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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

1952 Franklin

Vintage Hamiltons can be like a box of chocolates... you know the saying?

 I recently had the opportunity to work on a one-year-wonder - a 1952 Franklin.  It's an interesting model with a strong family resemblance to other models.

For example, compare the design to the Barton or the Wesley - both high end models also offered in 1952 (and other years).

The Franklin could possibly be considered the "poor man's Wesley" in that it looks very similar but is cased in 10K gold filled and features a 17 jewel 980 movement instead of solid 14K with a 19 jewel 982M.  The Franklin cost less than half as much as it's solid gold brothers but $70 in 1952 was still a fair bit of money - about $800 in today's dollars.

The Franklin was only produced for a single year.  That might be because the 12/0 movements were about to be introduced and they didn't want to change the case and make a Franklin B.  It could also be that the model wasn't unique enough to align with the changing 1950s styling.

My project watch could probably tell some stories... it's seen some things in the last 70 years.  It looks to be in pretty good shape.  To the untrained eye, it looks great.  The case is remarkably crisp.  One of the interesting bits of trivia about the Franklin is its one of a few models that uses flat markers.  Normally markers have a facet or two but not these markers - they are just plain solid gold squares.

If you look closely at the catalog depiction, the crystal on the Franklin should be flat.  In contrast, the crystal on my project watch is curved - the formal name for this type of crystal is a "cylinder".  There's nothing really wrong with it other than some minor scrapes but I'll replace it with a proper glass crystal.

A keen eye will spot the dial has been refinished.  The obvious tell is the numbers in the seconds register.  It should be a simple square.  Another tell is the shiny epoxy on the back of the dial that is intended to secure the rivets on gold figures.

The inside of the case back makes it clear what the name of the model is.  It's also obvious by the service marks inside that this watch has been overhauled a couple of times in 70 years.

I started to disassemble the movement before I realized I hadn't taken a photo.  As you'd expect, the movement inside is a 17 jewel 980 movement.  What you wouldn't expect to see is a serial number from 1942.  That's a clear sign that the movement inside is a replacement.  It wasn't running but it looks to be very clean and shiny.

The mainspring has already been replaced with a white alloy mainspring - that's a welcome sign and unusual for movements from this era.

A new glass crystal will complement this already good-looking case.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be reassembled.

The reassembled movement is running but notice the beat error of 8.9ms.  That's an indicator that the balance isn't in beat, or centered.  That will result in a lower amplitude and stop the watch prematurely.  That's probably why the watch wasn't running when I started with it.

Adjusting the beat error requires precise disassembly of the balance and adjusting the hairspring on the balance staff.  It can take some trial and error and each attempt risks disaster. 

A couple of attempts in and so far I've gotten down to 4.1ms.  3.0 is my upper spec and the closer to zero the better.  I'm tempted to leave it here but honor bound to try again.

Great... I'm back to 8.4ms.  Attempt, after attempt, after attempt and I made no progress below 4.0ms.  My options at this point are two... I can replace the balance or I can replace the movement.  

Since the movement is from 1942 and the model is from 1952 - I'll just replace it with a "newer" movement.

It's interesting how Hamilton changed the finishing of movements over the years.  This 1949 980 has a very nice damascening pattern.  It's been cleaned and oiled and is running on the timer.

That's more like it... amplitude and beat error are great.

With a new strap and a proper crystal, this Franklin now looks and runs like it just left the showroom floor, albeit with a few extra numbers around the seconds track.

Monday, January 15, 2024

1948 Brandon CLD

 My last Christmas post featured what I'd consider the rarest of the CLD models.  This post is on one of the most ubiquitous - the 1948 Brandon.

The Brandon was one of the first models in the CLD ("sealed") line and it's the only one to feature a rectangular movement.  The Brandon was produced through 1951 and came with either a silver butler finished dial or a black dial.

The 1948 catalog did a nice job of detailing what makes a CLD model innovative for the time.  Hamilton didn't offer "waterproof" models and the CLD line was it's first attempt to marker watches that were sealed against moisture and dirt.  The featured crystals set in the bezel with a gasket and the bezel set against the case with another gasket.  The crown featured a two-piece stem and had a gasket to seal agains the case step tube.  The movement was tucked inside and very well isolated from the environment outside the case.

The 1948 Brandon featured flexible lugs that the strap attached to.  In 1949 the case was redesigned to feature fixed lugs.  So if you see a Brandon with flexible lugs you know it's an early example.  You can see a variety of example on one of my oldest blog posts from 2012.

My project watch is a later Brandon model with fixed lugs.  The glass crystal is very beat up and the crown is an incorrect style.

The back of the case is unengraved and built like a tank.  The Speidel bracelet is not original to the watch.

With the bezel lifted out of the way you can see the dial.  Someone has bent the corners of the dial upward - perhaps to keep the movement from rattling inside the case.  I think after many years the tight tolerances inside a case can open a little and create some undesirable play and motion.

The glass crystal is going to need to be replaced.  There are aftermarket plastic crystals but I happen to have an original CLD crystal to install.

With the movement out of the way you can see the tub that that 14/0 sized movement sits in.  There are quite a few watchmakers' service marks inside indicating this watch was well cared for.

The 17 jewel 980 movement dates to 1949.

Most of the 14/0 movements I see have a blue steel mainspring inside and this watch is no exception.  The odds are excellent that this mainspring has "set" and lost most of it's potential energy.

Wow - this mainspring is about the size of a nickel.  It will definitely need to be replaced.

Everything is cleaned and drying before being reassembled.

As I said before, I happened to have a crystal set for the Brandon - it comes with the crystal and the gaskets too.

The new crystal and the gasket for the bezel is installed.

The Brandon is unique in that in that it requires a tap 8 crown for the 14/0 movement.  Every other CLD uses a tap 10 stem.  Tap 8 is larger than tap 10 and you might be able to see the difference between these two female hubs for CLD models.  To use a proper Brandon crown you need a tap 8 CLD hub.

The new white alloy Dynavar mainspring is installed and will last a "lifetime" compared to a blue steel spring.

The movement is reassembled and ticking away with a good motion.

It's running a smidgen fast but a very slight tweak to the regulator will bring the beat rate right in line.

The finished watch looks way better with a defect free glass crystal and a proper Brandon crown.  Other than the bracelet - this is what it would have looked like when it left the factory 75 years ago!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

1941 Lexington - styled in steel

The winds of war were blowing in 1941, even though the Pearl Harbor didn't occur until almost 1942.  The Hamilton Watch Company must have had some insights though, as the 1941 catalog contained several watches that were introduced with "the military man" in mind.  I'm sure more than a few would see action across the world in a few short years.

One of the new models was the Lexington - an interesting choice since the US Navy's second aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington CV-2 would be sunk at the battler of the Coral Sea in May, 1942.

The Hamilton Lexington was the first model in Hamilton's line up to utilize stainless steel.  It was produced until Hamilton's factory became dedicated to WWII production and was discontinued thereafter.  So it's a fairly uncommon model and will often sell for considerable value.

If you take a close look at the catalog graphic, the watch is clearly depicted on the arm of a military officer.

My project watch arrived after suffering a mishap and being dropped - resulting in a broken crystal.  As received, the movement was not running but hopefully all it will need is a good cleaning.

Watches without crystals run the risk of damaging hands and "dial rash" - where stuff touches the dial an leaves marks.  There is definitely something on the dial on the left side by the 9, as well as a few marks here and there.  Getting this dial under a crystal as soon as possible was an excellent decision.

The back is clearly engraved with the original owner's name.

With the bezel out of the way, you can see that this round dial is actually on top of a 14/0 sized movement that is typically used in long, rectangular cased models.  That tells you that the Lexington is actually a fairly small watch by today's standards

Based on the number of marks inside the case back I can see that this watch has been serviced many times over the last 80 years.  One of the marks is interesting... it's a cross on a hill with several stars in the sky.

The 17 jewel 980 movement is in decent shape but it's obviously been a while since it was cleaned,  The serial number, G344382, dates to 1941 just as you'd expect to see.

The back of the movement is unremarkable and has no obvious signs of having been refinished over the years.  So it's actually in really good condition, considering it's age.

In my experience, 90% of the 980, 982 or 982M movements that I see will have a blue steel mainspring that will need to be replaced.  This watch is no exception.  Blue steel mainsprings are fine but they eventually "set" in place and lose a lot of their potential energy.

As expected, this mainspring extends out to about the size of a Quarter.  It would probably power the watch for about 12 hours - tops.  A new white alloy spring will triple that run time.

A new glass crystal is definitely called for.  This one is a smidgen large so I will need to carefully sand it until it fits in the bezel opening.

All of the parts are cleaned and dried.  I didn't do much to clean the dial as the school of hard knocks has taught me well that cleaning a decent dial can make it look terrible.

Glass crystals are held in place with UV glue.  I place the crystal and bezel under a UV lamp to cure while I try to get the movement sorted out.

The freshly cleaned and oiled movement is ticking away with a good motion and sitting on my timer.

It's running well but a little slow.  Notice the regulator is set to the slow side so I'll just move it up a smidgeon and speed it up.

It doesn't take much to bring the beat rate up to be right in line.

All that's left is to put the dial and hands back on and install in the case.  The finished project now looks as good as it runs, and it runs great.

I can see why the Lexington is such a popular model - it's really a classic design.  Black dialed watches are always popular and with a nicely polished case this model is really a looker.