Hanhart is one of those brands that are appreciated but whose notoriety does not go beyond the small circle of watchmaking enthusiasts. The situation could change, however, with the reissue of one of these emblematic models, the chronograph 417. The history of Hanhart began in 1882 when Johann A. Hanhart started its activity in Diessenhofen... in Switzerland! But the brand soon relocated to the Black Forest town of Schwenningen in Germany. Then, the chronographs dedicated to the German Air Force and Navy forged the reputation of the company. The company experienced a strong development in the years 1938-1939 when it launched the single-pusher caliber "40" and then the double-pusher caliber "41". The watches powered by these movements, and in particular the famous "TachyTele", are now sought-after by collectors of military watches. The production period for the model 417 and the 417 ES version (Edel Stahl, stainless steel) began after the Second World War. From the mid 1950s onwards, these watches were used by the Bundeswehr Air Force (until 1963, when Hanhart reoriented its activities), thus continuing the tradition of professional military watches that meet the highest demands. The model 417 finally remained faithful to an aesthetic already in progress a few years earlier with a fluted bezel case, a Bicompax-type dial organization with a 30-minute counter on the right and luminescent hands and numerals contrasting strongly with the black dial.
The model 417 is not only renowned for its purpose. It also got a very famous customer, Steve McQueen, who used to wear this chronograph. Even if Hanhart cannot refer to him directly for obvious legal reasons, it is nevertheless a fact that this information contributes to the notoriety of this watch. In any case, the presentation of the reissue of the 417 ES comes at the right time to support Hanhart's commercial ambition on several markets.
From an aesthetic point of view, the reissue of the chronograph 417 ES is very faithful to the original model. We find again the famous fluted bezel with the red marker, the two horizontally aligned sub-dials, the typical brand logo at noon and the luminescent hands and numerals. On the other hand, the size of the case is not the same. While the original models had diameters of 38/39mm, the diameter of the reissue is 42mm. I understand Hanhart's desire to offer a size more adapted to today's tastes. However, I found the watch quite imposing on the wrist especially when it comes with the "bund" bracelet. The lugs being rather long, the size from lug to lug reaches almost 50mm. This is the reason why I would have preferred a diameter similar to that of the original watches. On the other hand, there is a militant point for this new size: the thickness of 13.3mm. The proportions of the reissue are rather harmonious with a balanced diameter/thickness ratio. In addition, the thickness without the glass is 11.55mm. As a result, the actual height of the watch is not felt on the wrist.
The steel case is carefully executed with alternating polished and brushed parts. The fluted bezel is very well made and is very pleasant to handle. The curved shape of the glass contributes to the neo-retro atmosphere and the perceived quality. The case back is solid which is an excellent idea. Beyond the fidelity compared to the original model, the solid back allows to control the thickness. Moreover, the movement is not very pretty to look at, so we don't feel like we're missing a must-see show. The back gives Hanhart the opportunity to engrave its historical logo which is the best possible use of this space.
I really liked the work on the dial. The finishing of the various components is flawless and the luminescent material was applied to the numbers and hands with care. The organization of the dial is the same as the original versions with the permanent second hand at 9 o'clock and the minute counter at 3 o'clock. Fortunately, Hanhart didn't do the mistake to insert a date window. The sub-dials are closer to the center than with watches of the past. This is obviously due to the fact that the movement is a bit small for the case. That said, the proportions remain balanced and the watch does not give the impression of squinting.
In order to best respect the source of inspiration, Hanhart has made the decision to use a hand-wound movement, which is commendable as an intention. This movement is the SW510M caliber from Sellita. It is in fact an evolution of the SW510 from which the automatic winding system is removed. Its own thickness is 7mm which is very reasonable. Its performances are excellent since it offers a power reserve of 58 hours for a frequency of 4hz. Moreover, I was positively surprised by the release of the pushers, rather pleasant and by the manual winding of the crown. I usually don't have this kind of feeling when a watch is equipped with an automatic caliber converted to a hand-wound caliber. The result is therefore very satisfying. Finally, since this is an integrated chronograph caliber, the pushers and crown are aligned, which is preferable from an aesthetic point of view.
When I put the re-release of the chronograph 417 ES on my wrist, I realized that the perceived size of the watch was impressive. I think this feeling is accentuated by the "bund" strap and I'm sure that by removing the base of the strap the dimensions of the watch would appear more reasonable. In any case, the wear test for several days brought me several confirmations:
- the watch is very well made with a good general quality of the finishing.
- it is easy to live with on a daily basis (moreover, the water resistance is 100 meters) even if the "bund" bracelet was rather annoying for the manual winding, which is pleasant by the way.
- the bracelet is very supple and can be positioned without worry, ensuring a good support on the wrist
- Even if the aesthetics is traditional, there is a little Hanhart touch, a know-how that gives a lot of charm, such as the brand logo or the visual rendering of the bezel.
Hanhart thus offers a convincing reissue of a model that has marked its history. This watch is obviously not very original, but the serious execution and the special atmosphere instilled by the brand make it attractive. The selling price of 1.800 euros including tax is rather well placed for this kind of product and in any case, it did not seem excessive to me considering the perceived quality. At the end of the day, this price is 1,000 euros below that of an equivalent Pioneer, certainly automatic and larger but without any additional function. This tends to prove that Hanhart wanted to make this reissue of the chronograph 417 ES as competitive as possible so that it could become a kind of flagship for the brand. It has all the assets to become one. Initial feedback on its commercial success tends to confirm that this ambition is succeeding. It now remains to be seen whether it will have an impact on the rest of the collection.
+ neat finishes
+ the performance of the movement
+ a watch that is easy to live with on a daily basis
+ the rather attractive price
- the "bund" bracelet makes manual winding difficult.
- I would have preferred it to have the same size as the original models.