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.

Monday, October 10, 2022

1980s Khaki Pocket Watch

 Military watches always seem to be popular.  I've posted quite a few times about them.  

I'm always surprised by what the Mil-W-46374B will sell for, considering it's essentially a disposable watch with a 7 jewel movement made by Standard Time, which Hamilton owned.  Personally I wouldn't waste my money on them and instead I'd save it for a Mil-W-46374D which is FAR superior to the B version.  The D variant is a little harder to find but you can always find a GG-W-113  for sale.  The GG-W-113 used a Hamilton 649 movement and that same caliber was used by Hamilton in the 1980s for their "Field Watches".  In Hamilton's catalog they started the Khaki line but you'll see the same models with LL Bean, Brookstone, or Ovis branding as well.  They are all essentially the same.

You'll also see that LL Bean had a pocket watch version.  I recently realized that Hamilton also made a Khaki pocket watch - I think they are much less common in the wild.

Like a lot of collectors, I seem to be a sucker for these field watches and I will make a run at pretty much everyone I see that isn't already priced out of my bottom-feeder range.  I recently scored a Khaki pocket watch and I was excited to get it.

As received, the crystal was a bit beat up and my photo doesn't do it justice.  I was glad to see the luminous material on the hands wasn't broken up, missing, or faded.

The case back snaps on and is marked just like the LL Bean version with the model number 916580.

Tucked inside the case is a 649 movement based on the ETA 2750.  I've noticed the markings on the train bridge of this caliber varies over the years and in this case the little circle has extremely small print with the caliber details.  A large movement ring secures the movement inside the case.

A gasket inside the case back provides a good weather-proof seal.

While the movement is in the ultrasonic getting cleaned, I'll prep a new 36.2mm high dome crystal for installation.

Everything is cleaned and dried.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  The 649 has a higher beat rate than the usual vintage watch of 18,000 BPH.  At 21,600 BPH, the ticking is noticeably faster.

The beat rate is right on the money but the beat error is 1.2ms.  On a vintage Lancaster-made movement I'd call this great, but the beat error is so easy to adjust on these Swiss ebauches that I'd feel embarrassed to leave it this high.

Adjusting the beat error is easy to do but it's very precise work and you have to go the right direction or you'll make it worse.  I'm down to 0.5ms, which I'd be delighted with in most cases but I can do better.

There...0.1ms.  I could try to get to zero but that would take some luck.  If I tried to change it again I'd likely just make it worse again.

The new crystal made a HUGE improvement and a good cleaning makes this durable field watch as good as new.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

1959 Dawson

Some projects take longer than others.  I recently set a personal record.  I purchased a 1959 Dawson in serious need of TLC at least two years ago - possibly more, and I finally finished it.  I don't really remember how long I've had it, it's been that long.

The Dawson was introduced in 1959 and made for three years.  It was available on either a bracelet or a strap, the former added $10 to the purchase price.  I don't think I'd call it a rare model but it's not a model that I've seen terribly often either.

The Dawson is interesting because it's as basic as you'll find for a US-made Hamilton watch.  The two-piece case has a 10K gold filled bezel with a stainless steel back.  The dial has embossed markers and numerals (vs applied gold numerals).  The movement inside is a Lancaster-made 730.  It's definitely a no-frills model but it doesn't have a rolled gold plate (RGP) case or a Swiss-movement inside either.

As I said, I purchased my Dawson quite a while ago and I was hoping I could just clean it up until I realized the dial actually had quite a bit of finish loss.  When it comes to embossed dials, getting them redone properly can be very problematic.  The old finish is mechanically stripped and that aggressive process usually softens all of the embossed features.  More times than not, I haven't been happy when I get an embossed dial redone.  As a general rule, I've learned to avoid purchasing watches with embossed dials if it's obvious they will need to be refinished.

Overall the case is in great shape.

I used to use a dial refinishing company regularly but the company changed hands a while back and between that, Covid, and poor customer service, I lost faith in getting dials redone in general.

That said, I heard about another company, L&S Dials, in California.  I decided to give them a try and sent them a couple of dials, including this Dawson.

The 730 movement is essentially an improved 747 movement.  The 747 came out in the late mid 1940s and in 1955 it was improved with shock jewels at the balance.  In the early 1960s the 730 would be improved again and become the 731 with the addition of a glucydur balance (no timing screws).

I like working on these 8/0 sized movements - they almost reassemble themselves.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  The most challenging part of cleaning these movements is to not lose the tiny balance jewels by accidentally flipping them into the ether like a miniature tiddywink.

Lucio Hernandez at L&S Dials took about a month to get my dial back to me.  I think it looks very good overall and is excellent for an embossed dial.  The edges of the markers are generally crisp and much better than my previous experiences.  I would have no reservations sending another dial to L&S Dials.  If you'd like to use them too, check them out on Instagram at @lsdials or contact them at: 

L&S Dials
14175 Saint Tropez Ct
Moreno Valley. CA 92553

The reassembled movement is looking great and ticking away with a good motion.

Rats... the beat error of 6.1ms is well outside of my personal specs.  This metric measures how well centered the balance is relative to the pallet fork.  When the balance is centered with a beat error of zero, it will swing equally from one side to the other.  A higher beat error means it swings further on one side than the other - and that implies that the watch will stop sooner than a movement with centered balance.

Adjusting the beat error requires rotating the hairspring on the balance staff so that the position of the impulse jewel changes relative to the position of the hairspring stud on the balance cock.  It's a tricky intervention that could easily go sideways and result in damaged hairspring if you're not super careful.

In my case, I was lucky (or was I good?) and nailed it on the first try.  Now I just need to adjust the regulator and speed up the beat rate slightly.

It doesn't take too much of an adjustment to change the beat rate so it took a few attempts to get it dialed in to +12 sec per day.  I'll leave it here as it will probably settle down as the watch runs.

The finished watch looks and runs great.  Like most vintage watches, the Dawson isn't very large.  However the lug width is 3/4" or 19mm so it presents larger that it really is.  It's also quite thin so overall I think it's a very sleek and stylish choice as a dress watch.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

1928 Piping Rock

 I've done a couple of other posts over the past 10+ years on one of Hamilton's most popular models, the 1928 Piping Rock.  It was produced through 1935 and then redesigned and reintroduced again in 1948 with the newly introduced 747 movement. 

The modern Hamilton company reissued the Piping Rock in the 1990s in both yellow and white electroplate and with both quartz and mechanical movements.  So there's a Piping Rock version out there for just about everyone.

However, you really can't beat the original.  I recently received an early Piping Rock in need of some TLC and I thought it would be a good project to showcase.

As received, you can see that time and moisture has gotten the best of the dial.  The finish on it has been compromised.  I'm sure when I reach 94 years old I may have some blemishes too.

The flexible hinges on the three piece case are a bit over-flexed.  A talented goldsmith could replace the pin that holds the hinges together and bring them back to their appropriate angle.  I've seen worse though and this watch is still wrist-worthy as-is.  The plastic crystal is an obvious replacement and replacing that with a glass crystal will be a huge improvement.

The 19 jewel 979 was the top of the line movement in Hamilton's wrist watch lineup.  Only solid gold models were outfitted with this caliber at the time.  Some gold filled models would receive 979Fs in the early 1930s.   The serial number of this movement dates this watch to 1928 - making it a first year example of the model.

With the bezel out of the way and the lighting just right you can see the finish on the sterling silver dial is a bit splotchy.  This is an engraved dial so it could be refinished perfectly and look like new if desired.  I'll see if I can remove some of the splotchiness since cleaning it won't make it look worse. 

If you have a good eye for detail you may have already spotted that the hour hand is the wrong style and size.  I'll look in my stash for a better example.

Once the dial and hands are out of the way, it's clear that moisture has gotten inside and corroded the nickel plating of the movement.  The damage is done but it shouldn't impact the functionality of the movement (hopefully).

This watch has obviously been seen by a watchmaker at some point over the last 90 years but the mainspring inside is still an old blue steel mainspring.  There's a 99.47% chance the spring has set into a tight coil and lost most of its potential energy.

Yup - called it.  This watch would run okay for a little while but a full wind would only power it for 12 hours or less, I suspect.

A fresh Hamilton Dynavar white alloy mainspring will power the watch for ~40 hours or so and, most likely, won't need to be replaced again.

Everything is cleaned and dried before being reassembled.  Well, I should say "almost everything" - there is one piece missing... the bezel.

The bezel is sitting under the UV lamp getting a suntan while the UV glue that holds the new glass crystal cures.  Normally I put crystals in the sunlight to cure but Tropical Storm Ian is currently dumping rain outside my workshop.

I normally can see the Blue Ridge Mountains out my window, but not today.  The mountains are hidden by the rain clouds.

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when a movement from the 1920s starts ticking again.  The earliest calibers have the most mileage on them and they didn't always get the regular annual service that Hamilton recommended.  This movement is noticeably brighter and shinier now.

After a couple of slight adjustments the watch is running nicely.  The beat error of 3.0ms is at the top of my upper spec limit but I don't dare try to adjust it - as doing so could result in goofing up the hairspring and I've learned my lessons the hard way when it comes to these oldest of the old movements.  Good is good enough, don't get greedy.

The movement goes back into the case.  It's freshly lubricated and rust-free.

A pair of female spring bars came with the watch but only one of them is the correct size.  The longer one is too long so I'll have to dig out another 5/8 spring bar from my personal stash.

A new old stock vintage strap completes the restoration.  A proper hour hand and a new glass crystal are huge improvements.  The dial is better than it was but still not perfect.  However, the rest of the watch has good, honest wear so the dial looks totally appropriate to my eye.

Here's another shot in more flattering lighting.  I wonder what stories this 94 year old beauty could tell?