Review: Hanhart 417 ES, a re-issued historic chronograph from the 1950s gets worn and tested

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Hanhart sent us their new (released October 2020) 417 ES for a week on our wrists. They have updated their legendary chronograph used by the German Armed Forces in the 1950s with modern production techniques in this re-issue. Here is our wear report and in-depth review.

Press Release of the Hanhart 417 ES in October 2020.

In-depth review: Hanhart 417 ES

Retail price is set at EUR 1,744.87 Euro incl. 16% German VAT.

Hanhart is a pioneer in the development of wristwatch chronographs and stopwatches, and have played a major role in the history of German watches. Guided by the maxims of precision, reliability, readability and simple/safe operations, they have been manufacturing watches since 1882 when it was founded in Diessenhofen, Switzerland by watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart. Production moved to Schwenningen in southern Germany in 1902 and have remained in Germany since. They are currently located in Gütenbach in the Black Forest in Germany. They started to make stop watches in 1924, and their first chronograph in 1938, powered by the company’s in-house, monopusher calibre 40.

Hanhart 417 offered for sale by Sotheby’s. Image source: Sotheby’s.

They built the first pilot’s chronograph for the German armed forces in the mid 1950s which were available in a chrome plated brass case known as the 417, and in a stainless steel case – the 417 ES. ES for edelstahl, meaning stainless steel in German. The original 417 was powered with an in-house column wheel chronograph – the caliber 41. The few remaining pieces of these original 417 and 417 ES have become some of the most sought after vintage chronographs from Germany. Steve McQueen is famously been known to sport the 417 ES. Here is an example of the 417 (non ES) offered for sale by Sotheby’s online in March 2020, It had German military markings and as of publishing date, remains unsold with an estimate of CHF 5,000 to 7,000. Sotheby’s estimated that no more than a thousand 417s were produced, with only about 40% being the ES model.

Steve McQueen wearing Hanhart 417 ES in 1964. Photo by Francois Gragnon / Paris Match via Getty Images.

In October 2020, they re-issued the 417 ES with modern production techniques, and this is our subject watch for review.

The 2020 rendition of the Hanhart 417 ES.

The case, dial and hands

The design of the case remains largely the same, but updated to 42mm in diameter instead of the original’s 39mm. The three piece case with very sleek, long horns as lugs, is robust and well built. The case back is also in stainless steel and is a screw down type. A heavily domed, box shape sapphire crystal protects the dial for a vintage feel. The total height remains a manageable 13.3mm, which is rather slim for a tool chronograph.

The bezel is fluted and can be operated bi-directionally. It is not stepped, but friction coupled offering a good resistance that it is not easy to accidentally move. The bezel carries a red marking which is a faithful indicator to the original watch. In the hand and on the wrist, this proportion is aesthetically pleasing, and feels right.

The dial layout is a standard bi-compax configuration with white transfer print over a deep black dial. The numbering and fonts used are true to the vintage 417 in the form of Arabic numerals for the hour markers with the chronograph counter and constant seconds hands eating into the space where markers at 3 and 9 would have been. A seconds track completes the periphery. The hour, minute and chronograph seconds hands are cathedral type, narrowing to a needle at the end.

The Arabic numerals as well as the hands are in-filled with Superluminova, and glows appropriately bright in the dark. The creamy Superluminova contrasts with the pure white transfer print on the rest of the dial. It is worth mentioning that this effect is rather subtle, but conveys the vintage vibe well and is pleasing to the eye. Readability and visibility is excellent both in the dark as well as in good light.

Lume shot for the money. Very clean, clear, legible dial.

The entire ensemble, including the beautiful and supple calf skin bund style strap is very well built, and it is evident that the quality of the fit and finish is very good, and is competitive with tool watches commanding much higher retail prices.

The movement: Sellita SW 510 M

While the original 417 had an in-house produced caliber 41 boasting of a column wheel chronograph, the re-issue sports a more pedestrian Sellita SW 510 M. The SW 510 is based on the SW 500 which itself is a clone of the ETA 7750. This is a cam operated chronograph beating at 28,800 bph, with a an autonomy of 48 hours. This is a well proven chronograph, and is used in several reputable tool chronographs, including the Sinn and Oris. We have no doubt it will provide good reliable and accurate service. It ran without issue during the week we had it.

The closed case back with engraved markings, “Hergestellt in Deutscheland” in German translates to “Produced in Germany”. Note 100m water resistance rating.

The movement is bog standard and other than being capable to the task of being accurate and reliable, is nothing to get excited about. We did not open the case back to have a peek at the movement, but we are familiar with the movement outside the case. Finishing is at a technical level with no embellishments of any kind, in keeping with the budget intent of the 417 ES.

Competitive landscape

The market for a pilot or military inspired watch is extremely crowded. Almost all brands offer an alternative. From Zenith to IWC and Panerai, from Sinn to Tutima and Yema. From Bell & Ross to Longines and Tissot. Even Patek Philippe has a finger in the pie. And many others. The list is almost endless, so we will refrain from making one.

Safe for us to say, the Hanhart sits comfortably at the modestly priced end at EUR 1,744.87 inclusive of German VAT at 16% (approx. SGD 2,600 inclusive of GST). Its build quality speaks up for itself against the competition in that price range.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, we enjoyed our time with the Hanhart 417 ES. This is a nicely designed, well thought out watch with excellent build quality. The vintage vibes, especially the period correct design with the box shaped crystal and the cream hue of the hands and numerals add to its charm. The moderate thickness is a bonus and the watch wears very nicely and comfortably, even though the 42mm case diameter might suggest that is may be too large for modest wrists.

And at the very reasonable pricing that Hanhart has set, it is a relative no-brainer must buy for those in the market for a vintage inspired pilot or military chronograph.

Photo notes

The Hanhart 417 ES was photographed in our studio with the Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Macro and HC 2.8/80 lenses with and without H28 extension tubes. Strobe lighting by Profoto.