My New Hamilton

Discussion in 'American Pocket Watches' started by Magikthise, Oct 19, 2009.

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  1. Magikthise

    Magikthise Registered User

    Oct 17, 2009
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    #1 Magikthise, Oct 19, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2009
    Hello All.

    Well, I'm officially the new owner of a Hamilton Model 940 (serial #417841) and would like to ask a few questions about my watch. I'm not a member of the NAWCC, just an average joe who's always wanted a Hamilton and would like to know more about his watch. I've attached a few photos to help answer my questions.

    I purchased it on eBay and was very surprised when I won the auction because the price (including shipping to Canada) was under $200.00 US.

    Although the seller stated they didn't know when it was last serviced the watch keeps very good time and overall is in pretty darn good condition (in my opinion, anyway).

    Here are the problems (which I, not a pocket watch expert by any stretch of the imagination, might consider relatively minor):

    A chip at the '50' mark on the second hand dial rim,
    A very small hairline between the 31 & 32-minute marks
    Some glazing on the dial that is quite hard to see without magnification,
    A few minor scratches on the plastic :(dial,
    A trio of very small nicks on the back of the case forming a slightly larger single dent,
    And the hour hand is out of alignment - it shows the previous half-hour when the minute hand is on the 12.

    On the plus side,
    The watch seems to keep very good time, losing perhaps 2 seconds in 24 hours,
    The hands have a nice overall bluing with no corrosion (under magnification),
    The movement has very nice damaskeening and looks to be quite clean,
    The case shows minimal (if any wear) and the loop above the winding knob is tight.

    So, here are my questions:

    Why do some 940's have this number engraved on the movement and some do not?

    Does the serial # confirm a manufacture date of 1904?
    (Actually, disregard this question - I used the online database to check. An excellent resource, as is this entire site, btw).

    How do I determine if the dial is porcelain or melamine?

    Should I attempt to fix the misalignment of the hands myself or have a jeweller do it?

    I gather I should replace the plastic 'crystal' with glass, correct?

    If the watch is running fine, should I have it serviced anyway?

    Can someone offer a guess as to how much it would cost to have the 'repairs' and servicing done? A ballpark figure would be alright, I'd just like some idea.



    Thanks very much for your help!
     

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  2. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    Well done! And Welcome! The 940 was a very popular railroad watch. Have one myself.

    A 940 without the serial number? I've never seen one that wasn't marked, but I suppose it could happen.

    Your dial is double-sunk, vitreous enamel, and looks original, and the minor blemishes are hardly visible.

    Don't be in a rush to try adjusting the hand yourself. They're tough, but they can be broken.

    If you are going to have someone look into replaceing the plastic crystal with a glass one, have them do the hand as well.

    As to servicing it, don't be in a rush. Many repair shops nowadays don't know how to handle 100 year old watches. Pick and choose, and deal with a specialist. Ask around for recommendations. If you are only going to run it now and then, you can probably get by without servicing it.

    I wouldn't care to hazard a guess as to the cost of servicing. That pretty much would depend on what all a specialist decided was going to be necessary. It is well worth a thorough job when it is done, and you might expect to have to pay up to about what you paid for the watch (Cdn. $)
     
  3. John Pavlik

    John Pavlik Registered User
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    I agree with Doug a very nice watch for the first one.. The question about the 940 marking.. The railroad standards requiring the grade marking on movements started later than the start of Hamiltons 940 production.. hence, the earlier made movements do not have the marking 940..
     
  4. MFRC1956

    MFRC1956 Registered User

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    Nice watch. Let someone take care of the service (cleaning and oiling) and the glass, dial and hand issues as well if you intend to wear it on everyday basis, it will be benefit from it and last longer as well. Leave the case as it is. Nice to have a watch with a visible history. And ask around for a good watch maker recommendation, they are not easy to find as Doug already mentioned. Regarding the $ for a service it is resonable to think that it could be as much as the price you payed for it but on the other hand you will have a watch ready for another 100 years. There is obviously nothing wrong with the watch and the service should therefore not involve parts. According to Lasser there are Hamiltons out there without grade markings, I am not quite sure about the reason why but your watch is definately a 940 though it is not the fully marked version. The year seems to be 1905 according to the factory notes. Good luck.
     
  5. terry hall

    terry hall Registered User
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    John hit it with the lack of '940' marking... other movement markings also changed over the years. in the early years, very few movements (both 16&18s were grade marked)

    The choice is really yours on 'glass or plastic'... though most purists will prefer glass

    Doug indicated vitreous enamel... which is a more specific term... you can say porcelain and all will understand what you are speaking of... besides, AFAIK... there were no 18s melamine dials.

    there are some specialists out there that can improve the appearance of the dent in the case back, but don't sweat it too much... it is easier to do more harm than good on these situations.

    By the way...

    Welcome to the NAWCC message board!
     
  6. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    #6 Kent, Oct 19, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2009
    Hi Magikthise:

    Welcome to the NAWCC American Pocket Watch Message Board!

    According to their Finishing Department records Hamilton Watch Co. movement serial number 417841 went to the finishing department in late April 1905. You can see a description of your grade No. 940 on page 82 of the 1903 Oy Company Catalog, page 82. The movement pictured by the description is the grade No. 941 which has a mirror image. This is the same as the grade No. 940, but made to be mounted in a hunting-case.

    Prior to the 1906-1908 era, when railroad time service rules required that the grade name or number of a movement be stamped on the plate, it was common for the watch companies to not put identifying grade markings on movements. These were, and still are, referred to "nameless" grades. The reason was to support the dealer networks. A customer could never be sure that the watch offered at a lower price by a dicount house, or mail-order discounter, was the same quality watch for which the jeweler (or railroad watch inspector) was charging more.

    Your watch case was made by the Star Watch Case Co. It is from a later era by about 20 years and, judging by the second set of case screw marks in the rim, it held a different movement are some earlier time.

    Whether you sould have the watch serviced is up to you. You've received a rough estimate for watch service cost from a very experienced person. Although he didn't say so, Doug's profession is watch and clock repair.

    Good luck with your "new Hamilton,
     
  7. HenryB

    HenryB Registered User

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    940 was a great movement. One of my favorite watches for sure.

    One trend we have noticed over the years on Hamiltons, is normally the watches before serial number 500,000 (approximate), the original factory dials were marked
    "Hamilton Watch Co", with the "Hamilton" marking reserved for serial numbers after 500,000 (approximate).

    The Hamilton specialists on this website can verify whether there is any documentation on this trend, or it is an observation.
     
  8. Jimbo76

    Jimbo76 Registered User

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    Hello, I have movement number 260,744. Mine also does not have a model number and the dial says Hamilton Watch Company. I like mine alot. Mine says "adjusted" and "21 jewels". Were these considered railroad watches ? I know the 5 position were. I am curious if there was much of a difference.
     
  9. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    Yours would have been railroad approved, even though the number of position adjustments is not marked on it. Time service rules changed at one point, after which the number of position adjustments HAD to be marked on the movement. Time service rules changed over the decades. I have a Hamilton 940 "private label" which means the name on the dial does not specify the watch was made by Hamilton. Changes to these rules later outlawed private label watches (except for Ball, but that's a whole other story). I am certain that yours would have been adjusted to five positions at the factory, just like the later, marked ones.
     
  10. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    Just to back up what Doug posted, the Hamilton grade No. 940 (and its sister, the hunting-case version grade No. 941) was claimed by an Atlanta jeweler to have been accepted on the Southern Railway in 1902 (just a about year before serial number 260744 was built).

    Although I'm fairly sure that the position adjustment of the grade No. 940 (and countless other railroad standard watches) hadn't changed when the number of positions started to be marked on the movement, until we can see contemporary documentation indicating otherwise, all that can be said about all of those watches marked as being adjusted before later movements of the same grade were marked to be adjusted to five positions, is what was listed in catalog descriptions. In this case, that would be (as shown on page 82 of the 1903 Oy Company Catalog), "... adjusted to temperature and positions, ..." As indicated above, and in section 4A of a set of 1906 Pennsylvania Rail Road rules, that was all the adjustment that was needed.
     
  11. Jimbo76

    Jimbo76 Registered User

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    Magicthise, BTW my watch is in a similar case as yours. Currently it is keeping railroad time too. So you have a great watch there. I would get it in shape and use it. I did not mean to hijack the thread,sorry. It is nice to know that the 940's that are not marked are considered RR watches. I did not know that. I don't think the person I got mine from knew that or he would have charged me more !
     
  12. Don Dahlberg

    Don Dahlberg Registered User
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    I thought you might enjoy reading this.

    Hal0166.jpg

    Don
     
  13. HenryB

    HenryB Registered User

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    That is certainly a GREAT Document on the Hamilton 940, Don.
     
  14. Magikthise

    Magikthise Registered User

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    Hi Everyone.

    Thanks for the great replies and all the information. Although at first I thought of purchasing a 940 with all the 'options' (motor barrel, adjusted for temperature', etc.) but thanks to your answers I realize they weren't options, only factory changes or upgrades. So I think I'll be quite satisfied with this watch.

    I do plan to wear the watch, but only on very special occasions (I drive a truck for a living; wearing it at work is DEFINITELY out!! I'll keep using my cheap little Lucerne pw for work.) so I may just leave it as is for the time being. At some point however, I will have the work done. A jeweller in my hometown - an elderly Japanese fellow who's shop looks like something out of a 1940's Bogart movie - should be able to do the job. Hopefully he doesn't retire in the near future.

    Thanks again, you've all been a great help!! If I have any more questions, I know exactly where to turn.
     
  15. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    I don't understand why you wouldn't wear it every day. Railroad standard watches were designed to last a lifetime while being worn by people who shoveled coal into a steam engine's firebox, or who climbed around on railroad cars while traveling at 40 or 50 miles per hour (or more). I can't see that a truck driver is going to put it to any harder use.

    Good luck,
     
  16. Magikthise

    Magikthise Registered User

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    #16 Magikthise, Oct 30, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
    Well, I broke down and took it to the jeweller I mentioned in my last post (learned his trade from his father - last of a dying breed, I think) and he was VERY impressed with the watch! With all the quartz watches everyone seems to wear I suppose he doesn't get to see many Hamiltons.

    When I asked about a new crystal he took me upstairs (he and his wife have a small apartment above the store) and showed me his dad's cabinet he brought from Vancouver that held his crystals - solid wood, with hundreds of crystals! And would you believe he says he couldn't find one to fit the watch (or maybe he just got tired of trying to find one...). So he put in a new, slightly thicker acrylic one.

    He didn't disassemble the watch, but cleaned it up a bit, fixed the problem with the hour hand and oiled where he could.

    All the while he was looking it over he kept saying what a beautiful piece of engineering it was. He seemed to think it was worth more than the current market values for this style of 940 as he was quite disappointed after checking his catalogue.

    Total cost for the servicing - $56.50 CAN. A good price, I'm sure.

    I've included a photo of Frank and his shop (see if you can identify some of the equipment ;)). If anyone lives in the Hamilton, Ontario area he's probably the only qualified 'watchmaker' left (the only other one I know of here retired in 2007).

    A response to Kent:
    I appreciate your suggestion about wearing it every day, but I just wouldn't feel totally at ease carrying around a 100+ year old watch - I get nervous just picking it up :).

    Thanks again, all!!
     

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  17. Kent

    Kent Registered User
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    #17 Kent, Oct 30, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2009
    These cabinets came "free" with the purchase of a large assortment of crystals. I'll have to see if this weekend I can dig out and post some of the ads for them from 100 years ago.

    I'm not surprised that he didn't have the correct size "glass" crystal. The most popular sizes of crystals (which your's would be) were sold out first. Without a commercial source of supply (as opposed to buying them on the collector's market), replacements could not be easily obtained.



    With all due respect to your hometown jeweler, this is not what is meant by the term of having a watch "cleaned and oiled."

    A proper cleaning and oiling requires that the watch be disassembled and the dirt removed from the jewels (the bearings). In a 21-jewel watch, there are several pairs of hole jewels (axial bearings) and cap jewels (thrust bearings). The cap jewel is stacked on top of the hole jewel forming a cavity that holds the oil. These cavities need to be opened up, the old oil and grimey residue removed, and the proper amount of new oil (a droplet about 1/3 the diameter of the jewel) added.

    The pivots (the ends of the shafts that reside in the jewels - especially those on the balance staff) may be scored (from grime and perhaps the lack of oil) and need to be polished. Those on the staff may be slightly bent and need to be straightened. If there is a cracked jewel, it will need to be replaced (or it will score the pivot), etc., etc.
    This sort of care and detailed work is what makes a cleaning and oiling expensive.

    Prior to having this sort of work done, the watch ought not be run very much. Doing so will only unnecessarily wear it out.

    Good luck,
     
  18. Magikthise

    Magikthise Registered User

    Oct 17, 2009
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    Thanks for the information, Kent. I thought it would be relatively easy to find a new crystal.

    I didn't ask him to do a complete cleaning and oiling. as funds are a little tight right now. In fact I wasn't going to have anything done until Frank gave me his estimate. I was mainly interested in getting the hands properly set and the crystal replaced, so for that price I figure I did ok.

    I'll certainly heed your advice on running the watch 'til I can afford a thorough servicing.
     
  19. Magikthise

    Magikthise Registered User

    Oct 17, 2009
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    Hello again.

    Well, the jeweller I mentioned above passed away and his shop is gone. Not surprising about the shop; doubtlessly his children had no interest in keeping it open.

    Rest in peace, Frank.
     

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