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Sunday, July 7, 2024

1948 Barton

If I were to start collecting Hamilton watches, knowing what I know now I would only collect solid gold models.  My logic being that I'd have a smaller collection but every example would be a fine watch.  It costs just as much to maintain a solid gold watch as it does any other case material.  So the maintenance cost for a small collection would make a huge difference in the end.

One of the watches I'd probably have would be a 1948 Barton.  It's a classic tank-shaped model cased in solid 14K gold.  The dial is sterling silver and the numerals and markers are solid 18K gold.  The Barton was made through 1952 so it's a fairly easy model to find in the wild. 

My project watch came courtesy of the original owner's grandson.  Family watches are the best and make excellent heirlooms.  I can tell that the dial has been refinished at some point and there's a missing marker at the 11 position.  It seems to tick for a few seconds but is not running.

With the bezel and crystal removed you can get a better look at the dial.  It's very dirty but I don't want to risk cleaning it as refinished dials don't always stand up to cleaning.

Tucked inside the case is a 19 jewel 982M movement.  The M is for medallion and you can see there is a solid gold medallion inset into the train bridge.  This is a very high end movement and this detail would never be seen by anyone other than a watchmaker.

No surprise here, the back of the dial has some numbers scratched into the silver.  That's a sure sign that the dial has been refinished at least once in the last 80 years.

Here's a surprise though - there's already a white alloy mainspring installed.  That happens about 10% of the time.  I usually find a blue steel mainspring that would need to be replaced.

Looking in my stash of donor dials, there are actually several sizes of dots and some are flat, some are domed, and some are faceted.  None of these will work on the Barton dial.

Fortunately I have another Barton dial to offer up a solid gold dot.  This dial was refinished too, as you can see the horizontal line interferes with the number 12.

Everything is cleaned and ready to be ressembled.

The movement is ticking away with a good motion, let's see what the timer thinks.

Hmmm... it's running very slow and it has a low amplitude.  Generally I'd expect the amplitude to be well over 225, especially with a white alloy mainspring.  I don't know why type of mainspring was installed though, perhaps it's not strong enough.

First I'll fiddle with the balance and make sure the hairspring is properly seated in the regular.  A little tweaking brings the rate up to normal but the amplitude is still very low.

I'll try a new Hamilton mainspring and see if that makes a difference.

The new mainspring didn't much of a difference so I went through each wheel in the train.  I found the pivot on the escape wheel was damaged and the pallet fork was a little iffy too.  So I replaced them both.

Voila - the movement is now running fast and the amplitude is right where it should be.  Now I can tweak the regulator and slow it down.

Okay - that's perfect.

The finished watch looks and runs great now.  Technically this model uses a "cylinder" crystal, domed from top to bottom, but the current crystal is in decent shape so I didn't change it.  With a new marker at the 11 position, this heirloom watch is ready to be handed down to the next generation.


  1. Dan, not only is it lovely to have my Grandfather's watch back up and running, but it's wonderful to have such thorough accountings of the state it was in when you received it (as an indicator of the life it's lived) and the state when you finished.

    It's really a fantastic sort of 'companion' to the watch itself. Looking forward to seeing it with my own two eyes. Thanks so much!

  2. You often comment on the challenges of refinished dials. How can you tell it has been refinished, how has this one been refinished and why are they difficult? The end result looks great.