Welcome


Greetings!

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, September 11, 2021

A Tale of Two Geneves (732009-5)

 A recently received a couple of project watches that I haven't seen before.  Both are Hamilton Geneve models.  I suspect they are from the 1970s but they are also possibly not US market models.  I thought they would make an interesting blog post.

The first one looks a little like a Brock or a Brockton as it has a classic tank-style case.  The crystal is poorly fitted but if I take careful measurements I could likely get a decent-fitting replacement.  The bracelet is a one-size-fits-all model with spring loaded ends and you can see it's eating into the bezel lugs.


The case back is stainless steel and the indicated the front bezel is 10K rolled gold plate.


The dial is roughly trimmed on the corners... what's up with that?  The markers at 1, 5, 7, and 11 also look like they have been filed on the outer edges.  


Behind the dial is a round 17 jewel 732 movement.  Just by looking at it I would guess it's an ETA design of some sort.  It's very small, about the size of a nickel, maybe even a penny.


What the...?  The case back says Wittnauer and is for a differently shaped movement (also ETA, I bet).  This is definitely not an authentic model.  This is what some folks would call a Franken - as in Frankenstein - or a watch made up of different parts.  Sometimes it's also called a mule - part this model and part that.  Personally, I would call it a donor movement - as it's not worth working on it any longer.


Moving on to watch number two... it's also a Hamilton Geneve.  I wonder what tricks it has in store for me?


The crown on the side is a "stone crown" with a blue stone set into it.  Based on that I would wager that this is a lady's model although by 1940's standards it could be a large mens' model.  Of course, based on the styling it's definitely not a 1940's model.


The case back has recesses for the strap spring bars.  The engraving says "gold electroplated bezel" so this is most likely a 1970s or possibly 1980s model.  That would be my guess, anyway.  I don't really know for sure.  What I do know is the model number is 732009-5.


The watch has the same caliber inside, a 17 jewel 732 movement.  That's good.  If I run into any problems I can use the other one for a replacement part.


The inside of the case back say Hamilton Watch Co Swiss - so this is definitely a 1970s or later model.  However, it's also a legit model and worth restoring.  Notice the shape of the movement recess - it's round, just the way it should be.


This movement is so small, it's a challenge to work on and I completely forgot to take photos of the process. But, here it is, all reassembled and ticking away with good motion.


A couple of minor tweaks brings everything right in line.  This watch has a 21,600 BPH beat rate.  That's 6 beats per second rather than the typical 5 beats per second that pre-1969 models would have.


The bezel takes a 14mm strap and I only have one - a hot pink alligator and I think it looks pretty cool with such a bold, pin-stripe lady's model.  Something in white, light blue, possibly even black would probably be more appealing to most people.  But in this case, as Henry Ford would say, you can have any strap you want, as long as it's pink.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

1962 Sea Scape II

If you see a manual-winding Hamilton watch with a 10K RGP case you stand a good chance of guessing it's a "Sea Something".  There are a bunch of models, starting in 1957, with "sea" in its name and the trend continued well into the 1970s with 10 or more models per year named sea-something.

One of the models you don't see very often is the 1962 Sea Scape II.  It was offered for only two years.  The dial looks very similar to a few other models but the sweep second hand is a unique feature.  For example, this watch looks a lot like a 1960 First Mate.


The Sea Scape II came with a white dial or with a grey dial.  Tucked behind the dial is a 17 jewel Swiss-made 678 movement made by ETA.

I've had my project watch waiting it's turn in a long queue of other projects but it's number finally came up for a trip to the spa.  My example has the grey dial and this is the only example of this watch I have seen.


Somewhere in it's past life a new crystal was installed and it was a terrible choice.  It's thicker than the actual watch.  Maybe they wanted to make sure the sweep second hand would clear?  It has room for six or seven other hands too!


If you are unfamiliar with the 678 you are not alone.  I believe this is the first time I've come across this caliber.  I think it was quickly replaced by the 688, which it looks very much like.  The main difference, to my eye, is the 678 has a fixed hairspring stud on the balance cock.


With the balance removed, you can see the 678 is based on an ETA 2391.


The case is properly marked with Hamilton Watch Co. and was made by Queens.  You don't see Queens very often in Hamilton watches but there are a few.


The movement gets completely stripped and thoroughly cleaned before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.


The movement is back together and running with a nice motion.  Now to see what the timer thinks of it.


It took a slight tweak or two to get the beat rate inline but everything looks great now.


A proper crystal will be a nice improvement to the watch.  I usually use GS PHD crystals for round watches with sweep second hands as long as a reflector ring isn't called for.


The new crystal looks much more appropriate.  I added a nicer crown as well.


The completed watch looks great.  I relumed the hands as well.  There is a little toning on the dial from the radium previously on the hands.  If the hands stay in the same spot for years and years, they can burn the dial.  The radium is gone now so there's no longer a concern.  The dial has a few spots here and there but most people do too once they reach 60 years old.


The Sea Scape II is a nice watch but it's a bit of a sleeper ... it looks like any other garden variety model.  However, it actually is a pretty unique model with a rare Hamilton caliber tucked inside.  This is the only Hamilton model I've come across with a 678.

Friday, July 2, 2021

1964 Dateline A-577

 It has been hot-hot-hot in Virginia.  My new workshop may have a window but it's not air conditioned.  So it's been a while since I've had a good opportunity to work on a watch or two. 

Today was a very nice day and I had some time off so I was able to get to a new project for the blog.  It's a 1964 Dateline A-577.  The A stands for Accumatic.  It's a little surprising after 15 years of collecting Hamiltons this is the firs Dateline A-577 that I've come across.  This model was introduced in 1964 and made through 1972.  So you'd think it would be pretty common.


Eight years later, the price of the Dateline A-577 increased from $75 on a bracelet to $79.95.  Inflation adjusted, that's about $515 in today's dollars.  That's actually not too far off from what a modern Hamilton Khaki Automatic might sell for today.


My project watch arrived in pretty nice shape.  The crystal is a bit beat up but stainless steel cases usually hold up very well.


Looking at the case back, it's clear this is a one piece case and the watch opens through the crystal.


I'll try to polish the crystal but once they are this scratched up it's hard to polish them to be clear again.


All of the Dateline A-models have a 17 jewel 694 or 694A movement, unless they have a caliber 64 inside which is the same thing but has 4 additional jewels in the automatic framework. 


Looking at the inside of the case, it's clear from the other watchmakers' marks that I'm not the first to peek inside this watch.   There are two numbers inside.  The one with the P is the serial number unique to this case.  The other number ends in 64 and that implies this model was introduced it that year.


Once the dial and hands are removed you can see the various parts that drive the date complication.  There's a small spring under the cover on the left side by the 7 that you need to be very careful with - or it will disappear, never to be seen again.  Ask me how I know... haha.


The movement gets completely taken apart and cleaned.  That little spring I mentioned is the U-shaped part at the top of the picture.  When it's time to put that part back in place I will drape a clear plastic drop cloth over my head so if it flies off, it will be confined to the area under the cloth.


The partially reassembled movement is back to running order.


Looking at the timer, it's not running too poorly.  This movement is so easy to adjust though that I can dial it in even better.


There...  the beat error is essentially zero, it's running a smidgen fast but it will settle down.  The amplitude is a little low but it's not fully wound yet.


My finished photo looks almost the same as my starting photo - except the crystal is perfect (I replaced it).  I polished the case a little too.  So this watch is now ready for another 50 years of use and enjoyment.




Sunday, May 30, 2021

1960's European Dateline Estoril

Although Hamilton was the premier American watch brand, not all watches were made for the US market.  Some models were never produced for the US market... for example, solid rose gold Ventura models were produced for export only.  They are few and far between though and command a healthy premium when they do come up for sale.

It's not unusual to come across models, especially from the 1960s and later, that are hard to identify and not shown in the Hamilton catalogs.  Usually these models will also have model numbers on the case back that will provide a clue.

I recently received a watch that I got midway through before I realized it would be a good blog post. 

It's a Hamilton Estoril of some sort.  I thought it might be from the 1970s, however, with a little digging I realized it might be from the mid 1960's.

My project watch originally made it's way to Hamilton for repair but they weren't willing to fix it (or it would cost too much).  That's not surprising.  I suspect if you brought a 1965 Mustang to a Ford dealer they might not be the best choice in 2021.

Anyway, the watch came to me in a bit of disarray... the crystal was broken and the hands were loose inside the case.


Estoril is a model line, as best I can tell.  I tend to associate it with non-US models since Estoril is a resort town in Portugal.  Looking at the case back, it's reminiscent of Omega's Seamaster line, at least to my eye.  If you look closely you can see the model number 64003-4.  


The first two digits of the model number often represent the movement caliber inside.  64 is an automatic caliber with the date complication.  In the US, these movements will typically be the 694 or 694A.  The -4 implies the watch is yellow gold filled or RGP.  A -3 would mean stainless steel.  The remaining three digits designate the case design further.  So a -3 and a -4 will have very similar case designs but one will be stainless and the other yellow.

I realized I restored another Estoril model a few years ago.  It was shown in the catalogs though and is known as the 1964 Dateline A-578


Notice the case shape is similar but dial features are very different.  You can see from the photo below that the Dateline A-578 has an identical case back with the exception being the model number is -3.


Tucked inside my project watch is a 21 jewel caliber 64 movement.  Not the 17 jewel 694A that you might expect.  I had already taken it apart and cleaned it before I realized this might be a good blog post - so I didn't take a lot of photos of the movement.

However, I realized something interesting so I took the photo to show it.  Notice anything missing (other than the automatic framework, etc?


The balance cock is missing the import code HYL.  ALL Swiss-made movements in US Hamilton models have the same import code on the balance cock... HYL.  The same basic movement will have a different import code if it's used by a different US brand.  For example, Illinois movements have TXD.

Anyway, this movement has no import code so I don't believe this watch was a US model.

The rest of the reassembly went smoothly, other than the usual losing of the date index lever and spring that typically happens with this movement.  

Normally when I put those parts on I will move to might light tent so when the parts inevitably fly off I know they will likely stay in the confined space of the tent.  In this case I decided to risk it and spent 20 minutes in watchmaker prayer... on my hands and knees looking for the blasted parts.  Once I found them I tried again, this time with a clear plastic drop cloth draped over me like Harry Potters invisibility cloak.

A new plastic crystal and fresh luminous paint on the hands make a huge improvement to the watch.  Let's face it, just attaching all three hands was an improvement.  It's a nice looking watch and I think the owner will be very happy to have their family heirloom back in working order.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

1954 Clifford

 Arguably the most frequently asked question I receive is "what's my watch worth?".  The easiest answer is, "It depends".

Some watches are surprisingly common... like the 1941 Martin so they don't really command a premium unless they are exceptional examples.  Other watches are less common, and you're lucky to find them in any condition, like a 1936 Randolph.  It wasn't even shown in catalogs.  Then you have the class of watches that are popular designs but plentiful... like an Electric Pacer.  Lastly, you have popular designs that also less common, like a Pacermatic.

Determining what something is worth is a factor of how common it is, how popular it is, and, of course, what condition it is in.

One thing is for sure, if the case is solid gold it's worth more than the melt value of the case (unless the case is totally trashed).

My project watch is an interesting example to try to value.  It's a 1954 Clifford.  It was only made for two years and came in a fairly large (for the time) solid 14K gold case.  It retailed for $135 in 1954... that's about $1,300 in todays currency.

In 1955 the Clifford was also offered with a diamond-set dial for the equivalent of another $1000 in today's dollars.  Good luck finding one of those!

Tucked inside the case you will likely find a 19 jewel 754 movement unless the watch is from the later part of 1955 when the 22 jewel 770 came out.

My project watch came to me in pretty good shape.  The owner had a difficult time getting it serviced previously and waited over a year to get it back.  That's a common experience, based on what people often tell me.

Looking closely at the dial, I can see that it's been refinished.  It's not bad, but the Hamilton font isn't correct and the seconds register is the wrong shape.  More often than not, the seconds register is the same shape as the bezel opening.  So I'd expect a square register for this dial and the catalog images support that assumption.

I don't care for the bracelet on this watch.  This one-size-fits-most design has spring loaded ends that will wear grooves into the case lugs.


The back of the case is clearly marked Hamilton and 14K Gold.  L&K is the case maker.  I get a lot of emails from people with watches that have aftermarket cases.  As a general rule you will see Hamilton on the back of the case and definitely inside the case back.  If you don't see it... buyer beware.


No surprise here.  The 19 jewel 754 movement replaced the 982M in solid gold models and it even kept the gold enamel in the engraving that the 982M had.  It's basically the same as a 19 jewel 753, just a little prettier, I suppose.


Everything is taken apart and thoroughly cleaned.


The reassembled and freshly lubricated movement is ticking away with good motion.  Next stop is the timer to listen to the ticking.


It's running a little fast but otherwise looks fantastic.


A slight tweak of the regulator slows it down.  I might tweak it again so that it's running a little fast.


A fresh black leather strap compliments this watch much better than that beater Speidel bracelet.  As for the question, "what is it worth?"  I would say, "try to find another".  Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.