Hamilton is an old company and recently there has been renewed interest in their older chronographs. I've been a Hamilton fan since I was a kid in high school. I've been lucky enough to pick up a few of their chronographs here and there over the years, and most of these have stayed with me. A few have moved on, as is the collector's prerogative, and it occurred to me the other day that I have nice, representative pieces from the 1970's, 80's, 90's, and 2010's in my collection, but nothing from the first decade of this century. So this blog post is about these watches, and if you are reading this and have a recommendation about a good Hamilton chronograph from the 2000's, please let me know. :)
This post is not a history of the Hamilton company, a rant about Swatch Group ownership, or an exhaustive catalog of Hamilton references from the last 45 years. It is simply a post about a few pieces that I've had the good fortune to own and enjoy. If you like Hamiltons I think you'll enjoy reading about these watches too. On to the watches!
1970's... The Hamilton Chrono-Diver "Big Eye"
The 1970's was the decade of grade school and middle school for me. In the 6th grade my parents gave me a Hamilton digital watch. I still remember its red LED readout that was only visible indoors or at night, and I wish I still had it. Knowing what I know now, however, I wish someone in the family had had an original Hamilton Chrono-Diver from 1970. The two-register watch used the Valjoux 7733 and there was a similar three-register watch that used the 7736. These are lovely little pieces and well worth servicing and enjoying today. Not fancy, not expensive, and definitely not well-known, but very nice in their own right and well worth your time.
One of my favorite features of these is the shape of the pushers, which is softly triangular. It reminds me of the lobe on a camshaft, and is something you don't see these days. The gray dial with red printed highlights is unusual, as well. I've seen these watches with faked (or at least poorly modified) dials, so if you are shopping around for one, keep on the lookout for the proper details. The Hamilton logo should never be printed in an arc across the dial. Mike Stockton over at Fratello recently did a great writeup of this watch, so I encourage you to head over there and search it out. Here are some pictures of mine.
The bezel on this watch is a simple friction affair, but even on my fairly well-used specimen it's still tight enough to be useful. The bezel pip was lumed at one point, and when seen intact they have aged to a very noticeable shade of gold. The hands are snowy white, except for the chronograph sweep hand, which is bright red. The register hands are black. The crown is delightfully signed with the Jet Age Hamilton logo, my personal favorite.
On the wrist, this watch's 38 mm size wears very comfortably, almost like there is nothing on your wrist at all. The plastic crystal should be of a more pronounced shape than mine, almost top-hat-like in profile. Mine's a replacement, and I've had no luck finding a NOS original.
This watch has a secret twin, the Bulova "Devil Diver," so-called because of its water resistance rating of 666 feet, boldly printed on the dial. The Hamilton makes no claims as to water resistance, an oddity considering it has the word "diver" in its name. The color scheme of the Bulova is different, but the watch is no less attractive. For some reason, they seem to command a slightly lower price on the market than the Hamilton.
Later in the Chrono-Diver's model run, Hamilton changed the dial to use smaller sub-dials. I personally don't care for this as much, as it takes away one of the watch's most charming attributes, the "big eye" look. So if you're shopping for one of these, just be aware that there are these two subtly different variants out there.
1980's... The Hamilton 9379 and 9446 Chronographs
By 1980 all traces of 1970's funkiness had left Hamilton's chronograph designs. The watches you are most likely to run into today are 7750-powered chronographs with either no bezel, a fixed tachymeter bezel, or a nearly useless rotating elapsed time bezel with no numeral markings. The cases are very similar, with perhaps the most noticeable feature being the fine lugs, drilled all the way through for your strap-changing convenience.
These watches come in a bewildering variety and are still to be found in very good condition today. Generally speaking they are 38-ish mm in diameter, although this can vary by case reference, and they can wear a little bigger or smaller depending on dial scheme, rotating bezel or no rotating bezel, etc. Pushers are round pump pushers, and the crowns should be signed. The casebacks are found relatively sterile, with the gothic Hamilton H logo, or the Jet Age H logo. The Art Deco Hamilton logo is intermixed with the Jet Age italicized logo on the dials of some of these watches. The case finishes seem to be always either polished or satinized; I've never seen a brushed finish case on these watches.
The specimens I have collected are the 9379 with silver and black tachymeter bezels and the 9446 in LL Bean "Sportsman's" guise. These watches are very reliable and wearable today, so if you like their styling I encourage you to seek out a good specimen.
The reference 9446 was less common, and a bit stranger if you ask me. The 9446 incorporated an elapsed time bezel which rotated counter clockwise in 60 clicks. But the bezel isn't sufficiently graduated or marked to be really useful, and the steel ring between it and the crystal is most often gold tone (but on its top edge only). The Hamilton version is a bit more elegant looking than the LL Bean version. Here's mine:
1990's... The Lemania 5100 powered chronographs
For a short time in the 1990's, Hamilton made quite a few chronographs with the Lemania 5100 movement. Again, these are to be seen in a bewildering variety, most of which are strangely ugly, but there are one or two that stand out for their attractiveness. And of course, the virtues and utility of the Lemania 5100 movement are many and famous. Many of these watches were sold in the Italian market only, and can be difficult to find today.
If the 9379 and 9446 watches, both 7750-powered, had a love child it would likely look like the Hamilton HTC. Here you will recognize the thin graceful lugs, the elapsed time bezel, and the general shape and layout of the case and dial. But look closer and you will notice the telltale signs of a Lemania 5100 lurking within.
The HTC replaces the sword hands with Speedmaster-like hands and replaces the pump pushers with piston-looking affairs. The irregular spacing of the three registers is pure 5100, as is the airplane shape of the elapsed minutes chronograph hand. The Jet Age logo appears on the dial and caseback. By the way, if you know what HTC stands for, please get in touch. :) The Lemania 5100 is a very expensive movement to have serviced so if you buy one of these watches make sure it's running properly.
Moving on but staying in the 1990's, what must be the most interesting Lemania 5100-powered Hamilton is the 156-alike pilot-style chronographs. These watches were most likely made by Lemania, and they are virtual clones of the Sinn 156B. They are most often to be found in Italy, leading one to suspect that they are yet another Italian market limited edition. I've seen black-dialed and white-dialed varieties.
Again we see the Speedmaster-like hands, painted white on the black-dialed watch but strangely gold-toned on the white-dialed watch. Unlike the Sinn 156, which has a friction bezel, these watches utilize a unidirectional click bezel. The case approaches 43 mm, just like the 156, so wearing these is a bold statement. Despite this, they wear comfortably, just like their cousin the 156.
2010's... The Intramatic 68
Surely one of the most anticipated watch releases at Baselworld 2017 was the Intramatic 68. So much has been written about this watch already that it hardly needs describing. It was controversial for some because Hamilton chose to make its case 42 mm in diameter. But I have only praise for the watch, its build quality, its design, and yes, its size.
The fit and finish on this Hamilton are second to none. Hamilton clearly did a great job here, and is really punching above its weight class in this regard. Of course, the price reflects this. The layout of the dial and registers is perfectly done in my opinion. The main area of the dial is more a dark charcoal than a jet black, and the creamy outer tachymeter chapter ring and subdials are the perfect complement to this. And I love the proportions of the subdials too. They have a very subtle concentric circle pattern that's hard to capture in pictures.
The length of the hands is perfect, and the tasteful inclusion of the date window at 6 o'clock is very well executed. And if you've read many of my other Hamilton blog entries, even this one, you know I love the Jet Age logo, especially the H on the crown. Well done, Hamilton.
I've had a few other more forgettable Hamilton chronographs that I haven't covered here. And conspicuous by their absence are representatives from the 1960's and 2000's. I hope to come back to this entry when I am able to update it appropriately.
Thank you for reading my blog. I welcome your comments and would love to hear from other Hamilton collectors!