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Question to RR Collectors

Jon Hanson

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The Hamilton!

Jon Hanson, NAWCC #8801
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Kent

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Martin:

The last model and grade of Waltham's famous Vanguard was the 1623 (numbered that way because it was 16-size and 23-jewel) grade Vanguard. This was produced from the late 1930's into the 1950's. Domestically, these were cased in factory model, Waltham-signed, Keystone J. Boss grade cases and were furnished with a single-sunk dial signed "Waltham Vanguard 23-Jewels." Some movements seem to have been furnished to some dealers for alternate casing.

From information in the data base that Ed Ueberall and I maintain, it seems that between 1937 and 1943 the dials and the cases of many of the 1623's were also marked with the word "Premier." It's not clear to us if all dials and cases made during this period were marked this way (the ones on watches from that period that are not so marked might have been switched). I've not seen any Waltham (or other) literature describing or advertising the Premier Vanguard or that indicates if there was any distinction between those 1623's having the "Premier" marking and those that don't. Given a choice between one with a case and dial marked "Premier" and one not so marked, all else being equal, I would choose the "Premier" marked watch.

The number of jewels notwithstanding, the 1623 Vanguard was the technical equal to the Elgin 571 B.W. Raymond, and the Hamilton 992B. These three were direct competitors, see their ads in the below link. The Record-Ball 435B Official RR Standard, a contemporary watch of the others, was a more advanced watch, equal in timekeeping ability but superior due to its Incabloc and Kif anti-shock jewel mountings. Collectors tend to look down upon it partially due to it being Swiss-made.

All of these watches were factory cased for domestic sale (Some movements seem to have been furnished to some dealers for alternate casing). The very approximate production quanitites are:
992B - 520,000
-571 - 180,000
1623 - 200,000 (very rough guess)
435B - - 3,600

Collectors feel that the Hamilton name gives the 992B a greater prestige, so despite the fact that it is the most common of the four, by far, examples of the 992B typically sell for a higher price than the others, in similar condition.

Kent

That guy down in Georgia :)

[This message was edited by Kent on November 25, 2003 at 12:14.]
 

Kent

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Regarding Non-Factory Cases:

The link below contains two examples of Waltham's grade 1623 Vanguard being furnished in non-factory cases. The first is a page from a 1938-1939 Montgomery-Ward catalog showing the 1623 being originally supplied in a chrome case. The second is a 1953 Eaton catalog extract showing the 1623 furnished brand new in a Canadian-made Empress or Fortune case.

Kent

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John Cote

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If you want the best engineered watch to wear, to keep and to get fixed at a later date, buy the Hamilton. Buy a 992B or a 992. They are vastly superior watches. The later Walthams are not great watches. Listen to Jon Hanson. He is a Waltham nut. If he could reccomend the Waltham he would.

JohnCote
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Dr. Jon

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The Hamilton, not only the best RR but many modern Swiss experts regard the 992B as the best designed poacket watch.

Condition matters and a crisp, well maintained Vanguard is a better choice than a basket case Hamilton.

In both options there are enough around that you can pretty much take your choice.

Dr. Jon
 

Kent

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The grade 571 B.W. Raymond does have a design defect in the retainer plate for the stem. By improper tightening of the holding screw during re-assembly, the treads tend to strip out on the retainer plate, loosening the plate and allowing the crown and stem to fall out. Replacement parts have long since been used up. That's why you see some pendant-set versions of the 571 occasionally. There were repaired using the parts for a pendant-set watch in the 570 series.

Kent

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Spike

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Jlweber says the 992B is not only the best RR, but is regarded by many modern Swiss experts as the best designed mechanical pocket watch. Period. Respondents have not disagreed.

Whizzer asks, since railroad watches all met the same standards, what makes the 992B the best designed pocket watch?

Great question! Kent points out a design flaw in the 571. Okay. But I imagine that support for the contention that the 992B is the best RR (let alone the best designed PW) would include discussion of its technical superiorities as well as the relative technical inferiorities of its competition.

Like Whizzer I’m eager to find out the answer!
 

Kent

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Whizzer:

I carry a 992B as my daily watch. If I only had one 571, I might be a little more careful with it, but when the 992B is out to be cleared, a 571 is a nice substitute. I must have about three or four of them (there are three distinct variations) in the collection. I don't worry about the problem because there's only one person who works on my watches and he knows to be careful when reassembling it.

The 571 B.W. Raymond was in production for over ten years. The design flaw isn't that big of a deal. It's only noticable because the proper replacement part is no longer available.

Annie:

Don't hold your breath waiting for any startling revelations as to why the 992B is supposed to be so much better than its competition.

Kent

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John Cote

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Annie,

I am not a watchmaker, but I have taken all of the above mentioned watches apart and put them back toghether again. The Hamilton 992B far and away fits together better than any of the other watches. It is not only machined better, but it was designed in such a way as to make it easy to work on. All of the high end Hamiltons seem to be like this. I am a real Illinois freak, as you know, but there is nothing like a Hamilton for raw precision of workmanship (at least in production railroad watches).

JohnCote
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Member Chapter 149 (Member #105)
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Don Dahlberg

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The Hamilton 992B was a great watch. Hamilton took one basic design and improved on it over the decades. They did more research on design, and materials than any other company of thier time. The 992B was the result of this work. The most special design feature of the 992B was the invar balance and the Elinvar Extra hairspring. Other later railroad watches had adopted elinvar hairsprings (which change their strength and timing little with temperature), but elivar had problems such as rusting and sagging under gravity. Hamilton was most successful at modifying elinvar to yield a hairspring with the advantages of steel and the advantages of elinvar. Even so, if you purchase a Hamilton 992B, it probably will not pass railroad standards unless it has been properly overhauled.

As far as keeping railroad time of 30 seconds/week, the person who adjusts the watch is more important than the watch itself. I am wearing a Hamilton 924, which has only 17 jewels and dates from 1905. It keeps time withing a couple seconds a week. I also spent about 10 hours adjusting it after an above averaqe overhaul. What I mean by this is that after a proper cleaning I polished all the pivots, made sure the mainspring barrel arbor fits the barrel properly, carefully poised the balance and the most time consuming part trued (and trued and trued again)the hairspring until there were less than 5 seconds of error between any two positions. It is probably a better time keeper now than it was when it left Hamilton. It is a good thing I don't charge myself for all this work though.

Buy whatever watch moves you and will leave you with enough money to get it into proper running order. Then find a good watchmaker who will properly clean it and adjust it. Expect to pay them for their time and skill.

Don Dahlberg
 
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Spike

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Don says the most special design feature of the 992B was the Invar balance and the Elinvar Extra hairspring (introduced in 1940).

But Hamilton wasn't the only maker with an alloy balance and hairspring. Elgin introduced its Elginium hairspring and Beryl-X balance ("rustproof, non-magnetic and unaffected by temperature or climatic changes") in 1941. Waltham's Conel hairsprings and monometallic balances first appeared in Waltham's 1940 Materials Book. (old ref::reference)

In fact there are those who contend that materials like Nivarox and Conel were more robust than Elinvar. (reference)

It appears that what Don describes as the most special design feature of the 992B wasn't, in context, that special.

I'm not looking to see a winner declared among the 992B, the 571 and the 1623; just trying to get a handle on (and a frame of reference for) the particulars of greatness that folks have in mind when they speak of a great watch.

Don points out that with enough effort a good movement can be made to keep remarkable time - within a couple of seconds a week in the case of his 924; within four seconds a week in the case of Sam Williamson's 571. (old ref::reference)

Maybe the greatest mechanical movement would be the one that could consistently be made to perform like that with the least amount of expert effort?

Have surviving RR Watch Inspectors' records been analyzed to see which models kept the best time, which models failed least often, under the specific circumstances in which they were designed to serve?

[This message was edited by Annie on November 27, 2003 at 1:45.]
 
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Don Dahlberg

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Actually what I said was that Elinvar Extra (Hamilton's own variation of Elinvar) was superior to those made by other companies. This is according to such people as George Daniels who uses these hairsprings in his watches and several other respected watchmakers who have commented on the subject.

It is true that a higher jeweled watch will stay in good shape longer because of less wear. They are also harder to work on. Watch makers always charged more to work on 21 jeweled watches than 17 jeweled watches. Web C. Ball wrote an excellent tirade on why 17 and 19 jewels were better than 21 or 23. His point was that the higher grade watches had more to go wrong and were more difficult to fix. Thirty seconds a week is not hat hard to obtain in a watch. The "My watch has more jewels than yours" craze was not to be stopped, and he eventually gave in and produced higher jeweled watches.

My main point is that many people pay a premium on a 50 year old high grade watch and are disappointed when it does not keep good time. If you have the funds to spend on a high grade watch and the funds to have it put in original shape, then by all means go for it. If you are of limited funds, and only want to invest or display your watch, then again go for a high grade watch. They will increase in value more and are usually better looking. If you are of limited funds and want to actually wear it, then I would suggest it best to save money on the watch and put more into a proper overhaul and adjustment. Just my opinion, of course.

Don
 
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stevesaun

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My main point is that many people pay a premium on a 50 year old high grade watch and are disappointed when it does not keep good time. If you have the funds to spend on a high grade watch and the funds to have it put in original shape, then by all means go for it. If you are of limited funds, and only want to invest or display your watch, then again go for a high grade watch. They will increase in value more and are usually better looking. If you are of limited funds and want to actually wear it, then I would suggest it best to save money on the watch and put more into a proper overhaul and adjustment. Just my opinion, of course.

Don
Don:

What constitutes a fair price for the above-mentioned overhaul and what should be done in overhauling a watch? I own a Hamilton 992 and was recently quoted $425.00 to "overhaul" it. The watch runs, but doesn't keep time to within R.R. specs.

stevesaun
 
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stevesaun

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Kent:

Thank you for your reply. Does "The Escapement" provide references for their work? I'm a little gun-shy about mailing one of my timepieces to a place I've never heard of.