etc. calibers, these newer movements are prone to having loose cannon pinions on the offset center wheel resulting in the hands not moving, even though the movement keeps accurate time.


Here's a photo of the inside of the case back.  Notice there are two numbers, the one at the bottom is the model number and the last two digits are 67, indicating this is a 1967 model.  The other number is a unique serial number for this specific example.


With the dial out of the way you can see where the cannon pinion that holds the minute hand is installed.


With a couple more parts removed, you can now see the offset center wheel.  The part where my tweezers is pointing is what drives the hour and minute hands.  It's a friction-fit part that is installed on the center wheel and is meant to slip when you set the time but hold when the watch is running.  That allows you to set the time without jarring the train wheels.  Over years and years of use, the friction yields so that the center wheel will turn as it should but this part won't move the hands, or the watch will appear to run very slow. 


Parts for these types of micro rotors are no longer available so the only solution is to try to tighten the center wheel (but not too tight) or scavenge a part from a donor movement.

Everything is now cleaned and ready to be reassembled.


These two springs are used in the barrel bridge.  You need to be very careful with them as they are known to disappear, never to be found again, with the slightest of tweezer pressure.


Phew!  Did I mention I don't like working on these movements?  Finally it's almost all back together and now running.


One of the differences between the first and second generation of movements is the beat rate.  Notice this movement beats 19800 beats per hour instead of the typical 18000 BPH.  This movement is running just a little fast but the other specs look acceptable.


A new crystal makes this watch look 100% better.  In fact, it looks almost brand new.  It definitely looks as good as it runs - but I'll need to watch it to make sure the hands are not slipping.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Mystery Accumatic 4000-3

One of the things that makes collecting vintage Hamiltons interesting is when you come upon an uncatalogued model.  Surprisingly, there are lots of them.  Sometimes they didn't make the catalogs but were still shown in marketing advertisements.  Other times they were models produced for other markets.

I recently came upon what I thought would have been an Accumatic A-5XX of some sort.  As you'll see below, it looks very familiar to some Dateline A-models like the 1963 Dateline A-576.


If it looks familiar, I'm not surprised.  I've come across a bunch of these in the past, like in this post from September 2017.

Anyway, my project watch is unique in that it doesn't have a date complication.  It's also interesting in that the word Automatic is in cursive with a capital A.  There are a variety of styles and fonts used, including cursive, but this is the first time I've seen it with a capital A.  The crown is an obvious replacement and a bit too large, in my opinion.  The bracelet likely isn't original, as it's been trimmed more on one side than on the other, which is too bad since it looks a little goofy.  On the other hand, the lug width is larger than the typical 17.4mm so I could probably trim the long side to fit a future project.


The back of the watch has the model number 4000-3.  That makes me think this was probably a 1960's model for the international market.


The movement inside is clearly marked Hamilton and has 21 jewels instead of the usual 17, although it looks like a typical ETA movement like a 692 or 689 from the 1960s.


I noticed the balance seemed to have a bit of a wobble but first I'll clean everything and see how the reassembly goes.  Some had obviously already been in the watch, since one of the bridge screws was missing.


The movement is now running and appears to be okay.  Let's see what the timer thinks.  One interesting thing to note is there is no "HYL" stamped on the balance cock.  Those letters are the import code for Hamilton movements and all Swiss-made Hamilton movements have those letters, if it's a US model.  The outside of the case back said "INCABLOC" and that indicates the type of shock protection for the balance.  You can see the Incabloc spring that supports the balance jewels in the photo below.


It's running a little slow but the amplitude is too low at 164 degrees.  I like to see it north of 200 and between 250 and 300 is ideal.  Why it's low could be any number of things... the barrel is dragging, there's still dirt somewhere, the pallet fork is dragging, or the balance has an issue.


A tweak here, a tweak there, change a part, try another... eventually the best I could come up with was 186 degrees of amplitude.


The 4 extra jewels in a 21 jewel version of this movement are in the automatic framework.  Otherwise the main movement is the same between a 17 jewel and 21 jewel caliber.  I happened to have a spare 689 movement so I swapped it out and used the balance from the original movement - low and behold, the amplitude came up dramatically... problem solved.


In addition to cleaning the movement, I relumed the hands, replaced the beat up crystal, and installed a slightly smaller, more appropriate crown.  Paired with a light brown alligator strap, this watch really turned out sharp.




Saturday, June 15, 2019

1961 Tuxedo II

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How much is my watch worth?".  That's really a difficult question to answer, there are a lot of factors;
  • What condition is it in?
  • When was it last serviced?
  • What is it made of?
  • Is it a popular model?
  • How easy it is to find another?
Based on those questions most watches can be assigned a value.  The easiest way is to look on eBay for "sold" listings, if it's a fairly common model.

To me, a really significant question is "who's watch was it?".  Tomorrow is Father's Day and I think when a watch was dad's or grandpa's the watch ought to be priceless.  I would say at least half the time that doesn't seem to matter to the owner though... which I think is really sad.  It just goes to demonstrate how important a responsibility fathers' have to be good dads and grandpas.

Anyway, one type of watch that I think is very hard to put a price on is an ultra-rare model where there are very few examples to base a comparison on.  Take, for example, the 1961 Tuxedo II.  It was produced for three years but it's very hard to find in the wild.


In 1961 the Tuxedo II was Hamilton's most expensive model.  Priced at $475, it was $100 more costly than the next most expensive model.  That's over $4,000 in today's currency, when adjusted for inflation.

It came in a solid 14K white gold case but the really unique feature was 44 diamonds surrounding the bezel.

In 1962 and 1963 the price was reduced to a mere $450, still the most expensive model by far.


Inside the case is a 22 jewel 770 movement - the flagship movement for Hamilton models made in Lancaster PA.

You have to be REALLY careful with Hamilton models with diamonds.  Many, arguably most, that you will see are recased Hamilton movements with aftermarket dials.  On any given day you can find a dozen jeweler-cased watches for sale on eBay, usually with steep prices.  Always try to see the inside of the case back.  If it doesn't say Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster PA, it's not a legitimate model.  It might still be a great watch, but assume the price should be the sum of the materials involved and don't overpay.

My project watch was a lucky find.  I have never seen another.  It arrived in really nice condition.  The only remark I would make is the second hand is unusual - it has an arrow tip and is likely a replacement.  On the other hand, Hamilton was known to use what was available when times where hectic, like preparing for the Christmas or graduation seasons.


The back of the case is unengraved.  It has some minor scratches but nothing remarkable.  This case reminds me of the 1962 Whitford but without the diamonds.


With the bezel carefully removed, I can get a better look at the dial.  The H at the 12 position is solid gold but rhodium plated to appear silver in color.  The hands and hour marks are black and the curved arcs between the 1 and 2, etc. looks to be silver in color.  It's a little hard to tell though.


The 770 movement inside has not seen a good cleaning in quite a while, if ever.  Notice the dull haze on the movement.


Here's a look at the inside of the case back - notice the markings.  If you don't see this type of marking inside a Hamilton watch... caveat emptor.  There are no watchmaker's marks inside the case back.  I might be the first person in almost 60 years to overhaul this movement.


Everything is cleaned, dried and ready for assembly.


Notice how bright and shiny the movement is now.  The old oil and dirt is gone and fresh oil will keep the delicate pivots from undue wear and tear.


It's running a smidgen fast but a minor tweak to the regulator will bring it right in line.


Well, this is definitely not a watch you're going to wear while mowing the lawn.  Paired with a genuine lizard strap that sparkles as much as the diamonds, it will take a special occasion to wear this beauty.  You can see I found a much more appealing second hand that matches the baton-style hour and minute hands.

This model is actually surprisingly large... but still small enough for a woman to wear by today's standards.


Now the question you might be thinking is, "How much is this watch worth".  I don't really know... when's the last time you saw one for sale?  What would your answer be?