Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph Panda Dial 40mm
Following up a 2017 move that substantially anticipated the competition, Hamilton presented this year a new version of the Intra-Matic Chrono. Why am I talking about ‘anticipating’? Because the market is rapidly getting saturated with vintage chronographs and die-hard-fans and newbies alike – the latter ones following the trend launched by the former ones – are gingerly turning their attention towards vintage chronographs, especially those with two counters, a symmetrical case and mushroom buttons; chronographs that were crafted between the 60s and the 70s.
Hamilton can boast a competitive advantage; it is among those brands that have manufactured fantastic bi-compax chronographs since the late 60s and it is therefore natural for the brand to have access to a vast historical archive and seize this opportunity that both feeds a new desire and simultaneously increases the appeal of the brand itself.
Let's try to make things clearer first
If you remember well, we already talked about a Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono; the first re-edition was presented last year, in a limited edition of 1968 pieces, and featured two different characteristics from those you can see on the 2018 version. The 2017 Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono featured a 42mm case and a reverse panda dial, whereas the 2018 version – that also celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the original collection - features a 40mm case and a panda dial.
The 2017 version refers to the B reference of the original Intra-Matic (with a reverse panda dial), while the 2018 version refers to the A reference (with a panda dial) of that collection. On this dial version the original Hamilton Intra-Matic was also released with the crown set on the left hand side of the case, simply because the American brand took the opportunity, in 1969, to equip its watches with the Chrono-matic caliber that was launched on the market the same year.
The evolution of the species; from the 42mm case on the 2017 version to the 40mm case on the 2018 version
Today it is quite difficult to see two counter chronographs in a 36mm size and, in my opinion, it would also make little sense. A bigger case size is generally a good size for those of us with a 20mm perimeter wrist, but it is also a good size for everybody else because we shouldn’t forget that, in the last fifty years, percentiles have grown and a 36mm watch seems almost funny-looking when wrapped around the majority of today's wrists.
It is also true that the 42mm size on the 2017 version was a bit excessive and that the 40mm size chosen for the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono 2018 is widely accepted by everybody and it is also more credible on the modern re-edition of a "Chronograph A". The white dial does the rest because it is particularly bright and it reminds us of those dials with a patina. Nobody would ever expect to see on a modern Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono an effect similar to what 50 years of natural aging would create, but the nostalgia effect is an important lever of attraction on products of this kind.
The designers could perhaps craft a smaller crown because the current crown is a bit large compared to the size of the case and this confirms that the operations "re-issue" must be based on well-balanced actions; in the golden age of the bi-compax chronograph, the golden rules were fully abided by and that’s why the crown is extremely thin on the original version. I think Hamilton sacrificed a few grams of formal balance in favor of a better usage.
The panda dial is simply wonderful
If the 1968 pieces of the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono were sold out at the speed of light, the 2018 version can be considered an even greater success; the dial is very readable, the two totalizers - on the left hand side is the continuous seconds totalizer and on the right hand side is the thirty minutes totalizer - are perfectly spaced. The alternation between the black ring with a tachymeter scale, the central white part with a cream hue and the slightly recessed counters (on the 2017 version they are in line with the dial) is very attractive at a first glance.
The historic Hamilton logo has the advantage of being less intrusive because it features a font and a style that make it clear and easily readable, but, at the same time, discreet too. Who knows what the final effect could have been if Hamilton had used a curved sapphire crystal at the ends rather than a slightly convex glass, paired with a dial positioned higher up? The brand didn’t give in to the temptation of the folding buckle, but rather equipped the timepiece with a practical pin buckle linked to a very soft black leather strap that comfortably fits the wrist.
The H-31 caliber and my personal opinion on this Intra-Matic
It is no longer a new thing; ETA customizes the calibers of each one of the group's access brands and it is a good thing that ETA now focuses 100% on the brands of the group because this solution is bringing with it a series of benefits and substantial technical improvements. The H-31 caliber guarantees up to 60 hours of power reserve and it maintains the date located at six o'clock that can be easily modified by means of a corrector placed at ten o'clock on the carrure.
The caliber is pleasing and mechanically robust; the H-31 derives from an original Valjoux base that was already very reliable and the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono 2018 is a further step towards the perfect re-edition of one of the most fascinating bi-compax chronographs from the past. The timepiece’s retail price is wisely placed below the psychological €2,000 threshold and it is very difficult that you will grow tired of this watch over the years. My suggestion to the brand? It should manufacture a third version with a crown on the left hand side, a “glass-box” crystal and no date.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®