If you're reading this blog, it's probably pretty safe to assume that you consider yourself at least a watch enthusiast, if not a full-blown watch collector. And if you've been at this for some time, you probably also have a network of friends and contacts who would profess the same inclination. Every once in a while, I form a friendship in my watch circles that seems to not only surmount the physical distance between two people and the fact that they've never actually met, but also expands to include other interests. Such is my friendship with my watch, car, and dog buddy, Todd.
One day when I was absentmindedly browsing the sales corner on one of the bigger watch fora, I happened to notice a vintage Hamilton diver for sale. I then noticed that it had been listed for sale by my friend Todd, and my interest in this watch went from piqued to really curious. As regular readers will know, I love older Hamiltons. But I'm hardly an expert, nor am I particularly driven to own a large number of them. I am a choosy consumer of older Hamilton watches and this one just really spoke to me.
So I immediately dropped Todd a note to say that although I had some Christmas bills to pay first, I'd be interested in his watch in a month or two should it still be around by then, which seemed unlikely to me given the watch's virtual NOS condition and lovely charisma. He replied right away and said the watch was mine and I should just pay him whenever I could. After pausing a moment to reflect on what an amazing thing friendship is, I of course committed and immediately started looking more closely into this reference. What I discovered surprised me, and also made me remember what I like so much about researching any watch.
Rather than the fleeting thrill of the physical acquisition, it's the chance to connect with the collecting community and the thrill of new discovery that so motivates most of us. Of course there is that look-at-my-new-shiny-thing satisfaction that comes with wearing any nice watch, which of course feels even better when a watch comes from a friend, but the opportunity to learn something new is perhaps the ultimate reward for me.
This Hamilton is the case reference 64065-3, and I believe it appeared in Hamilton's catalog for only two years, 1972 and 1973. In the 72/73 catalog, it is known as the Diver AC-700, and in the Fall 1973 catalog it is known more elegantly as the Aqua Diver. Despite this, the watch is today more often referred to as the Pan-Europ Diver since it shares its case design with these more famous Hamilton watches. Scans of the catalogs appear on the Vintage Watch Forum, thanks to a really dedicated Hamilton fan there.
First, let's talk about the watch as a whole and why it's such a nice piece to have in any collection. The 42 mm diameter case is rated at 200 m of water resistance and has 20 mm lug spacing. The dial is bold and graphic, and has an unusual silver race or chapter ring around it that contains generous rectangular plots of tritium luminescent material. The Hamilton logo is the Jet Age italicized HAMILTON with stylized H, which are my personal favorites. And the coolest detail of all has got to be the sportily-cursive "automatic" at 6 o'clock.
The screw-down crown is big and grippable, although regrettably it is unsigned, and the crystal is a big, sturdy plexi affair that stands quite proud of the bezel. The bi-directional click-action bezel is doubly marked, first with bold count-up minutes and again more subtly with GMT numerals 1 thru 12. So handy for that on-the-go, jet-setting, world-traveling scuba diver. This watch is just plain cool. Yes, it does exude a mild 1970's funkiness, but of a type that is still appreciated today. The runaway success of the modern re-issue Pan-Europ is testament to the timelessness of this watch's most fundamental design cues.
The silhouette of the Pan Europ Diver's case gives the perception of being scooped out with a little concavity, making it very comfortable to wear on a one-piece pull-thru strap. The profile of the watch with a one-piece strap on it is still attractive, unlike many similarly sized watches that have strap bars located too high up relative to the caseback. Speaking of casebacks, the 64065-3 has a lovely one, featuring a beautiful winged horse. You know, that famous icon of any waterproof ocean-going tool, the winged horse. No? Yeah, I don't get it either, but it's still cool. Maybe the winged horse was the mascot of the broader Pan Europ line. If you know, please get in touch.
My own Pan Europe diver caseback still has its protective, waxy coating applied at the factory. I'll be leaving it on for now, but it does make it difficult to enjoy the special engraving.
Now here's where it gets really interesting. Any cursory Internet search will turn up examples of this watch with at least four distinct handsets, yet only one of these appears in the '72 and '73 catalogs. Fans of Confusing Fall Warbler collecting potential, rejoice!
The handset most commonly seen today, and the one that appears in contemporaneous Hamilton catalogs, I will call the "fatty" handset. The hour and minute hands are shiny rectangles with cutouts that are filled with lume. In the case of the minutes hand, the lumed cutout ends in a point, so in some light it's hard to even see that the whole hand is in fact rectangular. Quite noticeably on the fatty handset, the sweep seconds hand is orange and has a little lollipop on the end, which is also filled with luminescent material. This handset is handsome and chunky, but is also the one with the strongest 70's vibe.
The second handset I will call the "skinny" handset, which appears to be less common. These hands look to me like the ones used on the 1970 Pan-Europ I (case ref 64058-3) and the 1971 Pan-Europ II (case ref 64058-4). This is the handset that my watch has, and I actually like it a little bit more than the fatty handset. The hour and minute hands are slender little sticks with the barest slivers of lume in them. The sweep seconds hand is a very slender needle with no lume and a gentle wedge as counterweight. I think these must be the hands that Hamilton had in mind when they re-issued their Pan-Europ three-handed watch that is in the catalog today.
The third handset seen is a variation on the skinny scheme, and can be difficult to differentiate at a glance. It is essentially the skinny handset, except the hour and minute hands are skeletonized. The seconds hand is again a slender needle. Browsing the internet will only produce a few examples of this version of the watch. I think it's probably my favorite of the four.
And finally, the fourth handset seen is what I will call the "hybrid" handset. It has the fatty hour and minutes hands, and the needle sweep seconds hand of the skinny handset.
Now that we've discussed the Four Handsets of the Aqua Diver, there is another mystery that emerges from a study of the Hamilton catalog image. In both the 72/73 catalog and the Fall 1973 catalog, the 64065-3 appears with a very fine crosshair graphic on the dial. Although handsome, I have yet to see one single example of the watch with this dial. I believe that Hamilton was just a bit less than totally consistent when it came to this kind of thing, and the images that appeared in the catalog were often different than the watches that eventually reached the market.
Another example of this catalog-vs-market discrepancy is the 1970's-era Hamilton Chrono-Diver. My own specimen of this watch has the larger (sometimes called "big eye") chronograph registers. The other variety you see out there has smaller registers, but is otherwise identical. Yet only the small register variety ever appeared in any of the 1970's catalogs.
The Hamilton Pan Europ diver's unique design, great size, comfortable wearability, and vintage charm make it a great watch worthy of any collector's attention. Thank you for reading my blog. As always, I love hearing from other Hamilton collectors and enthusiasts, and welcome any factual corrections, comments, and additional insights you may have to offer.