For anyone who has ever ventured into the repair of interesting watches they have undoubtedly been seduced by the idea of fixing a Hamilton Electric. I can say that there has never been a more frustrating and time-consuming restore than these. They are kind of like the Los Angeles of watches. They combine everything that is wrong with New York (Mechanical watches in this analogy) and Miami (Quartz) and roll it into one city. Their restore encompasses the delicacy of mechanical assembly with the frustration of dealing with electronics to create a watch that many have tried to repair but few have. I succeeded by luck and persistence alone. I do not advise trying this at home. If you do be prepared to face the most annoying piece you have ever dealt with.
All whining aside, this is an incredible and largely forgotten timepiece in the history of horology. Hamilton became the first company to replace the mainspring in wristwatches with their introduction of the Hamilton caliber 500. I tried one of these but quickly discovered that there is a good reason that there is only one person still capable of servicing them (he is also considered the foremost authority on their history.) Compared to the innovations that came shortly after like tuning fork movements and then quartz, the electric watch looks like an odd prop from an old sci-fi movie rather than a reliable timepiece. The truth is that this was the first and arguably most important step in the development of battery powered watches that would first cripple and then fundamentally change the Swiss watch industry.
After years of R&D development at Hamilton they introduced the electric watch in 1957 and coupled this technological breakthrough with fantastically avant-garde case designs for the time. They were produced for 12 years. The fact that they were made for a relatively short period of time coupled with the fact that they were made by only one company make them an absolute nightmare to track down extra parts for.
These two Railroad Approved models attracted me with their simplicity. The offset crown and the lightning bolt second hand very subtly indicate that something is different about these watches, but it is not apparent until you look under the hood (so to speak.) Their size is also very large for that era.
It took several re-assemblies and tweaks to get these things going strong, and now that they are I can safely say that I will never venture near one of these ever again but am very happy to have done so and added them to my work history.
Check out the video below of these two movements running!
P.S. – Should you need yours repaired I highly suggest contacting René Rondeau (the guy I refer to earlier as the one person capable of repairing caliber 500s) at http://www.rondeau.net. He is THE authority on these pieces and the only one I know of capable of professionally restoring them.
But what minimalist beauty! I love the railroad styles. Simple and clean, all about telling the time without error or confusion. Mind you I am partial to the Bulova version, but they all look very similar. Nice!