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, December 31, 2022

1953 Brockton

This is my last post for 2022.  Reflecting back on the year, and overall, it's amazing to see that I've been posting restorations for over 10 years!  I'm just short of 800 posts so I'll need to think of something cool to post for that significant milestone.

Today's post is a 1953 Brockton, although it's actually a 1954 version based on the presentation on the back.

The Brockton was produced for two years.  It's one of a bunch of models that were introduced after Hamilton evolved to the 12/0 sized movements in 1952.  The 12/0 sized movements replaced the 14/0 movements previously used.  Some models transitioned to the 12/0 movements and became a B model, like the Boulton B or Austin B.  Other models seemed to have been inspired by earlier models but were different enough to be something entirely new. 

There are three 12/0 movements, the 17 jewel 752, the 19 jewel 753, and the 19 jewel 754,  They replaced the 17 jewel 980, 19 jewel 982 and 19 jewel 982M.  Hamilton used the logic that 17 jewel movements went into 10K gold filled cases, the 982 movement went into 14K gold filled cases and the 982M was solely for solid gold cases.  That logic carried forward with the new 12/0 lineup.

The Brockton is inspired by the Brock, as the name would imply.  The latter being produced from 1939 through 1952.  The main difference between the Brockton and the Brock is the Brockton has a solid 10K gold case vs the 14K solid gold case in the Brock.  An easy way to spot the difference between two examples is the Brockton has no numerals in the seconds register while the Brock has numerals. 

The 1953 catalog ad for the Brockton shows it has a 19 jewel movement, solid gold case and two options for dials - either an all numeral dial or a numeral & marker dial.  Either option would cost you $110 in your local jewelry store.

Not much changed the following year other than the strap and the price - the 1954 Brockton reduced $10 to $100.  That's equivalent to $1,100 today.  You'd be hard pressed to find a new solid gold watch in a jewelry store for $1,100, I think.

My project watch arrived in good cosmetic condition but it's not running.  You can see in the photo how obvious the seconds register looks without numerals - clearly this is a Brockton and not a Brock.  Without that detail they would look identical.  The other obvious tell is the markers on the dial - this was not an option on the Brock (although the Brock did offer things like diamonds).

The 754 has gold enameling and a circled logo similar to the 982M.  If it looks familiar, that's because it's very similar to the 22 jewel 770 movement that would be introduced later in 1954.  The 770 replaced the 752, 753 and 754 and continued to be made through 1969.  The four calibers share a lot of parts.

Gentle prodding of the balance shows it's a bit more wobbly than I would like.  I suspect it may have a broken balance pivot.

In case you had some doubts about the model identification, the inside of the case back makes everything crystal clear.  I don't see any indications inside the back to tell me this watch has ever seen a watchmaker's bench.

My friend Mark at VintageHamilton.com put me onto a new tool for the shop, a GemOro microscope and a 95mm frosted glass plate.  This great tool makes it very easy to inspect fine details and leaves your hands free to make adjustments, if needed.

I can even use it to take very clear photos.  You can see that the jewels look great after the parts are cleaned.  I didn't get a photo of it before, but the balance jewel, just to the right of center, had a dark spot in it.  Closely inspecting the balance, the pivots were there but they were a little short.  That can cause the shoulder of the balance staff to rub and change the timing. I'm hoping the watch will run well now that it's cleaned, but I have to assemble it to find out.

Everything is ready to be reassembled.

After assembly the watch would run but it would stop in certain positions.  The pivots were just too short for it to run smoothly in all positions.  Fortunately I can easily swap it out with a balance from a spare 770 donor.

With a replacement balance in place the movement is now running with a vigorous motion.  Best of all, it runs well in all positions.

The finished project looks pretty much the same as what I started with but it now runs as good as it looks.  The little line by the 10 is just a reflection of my camera.  This watch is ready for some more wrist time.

Today is December 31st, so let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year.  Best wishes for 2023!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

1931 Square B - Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  Another year has come and gone and it's time for my annual Christmas post.

2022 has been a difficult year and to it I say, "good riddance".  It is reminiscent of Charles Dickens', "A Tale of Two Cities... 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Dickens' words reminds me of a passage from Ecclesiastes.  You may recall this from the 1965 Bird's song, "Turn! Turn! Turn!". 

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."

This past year checked almost every box in that passage for me, other than "born" and "war". 

Although eclipsed by the importance of Easter, Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I like to take time off during Advent to get in the holiday spirit.  Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and it symbolizes God's gifts of faith, hope, and love.   Life can present many challenges, but it's less difficult when you have faith, hope, and love.  

Over 100 years ago, somewhere in the European trenches of World War I, British and German soldiers were slugging it out in unimaginably brutal fashion.  As the story goes, on Christmas Eve of 1914, stanzas of "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) were heard coming from the German trenches.  The British soldiers joined in and both sides raised candles above their picket lines. When the song was finished, a German soldier called out, “Tomorrow is Christmas; if you don’t fight, we won’t.”

The following day, Christmas, the Germans sent over beer and the British sent over pudding.  The two enemies met in No Man's Land, exchanged handshakes, small gifts, and even played a game of soccer.

Fighting resumed on the 26th and continued for four more years.  Christmas brings light into darkness.

My project watch was made 17 years later while the "war to end all wars" was still fresh in everyones' memory.   It's a 1931 Square B.

The Square B was made for only two years.  The model came in solid yellow, green, or white gold as well as gold filled.  The solid gold watches were outfitted with the 6/0, 19 jewel 979-F movement while the gold filled versions received the 17 jewel 987F movement.  You could also chose from an etched dial or a luminous dial.  Models were also made with engraved or plain bezels.

All said, if you wanted an example of every version in both solid gold and gold filled, plain and engraved, with etched and luminous dials, you would eventually assemble a very nice Hamilton collection!  I have already posted an example of the etched dial here.

I happened upon my project watch on eBay and I went after it pretty hard because the case looked fantastic.  It was listed as not running, which is a red flag, but I hoped I'd be able to rescue it.

The other reason I aggressively pursued it was the engraving on the case back..."To Vilgot from Signe, Dec 25, 1931".   Vilgot and Signe are Swedish names and it reminded me of the 1940 movie, "The Shop Around the Corner" with James Stewart.   However, I realized the setting for that movie is actually Budapest, a LONG way from Sweden. 

I think it's safe to say that Vilgot cherished this watch, as it exhibits very minor wear to the case.  The strap may even be original.  Time has not spared the strap though, and it's no longer usable.

It can be difficult to tell green gold from yellow gold but this example is green gold filled.  More specifically it's a green gold filled engraved Square B with luminous dial. The center of the three piece case is also engraved, regardless of the bezel engraving.

The movement appears to be in good shape and the balance moves without a wobble so that's a good sign.

There's already a white alloy mainspring inside the barrel - another clue that Vilgot took good care of his gift from Signe.  I'll clean and reuse it.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.  

The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion, time to see what the timer picks up.

It's running a wee-bit fast and the beat error is a little over my upper spec limit of 3.0ms.  I'm still licking my wounds from the last 987 I worked on, this 1928 Oval.  The regulator is set to almost full slow so I will have to adjust the balance screws to slow it down.

There... I chose to split the difference and adjust the beat rate but not the beat error.  Now the timing is right on the money but the beat error is still a little high.  A high beat error will cause a watch to stop a little sooner than a watch with a low beat error but otherwise the downside isn't too great, especially on a 91 year old watch.

I removed the old lume from the dial and hands in my watch cleaning solution and reapplied it with modern lume.  I mixed orange and white luminous powder and created a very pleasing mixture as a result.

I have a proper vintage croc strap and added a Hamilton buckle to complete the project.

I applied black enamel to the engravings and a fresh glass crystal to complete the restoration.  This Christmas watch turned out fantastic!  I'm sure Vilgot and Signe would be pleased.

I thought it might be fitting to close this post with a Swedish Christmas blessing in honor of Vilgot and Signe but I couldn't find anything fitting.  Instead I'll offer something from their ancestors, the Vikings and wish you the happiest of Christmases and a prosperous 2023.  

"May your web be spun tightly with that which makes you stronger, happy, and wise.  And may God always look upon you with good grace!"

God Jul! Ha ett gott nytt år!

(Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

1928 Oval

Hamilton first introduced men's wrist watches a little over 100 years ago.  Their marketing department must have been comprised of engineers as they named their first models with exotic names like Cushion, Square, Rectangular and other shapes.  That lasted for about ten years and you could pretty much name the models on two hands.

One of the models that was advertised but not shown in the catalogs was the Oval.  You can see it in the advertisement below along with the "Square Cut Corner".

The Oval came in solid green and white gold as well as in gold filled.  About 400 where made in solid white gold and 200, or so, in solid green gold.  Like the other shaped models, there are versions with engraved bezels and plain.

1,876 Plain Ovals were made in white gold filled and about the same were made with Engraved bezels.  Half as many (791 / 797) were made in green gold filled.

My project watch is a very nice restored example.  The only thing that I don't like about it is the military-style crown.  It would look great on a military Keystone case from WWII but not so much on this watch.  Of course, opinions are like belly buttons - everyone has one.  So what do you think of the crown?

I've been getting more and more reticent with Hamilton's early movements.  They were extremely well-made but they are extremely unforgiving.  Plus, they tend to have the most mileage and could have years of neglected use.

I normally don't test a project watch as I assume it will run better after a service.  I did wind this one a little though and put it on the timer.  It appears to run slow and has a large beat error.  I didn't wind it fully so that could be a factor, but at least it appears to work.

The case back has been brushed.  Sometimes this is a way to hide or remove an engraving.  Other times its simply a way to make a case look clean and well maintained.  You can see the case back has had a repair of some sort.  

The lugs on the Oval are long but not long enough to use straight spring bars.  So it's not unusual for the lugs to wear out and it looks like these lugs have had some work done at some point over the years but it was done well and looks good.

The movement is loose in the case.  It's held inside the three piece case by the stem and two case screws.

One of the case screws is loose - so loose that it's almost backed all the way out.

With the bezel lifted out of the way you can see the dial and hands have been refinished.  This is an engraved dial with a two-tone brushed finish so it reflects the light differently in the center section vs the hour track.  The engraving allows a perfect refinish.

One little bit of trivia about movements from this time is the screw for the balance cock is slightly different than the screws for the other bridges.  You can see the balance cock screw at the top of the arrangement.

The mainspring inside the barrel is an old blue steel design.  I'm 99% confident it will be "set" or maintain a tight coil once it's removed.

Yup - called it.  This spring would power the watch but for no longer than 24 hours - if that much. 

When it comes to replacement, there are a few options.  I use Dynavar mainsprings whenever I can, otherwise I use modern white alloy replacements.  Springs can come in different strengths so I try to stick to the middle.  I'll go with the 90 strength on this watch.

Here's a comparison of new vs old.  A new mainspring will start to coil in the opposite direction, almost like an S.  This will power the watch for 35 hour or more.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

The movement is reassembled and ready to go to the timer.

Well, it's keeping good time but the beat error is well beyond my upper spec of 3.0ms.  Ugh... do I risk it and try to lower the beat error?  In order to adjust it I need to remove the balance from the balance cock rotate the hairspring collect, and then reassemble it.  Any of those actions can screw up the hairspring.

Somewhere between Bacon Hollow and Simmons Gap my cries of anguish are still echoing in the stratosphere.  Look at this hairspring!!!   As Charlie Brown would say, "AAUGH!"  I'm not exactly sure how it happened but the stud got caught on the balance cock and the balance fell out.

Someday I'll get better at tweaking hairsprings but this one is beyond my skills.  So a 1932 Webster project watch from my personal stash will need to donate it's prospects to save this Oval.  It's a worth cause.

My replacement balance runs well and the beat error is within my specs.  I'm still heartbroken that I damaged the balance but it happens with these older movements.  They are very unforgiving.

I found a better crown and I think it's a perfect replacement for this fine watch.  It look 100% better than the previous crown.  What do you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2022

1960 Thinomatic T-575

 Watches got more complicated in the 1950s, literally and figuratively.  A basic watch had two hands, an hour and a minute hand and this first complication is a second hand.  From there you can add a lot of complications like an alarm, a chime, a calendar, a day of the week, a selfwinding mechanism, a stopwatch, etc. etc..  

Watches with lots of complications are very common today but early in the 20th century just telling the correct time was the mark of a fine watch.

In 1953 Hamilton introduced it's first automatic and it did so by reintroducing the lllinois brand name.  In 1954 the first Hamilton-branded automatics hit the scene.  Hamilton also introduced date complications around the same time period.  

By the 1960s calendar models and automatics were staples of the Hamilton lineup.  Chronographs came later in the 1960s and by the 1970s watches could also keep track of the day of the week.

One of the first Thin-o-matic models to feature a calendar complication was the T-575.  It was only made for two years.

The T-575 came in a stainless steel case and with a two-tone textured dial.  The date window is at the 6 position.  As a member of the Thin-o-matic line, it featured a Swiss-made micro rotor movement made by Bure, a company that Hamilton would eventually purchase.

My T-575 project watch arrived in very nice condition but it had been a while since it was last serviced and that's important to do regularly as a watch that looks nice and even runs well, could have no remaining oil or lubrication inside after 3-5 years.

Looking closely at the case back I can see a lip between the lugs so this is a two piece case and the back should pop off.

The 17 jewel 668 movement looks to be in great shape.

Two small screws on the side of the main plate secure the dial and even though I loosened them the dial would not come off.  I looked closely and saw that one of the dial feet was missing so that meant some sort of adhesive was used to secure the dial. 

Sure enough, two small adhesive blocks held the dial on the main plate.  That's not unusual but  you don't see that very often either.

The adhesive is clearly attached to the movement and one of the screws that secures the date complications is covered.  So I'll have to pick the adhesive off the plate to get to the screw.

There... I'll do the same to the other adhesive block and use fresh "dial dots" when it's time for reassembly.

The calendar complication is very straightforward on this movement.  The hour wheel turns the indexing wheel and each revolution moves the indexing arm a little closer to the date wheel.  At 12 hours the indexing arm engages the date wheel and advances it.  The golf-club shaped lever centers the date wheel and a spring attached to the bridge provides the tension needed.

The J-shaped spring will fit into the slot on the bridge when it get reassembled.

Piece by piece the front of the main plate is stripped of parts.

Now for the back of the movement.  The first thing off is the balance and you can see this movement is based on Buren 1001, as evidenced by the stamp, although it's hard to see in my photo.

Great care is taken to remove and inspect each part and I take special note of what goes where so I can put it back together again.

Almost there, just a few more parts to go and the movement will be fully disassembled.

Finally it's all taken apart and my goal now is to clean everything and to put it all back together with no extra parts left over.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  It looks noticeably shinier now even though it looked good before.

The main parts of the movement are back in place and it's ticking away with a good motion.  Time to let the timer give it a listen.

No complaints here.  Now I can put the rest of it together.

It took a while but I eventually found my stash of dial dots.  These are tiny round sections of double-sided tape.  You apply one side to the mainplate and then remove the cover from the dot to expose the other sticky side.

I'll use two dots in the same positions as was used before.

The covers are off and now the clear sticky dots are ready to be pressed into the dial.  I also use the remaining dial foot screw to keep the dial in place.

Voila!  The finished project looks as great as it runs.  I replaced the crystal as well since the original crystal had a defect on the inside.  Now it's perfect.