Hamilton Grade 977, 16 j, 16s, s/n 53204, ca 1897

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by grtnev, Jul 31, 2020.

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  1. grtnev

    grtnev Registered User
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    #1 grtnev, Jul 31, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
    Recently acquired the watch pictured below.

    The following is what I have been able to determine about Grade 977:
    • The early Hamilton 16 size watches (essentially all made before 1900) had “large” pillar plates requiring a special case
    • These early Hamilton 16 sizes were designed by Henry J. Cain fit the same 17 size cases used by the Waltham 1888 which also had the “large” pillar plates
    • A total of 11,354 16s Hamilton’s of various grades, manufactured prior to 1900, had 17s “large” pillar plates
    • Of the total number of 11,354 16s Hamiltons with “large” pillar plates, 2,129 were grade 977
    • Total production of grade 977 was either 5,730 or 4,460 depending on reference source (see attachments)
      • Grade 977 production with 17s “large” pillar plate (pre 1900): 2,129
      • Grade 977 production with standard 16s pillar plates (1900): 3,601
    • Grade 977 required a 4 footed dial (Hamilton switched to the 3 footed dial around serial # 870,000)
    • The movement is the early detent design which requires a special case into which the detent stem will fit – replacements can be very hard to secure
    • The change from the “large” pillar plate took place for grade 977 (and 976) early in the year 1900
    • Hamilton lists s/n 63101 as the change point for the 977 and s/n SN 62391 for the 976
    • For some period of time the “large” pillar plate watches could be returned to Hamilton and they would turn the movements down to standard 16s at no cost to the owner. This made it easier for the owner to find a replacement case if necessary
    • As a result there exists pre-1900 Hamiltons that now have a smaller (16s) pillar plates and standard cases
    (Much of the above information is from: "Hamilton Watch Company Myths and Legends"; Dr. Howard Lasser, NAWCC Bulletin, Oct 2008, pp 537-439)

    The case looks totally original, especially since it was a special case to accommodate a large (17s) pillar plate design. It is a Crescent Watch Co. 20 yr 14K gold filled case showing very little wear with a patent date stamped on the rim of Dec 7 1888. The case opening latch works better than any other hunter cased watch that I have.

    Not an adjusted or railroad grade watch, but that notwithstanding, I think is a very nice example of an early Hamilton hunter that is in very good condition. I will have it serviced in the near future. When I received the watch, it lost about 30 sec/day. I turned in the micrometric screw 1 full turn toward "F" and now it is keeping time within 1-2 sec/day (albeit that the the regulator arm is not centered, but over toward "F"). The dial needs to be cleaned, a case screw is missing, and the minute hand needs to be straightened slightly. Nothing significant there - easy to address during servicing.

    Any additional information on Grade 977 would be appreciated.

    I am especially curious as to the discrepancies in what the Chapter 149 Hamilton database (and other resources) show as total production of Grade 977 at 5,730 and what the NAWCC serial number database shows as total production at 4,460. Refer to the last picture.

    Thanks,

    Richard

    Dial.JPG Movement 1.JPG Movement 2.JPG Case Patent Date.jpg Case Back 2.JPG Case Back Inside.JPG Case Back.JPG Case Edge.JPG Case Front 2.JPG Case Front Inside.JPG Case Front.JPG Cuvette Inside.JPG Ch 149 vs NAWCC Hamilton Database Totals for G977.jpg
     
  2. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
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    not much to add but that is a formidable example... surviving its ~123 years pretty darn well.... just those slight worn-thru spots on the hi-points of the case and surprising minimal wear on the crown.

    noted the larger locking screw for the detent... this changed later to a smaller screw...
    I'd think only one turn of the micro-screw would not have moved the regulator over 'that much', so it must have been biased in that directions prior to movement.
    yep, should straighten out with proper cleaning/adjustment...

    no real comment on the number discrepancy, Townsend in his 'hand written' book shows 5728 as the total...
    for a larger variation, see Ehrhardt's hamilton book tabulation there is 3600
    The Halligan writings shows gives some insight on this... the 3600 is documented production from 1900 to about 1906, then there is an estimated 2100 or so that pre-date 1900
    the Ledger total will be the 5728 to 5730 movements...
     
  3. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Great case and dial!
     
  4. Mike M.

    Mike M. Registered User
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    I absolutely love survivors like yours; beautiful watch!
     
  5. Robert Sweet

    Robert Sweet Registered User

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    The 976/977 were only made in pendant-set.

    What the late Lowell Halligan said abt. the 977...…..

    Robert

    Hamilton - Grade 977 - Halligan Writings.jpg
     
  6. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Richard,

    When you take it down, note the pallets (especially the jewels) and the balance screws. The pallet wil be poised and the jewels will be radiused; same as in the RRG hamiltons. Blance spring is Breguetwith floating stud. The balance is loaded all with mass screws, no timing screws. All the same as the RRG 960 series.

    While this was the "cheapest" watch made by Hamilton, CPR only had one set of tooling and level of finish. The omission of a ctr wheel jewel did not save much in the cost of manufacture and IMO this was a watch designed to test "perceived value" in the market. And the decided it was not worth the risk to where they wanted to position the company.

    It truly is a 974 minus one jewel. The 972 is a 974 with gold and adjusted to positions. This is a watch that exemplifies their strategy. Compare to Waltham, Elgin Hampden and Illinois. Rood, Cain and Perry appear to have concluded that multiple product lines are a drag on the overall operation. This is why I also suspect (but cannot yet "prove" one way or the other) (yet) that this is why they abandoned the bridge models in favor of the 968 and 970.

    BTW, I JUST noticed the case date. Fantastic!
     

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