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.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

1970's Fontainebleau 66003-3

A couple of weeks ago I did a post on the 1968 Fontainebleau.  There are several other Fontainebleu models but only a couple of them are in the US catalogs.  One of the non-catalogued models goes simply by the model number 66003-3.  The -3 signifies it has a stainless steel case.  So it's possible there's a -4 in a yellow case (gold filled, RGP or electroplate) or even a -1 or -2 in solid gold.

Taking a look at my project watch, you can tell that something is amiss.  You can also easily identify it as a post 1969 model because it says "Selfwinding" and it has a day of the week complication.  Neither of those attributes occurred prior to 1970.

The back of the watch clearly shows the model number and this case is similar in design to the 1969 Odyssey and the Fountainebleu I recently did.  It is a challenging case design to open and an even more challenging case to close.  The back fits inside the front bezel and a ring compresses the back, dial, crystal and a gasket together as an assembly like a sandwich.

I know someone has been inside this watch before me because the back ring isn't seated properly.  Notice the round section over the strap... that should be flat.  The watch is not running but what I don't know is why... is it dirty or did someone goof it up?

As I said above, the movement and dial are held inside the case back and the crystal and a specially formed gasket are sandwiched between the bezel and the case back.  Only half of the gasket remains.  The movement will come out once I separate the two-piece stem and pull the crown out.

Here's a shot of the caliber 66 movement inside.  This movement is used in a few of the 1970's Day-n-Date models and it's based on an A Schild 1876 ebauche.  It has a 21,600 beat per hour rate or 6 ticks per second.  If you have a good eye you'll notice there's a barrel bridge screw missing (the barrel is under the oscillating weight though).

With the weight moved, the ratchet wheel over the barrel is visible and notice the arbor screw is also broken.  Typically I can use a needle to pick the remaining portion of the screw out of the arbor so I can install a replacement.

Both of the dial foot screws are a tad rusty - probably due to moisture getting past the crystal.

I removed the day wheel so I could get an idea of the parts that make up the day and date complications.  There is one pesky index spring under the bridge that will fly off if I'm not careful.  You can just see the tip of it by the number 6.  So I'll listen to the little voice in my head and move to my light tent so I will be able to find it when it inevitably disappears.

Now you can see index spring next to the 6.... no sudden movements or I'll spend the next 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the darned thing.

Slowly the front of the mainplate is cleared of parts.

Turning my attention to the back, it's always good to have a photo of the train wheels to refer to when reassembling the movement.

Uh oh... close inspection of the barrel shows that two teeth are buggered up.  You can see them below at about 4 o'clock.  I'll try to clear them a little but the watch may stop when the barrel turns to engage these teeth.  The barrel should be replaced but I don't have a replacement at the moment.

Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.

The reassembled movement is now ticking away but I haven't wound it very much.  I managed to find the missing bridge screw inside the movement when I disassembled it.

Things look promising... the amplitude should come up once I wind the mainspring more fully.

I was able to clear off the old fingerprints on the dial but it's still not perfect.  I'm not sure if there's a scratch by the H or if its dried gunk.  There's more gunk by the 6 marker but I'll let sleeping dogs lie and avoid making things worse.

The oscillating weight goes on the back and I'm just about ready to reinstall the movement in the case back.

I polished the crystal as best I could but didn't want to over due it.  I'll put a thin o-ring on the crystal to try to take up some of the space that the proper gasket would have filled.  I doubt it will provide much of a seal but it should keep things from rattling inside.  You should keep vintage watches away from all moisture anyway, even it you think they're "waterproof".

Once the crown is installed I can advance the time until the day and date changes.  This movement has a quick set function for the date - you push the stem in.  The day of the week is a little more cumbersome to set.

I can use the crown to wind the watch more fully and the amplitude came up over 200.  I'm happy with that considering the barrel needs to be replaced anyway.  Otherwise the specs look good to me.

This watch looks a lot better, especially since the remnant of the gasket is no longer stuck inside.  Time will tell, literally, if the barrel causes a problem.  I have no doubt the watch will work until the missing teeth rotate into the center wheel.  I suspect the barrel will slip until the next tooth engages but I'll find out in an hour or two.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

1940 Coral Midas

I was recently paid a very nice compliment and it was also a very fitting analog for Easter.  Although I posted a watch recently on Easter Sunday, the season of Easter lasts for seven weeks and goes through Pentecost.  So technically this is also an Easter post and I thought I'd share the sentiment with you.

My project watch is a Coral Midas.  The model was introduced in 1940 and made through 1941.  Like the regular yellow gold Midas, the Coral Midas came in a solid 14K case but in rose gold, which was very fashionable before WWII.

The dial on the Coral Midas is a two-tone coral finish and the dial features rhodium plated solid 18K gold numerals, markers and dots.  The hands are also rhodium plated to match.

My project watch has seen better days.  The crystal is tired plastic and just replacing that will be an improvement.  The case is a little worn but it's also a bit scratched so I will be very careful when I polish it.  If you've got a good eye you might spot that the hour hand doesn't match in style or in length.  If you've got an even better eye, you might wonder if the crown is rose or yellow... to be honest, I wasn't sure either.

The back of my project watch is nicely engraved with a presentation from 1941.  The serial number of the movement dates the watch to 1940 so this watch probably sat in the jewelry store for a few months before making its way to its original owner.  It looks like it may have had a sticker, or something, affixed to the back for a while, as there is a bit of hard residue.

The movement inside is a 19 jewel 982M movement, or Medallion movement, that was newly introduced in 1940 for solid gold (and platinum) models.  It's a more ornamented version of the 19 jewel 982 movement that was already the standard for solid gold models.  Supposedly the 982M was crafted to even tighter standards - although it shares all the same parts with the 982.  It's certainly very nice to look at, especially when it's clean.

This movement is not running.  The balance doesn't wobble so that's a good sign that all it will need is a good cleaning.  We'll find out soon enough.

Without the crystal blocking the view, you can get a better look at the dial and hands.  I don't see any obvious tells that the dial has been refinished.  There is no dial pattern number below the seconds track though.  However, if it was refinished it was done a long time ago, based on the aging along the right side.  It was not unusual for Hamilton to refinish the dial as part of their standard service so as long as the dial is correctly done, it doesn't really matter if it's original or not.  In fact, many people who have an "original dial" really have a refinished dial that was redone decades ago.

I was unable to get the lower dial foot screw to budge and I was forced to carefully pry the dial off.  Once it was lifted out of the way I saw the reason for the issue - there's a little rust right in the area of the lower dial foot.  There's evidence of moisture going over to the 4th wheel and pallet fork jewels so that may be the cause of the watch stopping.  Hopefully the ultrasonic will work the dial foot screw loose.

If you ever notice there is moisture in your watch, you should open it as best you can and carefully dry it with warm air.  You may want to also have it serviced by a watchmaker, especially if it's been a while since it was last cleaned and oiled.

While everything is being cleaned I will prep a new glass crystal for installation.

I noticed one potential issue while inspecting the cleaned parts.  One of the teeth on the minute wheel is bent.  It's around 10 o'clock in the picture below.  The minute wheel is what keeps the minute hand and hour hand in sync.  A bent tooth can cause a disruption and is usually caused by putting the cannon pinion on with the minute wheel in place and "crushing" the minute wheel in the process.  I'll replace it to be on the safe side.

Everything is ready to be reassembled, excluding the old crystal... how'd that get in there?

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it?

It's running a little fast but that's easily adjusted with the regulator.

In the shot below the original crown (left) is placed next to a coral crown for comparison.  I'm now convinced the original crown is the incorrect color so I'll replace it.

I replaced the hour hand with the proper style and the length is typically determined by the distance from the center to the nearest hour marker.  I don't know if that would be the numbers 3 and 9 or if it should be the rectangular markers.  The minute hand should extend to the nearest minute track.  The glass crystal and coral crown are definite improvements.

Here's a better shot with more flattering light.

When I went to look at the catalog image of the Coral Midas I saw the hour hand appears to extend to the marker so it should be a little longer.  Fortunately I have a slightly longer hour hand so now the watch is "perfect".

As I said at the start, I was recently paid a very nice compliment by someone I restored a watch for.  One of the things I enjoy the most about this hobby is the happiness that I can provide when I restore someone's father's or grandfather's watch.  What was once broken and battered can be brought to new life by the touch of a master's hand. 

What a wonderful message for Easter as well.  No one is past redemption when they find their way to the Master's hand.

The Touch of the Master's Hand

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three----" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

                 --Myra Brooks Welch

Sunday, April 21, 2019

1965 Vincent

Today is Easter and what a wonderful day it has been.  I got a parking place at church and we even sat in our usual pew - although there were quite a few unfamiliar faces around.  The weather was fantastic and my bride and I enjoyed some quality time together doing back-breaking manual labor in the yard.

I was also able to finish a couple of watch projects and I have an interesting model to showcase.  It's a 1965 Hamilton Vincent.  This model was produced for three years but you don't often see it in the wild... that could be because it's a little on the smaller side.

If it looks familiar, it's probably because it bears a strong resemblance to its older brothers, the 1962 Gary and the 1964 M79-4.  Of course, those models have second hands and the 1965 Vincent does not.

The Vincent came in a 10K yellow rolled gold plated case with a stainless steel back.  It was paired with a matching bracelet with a Florentine-pattern on the bezel and bracelet.

My project watch arrived in non-running condition and missing the crown.

There's a slight nub of a stem so I suspect the crown and stem broke off and the watch has been stuck at 5:55 ever since.  The case back does not sit properly for some reason and the owner said it popped open on the way to the post office.  Hopefully I can fix that too.

The bracelet was made by JB Champion, in case you're ever looking for a replacement.

Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel Hamilton 681 movement.  This is basically a slightly smaller 686 movement based on an A Schild 1200.  It's just like the 686 but a smaller diameter - all of the other parts are the same so it will be easy to get a new stem.

Looking at the inside of the bezel, the sides between the lugs are a bit wavy.  I think someone has fiddled with this bezel before.  I'll try to straighten things so that the back snaps on properly.

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

I happen to have a nice Hamilton-branded crown that will fit the case nicely.  I'll have to trim the stem to the correct length before screwing the crown on.

Crowns can be very challenging to replace but I think this one is a perfect match.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with a good motion.

Not too shabby... the amplitude is a little low but I haven't fully wound the watch yet since it doesn't have a crown.

Well this watch turned out really nicely.  There's a small scratch on the dial that was hidden by the minute hand originally, otherwise it cleaned up nicely.

My light tent is unforgiving and reveals every potential flaw.  Here's a shot in more flattering and realistic light.  It's a tiny watch but it is still nice looking.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

1968 Fontainebleau

There is a unique line of Hamilton models called Fontainebleu.  Two of them were catalogued as US models and the others, I assume, are European.  The earliest of the models were introduced in a 1968 as the Fontainebleau and a square version called the Fontainebleue B.  The Fontainebleu was produced through 1970.

The Fontainebleau came in a stainless steel case but you might find versions in gold electroplate... but they may be a different model altogether.

Most of the Fontainebleau line are big and chunky, a style that doesn't really appeal to me.  However, I recently had an example sent to me that was in need of a little TLC... specifically it needed a stem and crown.  It's not unusual to find project watches in such a state as two-piece stems are meant to separate and sometimes the crown gets inadvertently snagged on a something and comes off.

This model has an Odyssey-like case design and you can see the model number is 64047-3.  This case opens by turning the outer ring counter clockwise 1/4 turn and then the ring can be removed and the case back lifted out.

Getting the ring to turn is VERY difficult and it's even more challenging since the outside of the case has a sharp bevel and can't be hand-held.  Fortunately I can wedge it into my case holder so I don't bugger up the ring by slipping the opener tool.

Here you see the principle parts of the case design... the bezel, the crystal, the case back (with the movement and dial) and the retaining ring.  The crystal is inserted into the bezel from behind and the flange on the crystal is sandwiched between the dial and the bezel.  This specific example is missing the gasket that should be between the crystal and bezel.

Inside the case is a 21 jewel Hamilton caliber 64A - basically a 21 jewel version of the 17 jewel 694A.  Notice the female end of the two-piece stem installed in the movement.  That means the crown-side needs the male side.

Here's a photo of a replacement stem and an uncut stem.  Replacing crowns is surprisingly difficult.  You need to have the correct outer diameter, style, if it's waterproof the correct opening, perhaps a tube, etc. etc. etc.

The challenge of installing a new stem and crown, once you have a crown, is to cut the stem long enough that the crown fits just right... too long and it will stick out, too short and you have to start over again.  Check out the challenge below... how long should the stem be?

I find the best approach is to purposefully cut the stem a little long and then recut it over and over until it's just right.

I use a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel and I hold the stem with a pin-vise.

I'd say it's still a couple of mm too long.

Getting warmer but not quite there.

Once I think I'm close I can install the movement, insert the stem, align the male side with the female side and pop the two together to see how it fits.

Almost there...

Well, it turns out I had to cut it about as far as possible in order to get it short enough to fit properly.  The long tube on the crown will help support the stem and crown in the stem tube of the case.

With a proper-fitting crown and nice alligator strap, this Fontainebleau is now ready for wrist time!