New: Hercules HP1 returns with interesting twist to in-house movement

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Another revival story. And another watch company rescued after it fell victim to the quartz crisis in 1972. The brand is Hercules, made by Henzi & Pfaff in Pforzheim. The new Hercules has released their first watch – the HP1 in a white dial and the HP2 (essentially the same watch but with a different dial) snow effect dial.

Press release details with commentary in italics.

Introducing the new Hercules HP1

The Hercules HP1 is available for pre-order on the Hercules website. The price is set for EUR 4,995. A dial option for a snow effect textured dial is also available at EUR 5,395. Deliveries are promised for October 2022.

Commentary

Hercules who? A bit of Heinzi & Pfaff history

Henzi & Pfaff was a German watch brand which began when Robert Pfaff founded the manufactory in Pforzheim in the 1920s. After WWII, Robert Henzi joined as a partner and founded the new company. In circa 1948, they developed a new movement – the Caliber 101. Henzi & Pfaff employed more than 200 people in their manufactory by 1952. And by 1957, they have added the Cal 102 and 103 to their catalog, and had sold 1 million pieces. In 1953, a German-Austrian mountaineering group made an attempt to summit the Nanga Prabat in the Himalayan range for the first time. Henzi & Pfaff saw this as an excellent marketing tool and supplied them with watches which were branded Hercules. The team, led by Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl summited the Nagra Prabat mountain at 8126m with a Hercules on his wrist.

A 1953 advertisement – marketing the Hercules watch used on the climb.

In 1960, the Pfaff family fell into a financial crisis and Robert Henzi took over the company on his own. It was a tumultuous decade, and by 1972, with the assault of the quartz crisis, the company folded and ceased operations.

Today, the brand is back. Almost literally. The new owner is a young Dutch watchmaker and entrepreneur by the name of Adriaan Trampe. The company has been business since 1 July 2022. Yes, literally 3 weeks ago. Adriaan claimed to be a trained watchmaker, and did his watchmaking internship in Rolex. He also briefly worked with the McGonigle brothers. In 2016, he revived a German watchmaker from Pforzheim known as Eza Watches. He told us that his passion was in creating watches rather than managing a company, and decided to create Hercules.

Hercules introduced its first new watch which is based on the original pieces which went up the mountain in the HP1 that we see here today.

Hercules HP1

The new HP1 watch has interesting details harking back to the original used in the historic climb. The new HP1 looks like true to the original, even to the details. The markers are appliqué, and have arabic numerals for 3/6/9/12 as in the original. The hands are sword hands and a long central seconds hand in a blood red hue – as a reminder to honour those who perished in attempting to climb Nanga Prabat.

The movement is also interesting. Hercules claims that it is designed from scratch by Adriaan in collaboration with a few watchmakers. The movement is manufactured in Switzerland and is COSC certified. It features a micro-rotor in 24k gold. This arrangement allows for large bridges which are engraved with the old relief contour map of the mountain.

What is more interesting is that the ridges of the engraving is filled with SuperLuminova, and lights up a bright blue in the dark. This is the first time we have seen lume being used to highlight engraving on the movement. A simple idea, and from the photographs one which look quite nice.

We have requested for a review loaner, and will bring you a detailed hands-on review if we receive it.

Release Details

In 1953, an Austrian mountaineer called Hermann Buhl became the first person to climb the Nanga Parbat mountain 8’126 M. Around his wrist: a Hercules watch.

Watchmaker Robert Pfaff, whose family had already manufactured watches in Pforzheim in the 1920s and 1930s, took on co-partner Robert Henzi around 1946, and a new company was founded. In 1952, Henzi & Pfaff employed a little more than 200 people. They opened a manufacture in Stein, Germany. Henzi & Pfaff developed a very successful marketing strategy. When in 1953, a German-Austrian mountaineering group was supposed to climb the Himalayan summit Nanga Parbat for the first time. Henzi & Pfaff equipped the group with their Hercules timepieces. The triumphant ascent and the worldwide attention of the expedition were marketed very effectively by Henzi & Pfaff. As a result, Henzi & Pfaff started further expeditions with watches and thus developed the image of reliable, robust, and at the same time, sporty watches.

Buhl left the base camp at 02:00 on the 3rd of July in 1953. Around 19:00, he reached the top and became the first person to climb an 8’000-er alone. He couldn’t return to the basecamp and spent the night on a small ledge with only space to stand up. At the end of the following day, he reached one of the base camps. The other members of the expedition assumed that he had died already. Buhl became a legendary climber. Several books have been written about him, and two movies have been made.

Movie on the Buhl accent to Nagra Prabat. This Youtube movie is 1.5 hours long!

Today, the brand is back with an exclusive series of watches based on the original pieces that went up the mountain. Three years of development went into the micro-rotor movement, which is made especially for Hercules. Each movement gets tested by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC) institute in Switzerland and comes with an official certificate. On the bridges of the movement, you can see the height lines of the Nanga Parbat mountain engraved. Together with the logo in the rotor, these are filled with BRW9 SuperLuminova. This lights up bright blue, referring to the permafrost ice on the top of the mountain and creating a magical effect.

The collection is now available for pre-order online. The first 15 pieces are numbered and part of the Limited First Editions. Delivery will take place in October ’22. The price of the watch is 5995 euro for the white dial and 6495 for the snow effect dial.

Hercules HP1 Specifications

Movement

DesignIn-house designed, unique movement for Hercules
WindingAutomatic micro-rotor
Size15.5’’’lignes – 34.4mm diameter
3.70mm thickness
Number of jewels33 Jewels
Frequency28’800 / hour
PrecisionRatings of -4 / +6 seconds per day
Power reserve70+ hours
Functions3 hands: Hour, Minute & Central second
EngravingMountain height lines, filled with BGW9 SuperLuminova
FinishingSunburst finishing (from the center of the movement)
CertificationOfficially COSC certified, 100% Swiss Made

Case

Construction3 parts (bezel, middle case, caseback) all screwed 
Diameter40 mm
Thickness9.4 mm (including glass)
Lug to Lug46 mm
Material316L Stainless Steel 
FinishingAll polished finishing
Lug size (strap)20 mm
GlassSapphire glass with Anti Reflective (AR) coating on the inside
CasebackScrewed caseback with sapphire glass including AR coating
Water resistance100 M / 10 ATM water resistant
Crown316L steel with embossed crown logo 
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