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.

Friday, March 31, 2023

1959 Thin-o-matic T-101

If you really wanted a small, but exquisite collection of Hamilton models centered around a single theme you could focus your attention on several potential options.  One might be to collect all the CLDs, there are 19 different models, but good luck locating a Tildon.  

Another option would be to obtain all of the Lord Lancaster models that feature diamonds in one form or another.  There are 21 models to attempt to find and some will cost you plenty.

A third option would be to focus solely on watches cased in 18K gold.  There are only 13 cataloged models with 18K cases.  One of them is the Barbizon from 1957, which I used to call the Unicorn, as everyone had heard of it but no one had ever seen one - until they did.  There's only one known to exist.  Priced at $2,200 in 1957, you can imagine why...that would be $23,500 in today's dollars!

One of the 18K models you could try to find is the 1959 the Thin-o-matic T-101.  It was mentioned in the 1959 catalog and looked identical to the T-201, which was cased in 14K gold for the hoi polloi.  However, the T-201 was offered with a solid 14K bracelet, which would have been pretty special.

You had to wait until 1962 to see an image of the T-101 next to the T-201.  If you have an eye for detail you will notice the dial features the stylized H logo.  This actually showed up in 1960 and I've always been under the belief that it came as a result of Hamilton acquisition and integration of Huguenin Watch Co in the late 1950s.  However, it's the other way around.

One of my Hamilton collector friends is an exceptional detective and sleuth.  He pointed out to me that the stylized H logo was first used by Hamilton in 1956, before the acquisition of Huguenin, and formally registered as a trademark in 1958, around the same time as the acquisition.  Thus proving once again that correlation doesn't imply causation.

This lends itself to a very common question I receive... "Is my crown correct when it's a pre-1956 watch with a stylized H?".  I usually respond, with something like "if the crown fits, wear it", meaning that a crown with a stylized H logo was made by Hamilton and intended to be used.  Many watches pre-1952 had tap 8 stems and no Hamilton watches after 1952 had tap 8 crowns - so if a tap 8 crown has an H logo (and many do), it's simply a Hamilton replacement for an original crown.

Anyway, I recently received a T-101 from a fellow collector in need of some TLC.  As received it was in decent shape but the dial has obviously been refinished and the printing is a little crudely executed.

The case back is nicely engraved with a presentation for 25 years service.  There is no date though to confirm the year this watch was presented.

Inside the case back you can clearly see Hamilton W Co Lancaster PA and 18K.  The J with a spear logo indicates the case was made by Jonell Watch Case, Inc. in NY.  Notice the rub marks inside the case back from the small oscillating weight inside, aka the micro-rotor.  If the rotor rides up it's axle a bit it will rub on the case back.

The movement inside is a 620 caliber, made by Buren for Hamilton.  Within a few year Hamilton would purchase Buren too and eventually close the Lancaster plant and move production to Buren's Swiss factory.

If you weren't convinced the dial was refinished, all you have to do is look at the back of it.  The scratched in letters indicate it's been redone.

These micro-rotor movements have a lot of parts and disassembling the movement for the first time is a daunting task.   The trick is to not have any parts left over when you reassemble it, and to not lose or damage anything during the process.

Success!  The movement is back together and running.  The only thing not installed is the rotor.  I'll put that on after it goes on the timer.

It's running a little fast but that's easy to adjust.

A tweak here, a tweak there, and the beat rate comes into line.

Everything gets put back together and placed back into the case.  It's noticeably shinier now, don't you think?

In the "after" photo the watch looks pretty good.  Now you can clearly see the printing on the dial is a bit sloppy.

Believe it or not, I was able to find an almost new old stock dial for sale.  What a HUGE improvement.  The radial finish on the dial is excellent and the printing is an exact match for a 1959 T-201 / T-101.  This watch would be the pride of the fleet in any Hamilton collection.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

1960 Flight II

Some collectors like art deco models.  Other collectors like Electrics.  Still other collectors prefer only solid gold models.  There are definitely plenty of themes to go around.  One very popular genre are the asymmetric models.   Asymmetrics span art deco, electric, automatic movements, and all case materials as well!

Some might question the art deco statement but I'd invite you to check out the Spur, or possibly the Brooke.

The late 1950s and early 1960s was the golden age of asymmetric models though and there are no finer examples than the Flight I and the Flight II.  Both models have very similar designs that differ in case material - solid 14K gold vs 10K gold filled and by dial pattern.

The Flight I was introduced in 1960 and made for two years.  The Flight II was introduced at the same time but made through 1962.

Most baby boomers or Gen X'rs might be reminded of George Jetson after looking at the Flight.  You might even be tempted to believe the Jetsons inspired the Flight models.

Would you believe that the Jetsons was produced for only a single season and that season was in 1962?

It makes you wonder who inspired who?

Both the Flight I and the Flight II are very popular.  The design oozes coolness and they each run a mechanical movement inside - so they are easy to maintain as well.

I recently received a Flight II that was due for an overhaul and it was great to finally get my hands on one.  It's a sizeable watch and wears a bit larger than you might expect but it's certainly not large by today's standards.

The bracelet that came with the watch is a nice pairing but it's not original.  Flipping it over you can see the maker is Speidel, and that maker was not original equipment for too many models with the exception of some early 1950 watches.

You can see the case back is clearly marked Hamilton and 10K gold filled.

The dial of the Flight II is a brushed gold.  This makes it one of a few models to have a gold colored dial.  The numerals and markers are solid gold as well, but the hands are plated.

Tucked behind the dial is a 22 jewel 770 caliber.  This model is unique in that there is no second hand.  So the 4th wheel has a shortened pivot and there's nothing for a second hand to attach to.  Otherwise it's a garden-variety 22 jewel movement and very easy to maintain.

Everything is completely disassembled and cleaned.  Now it's ready to be reassembled with fresh lubricants.

The reassembled movement looks pretty much the same as the before shot, although it's noticeably brighter now that's it's been cleaned.

Nothing to complain about with this performance.  The beat error could be closer to 0.0 but 1.4 is well within my personal specs.  To get it much closer would require only a small adjustment but it would also risk goofing it up.

The owner of this watch found the crown a bit too small and too smooth to comfortably wind.  So he asked me to change it out. Fortunately I had a nice example of a slightly larger (and new) crown that looks great.  This will make a huge difference.

The finished project looks fantastic.  I can see why these models are so popular.  You would definitely get comments from everyone in the room if you walked in sporting one of these.  It was a real treat to work on it.

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.