The watch that started it all for me was my grandfather's Hamilton 992B pocket watch. He had many jobs over his lifetime ranging from prison guard, to railroad man, to storekeeper. When he passed away I inherited his pocket watches and for over two decades I carried them from place to place in an old cookie tin.
In around 2007 I decided to see if I could find someone to repair them for me. I had watches in all shapes and sizes and in various makes from New York Standard, to Elgin, to Waltham, to Hamilton, and a few less common brands too. I learned a lot from those pocket watches, starting with many watchmakers won't work on them, since not all old watches are serviceable, with the exception of higher quality brands like Hamilton.
I got my grandfather's watch working and I was so enamored with it that I started to collect other pocket watches. Then I realized that Hamilton made wrist watches too. I realized that I didn't carry a pocket watch very often and wrist watches were much more useful. After that I was "off to the races" as they say.
It's a story that pretty much every Hamilton collector shares.
I was recently asked to work on another 992B, very similar to my own, so I thought I'd showcase it.
The 992B is a 21 jewel 16 size Railroad-grade model that was introduced in 1940 and produced through 1969. That makes it one of the longest production run models, although the original 992 had an even longer run! Railroad-grade watches had to meet several requirements, including the accuracy of a few seconds over a week. Most pocket watches are not railroad grade.
Depending on the timeframe, you could purchase the 992B with different dials and different cases. They also came with a special bakelite storage case.
My project watch is interesting in several ways. First, it's from the WWII era when production was supposedly dedicated to the war effort. I say supposedly because the movement serial number dates to that timeframe but the movement doesn't say US Gov't, as I've seen in other examples. Second, the case is made by Keystone and not marked Hamilton. Keystone was a Pennsylvania-based case maker that made cases for Hamilton and other watch manufactures. The case style is not one that is shown in the Hamilton catalogs for the 992B but it was used in the 1930s in a model called 'The Mainliner".
So how did it get into this case? It doesn't really matter, but it's simply an interesting element that makes up this watch's story. Maybe it was originally cased in a solid gold case that was sold for gold when times got tough? Maybe the original case was damaged and needed to be replaced?
Of course, since this watch dates to 1944 and materials were in short supply, perhaps Hamilton cased it in whatever they had in inventory.
Only the original owner knows for sure.
As received, the watch looks well used but it's in good shape. The crystal is scratched and there are some faint hairline cracks in the double sunk dial but nothing distracting or overly noticeable.