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Friday, March 8, 2024

My First Fake Hamilton

I bet I've had over 1,500 Hamiltons cross my workbench over the last 15+ years.  I've seen a lot of things but I had never seen an obviously fake Hamilton... until now.  Of course, that may depend on what you define as fake.

"Fake" watches, in my opinion, fall into three categories.

The first are mules or "Frankens" - meaning they are a combination of parts that together do not constitute a legit model.  For example, there are myriad Hamilton "top hats" marketed on eBay with gaudy diamond dials in white gold or platinum cases where the only authentic Hamilton part is the movement inside, presumably from a gold filled case.  I would put watches that have had a quartz movement installed in this category.  Mules are easy to create... use the wrong hands, wrong crystal, wrong dial, etc. and you end up with something other than an authentic model.  They could also be honestly created simply as the result of the movement outlasting it's original case and a jeweler capitalizing on the quality movement with aftermarket parts.

Second would be the "posers" - those are my favorite.  At any given time you can find Hormilton watches for sale with fancy dials and numbers like 25 to make you think they're special.  It's like buying a Rolax, or a Omegu.  It's pretty obvious it's not what it's presented to be but one could argue that it's not presented to be anything other that what it's called.  I put those in the "a fool and his money" category where you should know better than to buy one.

The last category is a watch purposely created to appear to be authentic.  I find these watches abhorrent.  They are marketed to deceive people and should be smelted when found.

I had someone send me a watch they purchased and wanted overhauled.  I was pretty sure it was fake but they insisted on sending it.  There's always a chance that I was wrong so I agreed to look at it.  I even sent photos to my friends at Hamilton in Switzerland to see what they thought.  We all agreed it was bogus.

I decided to post it to the blog anyway so you'd know what to look for and can protect yourself from accidentally tripping over this stone.

Looking at the watch, you might think this was a 1970s model or maybe from the dark ages of the 1980s.  However, the hands are painted, not luminous.  The dial markers appear like diamonds (sort of) but they're really just chamfered squares.  "17 jewels shock proof" is crisply printed but the Hamilton and H logo are soft,a different color, and look like they were added later.  The H logo doesn't look like the Hamilton H but it's close.

Check out the crown - it has an H but it's not really a Hamilton looking H.

The back of the watch says nothing... no numbers, no markings whatsoever.  The fit and finish of the case is very rudimentary and definitely not the quality I'd expect from Hamilton.

The inside of the case back says Hamilton W. Co. but nothing else.  The H logo again appears to be close but no cigar in appearance relative to what the H logo should be.

The movement inside is very crudely finished.  It says Swiss Seventeen Jewels and  there's yet another Hamilton and H that is different than all the rest.  It's interesting that the train bridge says Swiss and the barrel bridge does too - that's a lot of Swiss.  Check out the quality of the movement ring... plastic.

I was unable to get the stem to come out of the case tube.  I was able to remove the movement but then I had to remove the crown to get the stem out of the case.  This level of quality is unheard of for any Hamilton I've ever come across.

The person who sent the watch asked me to overhaul it anyway so I'll show you the rest for funs sake. 

First I got out my broaches to ream the inside of the stem tube so I can reinstall the stem once the watch is reassembled. 

I usually don't check the timing a watch before an overhaul but in this case I wanted to know what I was in for.  The watch is ticking but the timer doesn't know what to make of it.

The dial was held on with a sticky "dial dot" because the movement is missing a dial foot screw.

Looking at the the movement, it's marked FHF, ST and 96.  That's very interesting.  First off, FHF is the mark of "Fabrique d'Horologerie de Fontainemelon".  It was never used along with ST, as far as I know.  There is a ST logo but in the 1960s Standard Time's logo was a shield with INT inside.  So it would really depend on who owned Standard if and when this movement was made.

Oddly, if I recall correctly, Hamilton owned Standard for a period but they didn't use Standard movements in Hamilton watches.  They did use them in the Vantage line, though. For example, check out this blog post on a Hamilton Vantage model I did a while back.  Nothing Runs Like a Hamilton.

So I'd say even the logo for this movement is fake but it is based on  a caliber 96.  

With the balance removed, you can see the FHF ST and 96 on the other side of the main plate.  The fit and finish of this movement is very crude but it is fully jeweled so it's not the same level of crap you'll find in a Hormilton Electra 25.

Everything is cleaned and dried.  I plan to use a dial foot screw from another donor so dial dots won't be needed to hold the dial on.

The reassembled movement is ticking away - now to see if it's actually keeping time.

It took some tweaking but I'd say it's keeping decent time.  This really isn't a quality movement so this is as good as it's going to get.

The finished watch looks as good as it did before I started.  However it's still a fake Hamilton and isn't anything more than an interesting conversation piece.  

This is the one and only fake Hamilton I will ever work on though.  I took it on solely to show you what to look out for so you don't get accidentally duped.  Fortunately you don't see these kinds of watches often.


  1. That's interesting. I have been seeing quite a few similar watches on Japanese sites recently, most of them were Zeniths with green or blue dials. But the writing was otherwise the same, "17 Jewels / Shock Proof", and they used the same sort of indices. Someone is cranking out a ton of these to catch the unwary ... they are being offered at what appears to be super-attractive prices for a vintage watch from such a brand. Interesting to see what they look like inside! And good that you put out a warning.

  2. They are referred to as Bombay Specials. Not derogatory, it’s just thats where they mostly come from. They do fool a lot of uneducated buyers on the bay.