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Monday, December 25, 2023

Merry Christmas 2023 with a 1954 Tildon CLD!

Merry Christmas!  Queue the music!  Specifically Etta James's 1960 rendition of "At Last".   You may recall this song from the movies "Rain Man" or Disney's "Wall-E".   It's a song of intense anticipation, delight, and satisfaction that only comes after a period of longing and never giving up hope.

What does "At Last" have to do with Christmas?  I suppose you don't really hear it played alongside all the other classic Christmas tunes.  Anticipation and longing are a big part of Christmas though.  Consider all of the children that have waited for Santa to arrive!

More importantly check out the lyrics below and imagine Mary and Joseph finally beholding their son, the son of God.  Or, imagine the three magi, the shepherds, or Simeon, who patiently waited so long for the Messiah to be born and for there to be peace on Earth.  

                At last
                My love has come along
                My lonely days are over
                And life is like a song
                Oh, yeah, yeah

                At last
                The skies above are blue
                My heart was wrapped up in clover
                The night I looked at you

                I found a dream that I could speak to
                A dream that I can call my own
                I found a thrill to press my cheek to
                A thrill that I've never known, oh, yeah, yeah

                You smiled, you smiled
                Oh, and then the spell was cast
                And here we are in Heaven
                For you are mine at last

Hope is a major aspect of Christmas, or better said, the satisfaction of hope is a major part of Christmas.

This Christmas I've had my own "At Last" moment and it's a perfect opportunity to share it as my Christmas post.  

When I first started to collect Hamilton watches I thought I might limit my collection to just a small genre of models - specifically the CLD line.  I know I'm not alone in that pursuit.

CLD represented "sealed" and was Hamilton's initial attempt at making watches that were "sealed against moisture and dirt".

The first CLD models hit the showroom in 1948 with the Beldon, Brandon, Nordon and Langdon models.  More models followed in 1950 and by the mid-1950's 18 different CLD models had been introduced.  In those few short years technology had advanced such that the CLD line was discontinued in favor of new "waterproof" models.

I put a good dent into collecting CLDs until I realized that a couple of them are very scarce.  One, in particular, was more like a unicorn - meaning everyone had heard of it but never actually seen one in person.  The model was the 1954 Tildon.  After several years I realized that having a complete set of CLD models was unlikely.

The Tildon was presented originally in the 1953 catalogs with the caveat that it would be available in 1954.  It was priced at $225 - the equivalent of over $2,500 in today's dollars.  That's pretty pricey but it was cased in solid 14K gold. 

The 1955 catalog offered the Tildon at a reduced price of $200, that was still pretty spendy.  Maybe that's the reason you don't see very many of them in the wild.

There are no records for how many Tildons were made.  I've only seen evidence of a handful, one photographed online, another in an auction that a friend purchased, and I've seen a couple of loose Tildon dials - indicating someone scrapped a $2000+ watch for $150 in gold. 

I've never given up hope of seeing a Tildon with my own eyes.   In 2022 someone asked if I "can identify my watch" and included a photo of a Tildon.  Fast forward 18 months and they finally sent it to me for repair.  My hope had been satisfied - at last!

The Tildon shares a strong family resemblance to the Sheldon, which was offered in gold filled at a price of $89.  It also looks a lot like a Scott from 1951.

As received, the watch presents okay with a couple of obvious issues.  First, the crown is a bit askew.  At first I thought it was just an incorrect crown, more to come on that.  Second, the crystal appears to have some sort of clear glue or lacquer on it.

This watch was a presentation for 30 years of loyal service in 1955.  That makes it easy to date as a 1955 model.

The design of the two-piece stem on CLDs is different than in later models.  The CLD design is sort of like the wooden Brio train sets where a rounded male section drops into a corresponding female hole.  Unlike the conventional two-piece stem design, the CLD stem cannot be pulled apart - it must be lifted apart.  Pulling a CLD stem apart will break the female stem - assuming you had enough strength to separate it.

The stem in this watch won't stay engaged.  I can't tell if that's the result of the crown, the case, or the stem. Perhaps a combination of all three.

The bezel contains the crystal and a reflector ring.  It's a precise fit so the case will snap together firmly.

There's no doubt what the name of this model is, it's stamped right into the case.

The movement inside is a 22 jewel 770 caliber.  The 770 replaced the three 12/0 sized movements Hamilton introduced in 1952 - the 17 jewel 752, and the 19 jewel 753 and 754 movements.  Since the Tildon is solid gold, it would have had the 754 movement when originally produced and received the 770 in 1955 when the 770 was introduced.

The crown appears to be damaged and it holds the stem at an angle.  It's also been hollowed out and the gaskets inside the crown are gone.  The female side of the stem looks odd - I think it's been modified and isn't an original stem.  I will replace both the crown and the stem.

CLD's require special parts and several parts are shared by various CLD models.  The chart below is very helpful when trying to find original correct parts.  For example, the Sheldon and Tildon share the same crown and crystal.  There is no bezel gasket.  Most models use the same female stem, except the Brandon (it's crown is tap 8).

I ordered the correct part number for the Tildon crown.

I also ordered two GS crystals for the Tildon, since I didn't have access to an authentic Hamilton crystal.  GS crystals tend to be good substitutes and are still available today.

The 770 movement is a breeze to work on - it's a really well designed movement.  Of course, that doesn't mean it can't be messed up but, with care, it tends to go back together fairly easily.

The reassembled movement is wound and running on the timer.

A couple of quick adjustments and the movement is keeping great time.

Well, I cracked both GS crystals trying to get them installed.  So I resorted to polishing "the snot" out of the original crystal and the results were more than satisfactory.  I replaced the crown and the female stem and the resulting finished watch looks fantastic.  The Tildon is no longer a unicorn for me - but I doubt I'l come across another one anytime soon.

And in Christmas spirit here's another shot of the watch under my Christmas tree.

Lastly, what would a Christmas celebration be without a family gathering.  So here, for the first time, are all of the Hamilton CLD models!

Beldon (1948)

Brandon (1948)

And the Brandon with flexible lugs

Croydon (1953)

Haddon (1953)

Langdon & Lange (1948)

Lyndon (1953)

Kingdon (1953)

Nordon / Norde (1948)

Reardon (1953)

Sheldon (1953)

Steeldon (1950)

Vardon (1950)

Automatic K-200 (1954)

Automatic K-300 (1954)

and the Automatic K-400 (1954)

We are living in very challenging times.  Today the land where Christ was born is facing terrible violence.  We are a long way from the peace on Earth and good will toward all men that was proclaimed over 2,000 years ago.   There are so many forces that try to tear us apart.

God is stronger than everything stronger than us.  I believe that hope is always an option.  There is no such thing as false hope... only false hopelessness.  That said, actions are critical too so if you feel especially blessed this year I encourage you to share your blessings with those around you.  In 2024 let's try even harder to treat people with genuine affection and dignity.  You may bring hope to someone in need.

"Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2024.


  1. Congratulations on finally getting a Tildon!

    Thank you for your blog, Dan. And your reminder of how blessed many of us are. Merry Christmas.

  2. Wow! A unicorn in the flesh! Very cool. I'm still searching for one myself. Excellent write up as well, as per usual.

  3. Nice story on the Tildon. We all know what it can be like to wait for a particular reference. thanks for the CLE story, I'm sure this is new information for a lot of collectors out there. Merry Christmas

  4. Merry Christmas to you and your family

  5. Beautifully put. Thank you. Have a great 2024. Bill S.