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, November 21, 2022

1954 Automatic K-502

I just realized that I started this blog a little over 10 years ago.  I started it because I had acquired a lot of watches over the preceding years and taught myself how to repair them.  Every new watch was a new accomplishment... the first automatic, the first 748 movement, the first date complication, etc.  They all had a story and my collection grew.

Eventually my bride laid down the law and told me packages needed to go out at the same rate that packages arrived.  So I started the blog to document my efforts and then sold the models to fund new projects, or tools, or supplies.

Now, 10 years later it's interesting to look back at older posts and see how far Ive come. 

One of the models I posted in 2013 was the 1954 Automatic K-502.  My original posting was short and sweet.  Since I recently had an opportunity to restore another K-502, I thought I'd take the opportunity to show a little more detail.

The K-502 is a one year wonder and only shows up in the 1954 catalog.  1954 is also the first year that Hamilton introduced automatic watches, although they tested the waters in 1953 with Illinois branded automatics.  The Illinois watches utilized an ETA-made 1256 caliber.  The Hamilton K-series used another Swiss manufacturer, Kurth Freres, which eventually became part of Certina.

My project watch arrived in typical "as found in a dresser drawer" condition.  The radium on the hands has taken it's toll on the hands and dial but I may be able to clean it up nicely.  The crown on this watch is original and very distinctive.  It reminds me of Omega crowns from the same time frame.

The stainless steel case is very solid - this watch is built like a tank!  Hopefully I'll be able to open it.

The bracelet is original to the watch.  I'm not sure how I know that other than I've seen other examples.  It's not shown in the catalog but there must be other documentation somewhere out there to confirm its originality.  Regardless, it's got a broken rivet but I think it may be repairable.  

Here's the other side of the bracelet and it's clearly made by Kreisler - who made many of the original bracelets paired with Hamilton models in the 1950s.

Success!  The case is open and reveals the Hamilton 661 movement that is in the vast majority of K-series automatics.

Apparently I forgot to take my customary "everything is cleaned and dried" photo so the next step is to reassemble the basics of the movement and get it running again.  Now I can see what the timer thinks of the ticking.

Not too shabby... just a slight tweak to speed it up a little bit.  The beat error is well within my specs and below 3.0ms.  Since it's difficult to adjust on this caliber I'll leave the beat error just as it is.

It took a long time to get the rust off the hands and although they're not perfect, they're a lot better than what I started with.  I added fresh lume to the hands too so they will glow in the dark again.  The watch will forever show the hints of 5:32 thanks to the radium burn from the hands in the same position for decades.

A new crystal and a nice strap complete the restoration.  I'll leave the strap on while I sort out repairing the bracelet.  This watch cleaned up very nicely, don't you think?

1963 Lord Lancaster B

I've restored about 750 unique models so far.  There's over 1,000 in the pre-1969 lineup but it's safe to say the easy models to find are behind me.

One model that I haven't come across until recently was a bit of a surprise.  It's a member of the Lord Lancaster line, specifically the Lord Lancaster B.  It was introduced in 1963 and produced through 1969 - so why has it been so hard to come across?  Beats me... but better late than never!

The Lord Lancaster line is unique in that the designs incorporate diamonds, either on the dial or integrated into the case.  All price points were represented from entry-level to ultra expensive.

The Lord Lancaster B is on the less expensive side of the model continuum.  It features a Swiss-made movement and a rolled gold plated (RGP) case.  Originally the model was offered only in white rolled gold but by 1969 yellow was an available option too.

My project watch arrived in decent condition with an aftermarket Speidel bracelet.  It's not original to the watch but it's not a bad pairing either, in my opinion.

The watch opens through the crystal and once the two-piece stem and crown are removed the movement and dial will lift straight out.  The dial has a radial finish where it's brushed from the center outward in all directions.  Its a very nice looking dial.  The diamonds are a little on the tiny side but they'd still be a girl's best friend.

Tucked behind the dial is a Hamilton 686 movement.  This is a 17 jewel Swiss-made ebauche with a glucydur balance - notice there are no timing screws.

Everything gets disassembled and thoroughly cleaned

It actually took me a while to get the watch to run.  I should have checked it out more closely before I started to see if it was in running condition.  Ultimately I had to change the balance cock but I was able to dial it in the timing nicely after that.

I replaced the crystal as the original was a bit grungy and yellowed.  The new crystal makes this watch really sparkle now!  It's a sharp-looking watch, I'm surprised I haven't seen more examples out there.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

1968-ish Dateline A-something 64046-3

 One of the interesting challenges of vintage Hamiltons is trying to identify models you haven't seen before.  There are several well documented models that were not shown in the catalogs but were shown in  advertisements in magazines and such.  Other times models were potentially made for other markets, like Europe or South America.  Hamilton produced unique models to be used as awards and presentations - these are often easy to identify when they say "masterpiece" on the dial.  Lastly there was a line of men's and women's models that were sold through a large national retailer and were identified by their M-series and F-series names.  Not all M-series models are well-documented but one clue is they typically came in a red clamshell case.

Anyway, I recently received a watch for repair that doesn't appear to be cataloged.  It might go solely by the case id of 64046-3.

Case numbers are interesting.  Sometimes they mean something and other times they don't reveal too much.  For example, the -3 typically denotes a stainless steel case.  Often (but not always) the first two digits represents the caliber of the movement inside.  So this model likely has a caliber 64 inside.  Sometimes the last two digits represents the year it was introduced - that is not the situation here though.  There's no one-size-fits-all nomenclature or rationale for model numbers.

My project watch appears to be in good shape but it definitely could use a new crystal.

The case back shows the model number and it presents like it could be one of the Fontainebleau models but it doesn't say that on the dial.  The model number is close to other Fontainebleau models though.

The case is a two piece design but it opens from the front and requires a two-piece stem.  Getting the bezel separated from the back required a special tool.  It's spring loaded like a punch but has an angled tip.  You push it in and once it reaches a certain point of compression it "snaps" and pops the chiseled tip with a little whack.

With the bezel and stem out of the way the movement and dial lifts right out and you can see this watch uses a 694A.  The 694A was made by ETA and is based on a Hamilton 64 caliber.  The 64 caliber has 21 jewels while the 694A has 17. Where are the extra 4 jewels in a 64?  They're in the reversing wheels of the automatic framework.  The 694A does not have those jewels.

The crystal is a special design.  It has a groove around the perimeter to align with the bezel so it snaps into the groove.  A silver reflector ring is installed on the inside of the crystal, further sealing the crystal and bezel.  So you need to remove the reflector ring to use the "claw" to compress the crystal in order to remove it.

The 694A is the same basic design as a 689A except it has a date complication.  That's good to know when you need a replacement part.  The hardest task of reassembling the movement is to not lose the tiny spring that indexes the date wheel into position so it centers in the date window of the dial.  Everything is cleaned, dried and ready to be reassembled.

The basic movement is reassembled and running so now I can put it on the timer and make any timing adjustments before putting it all back together.

After a couple of tweaks the timing is right on the money.

The crystal is a special design so I'll have to do some research to see if I can replace it.  In the meantime I polished the snot out of it, at least the best I could.  It's not perfect but it's definitely a huge improvement.  This watch is really cool.  The dial has luminous paint and all three hands do too.  I don't think I've seen this style of lumed second hand before!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

1968 Thin-o-matic TM-2601

I've talked quite a few times about my favorite models, of which there are many.  I have my least favorite models too, which I don't talk about often but I have an opportunity to do now, sort of.

My least favorite watches are some of the funky and chunky examples from the mid-1950s like the 1954 Kenmore.  That's not entirely fair though as when you pair the custom bracelets to them they really aren't that bad.

The set of models that I really don't like are the later addition micro-rotor movements in the TM-line of Thin-o-matics.  That's unfortunate, as they aren't unattractive, they are just difficult to maintain, as you'll see in this post on the 1968 Thin-O-Matic TM-2601.

The TM-2601 was made through 1971.  The micro-rotor movements used in Hamilton's Thin-o-matic line were made by Buren, which Hamilton purchased in the 1960s.  In 1969 Hamilton moved production from their Lancaster, PA factory to Buren's factory in Berne, Switzerland... and the servant became the master.

Microrotor movements come in two flavors... pink and silver.  The pink calibers were the initial movements introduced in the late 1950s and used throughout the 1960s.  In the late 1960s the 2nd generation silver microrotors were introduced.  They're easy to identify as they are comprise the TM-line of models.  With a date complication they would be Dateline TM-models.

The TM movements were not produced for very long and they were also used in high end watches like Breitling.  Spare parts have long been exhausted so when you need parts you're likely out of luck and will need to scavenge from donor movements.

The TM-2601 has a solid 14K gold case, thus the 2-series designation.  Based on the catalog image it originally came with a croc or alligator strap.  The bezel is reeded, like the edge of a coin.  It's a very striking watch.  The catalog indicates it came in yellow gold but I've seen an example in white gold as well.

My project watch sheds more light on what the catalog leaves out.  The dial has solid gold markers and numerals.  It represents the finest that Hamilton had to offer.  My project watch appears to be unworn and presents without the slightest hint of bumps or bruises. 

The case opens through the crystal and that process begins with removing the crown by separating the two-piece stem.  Then the crystal is lifted and the movement will come right out.

The inside of the case back has no markings from prior watchmakers but there's a screw missing from one of the bridges.  There was some dust inside the case and on the dial so I suspect that I'm not the first person to open this watch in the last 50 years.  The missing screw is not in the case, I doubt it left the factory that way.

In the shot below I have removed the bridge that covers the setting wheels to show you exactly why I don't like these movements.  The largest wheel is the minute wheel, just to right of it is the smallest wheel in the train and it's the offset center wheel.  The pinion on the center wheel serves as the cannon pinion.  Normally the cannon pinion is what the minute hand attaches to but in this movement it's "offset" and not in the center.  It has to be tight enough to not slip on the center wheel arbor as the movement moves the hands, but slip when you use the crown to set the time.  It's very small and difficult to adjust so it's not unusual for it to loosen up over time and allow the watch to appear to run slow.  In effect, a loose cannon pinion prevents the hands from moving as they should.

With the parts removed from the front of the main plate, I can start to strip the back side.  It's important to take photos along the way so I make sure I put the parts back in the correct orientation.

Well here's another problem, one of the barrel bridge screws is broken.  Maybe it will come out in the ultrasonic, maybe I can prod it out with a needle, otherwise my bag of tricks is limited.

Last things off are the train wheels and I took another photo just to make sure I can recall how they go back together.

Everything get's thoroughly cleaned and dried before reassembly.

No dice on the broken screw so I'll have to rely on the remaining screw to keep the barrel bridge in place.  The movement is now reassembled, lubricated, and ticking away with a good motion.  I replaced the missing screw with a donor from a 629 movement (like the 626 but with a date complication), so the net number of screws present is the same.

Nothing to complain about with this performance. 

The movement is now running great, the outside of the watch is looking great, all that remains is to cross my fingers and hope the hands move as they should.  Based on the resistance I feel when I set the time, I think it will work out fine.  It's when you feel no resistance at all that you likely have a loose cannon pinion.