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, March 20, 2023

1935 Rutledge

 Some of the hardest to come by models are those made in platinum.  It's easy to find platinum watches for sale with Hamilton on the dial.  In fact, on any given day you can see several for sale on eBay.  What makes them hard to come by are a couple of factors.  First, the price.  Second, often they aren't even legit Hamilton models but simply Hamilton movements with blinged out dials in an aftermarket platinum case.  That's especially true for ladies watches but for men's models as well.  You have to be very careful with purchasing a men's model in platinum... buyer beware.

There are really only two men's models you'll come across in platinum, although there are a number of rarities out there as well... like a platinum Oval.  However, the garden variety, to use the term, would be the 1935 Rutledge and the later 1951 Cambridge.

The Rutledge was a long-running model. It was introduced in 1935 and produced through 1951.

Priced originally at $175, that's the equivalent of over $3800 in today's dollars.  It was, by far, Hamilton's most expensive model.  That means my wife would surely have liked it.  

The price stayed the same through 1940, although the buckle on the strap was solid gold instead of platinum like it was initially... cheap skates!

After the war you could purchase the Rutledge for a mere $300, over $4,000 in today's cash.  Interestingly the Cambridge was mentioned in the 1948 catalog but didn't actually show up in the catalogs until 1951.

Finally, in 1951 the Rutledge arose to a price level of "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" and they would tell you how much it cost once you agreed to buy one.  Notice the hands changed to alpha/pointex style from the spear style shown ealier.

I've posted on the Rutledge before but I recently received one in need of some help so I thought I'd show you one again.  

As received, it looks pretty good.  Platinum is pretty tough so the cases usually present well.  The crown on this example is a little large and protrudes from the side of the case a little but only a purist would spot that.

Tucked inside the case is a 982M movement that dates to 1942.  Notice anything peculiar?  The 19 jewel 982M was introduced in 1940 and used in solid gold or platinum models.  It's essentially the same as a 982 but finished to a higher degree of refinement and has a solid gold medallion inset in the train bridge.  The 982 movement used in solid gold models previous was then dedicated to 14K gold filled models and the 17 jewel 980 was used for 10K gold filled and stainless models.

This movement has a replacement balance cock from either a 980 or a 982.  Notice it's lacking damascening and the gold enamel.  At some point the movement had a balance issue and the quick and dirty repair was to swap balances from another movement.  There's actually a lot that can go into fitting a balance and it's possible the original balance cock was damaged.  Only time could tell, it is what it is.

This watch was sent to me mainly because it didn't snap into the setting position and winding position like it used to.  The set bridge below (left) is compared to another example on the right.  They look the same but when I touched the set bridge on the left the arm broke off - so it had failed from fatigue after 80 years.  It's an easy replacement.

The mainspring inside the barrel has "set" and lost most of it's potential energy.  I'll replace it with a fresh white alloy Dynavar spring.  It will run twice as long now.

Everything is disassembled, inspected and cleaned.  Now I can reassemble it with fresh lubricants.

The reassembled movement is noticeably shinier and ticking away with good motion.

The timer says it's running a little fast but I should be able to slow it down.

The finished watch looks about the same as what I started with, just a little cleaner.  But the crown still sticks out a smidgeon too far.

The owner gave me the green light to change the crown out with a slightly smaller crown that would fit in the recess of the case. It took quite a bit of fitting but eventually I got one to snug in just the way it was originally intended to look.  It looks a lot better, don't you think?

Sunday, March 19, 2023

1953 Lyndon - We're going to need a bigger boat (and a new dial)

One of the fun aspects of vintage watches is to spot them in movies.  There are lots of old black and white movies with characters wearing watches of the day and spotting a Hamilton is always exciting.  Then there are modern movies where people wear prop watches from the period the movie is set to take place in.  In fact, I've been contacted many times to see if I can provide watches for movies in production. Then there are movies somewhere in between black and white days and modern times.  

A good example is the movie Jaws where one of the main characters, Sheriff Brody, wears a Hamilton Lyndon.  The Lyndon was introduced in 1953 and produced for two years.  That was 20 years prior to the release of the movie - similar to someone wearing a watch from 2001 in a movie today.

There are a couple of times in the movie where the watch is prominent, one of the best is at the end when he's trying to shoot the air tank in Jaw's mouth.

The Lyndon was a good choice for the scene as it was one of Hamilton's sealed (CLD) models with gaskets in the crown and around the crystal to keep the environment out of the inside of the case.

Of course, gaskets don't last forever and eventually moisture and the elements can work their way into a CLD watch.  I recently received a Lyndon in serious need of TLC but it's an heirloom and the owner wanted to see if it could be restored.

The back of the case shows a lot of wear, especially to the back of the lugs.  

The Lyndon opens from the front once the bezel is separated.  Now you can see the dial is actually missing the 5 numeral and the second hand is clearly a replacement.  The crown is also a replacement and it's lost most of it's gold color and presents more on the silver side, although my camera and lighting didn't pick that up.

The gasket inside crumbled to bits and most of the time when you open a CLD today the gaskets are long gone.  There's also a gold reflector ring that surrounds the dial when it's installed.

Tucked inside the case is an 18 jewel 8/0 sized 748 movement.  The movement lifts out the front and requires a two-piece stem to separate the movement from the crown.  This stem design is sort of like the wooden train tracks where a mail hub fits into a female slot.  In this example the female side is in the crown and the male side is the stem going into the movement.

Most of the round -don models from the 1950s share the came crystal. So the Lyndon, Reardon, Haddon, etc. use a PA435 crystal, if you can't find an exact Hamilton replacement.

The movement gets stripped to it's most basic parts and thoroughly cleaned.  You get a sneak peak at a replacement dial I happened to have from another project watch.

My Hamilton CLD crown doesn't want to fit in the case... this is very strange.

Comparing the project watch case (left) with another Lyndon example, the project watch appears to have had the stem tube replaced with something very different.  So a proper CLD crown will no longer fit.

The reassembled movement is ticking away and sitting on the timer to find out how well it's running.

Not too shabby... I'll leave it just as it is.

It took a while but I finally found a crown that would fit the stem tube on the case and I was able to fit a female stem to match the male hub of the movement.  I also installed a proper second hand to complete the restoration. 

This watch turned out great and I'm sure the owner will be delighted to get it back.  Let's hope it stays out of the water from now on.

Monday, February 20, 2023

WWII Naval Aviators Watch model 39108

 Arguably my favorite genre of Hamilton watches are the military examples from WWII.  There are a lot of different models and Hamilton even made watches for allies of the United States.  Hamilton made pocket watches, wrist watches, chronographs, chronometers, elapsed time clocks, you name it.

Some of the hardest to find (or expensive) models to find are the ones made for Canada and Russia.  You'll see them come up for sale from time to time though.  The most ubiquitous models are the Ord Dept watches made for the US Army, show as the Fire Control Wrist Watch below.

As a Navy veteran I especially like the models made for the US Navy, either for the Bureau of Ships (BUSHIPS) or the watches for naval aviators, either in the Marine Corps or the US Navy.

I'm not sure what part number 39054 is but I suspect it is the same as my project watch for this post.  It's known as part number 39108 under the R88-W-800 contract.

In most cases (pardon the pun) you will find the same movements that Hamilton used in civilian watches.  There are some exceptions where modifications were made to meet unique military requirements.  A good example is the 2987 movement with 18 jewels.  It's essentially the same as, or very similar to, the 17 jewel 987S except it has an 18th jewel to support the second hand pinion.

My project watch came courtesy of the original owner's son.  The original owner flew PBYs with the Navy and I would wager that he probably knew my wife's maternal grandfather, who was navigator on PBYs in the Pacific.

As received, the watch appears to be well used but also well cared for.  The crown has been worn through the chrome and well into the brass.  The crystal is so cloudy that most of the details are lost to haze.

The back of the watch is also well-worn.  The case back is stainless steel but the case is chrome plated brass.  It's not unusual to see a lot of wear to the edges of the case while the case back is still sound.

Hamilton military watches used cases by Wadsworth, Star and Keystone case makers.  The 39108 uses a case made by Keystone.  The KH3 on the outside of the case back indicates Keystone and the inside of the case back is even more clearly marked.  

Behind the case back is a dust cover that pops onto the movement ring that secures the movement to the inside of the case.  Surrounding the dust cover is a gasket to help keep the watch water-tight.  There's also a gasket in the stem tube - although those are usually no longer secure after 80 years.

The 39108 uses a 987S movement.  This caliber is very similar to the 987A with the addition of a large sweep wheel on the 3rd wheel and a small seconds pinion that goes through the center wheel.  The pinion is held by a keeper secured with two screws as shown below.

With the cloudy crystal out of the way you can see the details of the dial.  This dial is original as you can clearly see by the Hamilton brand on the dial.  This engraving would likely be lost if the dial was refinished.

Notice also the hour and minute hands are stainless steel.  This is a critical detail to look for with a US Navy watch.  The watches for the Marine Corps would have a white dial, as shown in the catalog info above.  The hands would be the traditional blued steel.

You are well-advised to use a special lifter to remove the large sweep wheel.  It has differing ends that allow you to engage the wheel at the center and lift it straight off the pinion.  You don't want to damage the long pinion on the 3rd wheel or your second hand won't work correctly.

As you can see, the sweep wheel has 5 spokes so one end of the lifter straddles a spoke while the other engages a clear section of the wheel.

The hard part is now out of the way.  Next I'll remove one of the two screws keeping the sweep pinion in place and move the keeper out of the way so I can lift the pinion out.

The 987S was Hamilton's first hacking wrist watch movement.  That means there's a small mechanism that will stop the watch by gently engaging the balance when you pull the crown out to set the time.  You can see the J-shaped spring that will "hack" the watch.

The mainspring inside the barrel is an old blue steel example.  Although it's still well lubricated, I'd wager it has set in place and lost most of it's potential energy.

Yup - called it.  I'll replace it with a fresh white alloy "lifetime" spring.

My ultrasonic cleaner shook a screw loose from the balance.  These timing screws are tiny.  Without this screw attached the balance would tick wicked fast.  I need to put it back in it's proper place to keep the balance poised.  Can you tell where it should go?

To handle tiny screws like this you really need a small pin vise.  A pin vise holds the screw so you can get it started and then you can tighten it with a screwdriver.  The screws in the balance are symmetrical with the balance arm, so I know the missing screw goes next to the balance arm in the open spot.

Okay, everything is cleaned and ready to get put back together.  It's all noticeably shinier now that it's been through the ultrasonic for 20 minutes.

The balance is reinstalled and the watch is now ticking away with a good motion.  I'll put it on the timer before I reinstall the sweep wheel parts.  That way I know if there's an issue with them.  At this point the movement looks like a garden variety 987A.

Not too shabby but I can slow it down easy enough.

A very slight adjustment to the regulator brings the beat rate right in line.

The sweep wheel and the pinion can go on next.  Then I'll reinstall the dial and hands.

The movement goes back into the case and I installed a fresh crown as well.

The dust cover snaps on and then the gasket is pressed into place.  Lastly I'll screw the back cover into place and the watch will be complete.

I installed a vintage canvas strap and this 80 year old watch is now looking and running fantastic.  Now you can see why these are my favorite watches.