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, January 25, 2020

1957 Astramatic I

There's a great Hamilton Watch Company video from the late 1940's called "What Makes a Fine Watch Fine".  It begs the question, if the most basic Hamilton watch is a fine watch, then what makes an exceptional watch exceptional?

There is one series of Hamilton models that arguably fits the label of exceptional - or at least the best that they had to offer in 1957 - the Astramatic line.  There are only two Astramatic models, the Astramatic I and the Astramatic II.  Both models are one-year-wonders though, so you'll be hard pressed to find either of them.  They are the only models to utilize the 25 jewel 664 movement.

Of the two, the Astramatic I is the cat-daddy and arguably the flagship of the entire 1957 model line.

There are only about a baker's dozen solid 18K models and the Astramatic I is a member of this elite collection.

I recently had the opportunity to work on an Astramatic I.  It's only the second time I've come across one, so it was a real treat to restore it.  As received it was in typical "as-found" condition with a few bumps and bruises and a slightly cloudy crystal.

The solid 18K case back is on tight!  18K is fairly soft, as metals go, so I'll have to be very careful not to gouge up the case back by trying to open it.

In situations like this I'm glad that I've invested in the best tools that I can afford, like a Bergeon case holder and a Bergeon case opener.  Less expensive tools might look similar but it's quality that counts in situations like this.

A little penetrating oil helps free up the couple of decades of dried DNA holding the case back in place.  Finally it broke loose without any damage.

I don't see any evidence of prior watchmakers inside the case back... I wonder if I'm the first person to look at the movement in over 60 years?

The 25 jewel 664 movement is essentially the same as the 661 movement used in the Automatic K-series of models, except there are 8 additional jewels inside.  Although this is a very rare movement, it's not hard to find parts for it since there are lots of 661s out there.

Despite the radium-based lume on the hands, the dial only shows a slight amount of radium burn on the surface.

If you look closely at the automatic framework you will see four jewels that you won't see on the framework of a 661 movement.

There are four additional corresponding jewels below the framework, bringing the total jewel count to 25.

The movement is completely disassembled and ultrasonically cleaned.  While it was in the ultrasonic I replaced the crystal with a fresh one... that alone will make a nice improvement.

The basic movement is reassembled with fresh oil and now ticking away with good motion.

It's running a smidgen fast but a slight tweak will slow it down.

There... 13 seconds per day fast is a good place to leave things.  It will slow a little after everything settles back in place.

The reassembly of the movement is completed and everything is installed back in the case.

I cleaned the case up and gave it a very gentle polish so that I wouldn't lose any of the crisp edges.  There are still a few marks from prior wear but that's preferable to an over-polished case with soft edges.  A new crystal makes this 63 year old watch look like it just left the showroom floor.  I'm sure the owner will be delighted to get it back on their wrist!  However, I believe this watch will be for sale so if you're interested in it let me know and I'll put you two in touch!

Friday, January 3, 2020

1969 Mystery 18 Jewel Model

In 1969 Hamilton produced a fairly well known but uncatalogued model called the Liberty Coin.  It was produced after production of movements in the US came to an end.  Hamilton had an abundance of left over stock and they created a very unusual and rare model in both solid 14K gold and 10K RGP.

If you look closely at the watch, you may note a couple of interesting attributes.  First, there's no second hand and, in addition, it says "22 jewels" on the dial.  Both are very unusual for Lancaster-made models.

I have noticed other models with "18 Jewels" written on the dial and I suspect they were also created at the end of the 1960s using excess 736 movements.  I posted on one in the past that I've seen in yellow as well as white RGP with diamonds on the dial.  This particular model has a Hamilton branded case on the outside but it's rather crudely made, by Hamilton standards anyway.

No I've had the opportunity to see another 1969 mystery model, this time in solid 14K.  It also has 18 jewels written on the dial.

The back of my project watch has 14K Hamilton stamped on the back.  The crown is a bit worn and a little too large, in my opinion, to be original.

Sure enough, inside is an 18 jewel 736 movement.  This caliber was introduced in the early 1960s as a replacement to the 735 movement.  The only difference is the 736 has a glucydur balance with no timing screws.

Check out the inside of this case back... talk about plane jane.  There is no Hamilton Watch Company Lancaster PA inside, just like the Liberty Coin and the other mystery models I've seen.  I think these cases were just procured to use up inventory.  There are a few past watchmakers marks inside so this watch has been worked on in the past.

Hmm... it's missing a dial foot screw.

Well, I guess the missing dial foot screw is no big deal, it's missing the dial foot too!

Everything is disassembled, cleaned and dried.  I also prepped a new 30.6mm crystal for it since the old one was too small and has let moisture in an corroded the dial around the circumference.

The reassembled movement is noticeably brighter and shinier now.

It's running a little fast.  I will tweak the regulator but it's already close to the S.  There's not much adjustment left and glucydur balances are one-trick-ponies.  They are factory-poised and not adjustable.  Still, this watch should run well within the 30 second per day factory spec.

One way to hold a dial without a dial foot on is with "dial dots".  The are small double-side sticky dots.  I've also seen people use glue... don't do that, no matter how tempting.  The dial has to come back off eventually.

The dots go on in a couple of flat spaces that don't interfere with anything else.

Then I carefully pry the covers off to reveal the sticky side.

I'll replace the large and worn crown with a new, slightly smaller waterproof crown.  I will also have to trim the male hub since the old hub will be too short.

Voila!  This watch looks great now and it runs as good as it looks.  The bezel of the case is florentine finished so I made sure not to polish that off.

Here's another shot from my Instagram account in more flattering light.  Looks pretty good if I do say so myself.  If you don't follow me on Instagram you can check me out at @HamiltonChronicles.