Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch
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Thread: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

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  1. #1
    Member pmwas's Avatar
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    Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    Grade 950-L (L stands for lever).

    Once upon the time the 950 was one of Hamilton's top grades and one of the best watches made in America.
    Designed and executed to meet highest RR grade standards, these 23 jewel motor barrel watches were 'cutting edge' wonderful chronometers, very desirable back then, and very desirable now.

    It's not a rare grade. In fact market demand for RR quality watches was pretty high, high enough for quite a number of such masterpieces being made.
    However, RR grade watches have to cost $$$$ today and it's not exactly cheap to get one for oneself.
    Unless...

    Well, unless you find a totally busted piece for $100 on olx.
    It was a badly damaged 950, but with great looks, somehow.
    I'm unsure if I'd shown it here, it was two years ago:

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    The bad news... the rusty regulator spring broke as I tried to adjust timing (no, I did not push it that far, I just made it that far after it broke ;) ).
    All the rest is pretty much good news. I managed to replace the staff, replace the hairspring that was broken in few pieces (-30 minutes a day with new one...) and replaced the broken pallet fork. Although my American friends told me it's no use, I successfully used a grade 992 pallet fork and it seems you just have to pick correct arbor version that matches yours.

    I left the watch like tghat for two years and just now - I finally decided to give it a more thorough service. Here goes:

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    Disassembled into pieces. The watch has a motor barrel and the ratchet wheel seems to be attahced tight to the tube (don't know the word) that goes into the barrel and winds the spring. Normally most makers would use a triangle shaped design that can be disassebled, but this appears to be joined tight. Telling by the ammount of old oil someone poured under the wheel (most of which would now be under the screw on cap), I'm not the first one stuck on this design...
    The barrel has a thin arbor with pivots for two jewelled bearings.
    The idea of a motor barrel is that it acts as properly jewelled 1st gear, but since during wind-up you still pull the inner end of the spring, it still needs a safety pinion on 2nd gear. Safety barrel can by of similar desing, but there you turn the entire barrel and the inner end pulls the 1st gear arbor. Some makers used motor, some safety and some both barrel designs in their watches...

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    Among the parts that also would need explanation is the keyless works lock (middle right pic above).
    For some rason it was left in the watch, despite it's completely useless and it does not do anything. In the pendant set veriosn this would lock the keyless works in the winding position when out of case.
    It's here, because this watch comes from a run planned to be pendant set, but finished as lever set.
    Some have the additional parts, some not.

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    Assembling the barrel bridge complete.
    It might seem difficult that you have to (not being even able to see) insert the center tube in the barrel and 'fish' the mainspring end with the tube's tooth, but this one actually prooves easier done than said, so to say.
    In motor barrel desing it'strue the screw down cap might NOT be removed at all, but if you remove it, you'll have more space to manouver the barrel and you won't risk cracking the jewel as well. Not to mention more thorough cleaning.

    Assembling the keyless works:

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    The intersetting gears need to be filed side down.
    And now the train...

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    The underside might not look impressive, but the top side of the gears is superb...
    And so is the steel escape wheel. It's finished wonderfully and surely the 950 is among the best finished watch I've worked on so far, maybe equaled by Waltham's Riverside Maximus and Elgin 'lace doily' grades (which were not RR grades, though - I'm mentioning the finish quality)...
    I was asked if the winding bridge number matches the rest - it does.

    The pallet fork I got a bit stuck on...
    It's a grade 992 pallet fork, as the original one was broken when I got the watch, and it fits nicely, but...
    The 'but' in this case was that once it would moove smoothly and once it would get gummy in place.
    Also, although it seemed to be working well before oiling, with new oils in the movement, when I 'tried' the escapement action, the fork's motion was too slow and it was usually late to lock the escape wheel, bouncing off the impulse surface.
    Since there was no endshake, so I thought maybe the staff was of very exact length.
    But more trouble came when I took off the top side cap. The fork would then click in the bearing and stay.
    Looking at the pivot - there was some wear and corrosion, so maybe it was rust, maybe it was a bit 'mushroomed' - I just polished the pivot, slightly polished the fork itself (though I have no means to nicely mirror-polish parts yet and there are still plenty of micro-scratches seen under certain angles)
    After that, the escapement started working just fine.

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    And the balance...
    Last time when I left the watch - it was about half an hour a day slow.
    Since I worked so hard on the escapement, leaving the watch not timed would be a disappointment.
    The red arrow points a hairspring problem - two touching coils, easy to correct.
    Since I used up most of my gold screws for Adams&Perry project, I did not have many screws to chose from and I found just one pair that looked like good replacement for a pair of original, heavier screws.
    So I replaced a pair of screws with lighter ones, checked the poise which was dreadful (interestingly, the very apparent heavy spot was on one of the original screws), so I added balance screw washers on the light side and got it (very roughly) poised.
    Since I installed lighter screws and it was just 30 minutes a day, I unscrewed the mean-time screws, but had to screw them somewhat back in, during final timing.

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    The remaining assembling process pictured (done before the timing, of course) and...

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    That's not bad timing I'd say
    After 40 minutes it's accurate and as I write, it's also accurate after 2 hours. I also checked for positional deviation, which seems to be within 30 seconds. Good enough for me, I won'r recreate the long gone factory RR adjustment, not skills and no tools for that. And no boxes of gold balance screws as well...

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    Cased, timed, ready to go back on it's shelf.
    It's a beautiful watch and I'm glad I finally made it keep time again.
    I always say a collectable watch can be not accurate, but 30 minutes a day in a good looking RR watch... a disgrace...

    That woukld be it. I'm quite happy with what I finally got :)
    Last edited by pmwas; February 23rd, 2017 at 19:45.
    Have a great day!!!

  2. #2
    Member SilkeN's Avatar
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    Re: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    Two years to find parts and a lot of time and a huge portion craftsmanship knowledge just to rescue a wonderfull watch. I think she is got a part of you . Gread cinema for winessing the story! Always if I read stories like this I know why I admire my watchmaker.

    Thank you pmwas for sharing
    I pull my had
    Silke
    pmwas likes this.
    That's what I think about today:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlUGeY7MWVo

  3. #3
    Member Paul_S's Avatar
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    Re: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    Nicely done!

    Truly, happiness is a vintage motor barrel pocket watch.
    pmwas likes this.
    There is something more to the art of watchmaking and repairing than that of merely assembling a watch and making it 'tick.'
    ---Walter Kleinlein, Rules and Practice for Adjusting Watches (1940)

    Member, National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors

    My blog about precision timing: AdjustingVintageWatches.com


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  5. #4
    Member pmwas's Avatar
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    Re: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    Oh yes, motor barrel is beautiful!!!
    Have a great day!!!

  6. #5
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    Re: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    pmwas...thanks for another fine posting! I agree with your comments on the escape wheel: Hamilton was capable of producing the best components...at the same time, I will say that I've always been surprised at the rather frequent differences in finish between escape wheels and pallet forks: a number of USA makers were very attentive to making the escape wheel 'a work of art'; not so with the pallet! By comparison, I've worked on many Swiss PW's of the middle grade, that sport beautiful, hand-finished pallets...very few USA makers seem to have done this.

    As a brief aside: As I recall, in WWll the USA Government compelled Hamilton to cease production of the 950, so that the 992 could be made in maximum numbers for the military...this made matters difficult for those civilians working on Railroads...indeed, so great was the need for timekeepers, that earlier watches were 'Grandfathered' back into Service...after the War, the Government sold 992's back to civilians, and the 950 gradually returned.

    Good for you, for bringing another 950 back! Michael.

  7. #6
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    Re: Restoration of a grade 950-L Hamilton RR watch

    Very nice pmwas, I recently did a similar resuscitation of a 950E I found in bad shape. Keep up the good work, these really are some quality watches!
    pmwas likes this.

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