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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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

1955 Automatic K-506

 Someday maybe I'll start a Youtube channel and start every video with "Will it run?".  Every time I buy a project watch it's a roll of the dice.

I recently picked up a real clunker in the hopes that it would at least have some good parts.  Turns out it was a model I haven't seen yet, which is saying something after over 700 documented models.

It's a 1955 Automatic K-506.  It was produced for only two years.  It was offered on a bracelet or on a strap.


Hamilton's first automatics were introduced in 1954 so the K506 is a very early model.  Most K-series models feature a movement made by Kurth Freres, which was eventually acquired by Certina. 

I wasn't really sure what model I picked up when I bought it.  The photos weren't very descriptive and even in person it's a little difficult to see the details through the beat up crystal. 


The case back is my least favorite design.  The case back is sort of a pie pan design with a separate ring that sandwiches the back to the rest of the case.  There isn't a lot of room to access the recesses in the ring so if it's gunked up or on really tight the ring can be very hard to remove.


Opening it up I see some things are missing, or should I say that I don't see what I was expecting to see.  The rotor and the automatic framework is missing.  Without those parts this is basically a manual winding movement.


The crown is an obvious replacement as it's too large to fit the recess in the side of the case.  I'll replace that with something more appropriate.


The inside of the case back makes identifying the model easy - K-506 is stamped right inside.


The sweep second hand is obvious missing.  What's less obvious is the post for attaching the second hand is also missing.  I can see the pivot of the 4th wheel that the second hand attaches too but the bit that extends out of the dial for the hand to attach to is gone.  The dial is obviously 60+ years old but it doesn't look horrible - at least the patina is even and once I remove the old lume and replace it with fresh material it should look a little better.


It's been a while since I tackled an automatic like this.  There are a lot of parts to keep track of but this movement tends to go together smoothly.


Everything is noticeably brighter now that it's cleaned.  I replaced the 4th wheel with one from a donor movement and the movement is ticking away with a decent but somewhat wobbly motion.


The timing is a little erratic thanks to the wobble.  The pivots on the balance looked okay but they might be worn enough to have a little too much slop in the jewels.  I'll try another balance and see what happens.


With a different balance but the same (clean) jewels the timing looks much better.  I can easily adjust the beat rate and bring it in line.


There... not much to complain about with this timekeeping.


I took the automatic framework and rotor from a donor movement and the movement is complete again.


I relumed the bottom of hands and the dial markers.  Once it dries I'll scrape the excess off the hands with a razor blade.


The finished watch doesn't look new by any stretch of the imagination but it sure looks better than what I started with.  A new crystal, a proper crown and second hand definitely makes a world of difference.  Paired with a casual brown strap, I think the watch really looks great. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

1940 Coral Brock

Back in 2013 I did a post on the Coral Brock and I recently had the opportunity to work on another that I thought I'd share.

The Coral Brock is a one-year wonder and only produced in 1940.  It was part of a small line of models that were offered in rose gold (or gold filled) just before WWII.  I guess rose gold, or coral gold, was very fashionable at the end of the 1930s and other manufacturers offered similar models.  By the end of the war, priorities and fashions had changed.

The Coral Brock was offered in a solid 14K gold case and had a coral dial with black numerals that paired nicely with the yellow gold Brock was was offered from 1939 through 1952.  The Brock actually was offered with many dials, including diamond-outfitted dials.  However, the Coral Brock was only shown in the catalogs to have a black numeral dial.


I recently received a Coral Brock in need of some TLC.  It features an applied gold numeral dial though.  My camera doesn't really pick of the colors very well but it looks like the applied numerals and hands are also rose gold - that's VERY unusual.  Other Coral models with applied gold numeral dials would have rhodium plated (white gold colored) numerals and hands.  The dials would also be salmon colored. 


If you look closely at the photo above, the second hand is definitely yellow, compared to the case, hands and markers.

From the side you can see the rose-colored case a little better.  The crystal is a plastic cylinder style - not correct for the Brock but still looks fitting.


With the bezel removed you can see the dial has some for of dial rash forming but it otherwise looks unremarkable.  The finish is a little more sparkly than a typical silver butler finish and I suspect this dial has been refinished at some point.  The crown is not original but it's rose-colored and goes with the watch appropriately.


The movement is a 19 jewel 982, as it should be, and dates to 1940, which it should.  It's not running though and the balance wobbles - that's not a good sign.


The inside of the case back looks like you'd expect, clearly marked Hamilton W Co. and 14K.


The dial has a couple of numbers scratched on to the back - that's a clear sign that this dial has been refinished.  I suspect this is a normal Brock dial that has been refinished and the numerals and hands plated somehow to look rose-colored.


Looking closely at the balance, I see pivots on both ends... so why is it wobbly?  Most likely there's an issue with one of the jewels, either in the balance cock or the main plate.


Looking at the balance cock, I don't see anything too unusual.


The barrel has an old blue steel mainspring inside.  It has most likely set in place and lost most of it's potential energy.


Yup -  thought so.  I routinely replace blue steel mainsprings with white alloy Dynavar springs. 


I noticed one of the corners of the crystal is cracked - thats probably the cause of the dial rash as a crack like this can let in moisture.


Everything is cleaned and dried.  It will be easier to inspect the jewels now.


Sure enough, the balance jewel in the main plate is cracked and sort of egg shaped now.   It was hard to get a photo of it but if you zoom in you can probably see it.


I'l use my staking set to take a jewel from another 982 and install it in the main plate.


With the balance reinstalled I can see if the end shake is appropriate and confirm that the balance swings freely.


Well, this movement was a real challenge to get running cleanly.  I finally tweaked the hairspring  and regulator to just the right spot.  The beat error is a little higher than I like but I don't want to risk screwing it up.  Sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel.


I installed a new glass crystal to complete the restoration.  This watch now looks just as it should.  However, I think looking for a proper black numeral dial might be in order.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

1958 Aldrich

It's been a while since I've come across a new model, and it's an interesting one as you'll see.

The model is a Hamilton Aldrich introduced in 1958.  The model was made for three years.  It came in a solid 14K gold case.  The sterling silver dial has solid gold numerals and features a unique embossed rim with integrated markers.


My project watch is actually an Awards Division model.  Hamilton had a separate group that created models for companies and organizations to use as awards or presentations.  Typically the Awards Division used models that were discontinued and often changed the dials slightly.  They wanted to make sure that an award recipient wouldn't find their award in their local jewelry store.

You can see that this watch has had an issue with water on the dial and at some point the second hand was replaced with a black version of the wrong style.

Here's a little mystery... this watch was a 30 year anniversary dated 1953.  That's 5 years before the Aldrich came out.  However, if you look at the dial, it has the stylized H logo that was introduced when Hamilton purchase Huguenin Watch Company in the late 1950s.  So it wasn't presented in 1953.  It wasn't presented in 1983 either, as Hamilton stopped production of US models in 1969.

This watch came with a little plastic retainer between the crown and the case.  That's typically used with quartz watches as pulling out the crown stops the watch, or turns it off.  For a moment I thought perhaps this would have an Electric movement inside.  You should turn off Hamilton Electrics when they aren't being worn by pulling out the crown.  That saves the movement from unnecessary wear and tear.

Nope, it has a 770 movement inside.  The 770 was Hamilton's flagship movement, arguably the best that Hamilton produced, although the other calibers like the 735 and 731 were pretty good too.  The 770 featured 22 jewels so it was well protected from dust, shock, etc.  Also, the 770 was introduced in 1955... two years after the date on the case back.  That's another clue in the mystery of when this watch was produced.

Coincidentally I happened to have an authentic Hamilton Aldrich dial and movement - thanks to someone who scrapped a $600 watch for $150 in cash.  The dial is a little worn but it's original and that can be important... it's only original once.

Looking at the catalogs, this dial came from a 1960 Aldrich as the 1958 and 1959 dials featured a gold diamond shaped marker under the Hamilton logo.

This movement also has an authentic Hamilton crown, which I'll be able to reuse someday too.

Here are the two dials side by side.  The Aldrich dial is thicker and slightly domed while the other dial is flat.  I prefer the even toning of the Aldrich dial over the corrosion of the other dial - however the corroded dial could be refinished to look like new.


Because of the contour of the dials, the two movements have different length cannon pinions and hour wheels.  The Aldrich requires a longer cannon pinion to get the hands above the domed dial. The earlier 14/0 sized movements like the 980 and 982 also featured different canon pinion styles depending on the type of dial.

Everything gets cleaned and dried before being reassembled with fresh lubrication.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  It's off to the timer to find out how well it's actually running.

According to the timer it's running a little slow but the beat error of 6.1ms is way too high.  That means the balance isn't centered so I'll have to take the balance off and try to adjust it.

I made a pretty good guess... now the beat error is 0.0 and the timing is just about spot-on.

The reassembled movement and authentic Aldrich dial go back into the case.  A correct second hand completes the restoration.  The Aldrich is a classy looking watch and the proper dial really makes a statement - don't you think?


Monday, June 20, 2022

1911 Hamilton 947L Pocket Watch

My first love, when it comes to Hamilton watches, was pocket watches.  Like most collectors, my first introduction to vintage watches was by inheriting some pieces from my grandfather.  Some were my great grandfather's, in fact.  All of them were pocket watches and the best of which was a Hamilton 992B railroad watch.  My grandfather worked for a railroad for a while, as well as a prison guard and a shopkeeper.  Watches make great heirlooms and I think of my grandfather's life every time I wind his watch. 

I recently was contacted by someone who's prized Hamilton pocket watch was damaged when one of his kids played with it a little too roughly.  It's over 110 years old and is a lever set 974 pocket watch from 1911.

The 974 is an entry level 16 size model at it was made for 20+ years.  It evolved over time and although the main elements stayed the same, there are some important elements that varied.  One variable is the 974 came in lever set as well as negative set variants.  Level set was important because the watch couldn't accidentally pop into the time setting position the way a negative set movement can.  I'll point out some of the other unique features below.

As received, the watch appears to be in excellent shape overall.  It shows some wear over the last 110 yeas but it's definitely not worn out.


The back cover is nicely engrave with a bird and floral design.


The movement is complete and with a slight shake I was able to get it to tick - that's a good sign.  Notice the crown wheel is held down with two screws.  On later versions a single reverse thread screw would be used.  A reverse thread screw is opposite a normal screw so instead of "lefty loosey" it's "righty loosey" and you turn it the opposite direction to remove it (or you break it by over-tightening).  The two screw design is more easily removed.


I don't normally check the timing of watches before I work on them but in this case I wanted to see what I was in for.  I gave the watch a few winds, got it running, and put it on the timer to see what it looked like.  It's running slow but that because I didn't wind it very much.  The beat error of 9.4 ms means the balance is out of alignment, that could have happened when it got banged by the owner's kids.  In fact, it may have gotten "over-banked", where the balance impulse jewel gets on the wrong side of the pallet fork and stops the watch.


Here's another unique feature of an early Hamilton pocket watch.  The dial has four dial feet... in a few years that would change to three feet so replacing dials on old pocket watches requires you to know how many feet are involved.  Getting a dial from a later 974 wouldn't work for this watch.


A lever set movement has a lever that you slide out (at the 1:00 position) to move the keyless works into the time setting position.  A negative set movement would have a couple extra springs under the dial and require a different case design as well.  I like lever set movements, they are less troublesome.


I noticed some little gold flecks under the dial and after looking closely I can see the minute wheel is missing a bunch of teeth on the inner pinion.


I also saw the hour wheel (that engages the minute wheel) is missing a tooth or two.  I found a few more tooth pieces as I went along.  This would definitely stop a watch or cause the minute hand to move while the hour hand didn't.


I was happy to see a white alloy mainspring is already installed.  That's one less thing for me to deal with.


I have to look closely at the balance wheel from this angle to try to identify which side the balance is off by.  The photo didn't capture it but I could see the impulse jewel was off to the right.  I can adjust that later.


With the balance removed you can see the blue hairspring stud is just above the arm on the left, I'll rotate the hairspring counter clockwise a smidgeon to adjust the position of the impulse jewel relative to the hairspring stud.  Confused yet?  It takes a while to grasp the concept but in a nutshell the only two parts of the balance that are fixed in position are the hairspring stud (attached the balance cock) and the impulse jewel that engages the pallet fork.  The position of the stud relative to the impulse jewel determines how centered the impulse jewel is.


I'll pull a "new" minute wheel and hour wheel from a donor movement and clean them with the other parts.


Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.  Pocket watches have about the same number of parts as wrist watches but they are much bigger and take up a lot of room when they are laid out.


The movement is reassembled and I gave the balance my best guess in terms of adjustment.  I'll have to install it to see how I did.


Well, the beat error is reduced to 3.5 ms but that's still a bit too high so I will give it another go.  I'd like to get it under 1.0 if I can.


There... that's much better. 0.7ms is good enough.  0.0 would be ideal but you're talking about a very small adjustment and every attempt risks goofing up the balance.  I've learned the hard way that good is usually good enough.


The replacement minute wheel and hour wheel are in place and look just as they should.  Cannon pinion holds the minute hand and the cannon pinion turns the minute wheel which turns the hour wheel that holds the hour hand.  These two parts are what keep the two hands synchronized.


The reassembled movement is installed back in the case and is ready to go home to its owner.  Hopefully it will be safely hidden from little fingers but still enjoyed as a treasured timekeeper until it can be passed down to the next generation.