Hamilton have come a long way since its founding in 1892 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. They became well known for their highly accurate Railroad watches. They were, and still are known for their design work, and avant garde look of the watches. At times, bodering on the experimental. Witness the Ventura in 1957, the world’s first LED wristwatch in 1971. And our subject Face to Face II, from the Hamilton Jazzmaster collection.
A bit of history
As briefly touched on the introduction paragraph, Hamilton has an interesting history. The American roots is one fascination, as not many American watchmaking companies exist. Though in its current form, Hamilton is not the same American company as in its formative years. It became part of the Swatch Group in 1974, and moved its Headquarters and manufacturing completely to Switzerland in 2003.
We always felt Hamilton, even when American owned has a touch of cheekiness in their design. Always avant garde, always pushing the envelope. Take the Ventura, which was introduced in 1957. The case was neither round, nor square or rectangular. It was not even oval, but a curious art deco triangular shape with curved sides. Made famous by Elvis Presley when he wore it on his film “Blue Hawaii” and became a sensation among his fans. The Ventura II again made movie news when Men in Black, Lethal Weapon 4, Fight Club, Independence Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley and You’ve Got Mail featured the re-issue of the iconic design watch in 1990.
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II
The original Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face was introduced in Baselworld 2013, and comprised of a watch with two dials, with one can flip with a mechanism to show either side. One one side the watch has a chronograph, and on the other, it is a time only watch. The original Face to Face used two movements to achieve this. An ETA2094 powers the chronograph, and a ETA2671 movement for the time-only side. With hindsight, the design was clumsy at best, and very simple. The large oval case is a result of the need to place two movements side by side. One facing each side. And viola, the Face 2 Face. But even in that 2013 incarnation, the genius was in the flipping mechanism of the case, and even then, it caught our eye, but only for that alone.
For Baselworld 2016, the same, quite ingenious flip mechanism is used, but the watch is now powered by one single movement. A much more technical and elegant solution! And the dials show the chronographs, front and back dials have hands which indicate some rather interesting metrics which can be measured by a chronograph. As a design concept this fascinating. Below is a drawing showing the thinking process.
The dials, hands, and case
The design is fascinating. Here is a watch with two dials, one on each side of the case. Two dials can provide the space to de-clutter the displays because of the large amount of information it is to convey. The front displays 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph counters as well as a day-date window at 3 o’clock, the back continues with the chronometer, but showing rather unusual metrics on its scales.
The dials are very well made. The twin faces framed by the slightly elongated, rotating oval case. We marvel at its construction for a bit, as although this is a modestly priced watch, Hamilton has obviously drawn on the resources of the giant parent Swatch Group. The design is beautiful and harmonious. The selected use of an electric blue to highlight some elements is particularly commendable. Not only is this blue used on the chronograph hand on the back dial, but also on the stitching on the strap, as well as the inside of the strap. Nice touch.
The front dial is multi-level dials in luminous, silvery grey with a partially transparent smoky disc and a skeleton-worked casing ring. We find this to be quite appealing as the peek-a-boo tease somehow works on a watch like this.
And the other side is a striking contrast with the technical, anthracite movement. A pulsometer, directly printed on the back of the crystal, enables the more fitness-minded to keep track of their own or someone else’s pulse. A tachymeter provides an accurate mechanical measurement of speed, while a telemeter can be used to calculate distances to a remote event, such as a lightning bolt.
If all the metrics were to be crammed on one dial, it would look very cluttered and messy. but with two dials, there is space to show the metrics in style. Since in the 2016 version, there is only one movement, the technical solution is to extend the chronograph seconds counter hand to the back and have another one on the back dial. This required some tricky engineering on the movement.
The case reversing mechanism is rather clever. The entire case pivots around the center of the case, about where the winding crown sits. A light click releases the case, which can then be rotated to show the other side. The action is bi-directional, and the dial is locked on either side by a set of ball bearings sprung within its sockets. When locked it is secure, and yet a light push releases it. The mechanism works smoothly, and the clicks when locking and unlocking is very reassuring and satisfying.
Unlike on the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, this reversing action cannot be undertaken with the watch on one’s wrist. One needs to remove the watch to flip the case.
The chronograph pushers operate as per normal (except when the back dial is shown, the pushers are reversed…the upper pusher stops the chronograph, while the lower one starts and resets). As a result, the chronograph’s second hand run anti-clockwise on the back dial. Unusual, and Hamilton’s PR folks do not hesitate to point out that this is a nod to its pioneering American spirit.
The pushers operate fingers which pierce the case sides and comes into contact with the vestigial pushers on the case sides, operating much like the moon phase or calendar setting pin-pushers on other watches.
The movement Hamilton H-41
The movement is is named Hamilon H-41. Not much information is provided by Hamilton on the movement, and the plates are not visible. Hamilton only communicates the power reserve of 60 hours. Not even the movement size or the beat rate is provided as part of the technical specifications. From the sub-dial layout, we can make some educated guesses. The minute totalizer (0-30) is at 12 o’clock, hours (0-12) at 6 o’clock and a continuous running second hand at 9 o’clock, is a tell tale sign that the base movement is a Valjoux 7750. The position of the day and date apertures are also affirms this guess that the base is a Valjoux 7750 Standard Version B. At press time, we are awaiting confirmation from Hamilton HQ in Biel, and will update this paragraph with the official communication.
Update 21 May 2016: The Hamilton factory confirms that the H-41 is a modified Valjoux 7750.
In terms of direct competition, we think perhaps the Hamilton Face 2 Face II is unique. The other watches which offer two dials which one can flip from one to the other are the JLC Reversos, and the Cartier Basculante. Neither offer any with a chronograph in their current collection. Jaeger LeCoultre did once offer the JLC Reverso Squadra Chronograph GMT (now discontinued. Was approximately US$ 10,000 in steel circa 2010 when it was available) is perhaps the only other chronograph on a reversible case. It comes with an GMT function as well. The reversing mechanism is perhaps more elegant, but not technically superior. The JLC movement C.754 is in-house manufactured in Le Sentier, and carries a higher pedigree, and would be better finished as well. But it has only one dial. Reversing the case shows a sapphire caseback with a view of the movement.
Perhaps from a case shape angle, the Audemars Piguet Millinary Chronograph (out of production, but the steel Audemars Piguet Millenary Chronograph Tour Auto 2011 26142ST.OO.D001VE.01 was retailed at about US$ 25,000) may be a comparison. But it does not have two dials, nor does it flip. Admittedly the AP has better pedigree and arguably much better finished, but it is also priced several levels above the Hamilton.
We find this unusual Hamilton to be quite beautiful. For sure, it is an acquired taste. Not everyone likes an oval shaped watch. Not everyone has the sense of adventure of a watch which flips. But for those who do, and we count ourselves as one of those, the Face to Face II is an exceptional timepiece. Forget about high complication, haute horlogerie finishing, or the hoi poloi. This is a watch which is unique, nicely made, offering beautiful aesthetics which are well thought through for a easy to swallow price. Limited to 1,999 pieces, it is offered at a retail of S$5,730 including GST. A remarkable value, if you ask us.
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II Technical Specifications
53 x 44mm
Stainless steel; Unique case body with rotating device
Multi-Level, silver-toned and partially transparent
Dauphine hours and minutes hands with Super-LumiNova®, Stick shaped Second Hands
Black leather with light blue lining and stitching, folding clasp
H-41 automatic caliber, 60 hours of power reserve
Passing-through Chronograph Second hand allowing
Pulsometer, Tachymeter & Telemeter measure
30 minutes and 12 hours chronograph counters at 12 and 6 o’clock
Day & Date display at 3 o’clock
Sapphire with antireflective coating
5 bar (50m)
Limited Edition 1,999 pieces
Suggested Retail Price S$ 5,730 including GST. The Swiss retail is CHF 3895.00