Review of Hamilton Pan-Europ Automatic Chronograph

P1010504.jpg
Model # H35 716 545

Brand/Model:  Hamilton Pan-Europ Automatic Chronograph
Movement:  Swiss automatic chronograph
Material:  stainless steel case, leather strap
Complications:  date display, chronograph timing in one-second increments up to 30 minutes
Price:  MSRP:  $1,971 USD

Plenty of photos follow the review.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Plenty has already been written and said about the re-issue of the Hamilton Pan-Europ automatic chronograph, and if you will indulge me, I will add my eight dollars and 43 cents worth.  This watch is a re-issue of Hamilton’s iconic Pan-Europ automatic chronograph from 1971, which has been heralded as the world’s first automatic mechanical chronograph.  I won’t go into the debate as to whether this is really true or not, but suffice to say that the original Pan-Europ is an important part of horological history and a pretty nifty looking watch to boot!

The re-issue captures many of the details of the 1971 original while updating the piece in keeping with the current trends in men’s watches, ie:  big.  Hamilton decided to celebrate its being a part of the Swatch Group since 1971 (40 years) by re-issuing the Pan-Europ in a limited edition of 1,971 pieces, all of which have been spoken for.

First off, I feel that Hamilton watches generally represent a great value, with outstanding build quality and nice details for prices that are lower than other brands.  The new Pan-Europ continues this tradition. 

The original Pan-Europ was a lefty crown with right-hand chronograph pushers because the movement was the famed Caliber 12 movement used by Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton.  The re-issue has a standard right side crown and pushers, but is faithful to the colors used in the original, primarily blue, white and red.  The mysterious number ‘703’ has been left off the dial of the new watch.  No one quite knows what this number referred to in the original, but it appeared on the dial and has been confounding watch enthusiasts ever since.

The new Pan-Europ starts with a large 45.2mm stainless steel case in a classic cushion/tonneau shape that is polished and brushed.  There’s no mistaking this watch for the original, the new one is big!  The polished case back is secured by four screws and sports a large ‘1971’ along with individual serial numbers for the limited edition.  The crown screws down and is signed.  Case diameter with crown is 49.6mm.  Thickness is 14.5mm, with 22mm lugs.  Overall fit and finish is quite good.  The crown is nice and large and screws down.  The pushers have mild fluting on them, although they do not screw down.

What appeals so much about the Pan-Europ is its vivid blue dial, which can look darker blue in certain light or the perfect shade of medium blue in other light.  The blue rotating bezel is also a stunner.  The dial is offset by the white-rimmed subdials for the chronograph, which are slightly raised above the dial and jut out to the edge of the tachymeter chapter ring.  The subdials themselves are silver with red pointers. 

The subdial on the left is the watch seconds hand, the subdial on the right is the chronograph’s 30-minute totalizer.  The chronograph seconds hand is all red and is kept simple.  The main watch hands are silver stick-style with inset lume. 

The hands appear to be rather thin in relation to the overall size of the watch, so this can be somewhat jarring at times.  It’s not a major design fault, but their thinness doesn’t jive with the rest of the watch.  Silver applied markers with inset lume are set halfway into the chapter ring for a unique look.  Lume quality is fine, there’s just not a lot of lumed surfaces on the new Pan-Europ. 

Another cool touch is the retro ‘70s style font used for the printing on the dial.  The words ‘Hamilton’, ‘automatic’, ‘Pan-Europ’ and ‘Caliber H31’ appear on the dial and are properly sized so as not to be obtrusive or distracting.

A quickset date window is at the 6 position with a black on white date wheel.  A note about the quickset date.  Instead of operating through the crown like most do, this quickset is changed via a small flush pusher at the 10 position on the upper left side of the case.  My theory is that the modified Valjoux 7753 precluded a standard crown operated quickset, but I don’t know for sure.  You can use any small pointed object to set the date with the pusher, I prefer something made of plastic to avoid the possibility of scratching the case.

A very slightly domed sapphire crystal covers the dial.  A blue unidirectional 120-click bezel surrounds the dial and has clear, easy to read numbers on it.  The grooves cut into the side of the bezel are fairly widely spaced and not real deep and coupled with the polished sides, make the bezel a bit hard to turn at times.  But the bezel looks magnificent.  The watch is factory rated at 100 meters of water resistance.

Inside the new Pan-Europ is the Hamilton Caliber H31, which is a modified Valjoux 7753.  Hamilton installs a larger barrel for a claimed 60-hour power reserve.  During testing in my atelier, I achieved a good 58-hour power reserve, but not the claimed 60 hours.  Timekeeping has been excellent, running +1/24 hours.  Chronograph start, stop and reset are as expected, that is, crisp, positive and accurate.  The crown is nice and big and makes handwinding the Pan-Europ a pleasure.

The strap on the new Pan-Europ looks stunning and compliments the retro-aspect of this watch perfectly.  The strap is a thick, medium brown rally-style leather with a croc pattern embossed on it.  The strap is not as soft or supple as some Hamilton straps I have seen and although it is handmade, it feels pretty stiff and a bit low-grade.  It has a semi-gloss finish with white contrast stitching and measures 22mm at the lugs, tapering to about 20.3mm at the clasp. 

Speaking of the clasp, it is a first-class piece all the way; a pushbutton signed clasp with a beautiful polished and machined deployant that fits over the other end of the strap for a smoother feel and cleaner look while wearing, since the strap touches your skin and not the deployant.  Another benefit of this clasp design is the lack of any keepers; they are not needed because the end of the strap rides inside your wrist, not on the outside.

When the new Pan-Europ was released a few months ago, people eagerly waited to get their hands on it.  All 1971 pieces sold out quickly, but a month or two later, the inevitable flippers appeared and continue to do so sporadically, so finding one will take some effort, but shouldn’t prove too hard.  I think the size of the new piece puts off some enthusiasts; it is a large watch and can be ungainly from time to time.

Overall, Hamilton has created a fitting homage to its original Pan-Europ from 1971, suitably upgraded and updated for 21st century duty.  Large and in-charge with the Hamilton attributes that make this brand so appealing, the new Pan-Europ would be a worthy addition to any watch collection.
 
Pros:  stunning blue dial and bezel, overall fine build quality, two-register chrono good looks, a fitting tribute to the original, beautiful deployant clasp

Cons:  large size too big for some, thick, stiff leather strap, slight plastic look to parts of the dial, quickset date pushbutton a bit odd

Verdict:  buy it for looks, buy it for heritage, but make sure you wear it, because the new Hamilton Pan-Europ is too nice a watch to keep hidden away

Thanks for reading and enjoy the pictures.

Excelsior!

-Marc

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