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Alongside the 2021 novelties currently being introduced from established brands, we see a growing number of revivals of smaller all-but-forgotten brands, whether “sleeping beauties” or those that had seemingly gone to sleep forever.

We owe these recent revivals to passionate entrepreneurs, professionals from the watch industry able to evaluate the historic contribution of these brands as well as the aesthetic attributes of the timepieces.  They bring them back to life with faithful re-editions, or with watches “inspired by”, upgrading them at the same time with today’s materials, construction techniques, and/or movements.  Having personally handled some of these pieces that correspond perfectly to today’s search for vintage and neo-vintage timepieces with authentic roots, such as e.g. Wolbrook or Nivada, I can attest to the quality, attractivity, and usefulness of these watches, most often tool watches.

I recently had the opportunity to try out two such re-editions from Hanhart watches.  As I was not familiar with the brand, better known by pilots and precision-instrument fans, I mistakenly at first though it was a revival of the entire brand.

In fact, founded in 1882 next to Schaffhausen, Switzerland, before moving in the early 1900s to Germany where it is still located, Hanhart Chronographen production has never stopped, continuing to manufacture instrument watches and stopwatches until today, from its headquarters and facilities in Gütenbach.  German-made, some of its components still come from Switzerland, making it a real German-Swiss brand.

Over the years, as specialists in time measurement and chronographs, Hanhart instruments were called upon to time no fewer than five summer Olympics, from the 1950s to 70s.  The brand also has a car racing history.  Collaborative chronograph models with Ferrari are on display in the Gütenbach Hanhart museum, along with documents and objects attesting to its affiliation with Porsche.  The relationship goes even beyond automobile circuits — American actor and car racing aficionado Steve McQueen wore Hanhart as his personal watch, without a contract.

It was earlier, in the 1930s, that Hanhart watches first appeared on a wrist strap, with a dial comprising two sub-dials.  In 1938, both German and British marine forces were equipped with the Hanhart monopusher chronograph Mk I, followed in 1939 by the MK II for pilots, with an asymmetric top pusher and bi-directional rotating bezel.

One of the notable features from the beginning was a button painted in red, to prevent pilots from unintentionally resetting the stop time.  Said to have been originally painted by a pilot’s wife with her nail polish to ensure her husband’s safe return, Hanhart adopted the colour, and until today uses a red ceramic/plastic mixture on different models to coat the reset button.  For years, the watches were sold with a bottle of red nail polish : )

That same year, 1939, the TachyTele was released, with the addition of 2 red scales on the dial: one in the centre to measure average speeds – the Tachy meter, and one on the peripheral edge – the Tele meter, to measure distances taking into account the speed of sound.

In 1953, Hanhart confirmed its reputation as THE “bi-compax” pilot watch when German armed force pilots were equipped with the 417 ES chronograph.  Acclaimed for its robustness, legibility and reliability, it attained definitive legendary status when worn by Steve McQueen in The War Lover in 1962.

It is these two re-edited pieces from the PIONEER line – the TachyTele and the 417 ES, that I had the great pleasure to wear for a week.

As pilot watches, both, in satin and polished finish stainless steel, have bi-directional coin-edge bezels and grooved crowns to make them easy to grasp and turn while wearing gloves. Bonus: they’re also beautiful! Twelve o’clock is indicated on the bezel with a red marker, the sub-dials provide 30-minute counters at 3 o’clock and running seconds at 9 o’clock, and both have a central chronograph seconds hand, a screwed-down stainless steel case back, and are water resistant to 10 bar.

The numerals and hands are coated with Super-LumiNova, and it must be said the lume is stupendous!!  Day lume is immediately visible, and the strong night lume lasts, and lasts, and lasts, even after just a few seconds in the daylight.

Among the differences, the TachyTele at 40 mm in diameter with an anti-reflective convex sapphire glass is equipped with the automatic chronograph movement HAN3703 based on the ETA7753, with a minimum 42 hours of power reserve.  It comes with a calfskin strap or stainless steel bracelet, and is available with a black or white dial.

At 42mm with a dome sapphire glass over a black dial, the 417 ES is slightly bigger, but still sits comfortably on my 6-inch wrist thanks to it long sleek lugs.  Equipped with the hand-wound calibre Sellita SW 510 M  (also used in Sinn and Oris chronographs) with a stop-second function, it has a power reserve of 58 hours.

The strap in black calfskin with leather underlay and Alcantara on the inside, along with a variety of straps and bundstraps from the Atelier du Bracelet Parisien ABP, provide maximum comfort with great design.

In my opinion, both watches are great deals when considering their price, their solid construction, their beauty, and their performance that was perfect throughout my week with them.

For details on these and other Hanhart releases:  www.hanhart.com

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