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.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

1941 Lester with a black dial?

I find it interesting that some Hamilton models were one-year-wonders while other models were produced for several years.  Some models, like the Boulton were made for decades, in one form or another, and is still made today!

One of the things that could make a model more appealing over the long term was to vary the case material or the dial options.  That was definitely the case with the earlier models from the 1920's and '30s.  

Different dials was still an option in 1941 and one of the models to feature them was the Lester.  It was originally offered with an applied gold numeral dial or with a black numeral dial.

The Lester continued to be produced through 1950 but the dial offering was limited to the AGN dial.

I was recently sent a Lester with a unique dial - a black AGN dial.  This was definitely not a catalogued option but other models at the time did have black dialed offerings.  This model is prone to wear through on the corners of the bezel and this case exhibits quite bit.

The case back is engraved with presumably the original owner's name.  The sides of the back of the case are also prone to wear.

Looking at the dial without the bezel and crystal in the way, it's hard to say if it's original or a really old refinished dial.  It definitely looks authentic.

Looking at the back of the dial it's clearly been custom refinished black.

The movement appears to be in decent condition, albeit a little dingy, but a trip through the ultrasonic cleaner will take care of that.

The mainspring in the barrel is an older blue steel design.  This will surely be set and need to be replaced.

Sure enough, it expands to about the size of a quarter.

A "new" white alloy Dynavar mainspring will give this movement a new lease on life.

The freshly cleaned movement is reassembled and the slight blur to the balance shows that it's ticking away.

The timer thinks it's running a little fast.  The amplitude is a little low but it may pick up as things settle back in place.

A quick adjustment brings the beat rate back in line and the amplitude picked up a bit too.

I happened to have a nicer case and a fresh glass crystal make this Lester a beautiful example, don't you think?

Saturday, August 26, 2023

1949 Neil - Can it be Fixed?

 I like a good challenge.  I like a challenge that is achievable, anyway.

In 1947 Hamilton introduced a new movement to replace the 987A.  The 6/0 sized 987A was the last of the series that started in 1927 with the 987, proceeding to the 987F and 987E.  The movement that replaced the 987A was the slightly smaller 8/0 sized 747 movement.

In 1948 Hamilton introduced the Neil.  It would continue to be produced for five years.  So if you come across a Neil it could be from as late as 1952.

Interestingly, by 1952 the Neil was also offered on a bracelet for an extra $7.00.  There was no price increase on the Neil over the 5 years of production.  That was the equivalent of $767 in today's dollars.

I recently received a Neil that was in serious need of more than TLC.  From the front you could say that it looked okay... as long as you didn't pick it up.

The back of the two-piece case is severely dented and it won't stay closed.  I really couldn't say what happened but it looks like maybe a dog chomped on it?

The dial appears to be refinished but the only obvious tell is the Hamilton logo is a little wavy.  There's a little glob of something by the 9.  I suspect somewhere along the line someone tried to glue the front and back of the case together.  Fortunately, the dial escaped being ruined by excess glue.

Another more obvious clue that the dial was refinished is there are numbers inscribed on the back.

There are a variety of punch marks along the circumference of the inside of the case back.  I suspect this was an attempt to flatten it or reshape it to fit the bezel.

My photo of the movement is a little blurry but that appears to be the only thing wrong with it.  It seems to operate - that's a good sign, a great sign really, considering the case back.  Based on the serial number of the movement I can date this as a 1949 Neil.

Nine times out of ten watches from before 1950 need a fresh mainspring.  I'm not sure when Hamilton introduced white alloy Dynavar mainsprings but the old blue steel mainsprings tend to "set" in place after decades in the barrel.  Hamilton offered white alloy "lifetime" mainsprings for all their calibers when the new springs were introduced.

Although not the worst I've seen, this mainspring has set enough that it probably has lost half of it's energy.

Hamilton made springs in a variety of strengths and the same spring is used in the 748 movement.  I'm going to use a standard strength spring.

This picture is worth a 1000 words in terms of describing the potential energy it stores compared to the old spring.  Notice how it actually coils in the opposite direction.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.  I was even able to get some of the extra glue off the dial.

My "after" photo of the movement is crisp and you can really see how the movement sparkles now that it's cleaned.

Nothing to complain about with it's performance - lots of energy (amplitude) and a low beat error.

The crown on the original movement was well-worn, so I replaced it with a better example.  I also installed a new crystal and a nice black leather strap.  This watch now looks as good as it runs!

The case back is a huge improvement as well.

Here's another photo of the finished project in slightly better light.  It turned out great!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

1965 Accumatic A-504

Every now and then I get the opportunity to work on something unusual and even though I've showcased my most recent project before on the blog, I figured it's worth showing another one.

This watch is a one-year-wonder - the 1965 Accumatic A-504.  It has the unique distinction of being one of the few mechanical asymmetric models and the last model to be produced.  It also shares a case with one of the Electric models - the Regulus, which was also a one-year wonder from six years earlier - 1959.

The A-504 is a popular model and will typically sell for $1,500 or more.  It's definitely a conversation piece and you're sure to be the only one in the room wearing one - even among Hamilton collectors.

My project watch is some serious need of TLC.  The crystal almost looks like it was melted.  The crown is missing.  I suspect I could send the dust inside to the FBI and get a DNA match to the original owner.  Amazingly the movement still ticks when the case is moved around.

The back of the case has a lip and it will almost always present with case knife marks but this case has been soldered closed at the factory and it opens through the crystal.  The 1959 Electric Regulus model used this design as a two-piece case but it was difficult to seal so Hamilton decided to solder it watertight for the A-504.

With the crystal out of the way you can see the dial is equally dirty.  I'll try to gently remove the crud without compromising the dial finish or printing.  There's only so much magic I can do though, as there's a very fine threshold between "kinda clean" and "oops".

Without a crystal or a crown, the movement will just flop out of the case when I point it dial down.

There must have been an issue with the original rotor as this watch has a generic ETA rotor replacement.  I can see some brass showing along the circumference of the framework so the original must have been dragging.

There is no movement ring inside the case, the dial and main plate just support the movement inside the case back.

While everything is being cleaned in the ultrasonic I will turn my attention to reluming the hands.

Although this watch was produced in 1965, well into the timeframe of the 689A, the few A-504's that I have seen have used a 689.  The main difference is the framework that supports the rotor for a 689A has a cutout so the balance is accessible.  The 689 framework does not have a cutout.  Since the framework that came with the watch was rubbing, I will swap it out with the 689A.

Everything is cleaned and ready to reassembled.  The dial cleaned up fine - or at least as good as I hoped it would.  It's by no means "new" but it looks totally authentic.

The basic movement is assembled and running with a good motion.  Now it's off to the timer to see what it thinks.

Not too shabby... I'll speed it up a smidgen but it's running great overall as-is.

With the automatic bits installed, this movement now looks like your factory fresh 689A.  Notice you can see the balance assembly, in case any adjustments are necessary.  Compare the photo below with the earlier photo above and you can see the improvement of a 689A over the original.

Since this watch is a "front loader" it requires a two-piece stem.  The male side is the "hub" and is threaded into the crown.  You need to get it to a very precise length so the crown will seat properly.  I ended up replacing both sides of the two-piece stem as the female part was too worn to hold the hub.

With a new crystal, crown, and a nice genuine lizard strap, the finished project looks fantastic and it runs as great as it looks.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

1958 Carteret

It's been a while since I've come across a new model that I haven't seen before.  This one is pretty interesting.  It's a 1958 Carteret.  

One thing that's interesting is the name... most Hamilton models have men's names but there are plenty of exceptions.   Carteret would be an unusual name for a man but there are some towns and counties with that name - so maybe it's named after a place.  It could also be related to an surname from Normandy, France.

If the watch looks familiar, it could be reminding you of the 1958 Gramercy which looks almost identical.  A little googling shows Gramercy and Carteret matches in New Jersey so perhaps that's a clue to these two model names. Gramercy is a synonym for expressing gratitude or thanks.  

The Gramercy and the Carteret were each introduced in 1958 and produced for three years.  Obviously the dials are different but a major difference between the two models is the case material.  The Gramercy was cased in 10K yellow gold fill while the Carteret has a solid 14K gold case.  That means another major difference between the two models was the price.  The Carteret was good $45.50 more than the Gramercy.  That may not sound like a lot, but that's equivalent to over $480 in today's dollars.  Overall, in today's dollars a Carteret would set you back about $1,430 - that's not too back for a solid gold watch.

My project watch arrived in typical "as found in a drawer" condition.  The crystal is a little beat up but the rest of it should clean up nicely.

The case back is engraved with a presentation for 31 years of service... how many companies would reward their employees today for such dedication?

I can tell that this watch has been through someone's hands because they left their fingerprint on the corner of the dial.  I try to wear gloves and clean my hands before handling watches and try very hard not to touch the dial.  Notice this dial has a two-tone pattern with a strip on the left and right sides.  It's very subtle.

Somewhere along the line one of the dial foot screws was lost to eternity.  That's one of the reasons I tend to only work on Hamiltons - from time to time you need a replacement screw, or spring, or whatever and you wouldn't want to have to purchase a donor movement just to get a dial foot screw.

The movement looks fairly clean but it will sparkle a lot more once it's been through the spa treatment.

While the parts are in the cleaner I'll prep a new crystal for the bezel.  Notice it's the same crystal used on the Gramercy.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reasssembled.

The final parts are installed and the balance is ticking away with a good motion.  Time to see what the timer thinks of it.

A couple of minor tweaks brings the beat rate right in line.  It's running like it's brand new.

A new crystal and a nice lizard strap complete the restoration.  The dial cleaned up a little better but I can still see the marks in the upper left.  Oh well, I'll have a couple of blemishes when I'm 65 too someday.