Below is the basis of something I am writing for my own amusement. It is a summary of what I think I know about Hamilton and is based on the systematic observations of some 50 watches covering all grades produced from 1896 to 1912. The observations across the watches are strikingly similar suggesting they represent a picture of Hamilton products of the period. I have not included any photos and I have made no comparison study of other makers. I am only focused/concerned with Hamilton. Hamilton haters can write their own "article" . At any rate, I hope this helps remove some of the confusion across Hamilton 16s grades and maybe offers useful insights into Hamilton as a company. Read with a glass of wine. ******************************************************************************* Early 16 s Hamilton (1895 to 1911) I have made a study of the physical characteristics of Hamilton 16s watches from 1895 to 1911 (and beyond). This is the period where Hamilton was “finding its way” and established itself as the dominant force in railroad grade watches. From the very beginning, it is clear from detailed examination and restorations that Hamilton adopted the newest technology and even pioneered some precision manufacturing practices. Hamilton experimented with two different 16s movements: the bridge (960 series which was short lived) and the now familiar ¾ plate design. It is unclear why the bridge design was abandoned but it was used later in the 950, 952, and the 994. This may have been done to use up stock. The ubiquitous 992 is an example of the ¾ plate design. From 1896 onward, the ¾ plate movements were based on the lowly 974. Excluding the 4974B, 992B, 950B as true derivatives of their "namesakes", the 974 is the longest lived movement in the Hamilton catalog. If a jewel was subtracted, it became a 976. Using gold balance screws and adding the time required for the adjustment to position (approx 3 months) it became the 972. Make it 21 jewels and a double roller escapement and it became the 970. In 1912, add the time required to adjust the 974 and it became the 978. Put the 974 in a factory case it became the 956. Put the 972 in a factory case and it became the 954. One of the most notable aspects of Hamilton’s manufacturing process and innovation, was the absolute conservation of effort when it came to fitting out these movements. With the exception of the escape wheel (brass in 974 and 976; steel in all others), and things like gold wheels, virtually any part made for the 974 could wind up in any of the models. This includes balance staff, balance wheel, screws, unset jewels, motion work, setting parts, mainspring and winding, pinions and wheels. This means that only one library of tooling was needed. That is an economy that most companies did not enjoy. It also eased the whole distribution and after market service network. Where it was often required to order parts by serial number for other makers, the part could simply be ordered or pulled by part number. There was some variation by model (pivot and hole jewel size) which limits this generalization. But this was by design and not tolerance drift. This was a result of Hamilton’s commitment to ensuring tolerances were controlled to a very high degree. This required monitoring of tooling and quality assurance methods that were ahead of their time. I have used jewels from a 1912 974 to replace cracked jewels in a 1902 972. This includes lower third, fourth and center wheel jewels in various situations. An upper hole jewel can be replaced with another and result in perfect end shake. This is true with other set jewels I have replaced. That means the Hamilton controlled tolerances not only across runs, but across years! All of this means that Hamilton could price its watches based on perceived value, not actual manufacturing effort. The time to produce the parts and assemble the watch were no different among a 972 and a 974. Throughout their life cycles, the had the same escapement. (There were two, the poised single roller and the later simple lever). The only functional difference was that in the early years, the 974 used a brass escape wheel and the 972 received a steel escape wheel with oil retention groove. The 972 also received a heavier balance using gold screws and stiffer balance spring to facilitate timing to position. The 976 was a 974 missing the lower center wheel jewel. The 1918 catalog shows the 978 (adjusted to 3 positions) costing $2 more than the 974 ($17) (unadjusted). The 972 cost $24 (or 20% more than the 978) and the 970 costs $34 (142% the cost of the 972). Both the 972 and 970 required the same amount of time in the adjustment department. The adjustment to both the 972 and 970 is the same. So, the time used to go from unadjusted (974) to 3 adjustments (978) is represented by $2. In my experience, once the first three adjustments are completed, the remaining two are found in short order. To go from the 978 to the 972 (3 to 5 adjustments) resulted in a 26% premium when the added costs of gold balance screws and settings was minor (low carat and fixed gold price). To go from a 972 to 970 resulted in a 42% premium when both watches used the same balance and overall finish. The 970 added a double roller escapement with two extra cap jewels. Catalog prices of parts do not explain these difference either. What this means is that Hamilton could price their watches at very favorable profits. The other thing Hamilton did was to avoid the prestige market. The 950 is their highest grade, but it was adjusted no differently than the other 5 position watches. It does have extra finishing details like the beveled regulator assembly. This meant that Hamilton finishers (timing dept) needed to be trained in finishing only a few levels of adjusting. This greatly simplified the procedures allowing Hamilton to focus on consistently tight timing (6 seconds a day across 5 positions) without the need to create a masterpiece. To Hamilton, a watch was a scientific instrument intended to accurately measure intervals of time. It was a working instrument. Their entire process was focused on that. In the early years, Hamilton not only experimented with bridge and ¾ plate designs (concurrently) they also used designs of components some of which are today seen as modern. Specifically, up until about 1910, all the steel escape wheels had oil retention grooves at the teeth to keep the oil from migrating. This was abandoned with the introduction of the 952/954 but today it is considered a requirement on very high beat (36,000 BPH) wrist watches. Another component design was that all pallet jewels were radiused along the vertical plane (from 976 to 990 and 992). This was abandoned with the new escapement design introduced with the 952/954. I have been unable to find any information on the benefits of radiused pallet jewels. Another feature of the early watches shows commitment to timing excellence and parsimonious use of tooling and parts inventory. Up until the escapement redesign, all watches used a poised lever assembly for the pallet fork. This was composed of a counterweight (mustache) to counterbalance the weight of the fork and its jewels. This was abandoned upon the realization that inertia is far more important in the action of the escapement. The increased mass of the mustache resulted in increased inertia of the pallet assembly and required more power and more time to respond. The assembly of this shows Hamilton’s simplification of the manufacturing process. The poised pallet assembly was composed of 6 parts. The 2 pallet jewels, the pallet frame, the counter poise w/ impulse slot, the dart and the staff. The jewels could pink or white sapphire (white to 972 and above), a single design of pallet frame, a single design of counter weight and two designs of safety dart (single roller and double roller). Either dart could be fitted to the impulse slot end of the counter weight. There were two designs of pallet staff Single roller/17 jewel and Double roller/21 Jewel. The six component parts could be combined very quickly to make a double roller or single roller escapement poised pallet assembly. In 1911 Hamilton redesigned the escapement to the familiar escapement today with the simple pallet assembly. These observations reveal Hamilton’s well thought out and deliberate approach to manufacturing, inventory management and distribution. Parts ordering was simplified. In a pinch, a watchmaker could substitute parts form another grade to enable the watch to function until the proper part arrived. Hamilton’s tooling, assembly and finishing departments essentially had only 16 size watch to be concerned with. It is interesting to note, that other than a brief interlude with the 976, Hamilton eschewed the low end of the market. It seems they wanted to project the image of consistent accuracy. No 7/11 jeweled 16 size movements. Hamilton could focus on consistent product quality while pricing watches at favorable profits. It is my opinion that these are significant factors that explain why Hamilton, in 15 very short years, became the juggernaut of precision watches.