Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton’

Hamilton Chrono-Matic Ref. 11002-3 (Hamilton Cal. 11)…

Another Chrono-Matic on the blog, this time from Hamilton.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The ‘Chrono-Matic’ name will be recognised by many vintage watch enthusiasts and collectors as it is synonymous with the early automatic chronographs produced by Hamilton, Breitling and Heuer. Although all Chrono-Matic chronographs are collectible these days, the Heuer models in particular are highly prized as the Chrono-Matic name was dropped from the dial on all but the earliest examples.

Hamilton acquired Buren in 1966 to become Hamilton-Buren and subsequently played a role in the development of the world’s first automatic chronograph calibre, working with Heuer, Breitling and the renowned chronograph specialists Dubois-Dépraz. Without the input from Hamilton-Buren who provided the base calibre, the project would never have got off the ground. The history of the first automatic calibre and the race to market is an interesting one but rather than cover old ground I’ll direct any interested parties to Jeff Stein’s excellent article ‘Project 99’ for further details.

Hamilton produced Chrono-Matic models in limited numbers during the early 1970’s, the watch in this post being one of just four models they released. Along with the same watch in a white/black (Panda dial) configuration, Hamilton also produced the quirky Fontainebleau Chrono-Matic with its futuristic tonneau shaped case, the Pan-Europ chronograph and the extremely rare Chrono-Matic Count-Down.

The Count-Down model is particularly interesting as it reversed the ‘traditional’ layout used in all other calibre 11/12/14/15 powered watches, positioning the crown on the right and the pushers on the left. You’ll notice too in the picture above that as the calibre has been rotated 180 degrees inside the case the watch has the hour register on the right hand side of the dial and the minute counter on the left. The watch is powered by a cal. 14 movement (or Calibre 141 as Hamilton re-branded it) so it also has a GMT hand and two additional crowns on the right used to rotate not one but two internal bezels – one for the GMT hour and one for the city.

Getting back to the subject of this post the watch arrived in decent cosmetic condition and opening it up revealed the expected Hamilton Calibre 11. Although the watch was running it did have a couple of mechanical issues; the chronograph wouldn’t reset cleanly to zero and the automatic winding mechanism wasn’t building up any power reserve.

Problems with these automatic winding mechanisms are often caused by the rotor scraping on the chronograph bridge or mainplate but that wasn’t the case here, it was much more obvious on disassembly; one of the reduction wheels was missing altogether and the second had a broken top pivot. I’m guessing that the last watchmaker to work on this watch couldn’t source the parts, so just re-assembled with manual winding only – relegating it to a “Chrono-Manual” if you will!

After making a few enquiries replacement reduction wheels were sourced and purchased from Italy which solved the problem in short order.

The rest of the service on the base movement was straight forward and things were already starting to look better…

Unfortunately the aforementioned watchmaker struck again when it came to the chronograph module as all the eccentric screws and jumpers had been moved in an effort to get the chronograph working correctly. A lot of time must have been spent trying to get it right as one of the eccentric screw had been moved so much that it was now loose in the plate and moved fractionally with every reset, plus the sliding gear had been glued together and so could no longer be adjusted. Not good.

Thankfully both problems were repairable without parts, the sliding gear was separated, cleaned and staked to make it a solid friction fit once more and the hole for the eccentric screw in the bridge closed slightly with a convex punch to make it a tighter fit.

After that the chronograph had to be rebuilt and set up again from scratch which is no mean feat on the cal. 11 as it has a combination of six eccentric screws and jumpers. (This was simplified to four on the re-designed cal. 12.)

With the movement problems ironed out, the case cleaned and crystal polished the watch could finally be rebuilt.

What isn’t obvious from a dial-on shot is how thick this watch is. As the design of this calibre is modular an increase in movement height is inevitable but it is well hidden in watches with more substantial cases like the Heuer Autavia or Breitling Cosmonaute. With a case diameter of just 37mm the Hamilton is quite small and with no external bezel to bulk out the case the resulting watch is surprisingly thick at 14mm. Not that it should put anyone off buying one as it’s still a great watch.

Finally, it may also be of interest to know that Hamilton is due to release a re-issue the Chrono-Matic later this year called the “Intramatic 68”.

With Hamilton’s H-31 automatic chronograph calibre inside the layout is more traditional with the pushers and crown all on the right. The size has been increased to 42mm too making it quite a substantial watch which may wear even larger as it has no external bezel.

If you are slow out of the blocks, tracking one of these down may be just as hard as finding an original as the Intramatic 68 will only be produced in a limited edition run of just 1,968.


** Many thanks to Mike Causer for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Hamilton Odyssee 2001 (Hamilton Cal. 694)…

A Hamilton this time and one with something of a back story as I’m sure that the Odyssee 2001 name hasn’t gone unnoticed by any film buffs out there.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

In 1966, before filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey began, Stanley Kubrick (who incidentally always wore two watches, one on each wrist) approached Hamilton to produce a futuristic wristwatch to be worn by the astronauts in the movie. Designs were submitted and approved and when released to the press, potential customers were clamouring to buy the space-aged wonder.

As a result of the interest, Hamilton planned to release an identical model to the market in conjunction with the film release in 1968, but it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be cost effective, so the watch in this post was produced instead.

The name ‘Odyssee 2001’ was apparently chosen by Hamilton to avoid any potential copyright issues. It also transpired that although the prop watch was produced, delivered and used in promotional events, it never actually appeared in the movie.

Although nothing like the original design, the Odyssee 2001 had a futuristic appearance for the time with its circular, well… everything, and triangular hands. What isn’t apparent from the face-on shot is the shape of the case which has a ‘wedged’ profile and could well have been the inspiration for the 1970’s Camy Superautomatic Airport which I wrote about on the blog a few years ago (that post here).

The watch in this post was the first model, introduced in 1968, and a more reserved model followed with the same case but more mainstream dial markers and hands.

The watches also fit nicely into Hamilton’s quirky Fontainebleau range which were on sale at the time. Although not pictured here, the caseback on the Odyssee 2001 also bears the Fontainebleau name.

The fun began pretty early on with this one as due to the case design, it case proved very difficult to open. I’m sure Hamilton will have produced a specific case holder for the watch and I certainly could have used one here! Being completely round, having no external lugs and one hidden lug being higher than the other, it didn’t fit any of my case openers. Add the fact that it was rusted together too made it a real tough nut to crack.

I eventually got it open, and without damaging anything too which was a relief. Here’s a picture of the complete case and I’ll offer a little advice to anyone else attempting to open one of these.

Although the securing ring looks like a regular screwback, it isn’t. The ring has two tabs on the sides which slot into a lip in the upper case holding it all together. When the ring is turned anti-clockwise 90 degress (so that the tabs are in the lugs), the upper case, crystal and gaskets can be lifted off, leaving the watch in the inner mono-bloc case. The split stem is then separated like a traditional one-piece case and the watch can finally be removed.

Once inside, things didn’t look too bad. The movement is a Hamilton cal. 694, which is essentially just a rebranded ETA cal. 2472. It obviously hadn’t been serviced for quite some time, as evidenced by the amount of rust on the case too I guess.

A full movement service was all that was needed to get it back up and running so with all the rust removed and the case thoroughly cleaned, the watch could be rebuilt.

The watch still had its original Hamilton signed mesh bracelet too which is always nice to see.

All in all, an interesting and rare watch that you won’t see too often.

To round off this post it may be of interest to know that Hamilton did release a version of the original prop watch in 2006 as a 40 year anniversary model, the ODC X-01. The main watch is powered by a mechanical ETA cal. 2824-2 and each subdial is driven by a quartz movement. The watch was limited (somewhat predictably!) to 2001 pieces.


** Many thanks to Justin Swale for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Hamilton Chronograph (Valjoux Cal. 7730)…

Another Hamilton on the blog, this time one of their chronographs from the late 1960’s/early 70’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Before 1970’s styling really kicked in and the design departs were ‘let off the leash’, chronographs from many of the major manufacturers shared the same styling cues as this Hamilton – a simple round case, an uncluttered dial, and standard round head pushers. The resulting watch being functional and stylish.

Automatic chronographs had only been introduced in 1969, so the majority of chronograph calibres were still manually wound, the calibre inside this Hamilton being no exception. Although marked ‘Hamilton 643’ on the chronograph bridge, it is actually a re-branded Valjoux cal. 7730, as can be seen under the balance wheel.

The Valjoux cal. 7730 is almost identical to Venus’ cal. 188, produced from 1948 until 1966.  Venus was bought by Valjoux in 1966, and the design for the cal. 188 was used again as the cal. 7730, with only minor changes. Production continued until 1973 by which time, a total of 175,000 units had been made.

Valjoux re-designed the 7730 in the early 1970’s, adding a number of technical improvements, the resulting calibre being the cal. 7733. Here’s a shot of the two calibres side by side with the major differences highlighted.

1. The reset hammer was re-designed and now included an eccentric screw in the centre, allowing the distance between the hammer arms to be increased or decreased, ensuring that correct contact is being made with the reset hearts.

2. A brake mechanism was added to hold the sweep second hand steady after the chronograph has been disengaged. In calibres without a brake mechanism, if the watch is subjected to a shock after stopping the chronograph, it is possible that the sweep second hand may move and the timing result will be be lost.

3. The chronograph operating lever design was changed to make it one unified part rather than two separate arms, and a joining screw.

4. The minute recording jumper spring design was changed to allow correctional adjustment back and forth using an eccentric screw.

As well as developing the 7733, Valjoux also introduced additional calibres to form a series; namely the 7734, adding a date complication, the 7736 with a 12 hour register for the chronograph, and the 7737 which added a sailing timer function. (Click the highlighted calibre numbers for examples of these watches on the blog).

Later in the production run, the design of the reset hammer was changed again. The eccentric screw was removed and replaced with a ‘rocker’ which allowed a small amount of movement and removed any need for correction/adjustment during servicing.

The 773x calibre series proved very popular and were widely used in chronographs of many brands during the 1970’s.  The total number of 773x calibres produced is thought to be around 2 million.

Ok, getting back to the Hamilton, it arrived in reasonable cosmetic condition, not running. The watch seemed to be fully wound, but showed no sign of life, which often means that either the oils have congealed, or a part is broken.

As the movement was stripped for servicing, none of the usual causes were found (i.e. a bent/broken pivot or tooth) and it was only when the mainspring barrel was opened that the problem was revealed. The ‘eye’ on the innermost coil of the mainspring had unhooked from the winding arbor, which in turn had jammed inside the mainspring barrel, stopping it dead. So, it was an easy fix this time.

With the movement serviced and back up and running, a little cosmetic work was needed. The dial showed some signs of age which couldn’t be removed, but the appearance was improved by reluming the hands and dial markers. The minor damage on the subdial hands was also repaired, and finally, the case was cleaned and the crystal polished to finish the job.


** Many thanks to Alex Keazor for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Hamilton W10 (Hamilton Cal. 649)…

I wrote about a Hamilton military watch earlier this year, the 6B, and here’s another one – it does actually say “Hamilton” somewhere under there I promise!

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Hamilton produced wristwatches for the British military between 1965 and 1976, and this particular model was issued to military personnel from 1973 until 1976. From 1976 onwards, manufacturing transferred from Hamilton to the Cabot Watch Company (CWC) who produced an equivalent CWC branded version of the watch. That model continued to be issued until 1980 when it was replaced by a quartz version, the G10.

Turning the watch over, the military markings will now be familiar to regular readers; the ‘6BB’ denotes that this watch was issued to a member of the RAF and the next 13 digits are the NSN (NATO Stock Number), followed underneath by the Broad Arrow symbol, and the the issue number and year at the bottom.

This model is referred to as the ‘Hamilton W10’ as the watch was also issued to Army personnel, and in much greater numbers than the RAF; over 30,000 for the Army, compared to around 7,000 for the RAF. Any watch issued to Army personnel was marked ‘W10’ rather than ‘6BB’ as you can see here.

There have been quite a few watches on the blog lately housed in one piece cases, and this is another example. To remove the watch from the case, the first step is to split the two part stem, after which the crystal wrench comes into play…

A suitable aluminium ring is chosen from the set provided that is just larger than the diameter of the crystal. The wrench is then placed over the ring and squeezed, compressing the crystal from all directions until it is smaller than the inner diameter of the case. The crystal can then be lifted out, and the watch can now be removed from the case.

The dial and hands were still in decent order with all their original lume still intact. The only negative was some tarnish on the surface of the hands, which seems to be a common problem with these watches.

The movement in this watch is a Hamilton cal. 649; a 17 jewel, hand wound movement with a hacking function for accurate time setting. These calibres were actually made by ETA and numbered cal. 2750, but Hamilton removed the ETA branding from under the balance wheel and engraved the train bridge with their own branding and calibre number.

The movement was in good condition and just needed a routine service, so that was straight forward, but as you no doubt noticed in the first picture, the crystal was heavily scratched – I can only hazard a guess as to how it ended up like that!

Thankfully it wasn’t cracked, so all the scratches could be polished out before final re-assembled.


** Many thanks to Lee Curtis for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

Hamilton 6B (Hamilton Cal. S75 S)…

More military watch action on the blog, this time from Hamilton.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Hamilton was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892 by a group of entrepreneurs whose aim was to only build watches of the highest quality. Located on a 13 acre site, they produced high quality pocket watches, specialising in railroad watches where accuracy was important. Their involvement with military watches began in World War I, when they were producing wristwatches for servicemen using calibres from women’s pendant watches.

During World War II, production of consumer watches was halted and they produced nothing but military timepieces; wristwatches, marine chronometers and deck watches for use by US Navy and other Allied Forces. More than 1 million wristwatches were sent overseas.

Hamilton supplied watches to the British Military from 1965 until 1976. As well as the 6B featured in this post, other models included the W10, a time only manually wound watch in a one piece tonneau case, and a Valjoux 7733 powered chronograph in an asymmetric case.

You may also see the 6B referred to as the “Mark XI” as it was made in the same style, and to the same specifications, as the IWC and Jaeger Le Coultre Mark XI watches also issued by the British military.

(More information here)

The caseback has the familiar military markings; the Broad Arrow symbol, the designation number, the date of issue (1967), and the serial number. The 6B at the start of the designation number denotes that this watch was issued to a member of the Royal Air Force. The watch has fixed springbars to provide better security when in use, and notice too that the caseback has a shallow ‘waffle’ pattern worn into it. This is caused by extended use of a NATO strap – a one piece strap originally fitted to the majority of military wristwatches.

The caseback on this watch was extremely tight and obviously hadn’t been opened for a long time, but once opened, underneath the protective dust cover was a Hamilton S75 S in good condition.

The 6B was fitted with one of two calibres, the earlier watches were fitted with the cal. 75, the latter the cal. S75 S – a new version upgraded to include a hacking function. The base for these calibres was supplied by ETA, the cal. 2390, but was extensively reworked by Hamilton to become the cal. 75.

The watch arrived in running condition, but hadn’t been serviced for many years. Only the screw for the ratchet wheel showed signs of corrosion, and on closer inspection was an incorrect size and was replaced.

Cosmetically the watch was in decent condition, though the crystal was cracked and needed to be replace. Judging by the difference in colour between the dial and hand lume, the hand lume had been replaced at some time, though this isn’t uncommon for military watches, as the original lume tends to dry out and crack, eventually falling out of the hands altogether.

With the movement serviced, the case cleaned and a new crystal fitted, everything was back in order.


** Many thanks to Stephen Brown for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **