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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.

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