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, 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My project watch originally made it's way to Hamilton for repair but they weren't willing to fix it (or it would cost too much).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.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

1953 Lawton

Styling in the 1950s was pretty wonky on some models.  I guess the same was eventually true with cars too.  I'm not sure what to call the styling but I think it takes an acquired taste to appreciate it.

Take for example the 1953 Lawton.  It was made for only two years.

To my eye, this sort of design is reminiscent of a horseshoe crab.  It is both smooth and sharp at the same time.

The Lawton came in a 10K yellow gold filled case and featured a sterling silver dial with solid 18K gold numerals.  Behind the dial you'll find a 17 jewel 747 movement.

My project watch came courtesy of a fellow collector.  He was having difficulty with it running after having it serviced.   As received it looked almost unworn other than a few scratches on the crystal.

This watch features a crystal known as a "cylinder".  It is curved glass supported by walls on the side, rather than a curved class of consistent thickness.  A cylinder crystal is a perfect complement to this style case and fits the design perfectly.

The inside of the case back makes identifying the model very easy, it has the name stamped inside.

The 17 jewel 747 movement looks to be in great shape but it's not running, at least not well.

You can see in the shot below that a new crystal is in order.  Glass is much harder to scratch than plastic but the scratches cannot be polished out.

A new crystal will make a nice improvement after a little shaping with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper.

The movement is completely stripped and cleaned in my ultrasonic cleaner.  Then it gets rinsed twice, dried and reassembled with fresh lubricants.

The reassembled movement is now ticking away with a good motion.  Now it's off to the timer to listen to the ticking.

It's running a little slowly but the amplitude looks good and the beat error is well within my specs of less than 3.0ms.  Adjusting the beat error on this movement requires removing the balance from the balance cock and rotating the hairspring on the balance staff to just the right position.  I could try to reduce it but that also risks goofing up the hairspring.

A slight tweak to the regulator speeds the watch up.  I'll leave it running a smidgen fast.

Not only is the case gold filled, the crown is too and once the knurling on the crown gets worn, the side is prone to coming off, exposing the brass within.  Apparently this watch will need a new crown, as well as new crystal. 

I don't have my light tent back up and functional yet so here's a photo of the finished watch in sunlight.  It's not a bad looking watch, even if it is reminiscent of a horseshoe crab.   Now it's running as nice as it looks.