my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

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  1. #1
    Member suddha's Avatar
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    my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    I am lucky to have inherited two Hamilton pocketwatches from great-grandfathers on both sides. Miraculously, the 1906 992 (left side, below) keeps near-perfect time one hundred years later. To my knowledge it was never serviced but was used regularly on railroad duty (Soo Line) for many years.

    The macro shot is of this watch's movement.
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  2. #2
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    Hi -

    Welcome to the forum! Glad to see you here.

    Absolutely beautiful Hamiltons you have there.

    In some ways it's not miraculous at all that your Hamilton keeps near-perfect time: Hamiltons of that era are the American equivalent of a Patek-Philipe watch today. Simply the best.

    And if it was used regularly on railroad duty, then it was maintained and regulated on a set basis every month to ensure that it was truly of the accuracy needed for railroad use. That is often not known: part of the accuracy of railroad watchs is the fact that the users were regularly controlled and checked to make sure that their watches were properly taken care of, as doing something as silly as forgetting to wind it would literally kill people if the watch stopped and timing was off in the days of single-track connections. As a matter of fact, that is why there are railroad-quality watches: people died because a conductor didn't notice that his watch had lost time, resulting in a major collision.

    But consider doing yourself a favor and do get it looked at: the expense of properly maintaining that watch will be rewarded by you be able to give to your grandchildren at one point and having them post at a future incarnation of WatchUSeek about how it keeps near-perfect time 200 years later...

    Thank you for sharing those pictures as well. I'm a wristwatch guy, but the level of finishing and the sheer horological joy of those Hamiltons makes me want to get one simply to be able to take it out and look at it...

    JohnF
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  3. #3
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    I am definitely a pocket watch guy and you are very fortunate to have inherited such wonderful time machines. The 992 is particularly fine, with a Montgomery dial. That's one that features the minute markings around the circumference. I'd like to see detailed pics of both movements if you can post them.
    If your great grandfather's watch was used in railroad service it was carefully checked every month and probably taken apart and completely cleaned every two years or so. What with grease and coal dust, heat and cold it was the only safe way to maintain accuracy. Many railroad lines did not have block signals prior to 1950, relying on accurate watches and careful dispatching to keep the trains running.
    When things went wrong it could be catastrophic. There was a major train wreck in my town of Almonte in late 1942 where nearly 30 people were killed.
    Let me emphasize my agreement with John F that getting an antique serviced every 5 years or so is THE way to keep it running and preserve it for our great grandchildren. I have an 1893 Elgin and 1901 Waltham from my grandfathers which both run well. My best pocket watch- a Hamilton 992B that my maternal grandfather owned - now belongs to my son-in-law.
    Thanks for posting.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

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  5. #4
    Member suddha's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    Thanks for the kind words, guys. I will take good care of these watches and I'd like to get the second one running again. I believe it is also a 992 from a few years later. Simpler dial and case. Not as pretty. But wouldn't it be cool to have both sides of the family running?

    My great grandfather was a line foreman for the Soo Line railroad. From what I have been told, that watch lived in his overall pocket all the time. Amazing durability for something seemingly so fragile.

    I'll try to get some more macro shots of the movement(s) in coming days.

    I am more of a wristwatch guy as well, and am eager to add a vintage chronometer to my stable in 2007.

    Cheers.

  6. #5
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    If you give us the serial numbers from the movements JohnF and I would be able to identify your watches precisely. Hamilton like most US makers kept meticulous records and these are still in existence.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  7. #6
    Member suddha's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    Attached some additional shots of the movements of these watches.

    The serial numbers are:

    The 992: 795192

    The 924 (nonfunctional): 1426388

    Any information you might have on these timepieces would be appreciated!

    Cheers.
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  8. #7
    Member Ray MacDonald's Avatar
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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    OK according to my sources:
    the 16S Grade 992 was one of a lot of 1400 21 jewel pieces made in 1910.
    the 18S Grade 924 was one of a lot of 1000 17 jewel pieces made in 1917.

    Model 992 is definitely a railroad grade watch. I would not classify model 924 as railroad grade although it's a very fine watch in its own right. Although model 992 is older it's a more "modern" design and size than model 924. The owner of model 924 was certainly a traditionalist as he bought a classic large size Hamilton years after the smaller sizes were introduced to the market.
    Looking at the 924 it seems to be in pretty good shape and likely can be restored easily enough by a competent watchmaker. Common problems aside from needing a good cleaning would be a broken mainspring or balance staff. Probably worth the investment because:
    (1) It's a family heirloom.
    (2) It's a Hamilton and they don't get much better than that when it comes to pocket watches.
    (3) Wouldn't you just love to see it run again.

    There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. ~ Victor Hugo

  9. #8

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    Re: my Hamilton railroad pocketwatches

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray MacDonald View Post
    OK according to my sources:
    the 16S Grade 992 was one of a lot of 1400 21 jewel pieces made in 1910.
    the 18S Grade 924 was one of a lot of 1000 17 jewel pieces made in 1917.

    Model 992 is definitely a railroad grade watch. I would not classify model 924 as railroad grade although it's a very fine watch in its own right. Although model 992 is older it's a more "modern" design and size than model 924. The owner of model 924 was certainly a traditionalist as he bought a classic large size Hamilton years after the smaller sizes were introduced to the market.
    Looking at the 924 it seems to be in pretty good shape and likely can be restored easily enough by a competent watchmaker. Common problems aside from needing a good cleaning would be a broken mainspring or balance staff. Probably worth the investment because:
    (1) It's a family heirloom.
    (2) It's a Hamilton and they don't get much better than that when it comes to pocket watches.
    (3) Wouldn't you just love to see it run again.
    May I butt in with agreement? A couple of years ago I had a very old gold verge fusee doctor's pocket watch restored to working condition (it had been in bits, incomplete, for about two generations). It will never keep time like a Hamilton (older at about 1812 I'm told) but to actually have it ticking when wound, and in a fit state to pass on, is worth it, without question. I can't explain how exciting it was to see this watch run, when I'd seen it in a box all my life.

    Good luck.

    JohnW

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