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, December 31, 2019

1970s Dateline 64049-3

Once production in the US ended in 1969, manufacturing moved to Hamilton's Swiss factory.  Some models made their way to the United States but a lot models were intended for other international markets.  It's not unusual to find models that do not show up in the US catalogs, even though they may look very similar to other known models.

I recently landed a watch that I assume is a non-US model.  It's likely known only by the number on the back of the case, 64049-3.  I've seen this same case before but with a slightly different dial.  That's not unusual for 1970's watches either.

The case is stainless steel and the "-3" in the model number would indicate that.  The watch is in good shape but the hour hand has scraped the dial apparently and there's a tiny piece of lume missing from the hour hand.

The back of the case is clearly marked with the model number and based on the 64 starting the number, I would guess there is a caliber 64 inside.

Hmm... this is interesting.  The movement is a 17 jewel 694A and not a 21 jewel caliber 64.  The 694A is what's used in the Dateline A-series of models and is based on the caliber 64 platform but 21 jewel version has four extra jewels in the automatic framework.

With the dial out of the way you can see the calendar mechanism on top of the main plate.  There are a couple of small springs to keep an eye on but its fairly straightforward to disassemble.

Here you can see the 64 stamped into the main plate that indicates what the movement is based on.

All the parts are cleaned and dried... well all but one, I lost one of the springs from the front somewhere.  It will turn up eventually.  Notice the inside of the case back doesn't say Lancaster PA.  Another sign that this is probably a 1970s model.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Notice there's a HYL stamped to the balance cock, that's the import code for Hamilton in the US so this movement was at least intended for the US.  That begs the question, was the movement swapped out in this watch at some point?  It really doesn't matter one way or the other, the 694A is the same thing as a Cal 64.

It's running a little fast and the beat error is a little high but they are both easy to adjust.

There... that's much better.  I haven't wound the watch up very much, that's why the amplitude is a bit low.

A little furniture paste wax on the dial reduced the scratches a bit so this watch now looks much better than what I started with.  My attempt to fill the missing lume on the hour hand didn't have perfect results but you wouldn't notice that without really looking hard at it.

It's a nice looking watch, don't you think?  It's also a pretty good size too - about 34mm wide without the crown.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

1939 Coral Winthrop - Christmas 2019

I have a confession to make.  I have struggled to get into the Christmas spirit this year.   I've been busy and there has been a lot going on.  In fact, we didn't get our Christmas tree up until three days ago and the outside of my house has no lights on it whatsoever.  At least my electric bill won't be as much this year.

I know a lot of people, well maybe more like a few people, look forward to new blog posts and especially my Christmas post, so I've been thinking a lot about what to say this year.

2019 was difficult for me and I'm glad it's almost over.  I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that life came at me swinging with both fists and I've been ducking and bobbing for most of the year.

Given it all, I am still tremendously blessed and when I've reflected on this Christmas season one word has continuously resonated in my head... Hope.

Hope precedes all of the emotions typically associated with Christmas.  We hope for presents, we hope there will be snow, we hope we'll get a seat in church.

If there's one thing we all need today, it's hope.  Hope for good things to happen in the future, hope that everything will be okay in the end.

For example, 2020 brings an opportunity for America to elect a new president.  Our nation is divided like at no other time that I can recall.  It's as if you need to choose a side.  If you want to believe in religious rights you have to give up caring about the environment.  If you want to care about your fellow man you have to give up your views of the sanctity of life.  If you think no one should face financial ruin because of healthcare you have to give up your right to bear arms.  Our two party system seems to percolate such that only the most morally flawed will rise to the top.  If there is one thing we all need today, it's the hope that America will be tolerant again.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Candlelight Processional at Disney's EPCOT theme park.  If anything ought to put you in the Christmas spirit, the Candlelight Processional tops the list.  The host for our show was Gary Sinise and I was struck by how the entire crowd loved him.  I'm sure there were democrats, republicans, independents and undecideds in attendance but everyone was of one voice and it was refreshing.  Our nation is filled with Gary Sinises, we just need the right ones to present themselves.  Perhaps we can hope for a president we can all respect, appreciate and be proud of for a change.

Another word that goes hand in hand with Christmas is joy.  Without hope, there can be no joy and without joy it is hard to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Our world is sadly lacking in joy nowadays and there is no shortage of joy-robbing messages in the media.  Just this morning I saw an article about " the 20 Christmas things people are the most tired of".  I thought, "Really, someone took the time to create an article like this... what was the point, what was their motivation?"

Joy is one of the reasons that I like to restore vintage Hamilton watches.  Every watch that I restore brings a modicum of joy into this joy-challenged world.  Not a week goes by that someone doesn't reach out to me about restoring their family's treasured timepiece and when they receive their heirloom back in pristine condition, joy is the universal result.  Like a candle can light another candle, I can name more than a few collectors with fabulous collections who got their start simply by having a watch restored by me.

So hope and joy are my wish to you this Christmas, and if you can only have one, choose hope and joy will follow.  I wish you a hopeful Christmas and a happy new year!

As for my project watch, I wanted to share something rare and unique for a celebration of Christmas.  My watch is an uncatalogued model called the Coral Winthrop.  It was introduced in 1939 along with the Coral Ross.  However, only the yellow gold filled version made the 1939 catalog.

Coral models didn't make the catalogs until 1940 but the Coral Winthrop didn't make the list.  Hamilton production records indicate 434 Coral Winthrops were produced, making them one of the rarer models out there.  

I found my project watch on an auction site along with a number of other interesting opportunities.  I've only seen a Coral Winthrop perhaps two or three times over the past 10 years so I decided to take a serious run at this one and I wound up winning it.  As you can see below, it's definitely in need of a little TLC.

The lighting in my workshop makes the case appear yellow-ish but it's clearly rose gold to the naked eye in daylight.  The back is engraved with the name of the original owner from 1940.

The black numeral dial appears to be original, or at least I don't see any evidence that it was refinished.

It's interesting that the inside of the case back appears yellow.  Gold fill is a sandwich of two gold layers with a base metal in between.  I can see the outside is rose and the inside looks more yellow.  The case serial number is less than 200 from other Coral Winthrops I've seen, which is a good sign that the case is legit.  Also, if the case was re-plated I would expect to see the inside would have been plated along with the outside.

Looking closely at the back of the dial, I don't see any marks or indication that this dial has been refinished.  If anything, it looks exactly like you'd expect an 80 year old dial to look.

In 1939 rectangular gold filled models received the 17 jewel 980 movement and solid gold models were outfitted with the 19 jewel 982.  That all changed in 1940 when the 982M movement was introduced - and in 1940 a 14K gold filled case like the Winthrop would have gotten the 982.  Since this is a 1939 model it's fair to expect that the movement would be a 980 and the serial number of my movement dates to 1939 as it should.

Despite numerous past service marks inside the case back, the mainspring in the barrel is an old blue steel spring and surely has set by now.  I'll replace it with a white alloy Dynavar spring.

Yup - this spring would likely power the watch fine for a little while but my guess is it would peter out after about 24 hours or so on a full wind.

A new glass crystal will make an immediate and significant improvement to the watch's appearance.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter than before and it's ticking away with good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it.

It's running a couple of minutes fast per day, the amplitude is good but the beat error of 5.2ms is a bit high.  The beat error is a measure of how centered the balance is and how far it swings to one side or the other.  I'll have to pull the balance from the balance cock and rotate the hairspring to reduce the beat error.

Hairsprings are very delicate and easy to get out of shape but as a general rule, the pink impulse jewel should be about 90 degrees from the hairspring stud.  In the shot below I've rotated the hairspring to the correct position as a best guess.

Ah, that's much better, the beat error has been reduced to 0.5ms.  Now I can tweak the regulator and slow the watch down a bit.

You can see the effect of tweaking the regulator as the two lines approach horizontal.  It's now running 10 seconds fast per day.  I'll leave it there for now.

Outfitted with a vintage genuine alligator strap, this Coral Winthrop looks worthy of a museum, although there's a smudge of polishing rouge on the upper right lug.  Only the tips of the upper lugs show any wear in my merciless light tent.  I wonder how this example would compare to the other 433 Coral Winthrops out there?  I wonder how many are left?

I hope Christmas of 2019 finds you and your family in good health and good prosperity.  I wish you the best for 2020 and if you happen to know Gary Sinise, please ask him to run for president.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in hope".  

- Romans 15:13

Saturday, December 21, 2019

1898 936 Pocket Watch

Life is like a 120 year old pocket watch... you never know what you're going to get.  Isn't that what Forrest Gump said?  Something like that.

The Hamilton Watch Company officially got its start in 1893.  There was a compelling market need for high quality, accurate time pieces to safely manage the growing railroad system in the United States.  Every train, every station, every classification yard needed accurate time pieces to ensure that trains wouldn't run into each other.

Hamilton adopted a fairly straightforward method for managing product inventory - sequential serial numbers.  Each particular product run was assigned a range of serial numbers and the next run got the next range of serial numbers.

Ledgers maintained by Hamilton accountants kept track of who watches were sold to.  In fact, these ledgers are available to members of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors - NAWCC.  So if you're not a member of the NAWCC you should consider joining... let them know I sent you!

After over 725 models, I've been finding it harder and harder to find watches that I haven't already detailed on the blog.  There are a surprising number of early pocket watch grades and although I like pocket watches, they tend to be very similar.  However, I recently came upon a pocket watch with  very low serial number - 11095 and it's a caliber I've not documented before.  The movement dates to 1898 so the Hamilton Watch Company was only 5 years old when this movement was created.  

You have to admit that a 120 year old pocket watch is pretty cool.

The pocket watch is a 17 jewel grade 936.  Even-numbered grades were "open faced" and typically had an odd-numbered equivalent that was "hunter cased" where the pendant was at the 3 position.

As I said previously, there are a surprising number of different grades.  Men's pocket watches at this time came in 16 size and 18 size with varying design details like the number of jewels, materials used for the train wheels, the style of damascening, the level of adjustment, the type of escapement, type of dial, etc. etc. etc.  In short, they all look very similar but there are subtle and non-subtle differences to each grade.

I'm sure my project watch could tell some stories after 120 years.  Some of them we know and some of them we don't.

For example, at some point the movement was recased in a different case than it originally was outfitted with... I'll tell you how I know in a bit.  Also, I don't think the hands are original either.  The dial is the correct double sunk design which means the hour numerals are on one level, the center is slightly recessed and the seconds register is recessed even further.  This is an enamel dial, with baked enamel on a metal substrate.  Enamel dials often show cracks, chips and hairlines and this one looks great.

Looking at the movement, you might find something that is a little puzzling... it says Cady & Olmstead, Kansas City.  Based on the Hamilton ledgers, this movement was sold to a large Hamilton agent Woodstock, Hoefer & Co. in Kansas City and was sold on 5-31-1898.  A little googling on Cady & Olmstead reveals they were dealers of diamonds and jewelry, including railroad watch inspectors.

As a relatively new company, Hamilton Watch Company would sell watches to anyone willing to buy them and they would happily customize movements for private label customers like Cady & Olmstead.  Beyond the name on the barrel bridge, this movement also has a damascening pattern unique to this customer.

Looking at the inside of the case back, this case is an Illinois watch case.  I'm fairly certain that jewelry standards didn't include terms like gold filled or rolled gold plate in 1898.  Typically cases were warranted for a period of time and the longer the warranty, the greater amount of gold in the case.  Given that, I would propose this case is an after-market addition, perhaps installed after the original case wore out.

Hmm... is it a good sign when there's a dial washer under the balance cock?  This watch did "run" when I received it but I think a better description would be "ticked".  This washer is obviously a shim to provide a little more end shake for the balance.

Another hmm... this balance is a single roller, not a double roller like the catalog would call for.  My catalog snip is from 1910 so it's possible the double roller was introduced after 1898.  However, it's also quite possible this balance came from another 18 size movement that called for a single roller balance like a 920-something.

This movement is lever set, meaning there's a small lever that you slide out with your fingernail to move the keyless works into the time setting position.

As I said earlier, this watch sort of ran but I know the mainspring still has a lot of tension.  So with the dial removed I will use the crown in the case to unwind the mainspring.  All I need to do is hold the click away from the ratchet wheel, as shown by my tweezers, and the mainspring will unwind.

You can also see the linkage for the lever that moves the yoke from the winding position to the time setting position.

Notice anything funny below?  The two screws that hold the winding hub are both broken.

Once the mainspring is relieved I can remove the barrel bridge and take out the mainspring barrel and ratchet wheel.

This barrel already has a white alloy mainspring installed, which is good to see.  These large mainsprings really pack a wallop and replacing them can be a challenge.

Notice the end of the arbor is a bit chewed up... that's can't be good.

I may not be a Swiss-trained watchmaker but I'm pretty sure the balance should not create a wear ring on the train bridge.

The winding bridge is missing a screw too... I wonder if it left the factory like that?  (no)

Okay... so what are we missing... hub screws, winding bridge screw, barrel arbor, hands... that's it so far.

I happen to have a "newer" 18 size 926 watch from 1907 with a worn out case and broken balance.  Believe it or not, I can use this watch to replace just about everything I need, starting with the whip-style hands.

The gold layer on this case has been worn away but it's well past its 25 year warranty - by about 70 years.

This is a good indicator of what the original case would have looked like though, with an inner dust cover in addition to the case back.  Hamilton sold movements uncased and a jeweler would case the movement in whatever the customer wanted.

Even though this 926 from 1907 is a "lesser grade" it looks pretty similar to the 936 and shares most of the same parts.  Check out the damascening on this movement... much more detailed.  Hamilton added 570,000 serial numbers to the ledger between 1898 and 1907... business must have been good!

Here are my two winding hub screws.

And here's my back winding bridge screw.

It took a little while but I eventually was able to get the barrel arbor installed.  This one is not chewed up like the last one.

My project watch has broken center wheel and pallet fork jewels.  My donor movement has better jewels but the settings are not the same.  I'll have to go with what I have.

Getting the train bridge back on is a little tricky since all the train wheels and the pallet fork have to be assembled at the same time.  Fortunately there is a lot of room to see what's going on and tweak as needed.

I'll assemble the dial-side of the main plate and then use the case to wind the mainspring.

Well, it took more than a little fiddling but I finally got the watch running.  There is very little clearance between the balance wheel and the train bridge but it seems to run in all positions.  Let's see what the timer thinks.

It's running three minutes fast and it's a little noisy... but it runs and not too many things that are 120+ years old can say the same.

Something is wrong with my minute wheel... can you see what it is?

My donor 926 minute wheel doesn't fit, the hole is too small.  I'll fix that with a small broach.

There... the finished watch looks much better with proper whip hands.  I think this is a green gold plated case, probably from the 1920s is my guess.

I'm pleased that the watch now runs better than I received it but I don't think I'd try to run a railroad with it.  This is a loud ticker... I can hear it ticking from about 15 feet away.