A new lease on life

I really love the old American pocket watch movements.  Hamiltons are my favorite, but Waltham and Elgin movements are beautiful too.  I’ve been looking for a size 6 Waltham movement for a while now, but until a few weeks ago I didn’t see one in the condition I wanted.  Patience is the name of this game, so I waited and found a size 6 Waltham in great condition and at a fair price.  The serial number dates this movement to 1901 – that’s right – this movement is 115 years old.

Dave serviced this movement for me, and he found a cracked jewel, which he replaced.  The mainspring had been replaced at some point in the past, so it was fine.  After cleaning and adjusting, it is in the condition you see in the photo.  Many thanks to Dave for your careful work and attention to detail.

Movements from pocket watches made in the late 18th and early 19th century are negative set movements, meaning that the stem is retained in the case, not in the movement.  So the normal type of case will not work to convert this to a wristwatch – you’ll need some way to retain the stem or it will simply fall out.  There are two options.  Drill and tap the case to hold the stem, or use a case that has a crown guard that will retain the stem.  The latter is the way I’m going with this movement.

I don’t yet have a case, but I’m going to use the original dial and hands on this build.  They’re elegant and look exactly like they should for a watch more than a century old.

How many things we make will be working a century later?

The craftsmanship and the decoration are stunning.  Some of the decoration can only be seen when the movement is disassembled, which means it’s likely that only another watchmaker will ever see it.  It’s called pride of craftsmanship and sadly it’s all too rare these days.

Stay tuned for more photos as this project progresses.  It will definitely be worth the wait.

Hamilton 600 Super Compressor

The Hamilton 600 Super Compressor dual-crown dive watch with date is a 1960’s vintage dive watch with a new (for it’s time) method to waterproof a watch.

The seals and the caseback are spring loaded so that increased pressure, as the watch would encounter while diving, makes the seal tighter to prevent water incursion.  There are limits to the design, and the 600 in the model name indicates the maximum depth Hamilton was willing to advertise.

It’s not recommended that you dive with a watch of this vintage, there are newer watches with a deeper rating – but in my mind newer isn’t necessarily better.  This watch has patina on the dial and hands, the case is in excellent condition.  After a service on the movement and an unsuccessful search for another date wheel, the watch is as you see it here.

The dual crowns are pretty much a giveaway to the compressor design; the second crown is used to rotate an inner bezel for a second time zone or to time dives.  A crosshatch pattern on the crowns will seal the deal as a true super compressor design.

There aren’t many of these around, and this one is a keeper.

A new pilot watch is born…

…from an antique movement and a modern case.  The movement is a Hamilton 4992B Navigator’s watch 16s movement.  The serial number dates the production year to 1950, so it’s now 66 years old and is running perfectly.  I purchased a pilot watch case that will fit this movement and began the work of turning this pocket watch movement into a wristwatch.  I decided to use the original dial and hands for this build, mainly to show respect for the watch’s beginnings.

The strap is a closed loop design, which allows the watch to fit your wrist or to be worn on the outside of a flight jacket without changing the strap.  Since the strap is a loop, once you put your hand through the loop you can’t drop the watch while fastening the buckle – dropping mechanical watches will cause them to be exactly right twice a day – except for this watch, which will be exactly right once a day.  Not nearly as useful as you might think.

This is a 24-hour watch – meaning that the hour hand makes one revolution every 24 hours rather then the far more common once every 12 hours.  It does take some getting used to, because at first glance it may look like 6pm, but it’s actually noon.  When it looks like 9am, it’s actually 6pm, and when it looks like 3pm it’s actually 6am.  Once you’ve worn it for a while your mind makes the adjustment but it does take a little while.

This movement is a hacking movement, meaning that when you pull out the crown to set the time, the second hand stops.  This allows you to synchronize the watch to a known standard time source.

This movement is probably the finest movement ever made in America, and I know I will get comments that disagree with me.  The Hamilton 992B movement (the same kind as in my Grandfather’s railroad pocket watch) and this movement (4992B) are very closely related.  The differences are the 12 vs 24 hour display, the hacking addition on the 4992B, and the center second hand on the 4992B.  The 992B has a sub second hand.  Both of these movements are literally the finest examples of American watchmaking.

On to the photos.  In one of the photos on my wrist, the watch is showing 11:30 pm.  In the other wrist photo, the watch is showing about 6:20 pm.

Watches – an old interest of mine

I’ve always been fascinated by watches.  Not the electronic ones, but the mechanical ones.  The little mechanisms inside them are a wonder and the skill and craftsmanship it takes to build one is a rare talent.

I am fortunate to have my grandfather’s railroad pocket watch.  He was an engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and used this watch every day.  The requirements for accuracy are obvious, and this watch has dual hour hands so that it does not need to be reset when traveling between time zones.  In fact, this watch is lever set, meaning that the crystal must be removed and a small lever pulled out to allow the watch to be set – this prevents accidental changes to the setting while winding the watch.  Railroad engineers can’t afford for their watches to be wrong – disaster could be the result and sadly this has happened more than once.

I’ve begun the restoration process on this watch, and all that remains at this point is to have the movement itself cleaned, oiled, and adjusted.  A family heirloom if there ever was one.

Dave will service this movement for me, and I will personally deliver the watch into his hands.  I can’t bring myself to ship it, because no amount of insurance would ever replace this watch if it were lost – there isn’t another one like it in the world.  This one was my Grandfather’s watch.

I met Dave and picked up the watch, and it is keeping perfect time – serviced and ready for the next century.

Here are some photos for you.