Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

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ChronoMATT
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Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by ChronoMATT » July 10th 2011, 9:04pm

I'm no wristwatch historian, just an admirer of cool timepieces and appreciate mid century design. Company and model backgrounds are from what I have read and learned through the years, mostly from the internet and fellow collectors. If anyone has corrections or additions, please post! All watch photos are from my personal collection.

Right-Click photos for an Expando-view.
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Hamilton designers were space cases.
In the mid-1950s, the space age shook hands with the atomic age and the public was the beneficiary in how it effected society's creative forces. Think kidney shaped coffee tables, atomic patterns printed on kitchen Formica and other designs that transformed everyday items into spaceport instrumentation.

If you appreciate mid-century industrial design, you have to give the classic Hamilton company a standing ovation. The early Hamilton Electric series is the company's most famous model line for presenting the weird and wacky to the watch wearing public, there was a method to the design madness: Exteriors were designed to bring attention to the equally unique, innovative and revolutionary movement held within. The 1959 solid gold and asymmetric case Ventura was the epitome of this plan (see my previous Ventura post for an overview). In 1960, Accutron would soon follow suit with their more robust caliber 214 tuning fork movement housed in unusual cases, too, some aping Hamilton Electric designs.

Living in the shadow of Electric case designs are a handful of classic and in most cases, lesser known mechanical asymmetric designs that attracted buyers who enjoyed high visual impact on the wrist but were not yet ready for a battery operated timepiece. The Flight Series may be the most recognizable, but it's not the most collectible. Looking like it just arrived from Mars to many, the 1960 Automatic K-475 is the holy grail of all Hammies. The last one I followed at auction fetched many multiple thousands of dollars -- and that was nearly ten years ago.
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Left: 1960 Solid Gold Flight I; Right: 1962 Automatic K-475. Images courtesy of the web.
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Not nearly as valuable, but still fascinating to look at and fun to wear is a grouping from my collection including the only stainless steel mechanical asymmetric Hamilton made: the very rare and highly sought-after Accumatic A-504.
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Back Row Left: A rare 1960s Euro market Assymetric; Back Row Right: 1959 Thor I; Front Row Left: 1964 Thor II; Front Row Right: 1965 Accumatic A-504
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1960 Thin-o-matic T-403: The only variation within the model line to venture outside a conventional round case shape.
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Taken from the group photo above, The shield-shaped Thor II is the sequel to the popular gold filled Thor I model. Its rolled gold plated case houses a Buren Swiss Made mechanical movement. Scarcer than the Thor I, it offers a yellow, rose and white gold multi-tone bracelet which is phenomenally rare to find in reasonable shape today. Most original Hamilton dress and casual watch bracelets are expanding scissor style and were broken then thrown away over the years. It's quite striking, no?
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Also highlighted from the grouping above is the Accumatic A-504. Within the collection, it's probably the most interesting to vintage Hamilton fans. The 1965 A-504 is the only stainless steel, mechanical movement and asymmetric case model the company made. History states that after the Electric Regulus model was retired, management decided to recycle the small leftover case stock by installing an automatic movement and reselling it as a new model, the A-504. Originally, the Electric Regulus had a snap-on case back. For the A-504, Hamilton's production team soldered the back onto the case which transformed it into a "front loader" with a removable crystal and winding stem. Because it was nearly an "after thought" model that was made only until the cases were used up, very few were produced and are very hard to find to day. This example is NOS complete with original bracelet and case back sales sticker.
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Above: The original Regulus come A-504 influence can seen in Accutron's highly collectible mid 1960s "D" model and Wing's Android Dominatore.
Last edited by Anonymous on March 11th 2012, 6:22am, edited 13 times in total.
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by TemerityB » July 10th 2011, 9:15pm

Oh, wow. And that's a good wow.

My wife particularly is a major fan of the Electrics and Venturas, and I've got the bug now, too.

Your posts are amazing Matt.

A question: Are watches of the vintage you show there hard to service? I've heard some state that ones they picked up, say, a 1960q Electric or mechanical, once it stopped it was particularly hard to get parts for. True?
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by ChronoMATT » July 10th 2011, 9:41pm

Thanks for the kind words.

I am often asked if vintage Electrics are impossible to service. The answer is a big NO. Luckily, the Electric line has a big enough cult following to keep a handful of qualified watchmakers happily willing to work on them. They can be Googled or I can provide a reference. When properly cleaned and calibrated, the vintage Electric can be a fine, reliable watch. But because the movement is much more delicate versus, say a heartier vintage Accutron, I would never recommend an Electric as a daily wearer, only as a special occasion timepiece.

As for the movements represented within this post, they can be serviced by most any trusted watchmaker. The same goes for most vintage mechanicals. Hopefully through the years you have established a relationship with a local watchmaker.
TemerityB wrote:Oh, wow. And that's a good wow.

My wife particularly is a major fan of the Electrics and Venturas, and I've got the bug now, too.

Your posts are amazing Matt.

A question: Are watches of the vintage you show there hard to service? I've heard some state that ones they picked up, say, a 1960q Electric or mechanical, once it stopped it was particularly hard to get parts for. True?
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by AlbertaTime » July 10th 2011, 10:00pm

I sincerely wish more watch makers these days would show as much courage in their (especially non-dive) designs as Hamilton did with these beauties.

Each one of these designs is an artistic risk, calculated maybe, but still an obvious decision to produce a watch than might be loved or hated, instead of just accepted as a slightly differing variation on the very usual themes.

Thank you for a wonderful post!
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by ChronoMATT » July 10th 2011, 10:19pm

Very calculated, actually. Hamilton smartly hedged their bet during the Electric premier. Mostly forgotten due to the great reception the dramatic Ventura eventually received, the company also released in parallel a solid gold conventional round case model, the Van Horn, which housed the same battery operated caliber 500 movement. It was offered as an "option to those who couldn't handle the wild Ventura". My personal opinion is that it was a shrewd back-up in case the Ventura design was a public failure. But that's personal speculation only.

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The solid 14K gold, traditional case Electric Van Horn introduced in tandem with the Ventura in 1959. Was it a Ventura "back-up"? Photo courtesy of the web.



AlbertaTime wrote:I sincerely wish more watch makers these days would show as much courage in their (especially non-dive) designs as Hamilton did with these beauties.

Each one of these designs is an artistic risk, calculated maybe, but still an obvious decision to produce a watch than might be loved or hated, instead of just accepted as a slightly differing variation on the very usual themes.

Thank you for a wonderful post!
Last edited by Anonymous on July 11th 2011, 8:25am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by Rusty » July 14th 2011, 11:45am

Many of those funky Hamiltons were designed by Richard Arbib, a New York designer who was contracted by Hamilton.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Arbib

As for service of these electrics, the guru of Hamilton electrics is Rene Rondeau and he lives just outside San Francisco. If you are fortunate enough to have one of the original electrics, have it serviced by Rene. Just Google his name to find his website.
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by svaglic » January 5th 2012, 10:50pm

I like the "off the beaten path" watches. These vintage pieces are the shizzle. I am slowly building my vintage collection and hope to have a nice variety in the next year.

I always like your threads Matt. I get a lot of good information and insight. Thanks for all your threads.
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

Post by ChronoMATT » February 4th 2012, 11:44am

Thanks! Please post pics of your collection as it develops. They don't make them like they used to...

svoglic wrote:I like the "off the beaten path" watches. These vintage pieces are the shizzle. I am slowly building my vintage collection and hope to have a nice variety in the next year.

I always like your threads Matt. I get a lot of good information and insight. Thanks for all your threads.
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Re: Late 1950s - Early 1960s Mechanical Asymmetric Hamiltons

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