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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, 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!


4 comments:

  1. I've got an old Hamilton I'm trying to find more about. I've looked through all the catalogue years and all of your pictures and haven't found anything similar. Could you point me in the right direction? Or could I possibly email you a picture?

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    1. Sure, you can send me a photo through my Etsy shop or by clicking the link above my photo in the upper right.

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  2. Wow! It came out great Dan, I'm wearing it today. I sincerely doubt I could've pulled off the stem replacement. So far it's gotten lots of compliments.

    So since the year is 1968, is this a U.S. model?

    Happy Easter!

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    1. Happy Easter to you too. Yes, it's a US model but the answer to that question is really "it depends". All Hamilton automatics feature Swiss-made movements. So there are lots of pre-1970 models that were assembled in Lancaster but feature Swiss ebauches.

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