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.

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


  1. Merry Christmas and a happy 2020 to you, Dan.

  2. Eloquent and inspirational insights to ponder! Well done and much appreciated. Many people, including myself, visit your website on almost a daily basis to learn about a particular Hamilton watch or Hamilton watches in general. Documenting and sharing your Hamilton watch knowledge and experience with us is greatly appreciated. So I would like to say thank you, Dan. I hope the coming year won't require the "ducking and bobbing" of 2019. Happy New Year!

  3. As the previous owner of that watch, I can't tell you how happy I am that the care of that watch is now under Dan's care and stewardship. I wore that watch mostly to nawcc Regionals and Nationals where it caught the eye of many a Hamilton aficionado. Mostly they wanted to know if the watch had been plated. They were surprised and delighted to learn that it was part of a very limited run by Hamilton. Dan, I hope you get as much joy from that watch as I did.

  4. I do look forward to your Christmas posts each year along and I appreciate that you shared how things are for you. We all need hope and we wish for joy. Small as it may seem , what you do for those of us who love these old watches and what they represent of our social and economic history , does bring joy . For that, Thank You . Best Wishes for all Good things in the coming year Dan


  5. I know what you mean Dan. I have had four surgeries since September and have been off work. Used up all my vacation and sick time. just hoping I will still have a job to go back to and waiting on the dust to settle on medical bills.

  6. Hi Dan,
    I look forward to your blog posts and was saddened to learn you had a rough year. I sincerely hope 2020 will be one of good health and joyful for you.


  7. Hi Dan,

    Do you know whether the Ardmore ever came with a coral dial?

    Thanks, Eric

  8. Hi Dan,

    Is there any way I can send you a photo of a Hamilton watch? I just cannot ID it.


    1. Sure. Through my Etsy shop or by email. The link is the contact me link by my picture on the web version of this site.