When I think of Hamilton, either a Ventura or Khaki Field Mechanical immediately come to mind. The Swiss brand is much more than that, of course, with a wide collection of models that are among the best value propositions in the industry. Hamilton is also no stranger to quirky designs as the Ventura line attests, and fun ones like the Jazzmaster Regulator Cinema and Khaki Field Murph keep things interesting. I’ve never really associated the brand with chronographs, despite its solid history with them, but its recent Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 Chronograph definitely changed my mind.
Inspired by chronographs from their 1960s and 1970s portfolio, specifically the 1968 Chronograph A and B models with reversed panda dials (and 1970 Hamilton Chrono-Matic), the Intra-Matic 68 was a cool and mature throwback but unfortunately limited to 1,968 pieces (and they all sold out). The new Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph is a direct follow-up and maintains a lot of what made its predecessor special, and even improves on a thing or two. Let’s take a closer look.
Founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892, Hamilton was a formidable American watchmaker prior to the dominance of Switzerland. Hamilton was a huge player in the railroad industry, producing both pocket and wristwatches, and owned well over 50% of the market. During World War II, the company became a major supplier to the US military and its allies, stopping civilian production altogether. Marine chronometers became a Hamilton speciality for navies around the world, along with field watches for the US Army. Following the war, Hamilton returned to civilian production with the first electric watch in the world, housed in the asymmetrical Ventura series (made famous by Elvis Presley in his 1961 movie, Blue Hawaii). US operations stopped in 1969 and the company shifted production to Switzerland at the Buren Watch factory it had acquired in 1966. By 1972, the factory went under and SSIH acquired Hamilton in 1974 (which ultimately became the Swatch Group). The golden era of American watchmaking had come to an end, but Hamilton’s rebirth as a Swiss brand and subsidiary of the Swatch Group resulted in a successful continuation of the company.
Many of today’s models harken back to Hamilton’s American roots, especially the military-inspired field watches and Ventura collection. In the final throes of American operations and during the joint production efforts with Buren, notable chronographs were produced including the Fontainebleau Chronomatic (with the Chronomatic calibre 11, the first automatic chronograph movement) and aforementioned 1968 Chronograph A and B models, and 1970 Chrono-Matic. The Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph pays homage to these earlier watches with a compelling and affordable piece that would be right at home in the late 1960s.
CASE AND DESIGN
The Intra-Matic 68 from 2017 had a 42mm diameter, which has been toned down to a more manageable 40mm for the Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph (14.45mm in height). The 316L stainless steel case is fully polished with a polished steel caseback to remain period correct. The back is engraved with a sunburst pattern that morphs into H’s as it expands to the edge, and a slightly domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating protects the dial. The first thing I noticed when strapping it on were the oversized pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock, flanking a large, signed crown. They’re certainly not subtle, but definitely stylish and I like the retro vibe. On the left side is a third pusher at 10 o’clock that’s flush with the case, used to set the date. The crown screws down and is easy to grip and manipulate, and the case is water-resistant to 100 metres.
DIAL AND HANDS
The dials come in two colourways with a reversed panda dial in blue or panda black dial, both with a white tachymeter. I have the blue model, which seems a bit more casual overall than the black variant (although both are sporty). Two white sub-dials sit at 3 and 9 o’clock and sport a snailed pattern, with small seconds on the left and a 30-minute counter on the right. Polished steel indices mark the hours with Super-LumiNova at the outer edges and the polished steel hour and minute hands have strips of Super-LumiNova as well. The central chronograph seconds hand is white and both sub-dial hands are a simple baton-style in contrasting black. A framed date window sits at 6 o’clock with black print on a white background, and although I generally dislike date windows, this one balances well with the dial. HAMILTON and its logo are printed in white at the top with AUTOMATIC above the date. I personally think INTRA-MATIC would’ve looked cooler than AUTOMATIC, but that’s a minor quibble and it’s a fantastic dial overall, faithful to the 1960s originals.
Powering the Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph is Hamilton’s H-31 calibre, based on the ETA/Valjoux 7753 (also used in the earlier Intra-Matic 68). It has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 60-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, small seconds at 9 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and date at 6 o’clock. Two pushers control the chronograph with a flush third pusher on the left side at 10 o’clock to advance the date. The movement is slightly decorated with a custom “H” pattern machined on the bridge, but it’s concealed behind the steel caseback.
The 20mm brown calf leather strap has colour-matched stitching and a stainless steel pin buckle. It’s comfortable out of the box and didn’t require a break-in period, and has a nice thickness without being overly padded. The colour matches the overall aesthetic well and it’s one of the rarer supplied straps to properly fit my smaller wrist without issue (or an extra punched hole). Kudos to that.
The Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph is an excellent value proposition offering a lot of watch for the money. The design perfectly captures the retro vibe of the 1960s with a size more contemporary than the 37mm original yet more manageable than the Intra-Matic 68’s 42mm diameter. I think 40mm will be the sweet spot for many. The piece reminds me of a couple of chronographs on either side of its price, with the Mercer Lexington (with a hand-wound Seagull movement) at the lower end and Breitling Premier B01 at the higher. A case could be made as to why the Hamilton is a better buy in both scenarios. You’re getting a Swiss automatic from a storied brand compared to the Mercer, and a comparable watch in many ways compared to the much pricier Breitling. Hamilton has created a very cool, mature chronograph that ticks all of the right boxes for me in regard to design, inspiration and price. At the end of the day, what more can you ask for?
The Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph retails for USD 2,195, CHF 2,150 or EUR 1,995 and is available at Hamilton’s website or participating retailers worldwide.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.