Hamilton began manufacturing and selling watches in Lancaster Pennsylvania back in 1892 when it bought the Keystone watch company which was facing bankruptcy. The company was named after James Hamilton, the owner of a vast amount of land (including what is now the city of Lancaster) that had been granted to him by William Penn, an English settler, Quaker and real estate developer who founded the province of Pennsylvania. The Milton featured here was manufactured when Hamilton was a watchmaking powerhouse in America producing 100% American made watches, but by 1966 Hamilton had acquired the Swiss watch manufacturer Buren and began utilising Swiss movements in production. Fast forward to today and Hamilton watches are still being manufactured, but now as a brand name of Swatch Group, the huge Swiss watch manufacturing company.
This particular Milton which was manufactured in the late 1940’s came in for a movement service and a bit of a spruce up.
As can be seen from this period advert it was quite an expensive watch with it’s 14k gold filled case and 18k gold numerals and dots on a silver dial. $71.50 is the equivalent of over $700 today!
The term gold filled is also referred to as gold capped especially in Europe and is a lot more durable type of case than gold plated. Gold plated means a gold layer measured in microns that has been electroplated onto the base metal, whilst gold filled or capped is an actual layer of gold that measures about .1 to .3mm thick that has been melted over the base metal and tends to be a lot more durable than gold plate. If you look at the edges of the case you can actually see the thickness of the gold cap.
With the movement removed you can see the dial and handset are in pretty good shape considering they’re getting on for seventy years old.
A look at the dial side of the movement, interesting to note that there’s no shock protection to the balance staff, even though it had been developed in 1934 it still hadn’t been universally adopted ten years later.
A view of the train side, movements in those days were still beautifully decorated and this 19 jewel, manual wind 18,000bph example is no exception with it’s decorative script and Geneva stripes.
The movement was completely stripped ready for cleaning and inspection. Again another sign of quality is the Breguet overcoil hairspring which helps with achieving isochronism.
Another nice touch is the click spring held in place inside the actual click itself. It’s small points like this that I love to see.
With the cleaning done and the components inspected it was time for reassembly, here the centre wheel and mainspring barrel are installed.
The rest of the train is now ready for the top plate.
And here the train side is complete and ticking away nicely.
The dial side was reassembled (note the blued screws on the jewel caps – lovely)….
….and the dial and handset were cleaned and fitted.
The crystal was a bit scratched but in otherwise good condition with no gouges or cracks so it was bought back to life with a good polish. The way to achieve this is to use the finest grade of emery paper that will actually take the scratches out and sand the whole surface. In this case I started with 2,400 grit which dulls the whole surface.
It’s then a case of using finer and finer grades, 3,200 grit next.
Then 4,000 grit….
Then 6,000 and it’s starting to clear.
There’s not much to be gained from going finer with the emery paper on acryllic so it’s time to use some Polywatch and a cloth to blend the fine scratches together.
A while later it’s done, the large scratches are all gone and it’s looking so much better.
After a clean and polish of the case and springbars the watch is done, despite some wear on the edges of the gold cap in places it’s in remarkable condition and a lovely looking piece.