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In-depth Review: Hanhart PRIMUS Nautic Pilot Bronze

by Peter Nievaart on August 28, 2019
Overview
Brand

Hanhart Nautic Pilot Bronze

Complication / Type of Watch

Bronze pilot chronograph

Recommended Retail Price

€ 2,950 inclusive of German VAT
Limited Edition 300 pieces

You live an active, social life and perhaps being in the middle of building your career. Modern technology and social media are part of your daily life. Whatever you do, you do not want to be mainstream in your choices. You do not care about “buying the well known”. If so, the new Hanhart PRIMUS Nautic Pilot Bronze might be a watch for you. In this article we will explore why we think so based on seeing, photographing and wearing a prototype watch for more than two weeks. The watch will be limited to 300 pieces and it will be the first PRIMUS watch produced in Germany.

Hanhart: Dare To Be Different

Today watches are no longer necessary to tell the time. They are jewelry that reveal something about who you are or what you stand for. I guess the modern word would be “statement”.

Hanhart has understood that and joined the trend by creating the PRIMUS watch line that is vastly different from its earlier watch lines without abandoning its DNA. The PRIMUS Nautic Pilot Bronze is the newest addition to an already extensive line.

Hanhart

The original Hanhart company was founded in 1882 by watchmaker and mayor Johann Adolf Hanhart in Diessenhofen, Switzerland, a town located near the river Rhine (water was a key energy source at the time). Twenty years later the company moved to the center of German clock-making Schwenningen and later also to Gütenbach in the Black Forest under supervision of Johann’s son Wilhelm Julius. The company built a reputation for producing great (pilot) chronographs, stopwatches and professional gauges and instruments. Especially the Luftwaffe fighter pilot and U-boat chronograph wristwatches are well-known and sought-after by collectors. From 1962 onwards, the company focused on producing stopwatches and became European largest manufacturer, selling 40 million pieces of the caliber 3305 movement. This move enabled Hanhart to survive the quartz era. The revival of their mechanical watch production started again in 1997 when a replica of the legendary Hanhart pilot’s chronograph was launched at the Antiques Fair in Furtwangen. Every detail of the original’s case and dial was meticulously duplicated. The limited edition of 2,500 pieces sold out quickly.

More than 90% of each stopwatch is manufactured in-house. The production of wrist watches is too small at this time to justify an in-house movement. Therefore most parts of the wristwatches are purchased form partners and assembled, calibrated, quality-checked in-house. Modifications like the mono-pusher, asymmetrical pusher distance, and flyback function on some models are done in-house. Hanhart works together with Dubois Depraz and La Joux-Perret for most complications. For example, the Valjoux 7750 movement of the 45 mm PIONEER or RACEMASTER models is modified to accommodate design and function. Parts of the PRIMUS Nautic Pilot Bronze are made to specification/order except for the movement. The new skeletonized rotor is purchased from a partner located near to Hanhart.

We will go into more detail of Hanhart’s fascinating heritage and history after visiting the Hanhart factory in Gütenbach Germany. For now, we will focus on the watch recently introduced by Hanhart: the Nautic Pilot Bronze in a limited edition of 300 pieces. The watch belongs to the PRIMUS family, a modern interpretation of the pilot watch. Other wrist watch model lines are the PIONEER showing Hanhart’s classic pilot watch roots, and the RACEMASTER, a contemporary interpretation of race driver watches. All watches have one thing in common: the “red button”, referring to the romantic story of the Pilot’s wife who used her red nail polish to paint a button of her husband’s watch before a mission. A true story or not, it gives a nice touch. Another – possibly more reliable – explanation is that its intention was to prevent unintentional resetting during flights. To quote Felix Wallner from Hanhart: “To fly to certain points or to calculate the fuel level. A resetting would’ve been very bad and as most of the watches had a flyback the danger was even greater”.

Hanhart PRIMUS Nautic Pilot Bronze

The design and quality

German watches stand for functionality, robustness, accuracy and professional manufacturing and assembly. The Hanhart Nautic Pilot Bronze is no exception. The execution is good albeit understandably not at the level of the top luxury brands.

Like the entire PRIMUS line, this watch is bold with its 44mm diameter and 15mm height. Its uniqueness resides in the bronze coating, resulting in a hardness that is approximately 5 times harder than a steel case.

The bronze case matches very well with the blue dial and strap. Steel would have made the watch look ordinary and a gold case would have been too much. The bronze case gives the watch a luxury yet understated feel. The company writes “the royal blue dial color and the bronze case reflect the element water, while the clear dial design, the skeletonized hands and the canvas strap with leather inlay reflect the element air”.

Hanhart opted to use the proven bi-company design with its counters at 3 and 9 o’clock. The dial, with its resemblance to a cockpit instrument, looks clean and balanced with exception of the date window. After seeing the watch in real, I still can’t understand why the date window is so small. Contact with Hanhart taught that it was a design decision. In my opinion a bigger display would benefit the balance between the various elements of the dial. The bold font contributes to the character of the watch. The same holds true for the fluted – non-rotatable – bezel with red index at 12hr.

The case is made of bronze coated 316L steel and is partly brushed (the case) and partly polished (the bezel and the case back). Rotor and bridges do have a brushed finishing. Blued screws and sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating are used to further enhance the quality. A double anti-reflective coating would have been nice but is not a necessity.

The quality of finishing of the case, dial, crowns, and movement is what you would expect from a watch in this price range. Do not expect advanced finishing techniques such as anglage, perlage, and hand-finished sharp edges. This watch is made to use, not to turn around and admire the design and finishing of the movement. If you would use a loupe or a camera with a macro lens, you would notice scratches and irregularities on the movement. Personally I don’t mind in this case. It may also have to do with the prototype version I received.

The watch is delivered in a brown leather case. The outer box is made of cardboard.

About chronographs

Nowadays we take the possibility to measure time intervals for granted. Things were different in the early days of the chronograph. Stopwatches and chronographs were essential to measure time intervals in sports and travel. Note: The difference between a chronograph and a stopwatch is that the latter does not keep track of the time, only of time intervals. The term ‘chronograph’ goes back to a stopwatch developed by Nicolas-Mathieu Rieussec in 1821. A hand dropped ink on the dial marked the start and end of a time interval. The modern chronograph was invented by Henri Ferréol Piguet in 1861, but patented by Adolphe Nicole. The chronograph became popular by the end of the 19th century in the laboratories for scientific experiments and in sports fields for measuring performance. The first known wrist chronograph dates from 1909, a watch by A. Ducommun-Muller.

A chronograph movement is one of the most complex complications. The “time telling” components – mainspring barrel, escapement, going train, time indicators and an optional winding device (rotor) – must be perfectly aligned with 3 systems to perform the stopwatch functionality:

  • A coupling (clutch) system that transfers the power and rate of the going train to the chronograph.
  • A control (operating) system for starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph.
  • Counter (runner) systems for seconds, minutes and possibly hours.

Chronograph movements do not only vary in design. They also vary in solutions for implementing the control, coupling, and counter systems. The most important variations are:

  1. Vertical vs horizontal coupling of the clutch system. While a horizontal clutch couples the gear train with the chronograph in a horizontal system, an oscillating pinion is used to connect the seconds wheel and the chronograph wheel in a vertical clutch system.
  2. Flyback vs stop/reset in resetting the chronograph. The reset button cannot be pushed in a regular chronograph when the hands are moving because a beak of the hammer would hit against one of the pillars of the engaging mechanism. A flyback mechanism lacks such a beak and has a separate flyback mechanism.
  3. A column wheel based vs cam-based engaging system. A cam-actuated system is easier to produce and maintain, cheaper, and more robust. The performance is comparable to a column wheel based system, although less smooth and precise when combined with a vertical coupling clutch.
  4. The mounting of the transmission or driving wheel may differ. In conventional chronographs the transmission wheel is usually mounted on the fourth (seconds) wheel of the wheel train after the wheel train is assembled. This could result in a bend shaft or an irregularly rotating transmission wheel. In other movements, e.g. the Lange L95, the seconds-wheel and the transmission-wheel are fixed to the same shaft pivoted under a separate seconds-wheel bridge which ensures a level and constant drive.
  5. Integrated vs modular chronographs. The integrated chronograph was designed to be a chronograph movement; all components are “built-in”. A modular chronograph adds a chronograph module to a base calibre.

Relevance of a chronograph for Nautic Pilots

Knowledge about distance, speed and time elapsed is vital for nautical pilots to navigate the waters. By knowing these variables, the distance travelled can be determined. In the “old” days, speed of a ship was measured by attaching a weighted wooden float to the end of a line that was run out of a reel. Knots were counted as the line ran out for a specific time, measured by turning a 28-seconds glass. The number of knots that passed gave the ship’s speed in nautical miles per hour. Modern speedometers use pressure.

Speed can be calculated from distance and elapsed time. Likewise distance can be calculated from speed and elapsed time. A variety of instruments were and are used to determine distance, speed, and elapsed time. For example, in the pre-computer days a circular slide rule enabled a navigator to solve speed-distance-time conversions.

The movement

The Sellita SW510 movement with Hanhart’s new skeletonized rotor drives the Hanhart Nautic Pilot Bronze. It is a fully integrated chronograph movement with a vertical coupling clutch system, stop/reset mechanism, and a cam-based engaging system. This is not surprising as the Sellita is a Valjoux 7750 clone, which was developed in 1973 to provide accuracy and reliability at a budget price. It is tough and has sufficient torque to drive complications. It is definitely not a bad thing that Hanhart uses a mass-produced movement. These movements are affordable and show great reliability and accuracy. The SW510 family consists of various models. The BH A movement, as used in the Hanhart Nautic Pilot has a bi-compax design with a date display as well as start/stop and reset of seconds and minute counter, displayed at a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a small seconds counter at 9 o’clock and a central chronograph second hand.

Winding is smooth. Slightly moving the watch makes the watch run. Starting, stopping, and resetting the chronograph works smoothly too. There is enough resistance to prevent accidental start and stop. The center chronograph hand jumps back to exactly 12 o’clock after reset.

As far as I can assess from wearing the watch, the Sellita SW510 movement runs accurately. To be more precise, the review watch ran 4-5 seconds per day fast. During the night the watch rested with its face up. The reported power reserve is 48 hours but the review watch stopped after 46 hours and 40 minutes. Not exactly a difference to be nervous about.

The hacking seconds mechanism ensures that the watch stops running when the crown is pulled out. Pulling out the crown for time and date reset works well.

Note: the “Swiss made” marking applies to this prototype only and will not be visible in the final production version, as the watch will be produced in Germany.

The strap and clasp

The Royal Blue coloured textile strap with leather inlay looks good and wears comfortably. Initially I was not sure about the one-sided foldable clasp but it turned out to be very practical. Although a bit wide for someone with a small wrist, it is easy to unfold and store the watch face-up instead of on its side. The clasp is polished and carries the Hanhart logo.

On the wrist

It may be surprising for such a large watch but it fits comfortably on the wrist, even on a small wrist thanks to the flexible lugs that adjust automatically to the wrist size thanks to an ingenious connecting mechanism.

Legibility of hours and minutes is outstanding thanks to the size of the hands and the minute markers as well as the contrast between the white markers and the blue dial. The small seconds and (chronograph) minutes dial are more difficult to read due to the limited contrast between the black color of the hands and the blue color of the dial.

For those of you who like to look at your watch in dark: the legibility during night hours is also excellent thanks to the Super-Luminova ® numerals, hands and indices.

Concluding Words

The Nautic Pilot Bronze is a well built, sturdy and functional tool watch to be used for traveling, yachting, swimming, flying, working, relaxing, waving, and other things you do in life. The watch is water resistant up to 10ATM or 100m, so more than enough for swimming and snorkeling. Diving will be trickier since 10 ATM only translates to 100m if you do not move your hand.

The limited edition watch will be available in October 2019 and will cost 2.950 euros including VAT which is competitive. There are brands who charge much higher prices for similar quality watches.

The resemblance to a cockpit instrument, the clear legibility, and a good balance in size and shape of the markers, skeletonize hands, screws and lines as well as the positioning of the (embossed) sub-dials results in a balanced design that is well executed.

Pros:

  • Legibility.
  • Smooth operating.
  • Fits well on the wrist.

Cons:

  • The date display is too small.
  • Small seconds and minute counters are difficult to read.
  • Anti-reflection could be better. Note: Hanhart explained that double anti-reflective coating would have made the sapphire glass weaker. Since the Nautic Pilot Bronze is supposed to be a tool watch, scratch resistance was more important. Cost was not a consideration because the cost difference is minimal.

Hanhart Nautic Pilot Bronze Specifications:

Movement:

  • Sellita SW510 BH A 13 mechanical self-winding movement, delivered to Hanhart specifications with blued screws and Hanhart rotor.
  • 1/4’’’ H7.90 30.00mm diameter
  • Bi-compax design.
  • Cam operated with two pushers.
  • Ball-bearing self-winding mechanism.
  • 28.800 bph, 4Hz
  • 27 jewels.
  • Power reserve: 46-48 hours
  • Automatic winding

Functions:

  • Start/Stop and reset of seconds and minute counter
  • 30-minute at 3 o’clock and the seconds counter at 9 o’clock.
  • Date with quick setting.

Case:

  • 316L steel case with Bronze coating with a hardness of 1.300 Vickers (Hv). Typical steel cases measure around 220Hv, so this case is approximately 5 times harder which makes it highly resistant. According to Hanhart the case will not age and will not show copper rust.
  • Diameter 44mm
  • Height 15mm
  • Flexible lugs
  • Fluted non-rotatable bezel with red index and red pusher of anodized aluminium.
  • Convex, one-sided mirrored sapphire glass with antireflective coating
  • Screwed-in back with sapphire glass, showing the movement with Hanhart rotor.
  • Water resistant up to 10ATM (DIN 8310)

Dial:

  • Color: Royal Blue
  • Super-Luminova ® numerals, hands and indices to ensure legibility during evening and night.

Strap:

  • Textile blue with leather inlay.
  • Folding clasp made of steel with Bronze PVD coating

Price:

  • Available at authorized dealers and at www.hanhart.com
  • Limited edition of 300 pieces
  • Price 2.950 euro including VAT.
  • Delivery starts in October.

For more information on the Hanhart Nautic Pilot Bronze see: https://www.hanhart.com/produkt/primus-nautic-pilot-bronze/ For more information on Hanhart see: https://www.hanhart.com/en/

For more information on Hanhart stopwatches see: https://www.hanhart-stoppuhren.com/en

For more information on Chronograph watches and their history, the book named Chronographs for Collectors by by Joël Pynson and Sebastian Chaulmontet is highly recommended. See http://www.time2tell.com/catalogue/uncategorized/chronographs-for-collectors/

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