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It's been a while since I've come across a new Automatic K-series model.  Someday I'll have to make a "most-wanted" list and identify the models that I haven't come across yet. 

As fate would have it, I was recently contacted by someone who inherited his grandfather's watch and it serves as a great reminder that all Hamiltons are worthy of being restored, especially family pieces.

The model in question is the K-412.  It was introduced in 1958 and produced for only two years.  It was introduced in the waning years of the K-series and the start of the Accumatic line.  So it could be a fairly rare model.  There are no production records from this time period, unfortunately.


The Automatic K-412 came in a 10K yellow gold filled case and was outfitted with a white dial embossed with yellow makers and numerals.  It also has a pearled minute track with golden dots at each minute position.  Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel 661 movement.

Check out my project watch below... notice anything unusual?  Where should I start?  The good news is at least it ticks - ha ha!  There is a serious case of dial rash and I don't think I'll be able to do much to improve it.  I could send it out to be refinished but embossed dials with pearled dots are very hard to get done properly.  The figures always seem to come back soft, like they've been over polished.


The gold filled case back is unremarkable and it's loose so I can get it off easily.  These types of cases are very robustly built.


I don't know where the hands went but I can tell you definitively that the second hand is missing because there's no bit to attach it to.  The tips of the 4th wheel are very easy to break off if you're not careful.


The movement is in good shape but very dirty.


Although the watch is ticking, that doesn't mean it keeps time.  I rarely check a watch on the timer before I take it apart... I just assume it's not going to be very good and I'm going to take it apart anyway.  However, just for fun, let's see how this watch is doing?


There is no clear pattern to the trace on the timer although it is moving upward on a steep angle.  According to the sound of the ticking, the timer thinks this watch is running just over 5 minutes fast per day.

I looked in my stash of donor movements and check out what I found!  It's a K-412 dial.  It's not perfect but it's way better than what I started with... plus it has hands.


Here's a picture of the movement's 4th wheel (right) along with a replacement on the left.  Notice the extra portion on the end, called the "bit".  This is what the second hand attaches too.


I think I know which dial I would choose, how about you?  Refinished dials are not a problem with Hamiltons, as long as they are done properly.  That said, a nice original dial is always preferable to a refinished dial.


Everything is ready to be reassembled with fresh lubricants.


The moment of truth has arrived.  The partially reassembled movement is now ticking away with a good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it now.


Well that's much better!  Now it's just a minute fast per day and the amplitude is well over 200 degrees.  The beat error of 0.2ms is right on the money.


A quick adjustment to the regulator index and this watch is now running like it just left the Hamilton factory.


The reinstalled movement is noticeably brighter and shinier than what I started with.


A fresh 28.7mm high dome crystal is definitely called for on this project.  Something needs to keep the hands on, right?


My merciless light tent reveals a little extra tarnish or finish loss on the dial but it looks way better in person.


I also relumed the hands and the dial so it will glow in the dark, when charged first with light.


Here's a wrist shot in more flattering (and realistic) light.  This is a remarkable transformation and I'm sure the owner will be delighted to get his grandfather's watch back.  Now he can enjoy it with pride rather than let it rattle around in a drawer somewhere.

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There are three different kinds of Thin-o-matic models, well, actually six if you want to include the ones with date complications. 

The first Thin-o-matic models used Buren-made Swiss ebauches with small oscillating weights, a.k.a. micro rotors.  These movements include the 663, 666, et al calibers and were unique designs where all the parts were attached on the same side, or plain, of the main plate.  This allowed the overall thickness of the movement to have a very thin profile.

Also included in the early Thin-o-matics were ETA calibers that looked like the familiar ETA movements in the Accumatic line (689, 689A, et al) except the profile of the oscillating weight and overall movement was much narrower. 

You can easily tell what type of movement is inside a Thin-o-matic by looking at the back of the case.  If it's wide and flat it's a micro-rotor and if it's pie-pan shaped it's got an ETA movement inside.

In the 1967 time frame Hamilton had acquired Buren and a new generation of Thin-o-matic models were introduced.  The new micro-rotor movements look similar to the earlier generation but there are a number of critical differences.  One of the biggest is the center wheel is offset in the second generation calibers and that can present a significant challenge to collectors today.  The other, more obvious, difference is the earlier micro-rotors were plated with a pink plating while the second generation are nickel plated.

Hamilton changed the model nomenclature for the new generation of Thin-o-matics from T-something to TM-something.  So if the model name begins with TM then you know it's from after 1967.

One example of the new TM models is the 1967 TM-5800.  It was introduced in the 1968 catalog and made through 1970 but based on the model number it appears to have been created in 1967.


My project watch has seen some use but appears to be in decent enough shape.  Stainless steel cases can really take a beating.  The bracelet is a period correct Kreisler design but not the same as what's shown in the catalog.  It seems to still go nicely with the florentine pattern on the bezel though, so I'll reuse it.


Here's a shot of the case back showing you clearly the wide flat profile of a micro-rotor case.  I wasn't sure what model this was originally so I was hoping to see a pink movement inside.


Kreisler was one of several bracelet makers that made bracelets for Hamilton models.  I think between Kreisler and JB Champion, you probably cover 90% of the models but makers like Gemex, and others, where used too.


Without the crystal installed you can see the dial is actually in good shape.  Now that the crown has been separated from the male-side of the two-piece stem, the movement can be lifted out.


Darn... the movement inside is a 628 movement.  Although this looks a lot like the earlier 663, 666, etc. calibers, these newer movements are prone to having loose cannon pinions on the offset center wheel resulting in the hands not moving, even though the movement keeps accurate time.


Here's a photo of the inside of the case back.  Notice there are two numbers, the one at the bottom is the model number and the last two digits are 67, indicating this is a 1967 model.  The other number is a unique serial number for this specific example.


With the dial out of the way you can see where the cannon pinion that holds the minute hand is installed.


With a couple more parts removed, you can now see the offset center wheel.  The part where my tweezers is pointing is what drives the hour and minute hands.  It's a friction-fit part that is installed on the center wheel and is meant to slip when you set the time but hold when the watch is running.  That allows you to set the time without jarring the train wheels.  Over years and years of use, the friction yields so that the center wheel will turn as it should but this part won't move the hands, or the watch will appear to run very slow. 


Parts for these types of micro rotors are no longer available so the only solution is to try to tighten the center wheel (but not too tight) or scavenge a part from a donor movement.

Everything is now cleaned and ready to be reassembled.


These two springs are used in the barrel bridge.  You need to be very careful with them as they are known to disappear, never to be found again, with the slightest of tweezer pressure.


Phew!  Did I mention I don't like working on these movements?  Finally it's almost all back together and now running.


One of the differences between the first and second generation of movements is the beat rate.  Notice this movement beats 19800 beats per hour instead of the typical 18000 BPH.  This movement is running just a little fast but the other specs look acceptable.


A new crystal makes this watch look 100% better.  In fact, it looks almost brand new.  It definitely looks as good as it runs - but I'll need to watch it to make sure the hands are not slipping.


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One of the things that makes collecting vintage Hamiltons interesting is when you come upon an uncatalogued model.  Surprisingly, there are lots of them.  Sometimes they didn't make the catalogs but were still shown in marketing advertisements.  Other times they were models produced for other markets.

I recently came upon what I though would have been an Accumatic A-5XX of some sort.  As you'll see below, it looks very familiar to some Dateline A-models like the 1963 Dateline A-576.


If it looks familiar, I'm not surprised.  I've come across a bunch of these in the past, like in this post from September 2017.

Anyway, my project watch is unique in that it doesn't have a date complication.  It's also interesting in that the word Automatic is in cursive with a capital A.  There are a variety of styles and fonts used, including cursive, but this is the first time I've seen it with a capital A.  The crown is an obvious replacement and a bit too large, in my opinion.  The bracelet likely isn't original, as it's been trimmed more on one side than on the other, which is too bad since it looks a little goofy.  On the other hand, the lug width is larger than the typical 17.4mm so I could probably trim the long side to fit a future project.


The back of the watch has the model number 4000-3.  That makes me think this was probably a 1960's model for the international market.


The movement inside is clearly marked Hamilton and has 21 jewels instead of the usual 17, although it looks like a typical ETA movement like a 692 or 689 from the 1960s.


I noticed the balance seemed to have a bit of a wobble but first I'll clean everything and see how the reassembly goes.  Some had obviously already been in the watch, since one of the bridge screws was missing.


The movement is now running and appears to be okay.  Let's see what the timer thinks.  One interesting thing to note is there is no "HYL" stamped on the balance cock.  Those letters are the import code for Hamilton movements and all Swiss-made Hamilton movements have those letters, if it's a US model.  The outside of the case back said "INCABLOC" and that denotes the shock protection for the balance.  You can see the Incabloc spring that supports the balance jewels in the photo below.


It's running a little slow but the amplitude is too low at 164 degrees.  I like to see it north of 200 and between 250 and 300 is ideal.  Why it's low could be any number of things... the barrel is dragging, there's still dirt somewhere, the pallet fork is dragging, or the balance has an issue.


A tweak here, a tweak there, change a part, try another... eventually the best I could come up with was 186 degrees of amplitude.


The 4 extra jewels in a 21 jewel version of this movement are in the automatic framework.  Otherwise the main movement is the same between a 17 jewel and 21 jewel caliber.  I happened to have a spare 689 movement so I swapped it out and used the balance from the original movement - low and behold, the amplitude came up dramatically... problem solved.


In addition to cleaning the movement, I relumed the hands, replaced the beat up crystal, and installed a slightly smaller, more appropriate crown.  Paired with a light brown alligator strap, this watch really turned out sharp.




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One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How much is my watch worth?".  That's really a difficult question to answer, there are a lot of factors;

  • What condition is it in?
  • When was it last serviced?
  • What is it made of?
  • Is it a popular model?
  • How easy it is to find another?
To me, a really significant question is "who's watch was it?".  Tomorrow is Father's Day and I think when a watch was dad's or grandpa's the watch ought to be priceless.  I would say at least half the time that doesn't seem to matter to the owner though... which I think is really sad.  It just goes to demonstrate how important a responsibility father's have to be good dads and grandpas. 

Anyway, one type of watch that I think is hard to put a price on is an ultra-rare model where there are very few examples to base a comparison on.  A good example is the 1961 Tuxedo II.  It was produced for three years.


In 1961 the Tuxedo II was Hamilton's most expensive model.  Priced at $475, it was $100 more than the next most expensive model.  That's over $4,000 in today's currency, when adjusted for inflation.

It came in a solid 14K white gold case but the really unique feature was 44 diamonds surrounding the bezel.

In 1962 and 1963 the price was reduced to a mere $450, still the most expensive model by far.


Inside the case is a 22 jewel 770 movement - the flagship movement for Hamilton models made in Lancaster PA.

You have to be REALLY careful with Hamilton models with diamonds.  Many, arguably most, that you will see are recased Hamilton movements with aftermarket dials.  On any given day you can find a dozen jeweler-cased watches for sale on eBay, usually with steep prices.  Always try to see the inside of the case back.  If it doesn't say Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster PA, it's not a legitimate model.  It might still be a great watch, but assume the price should be the sum of the materials involved and don't overpay.

My project watch was a lucky find.  I have never seen another.  It arrived in really nice condition.  The only remark I would make is the second hand is unusual - it has an arrow tip and is likely a replacement.  On the other hand, Hamilton was known to use what was available when times where hectic, like preparing for the Christmas or graduation seasons.


The back of the case is unengraved.  It has some minor scratches but nothing remarkable.  This case reminds me of the 1962 Whitford but without the diamonds.


With the bezel carefully removed, I can get a better look at the dial.  The H at the 12 position is solid gold but rhodium plated to appear silver in color.  The hands and hour marks are black and the curved arcs between the 1 and 2, etc. looks to be silver in color.  It's a little hard to tell though.


The 770 movement inside has not seen a good cleaning in quite a while, if ever.  Notice the dull haze on the movement.


Here's a look at the inside of the case back - notice the markings.  If you don't see this type of marking inside a Hamilton watch... caveat emptor.  There are no watchmaker's marks inside the case back.  I might be the first person in almost 60 years to overhaul this movement.


Everything is cleaned, dried and ready for assembly.


Notice how bright and shiny the movement is now.  The old oil and dirt is gone and fresh oil will keep the delicate pivots from undue wear and tear.


It's running a smidgen fast but a minor tweak to the regulator will bring it right in line.


Well, this is definitely not a watch you're going to wear while mowing the lawn.  Paired with a genuine lizard strap that sparkles as much as the diamonds, it will take a special occasion to wear this beauty.  You can see I found a much more appealing second hand that matches the baton-style hour and minute hands.

This model is actually surprisingly large... but still small enough for a woman to wear by today's standards.


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It's been a while since I've posted a new watch model.  So long, in fact, that a number of people have contacted me to check on me and wish me well. 

Life has had me up against the ropes lately.  I've been busy with other projects, other commitments, and quite a few non-blog-worthy watch projects.  But overall I'm doing fine and have lots of blessing to be thankful for. 

Thanks everyone for your support! 

I do have a few projects waiting in the wings for some TLC.  The first one I'll reveal is a 1961 Thin-o-matic T-404.  It was produced for three years.  As you can see from the catalog depiction, it came with either a black or a white dial.  I bet the lizard & gold expansion bracelet was a nice touch too.


The T-404 came in a 10K gold filled case.  Tucked inside is either a 17 jewel 663 or a 666, I'm not positive when the latter replaced the former.  They're almost identical anyway.

My project watch arrived in well-used condition... perhaps even over-used based on the crown being worn smooth.  The metal expansion bracelet is an after market addition and it has spring-loaded ends to provide a one-size-fits-most application.  These bracelets are not a good choice for watches like this, as over time they wear grooves into the lugs... sometimes all the way through.


Oddly, this case has a dent protruding from inside the case with a high point resulting in a tiny wear spot, or just a dirt spot - I'm not exactly sure, this watch is very dirty.


Check out this crown - or what's left of it.  I didn't realize at first just how worn out this crown was.  Only the rubber gasket is still present.  One of the most common questions I get from people is, "How waterproof is my watch".  My answer is univerally, "Assume it's not" and that definitely applies to this case (pun intended).


As you can see below, this portion of the two-piece stem is a rusted mess and will need to be replaced, along with the crown.


Check out the condition of the dial.  It looks like there are grains of sand inside.  The luminous paint is gone from the hands so maybe it's that?


This watch has a 663 movement inside, made by Buren Watch Company, which Hamilton would eventually purchase.  In fact, when production ended in the Lancaster PA factory in 1969, it was moved to Buren's facility in Switzerland in 1970.  This movement is missing a bridge screw so someone has been inside here in the past 60 years.  The male-side of the stem is rusty too but not as bad as the female side.  Hopefully a trip to the spa will do it some good.


Did I mention that metal bracelets wear grooves into the lugs?  Here's a photo for all you nay-sayers out there (you know who you are).  I think it's mainly the spring-loaded versions that do it but given enough wear, metal on metal will result in wear and tear.


There's a little rust on the dial side of the main plate - mainly in the set lever.  I should be able to clean most of it off though.


I'll get the hands ready for some fresh luminous paint.  You apply it to the back of the hands and then let it dry.


Well, I got a little caught up with the challenge of keeping track of the gazillion parts and pieces involved in one of these movements and forgot to take a disassembled movement shot.  In the photo below, the movement just about complete.  It still needs the balance assembly and the micro-rotor to be reinstalled.


There, the balance is in place and ticking away with a good motion.


My watch timer concurs - this watch is running nicely.


A fresh crystal, cleaned case and relumed hands go a long way toward improving a watch's appearance.  Have a crown with knurling doesn't hurt either.


Here's a wrist shot in better lighting.  I treated this dial to a "poor-man's refinish" with a gentle cleaning and a light spritz of lacquer.  It's not perfect but it's way better than what I started with and getting this dial refinished to look correct would be very hard with the grooved texture in the hour track.  This is a nice looking watch now, and it runs even better than it looks.


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A couple of weeks ago I did a post on the 1968 Fontainebleau.  There are several other Fontainebleu models but only a couple of them are in the US catalogs.  One of the non-catalogued models goes simply by the model number 66003-3.  The -3 signifies it has a stainless steel case.  So it's possible there's a -4 in a yellow case (gold filled, RGP or electroplate) or even a -1 or -2 in solid gold.

Taking a look at my project watch, you can tell that something is amiss.  You can also easily identify it as a post 1969 model because it says "Selfwinding" and it has a day of the week complication.  Neither of those attributes occurred prior to 1970.


The back of the watch clearly shows the model number and this case is similar in design to the 1969 Odyssey and the Fountainebleu I recently did.  It is a challenging case design to open and an even more challenging case to close.  The back fits inside the front bezel and a ring compresses the back, dial, crystal and a gasket together as an assembly like a sandwich.

I know someone has been inside this watch before me because the back ring isn't seated properly.  Notice the round section over the strap... that should be flat.


As I said above, the movement and dial are held inside the case back and the crystal and a specially formed gasket are sandwiched between the bezel and the case back.  Only half of the gasket remains.  The movement will come out once I separate the two-piece stem and pull the crown out.


Here's a shot of the caliber 66 movement inside.  This movement is used in a few of the 1970's Day-n-Date models and it's based on an A Schild 1876 ebauche.  It has a 21,600 beat per hour rate or 6 ticks per second.  If you have a good eye you'll notice there's a barrel bridge screw missing (the barrel is under the oscillating weight though).


With the weight moved, the ratchet wheel over the barrel is visible and notice the arbor screw is also broken.  Typically I can use a needle to pick the remaining portion of the screw out of the arbor so I can install a replacement.


Both of the dial foot screws are a tad rusty - probably due to moisture getting past the crystal.


I removed the day wheel so I could get an idea of the parts that make up the day and date complications.  There is one pesky index spring under the bridge that will fly off if I'm not careful.  You can just see the tip of it by the number 6.  So I'll listen to the little voice in my head and move to my light tent so I will be able to find it when it inevitably disappears.


Now you can see index spring next to the 6.... no sudden movements or I'll spend the next 30 minutes on my hands and knees looking for the darned thing.


Slowly the front of the mainplate is cleared of parts.


Turning my attention to the back, it's always good to have a photo of the train wheels to refer to when reassembling the movement.


Uh oh... close inspection of the barrel shows that two teeth a buggered up.  You can see them below at about 4 o'clock.  I'll try to clear them a little but the watch may stop when the barrel turns to engage these teeth.  The barrel should be replaced but I don't have a replacement at the moment.


Everything is cleaned and dried before reassembly.


The reassembled movement is now ticking away but I haven't wound it very much.  I managed to find the missing bridge screw inside the movement when I disassembled it.


Things look promising... the amplitude should come up once I wind the mainspring more fully.


I was able to clear off the old fingerprints on the dial but it's still not perfect.  I'm not sure if there's a scratch by the H or if its dried gunk.  There's more gunk by the 6 marker but I'll let sleeping dogs lie and avoid making things worse.


The oscillating weight goes on the back and I'm just about ready to reinstall the movement in the case back.


I polished the crystal as best I could but didn't want to over due it.  I'll put a thin o-ring on the crystal to try to take up some of the space that the proper gasket would have filled.  I doubt it will provide much of a seal but it should keep things from rattling inside.  You should keep vintage watches away from all moisture anyway, even it you think they're "waterproof".


Once the crown is installed I can advance the time until the day and date changes.  This movement has a quick set function for the date - you push the stem in.  The day of the week is a little more cumbersome to set.


I can use the crown to wind the watch more fully and the amplitude came up over 200.  I'm happy with that considering the barrel needs to be replaced anyway.  Otherwise the specs look good to me.


This watch looks a lot better, especially since the remnant of the gasket is no longer stuck inside.  Time will tell, literally, if the barrel causes a problem.  I have no doubt the watch will work until the missing teeth rotate into the center wheel.  I suspect the barrel will slip until the next tooth engages but I'll find out in an hour or two.


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I was recently paid a very nice compliment and it was also a very fitting analog for Easter.  Although I posted a watch recently on Easter Sunday, the season of Easter lasts for seven weeks and goes through Pentecost.  So technically this is also an Easter post and I thought I'd share the sentiment with you.

My project watch is a Coral Midas.  The model was introduced in 1940 and made through 1941.  Like the regular yellow gold Midas, the Coral Midas came in a solid 14K case but in rose gold, which was very fashionable before WWII.


The dial on the Coral Midas is a two-tone coral finish and the dial features rhodium plated solid 18K gold numerals, markers and dots.  The hands are also rhodium plated to match.

My project watch has seen better days.  The crystal is tired plastic and just replacing that will be an improvement.  The case is a little worn but it's also a bit scratched so I will be very careful when I polish it.  If you've got a good eye you might spot that the hour hand doesn't match in style or in length.  If you've got an even better eye, you might wonder if the crown is rose or yellow... to be honest, I wasn't sure either.


The back of my project watch is nicely engraved with a presentation from 1941.  The serial number of the movement dates the watch to 1940 so this watch probably sat in the jewelry store for a few months before making its way to its original owner.  It looks like it may have had a sticker, or something, affixed to the back for a while, as there is a bit of hard residue.


The movement inside is a 19 jewel 982M movement, or Medallion movement, that was newly introduced in 1940 for solid gold (and platinum) models.  It's a more ornamented version of the 19 jewel 982 movement that was already the standard for solid gold models.  Supposedly the 982M was crafted to even tighter standards - although it shares all the same parts with the 982.  It's certainly very nice to look at, especially when it's clean.

This movement is not running.  The balance doesn't wobble so that's a good sign that all it will need is a good cleaning.  We'll find out soon enough.


Without the crystal blocking the view, you can get a better look at the dial and hands.  I don't see any obvious tells that the dial has been refinished.  There is no dial pattern number below the seconds track though.  However, if it was refinished it was done a long time ago, based on the aging along the right side.  It was not unusual for Hamilton to refinish the dial as part of their standard service so as long as the dial is correctly done, it doesn't really matter if it's original or not.  In fact, many people who have an "original dial" really have a refinished dial that was redone decades ago.


I was unable to get the lower dial foot screw to budge and I was forced to carefully pry the dial off.  Once it was lifted out of the way I saw the reason for the issue - there's a little rust right in the area of the lower dial foot.  There's evidence of moisture going over to the 4th wheel and pallet fork jewels so that may be the cause of the watch stopping.  Hopefully the ultrasonic will work the dial foot screw loose.

If you ever notice there is moisture in your watch, you should open it as best you can and carefully dry it with warm air.  You may want to also have it serviced by a watchmaker, especially if it's been a while since it was last cleaned and oiled.


While everything is being cleaned I will prep a new glass crystal for installation.


I noticed one potential issue while inspecting the cleaned parts.  One of the teeth on the minute wheel is bent.  It's around 10 o'clock in the picture below.  The minute wheel is what keeps the minute hand and hour hand in sync.  A bent tooth can cause a disruption and is usually caused by putting the cannon pinion on with the minute wheel in place and "crushing" the minute wheel in the process.  I'll replace it to be on the safe side.


Everything is ready to be reassembled, excluding the old crystal... how'd that get in there?


The reassembled movement is ticking away with good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it?


It's running a little fast but that's easily adjusted with the regulator.


In the shot below the original crown (left) is placed next to a coral crown for comparison.  I'm now convinced the original crown is the incorrect color so I'll replace it.


I replaced the hour hand with the proper style and the length is typically determined by the distance from the center to the nearest hour marker.  I don't know if that would be the numbers 3 and 9 or if it should be the rectangular markers.  The minute hand should extend to the nearest minute track.  The glass crystal and coral crown are definite improvements.


Here's a better shot with more flattering light.


When I went to look at the catalog image of the Coral Midas I saw the hour hand appears to extend to the marker so it should be a little longer.  Fortunately I have a slightly longer hour hand so now the watch is "perfect".


As I said at the start, I was recently paid a very nice compliment by someone I restored a watch for.  One of the things I enjoy the most about this hobby is the happiness that I can provide when I restore someone's father's or grandfather's watch.  What was once broken and battered can be brought to new life by the touch of a master's hand. 

What a wonderful message for Easter as well.  No one is past redemption when they find their way to the Master's hand.

The Touch of the Master's Hand

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three----" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone," said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand
What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:
"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game--and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

                 --Myra Brooks Welch
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Today is Easter and what a wonderful day it has been.  I got a parking place at church and we even sat in our usual pew - although there were quite a few unfamiliar faces around.  The weather was fantastic and my bride and I enjoyed some quality time together doing back-breaking manual labor in the yard.

I was also able to finish a couple of watch projects and I have an interesting model to showcase.  It's a 1965 Hamilton Vincent.  This model was produced for three years but you don't often see it in the wild... that could be because it's a little on the smaller side.


If it looks familiar, it's probably because it bears a strong resemblance to its older brothers, the 1962 Gary and the 1964 M79-4.  Of course, those models have second hands and the 1965 Vincent does not.

The Vincent came in a 10K yellow rolled gold plated case with a stainless steel back.  It was paired with a matching bracelet with a Florentine-pattern on the bezel and bracelet.

My project watch arrived in non-running condition and missing the crown.


There's a slight nub of a stem so I suspect the crown and stem broke off and the watch has been stuck at 5:55 ever since.  The case back does not sit properly for some reason and the owner said it popped open on the way to the post office.  Hopefully I can fix that too.


The bracelet was made by JB Champion, in case you're ever looking for a replacement.


Tucked inside the case is a 17 jewel Hamilton 681 movement.  This is basically a slightly smaller 686 movement based on an A Schild 1200.  It's just like the 686 but a smaller diameter - all of the other parts are the same so it will be easy to get a new stem.


Looking at the inside of the bezel, the sides between the lugs are a bit wavy.  I think someone has fiddled with this bezel before.  I'll try to straighten things so that the back snaps on properly.


Everything gets taken apart and thoroughly cleaned before being reassembled with fresh lubricants.


I happen to have a nice Hamilton-branded crown that will fit the case nicely.  I'll have to trim the stem to the correct length before screwing the crown on.


Crowns can be very challenging to replace but I think this one is a perfect match.


The reassembled movement is ticking away with a good motion.


Not too shabby... the amplitude is a little low but I haven't fully wound the watch yet since it doesn't have a crown.


Well this watch turned out really nicely.  There's a small scratch on the dial that was hidden by the minute hand originally, otherwise it cleaned up nicely.


My light tent is unforgiving and reveals every potential flaw.  Here's a shot in more flattering and realistic light.  It's a tiny watch but it is still nice looking.



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There is a unique line of Hamilton models called Fontainebleu.  Two of them were catalogued as US models and the others, I assume, are European.  The earliest of the models were introduced in a 1968 as the Fontainebleau and a square version called the Fontainebleue B.  The Fontainebleu was produced through 1970.


The Fontainebleau came in a stainless steel case but you might find versions in gold electroplate... but they may be a different model altogether.

Most of the Fontainebleau line are big and chunky, a style that doesn't really appeal to me.  However, I recently had an example sent to me that was in need of a little TLC... specifically it needed a stem and crown.  It's not unusual to find project watches in such a state as two-piece stems are meant to separate and sometimes the crown gets inadvertently snagged on a something and comes off.


This model has an Odyssey-like case design and you can see the model number is 64047-3.  This case opens by turning the outer ring counter clockwise 1/4 turn and then the ring can be removed and the case back lifted out.


Getting the ring to turn is VERY difficult and it's even more challenging since the outside of the case has a sharp bevel and can't be hand-held.  Fortunately I can wedge it into my case holder so I don't bugger up the ring by slipping the opener tool.


Here you see the principle parts of the case design... the bezel, the crystal, the case back (with the movement and dial) and the retaining ring.  The crystal is inserted into the bezel from behind and the flange on the crystal is sandwiched between the dial and the bezel.  This specific example is missing the gasket that should be between the crystal and bezel.


Inside the case is a 21 jewel Hamilton caliber 64A - basically a 21 jewel version of the 17 jewel 694A.  Notice the female end of the two-piece stem installed in the movement.  That means the crown-side needs the male side.


Here's a photo of a replacement stem and an uncut stem.  Replacing crowns is surprisingly difficult.  You need to have the correct outer diameter, style, if it's waterproof the correct opening, perhaps a tube, etc. etc. etc. 


The challenge of installing a new stem and crown, once you have a crown, is to cut the stem long enough that the crown fits just right... too long and it will stick out, too short and you have to start over again.  Check out the challenge below... how long should the stem be?


I find the best approach is to purposefully cut the stem a little long and then recut it over and over until it's just right.


I use a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel and I hold the stem with a pin-vise.


I'd say it's still a couple of mm too long.


Getting warmer but not quite there.


Once I think I'm close I can install the movement, insert the stem, align the male side with the female side and pop the two together to see how it fits.


Almost there...


Well, it turns out I had to cut it about as far as possible in order to get it short enough to fit properly.  The long tube on the crown will help support the stem and crown in the stem tube of the case.


With a proper-fitting crown and nice alligator strap, this Fontainebleau is now ready for wrist time!


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Arguably the rarest Hamilton WWII models are the watches made for the US Navy and Marine Corps.  110,000+ white-dialed models were made for the US Army and marked ORD-DEPT while it's not entirely clear how many black-dialed models for the US Navy were made.  There are records for the 987S and 2987 sweep second models for naval aviators but the other USN models with 987A are much less common.

I've posted about WWII models before but I recently had the opportunity to work on a 27023 model and thought I'd show you it's details.  Hamilton's WWII models with 987A movements supposedly had minor alterations to meet military specifications, including a new balance staff design.

My project watch came from a fellow collector and he sent it to me after a slight mishap.  Can you guess what happened?  If you guessed face-plant, then you're right.  He dropped it on a hard surface and it broke the crystal.  Whoops!


This watch has a really cool period correct sterling silver bracelet.


The other side has a medallion from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.  This public shipyard is still in operation today.  Notice the H on the case between the lugs - that's one of the clues to look for to determine authenticity.  This model has a Keystone case and it should have an H between the lugs.


If you look really closely you might be able to see this watch somewhere in the photo below... it was there at the same time.


The back of the case is properly marked with R88-W-800 and the part number 27023.


Inside the case back is a unique serial number for the watch.


The movement is held within a movement ring and a dust cover snaps onto the ring.  A gasket surrounds the cover and seals the case back when it's screwed on.


The movement number starts with an O (oh) and dates the watch to 1944.


Models for the US Navy have black dials with luminous numbers and hands.  The hands should be stainless steel and these are the correct hands.


This watch already has a white alloy mainspring installed so I will reuse it.


Everything is cleaned, dried, and ready for reassembly.


The reassembled movement is ticking away with a good motion.  Let's see what the timer thinks of it.


Not too shabby.  The beat error of 2.7ms is on the higher end of my acceptable specs and the amplitude is a vigorous 316 degrees.  Should I try to reduce the beat error?


Well, the most desirable amplitude is between 250 and 300.  If amplitude gets too high the balance can swing all the way around and hit the opposite side of the pallet fork, causing it to bounce back and make the timing go wonky.  Amplitude will be higher when the movement is dial up or dial down since the friction is lowest in those positions.  When the movement is on edge all of the pivots are in use so the amplitude drops slightly.  If I decrease the beat error, the amplitude will increase.  So, since the amplitude is already pretty high, I think I'll leave the beat error as is.  The watch will stop a little sooner than if the beat error were lower but not that much sooner.

A new crystal definitely goes a long way toward making this watch look a lot better.  Now my friend just needs to make sure he doesn't drop it again!


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