The story of Hanhart dates back to 1882, when Johann A. Hanhart announces he is to establish a watch shop in Diessenhofen in northeast of Switzerland. In 1902 the manufactory is relocated to Schwenningen in southern Germany, not far from Gütenbach where Hanhart opened their second manufactory in 1934. Willhelm, Johann’s son, joined Hanhart in 1920, and being a lover of sports, he was annoyed by the difficulties of getting hold on functioning stopwatches that didn’t cost a fortune. How to solve that? Make your own. So, in 1924 Hanhart released the first reasonably priced stopwatch. 95 years later, stopwatches still are a big part of their history and an important segment of their business.
The first Hanhart wristwatch that went into production, the “Calibre 40”, a single-button chronograph, was released in 1938. A year later, the “TachyTele” and “Calibre 41” saw the light and the famous red button was born. These pilot chronographs were used by military pilots and naval officers and are the watches that the “PIONEER” collection is based on.
Even though Hanharts catalogue has grown in modern years, with everything from the rebirth of classics to the various models from the “Primus” and “Racemaster” collections, some Black Ops chronographs and three-handed, special editions, Hanhart’s name will always be synonymous with stopwatches, pilot chronographs and last but not least, the famous red button. Different stories have been told to be the reason behind Hanhart’s distinctive re-set button. Even if I know that it was colored red to prevent pilots from zeroing the stop time unintentionally during flight, I want to believe in the legend where a pilot kisses his sleeping girlfriend goodbye before he leaves and enters the war. When he reaches the hangar where the plane is located, he looks at his watch and discovers that she has painted the button with her red nail varnish so that he would always remember her and return safely from his missions. Being a soft-hearted guy, such stories, true or false, takes my passion to the next level and puts me in a naïve and romantic mode. I told my better half about this legend and I must admit my lips started to shake a bit. It’s probably a combination of my deep fascination and love for watches, histories and being a father to a little child.
Legendary watches are not made only through great stories. Even if the red button is a super-solid trademark, the rest of the watch must be of certain standards to remain as a classic in the vast landscape of great timepieces. The Hanhart PIONEER TwinControl was first presented at Baselworld in 2011 and is, as the rest of the Pioneer-series, directly inspired by the models released in the late thirties. With the PIONEER TwinControl, Hanhart has stayed true to its origins and created a modern version of a classic pilot chronograph. The model in this review is named 720.210-001, has a black dial and a fixed bezel. The TwinControl is a watch of solid measurements. Being 42mm across, approximately 51mm from lug to lug and with a height of 15mm, it lets you know that you are wearing something solid on your wrist. The black, riveted calfskin strap must be one of the softest pilot watch straps out there! My fragile wrists struggle every time I use pilot straps, but this one is nice as velvet. The overall comfort is very good, and the watch lies nicely on the wrist, not feeling too big or heavy.
From the heart inside to the outer edges, the TwinControl is a watch that oozes quality. Powered by the HAN3809 movement, an in-house modified, 28 jewels ETA7750 that’s fitted with a lever that allows the asymmetrical positioning of the pushers. Rearranged a few millimeters might not seem like much, but I will say that the functionality and ergonomics of the pushers are second to none.
Between the famous buttons you will find a large and beautiful crown. It’s not a screw down but being a watch with water resistance of 100 meters I have no trouble with it. I find it kind of refreshing having an “ordinary” crown that can be operated easily. Being left in the middle, between iconic pushers, I want to bring it into the limelight for a second or two. When turning it around, winding the movement or setting the time, you will notice the great quality lying at your fingertips. The balance between smoothness and just enough resistance is perfect. Another feature, that’s music to my ears, is the sound of the moving rotor. Instead of the sound of sheets of metal sliding back and forth, it has the same ticking sound that I remember from the Lemania 1345 movement, a sound so nice that I recorded it and shared it with fellow enthusiasts in different watch forums.
The case of the TwinControl is mainly brushed, stainless steel. The buttons and crown, parts of the case back and the neck under the bezel are polished and adds a nice contrast to the overall looks. The screwed-down case back is engraved with the well-known “h” and information about the watch. It’s a clean and informative layout that you will find on the different Hanhart models with a closed case back. If you wonder what material is used on the re-set pusher, it’s ceramic. Red, juicy and highly scratch resistant ceramic.
At the front, under the convex, AR-coated sapphire you will see the face of a classic, vintage inspired, bi-compax Hanhart chronograph. At nine o’clock you will find the small seconds and at three o’clock the 30-minute register with a red-tipped hand that matches the re-set button. The second-hand, with a fly-back function, serves as a very accurate counter and resets to zero at micrometer precision. Operating the chronograph, you will get the feel of the level of quality Hanhart strives to achieve.
The date window is placed at six o’clock and if I have any concerns with this watch, it must be this window. It is quite small, and the date wheel lies quite deep below the dial due to the arrangement of the movement. White numbers on a black wheel provides a much-needed contrast and lets you read the date from a relatively close range.
Super-Luminova is used to lighten up the main numerals, the pip beneath the date at six o’clock and the large, classic, cathedral minute- and hour-hands. The lume on the hands shine brighter and longer compared to the lume on the numerals.
To complete the very symmetrical layout of the dial, “Hanhart 1882” and “Automatic” are placed on a center line from twelve to six o’clock.
If you are looking for a 10 kilo, glossy box made from exotic trees, you have to look elsewhere. Hanhart delivers the perfect packaging through a soft, but solid, black leather pouch. For me, less is more and this wrapping fulfills the feeling of having a classic, historical timepiece in your collection.
So, to sum this up, I will remain seated and have some seconds in silence. This review has been a journey through Hanhart’s soul and history, a close encounter with a beautiful watch and some good dialogs with the fantastic staff in Gütenbach. Hanhart isn’t a brand that flood the market with tons of models, has long waiting lists or a support department located inside a bunker, not able to respond when you must get in touch. If you get yourself a Hanhart, you will get a high-quality timepiece with lots of history, assembled and adjusted by the same person that will assemble and adjust the second watch you might want to get. If not, it will be done by a colleague sitting beside. Hanhart is represented in almost every continent, but at the same time they feel like your local watch store, waiting for you to drop by and grab a cup of coffee. This is a rare quality that warms the heart of a soft-hearted watch enthusiast.