New Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono ¶
Hamilton has long been a Matt Baily favourite here in Montreal, offering superb value for reasonable money. Hamiltons have elegant designs, are well built, nicely finished, and offer exceptional bang for buck compared to most Swiss brands. The latest Jazzmaster chronograph continues the tradition, while offering a subtle evolutionary upgrade of the existing series.
Outwardly the new Jazzmaster looks very similar to previous models, but inside there is a key upgrade that puts Hamilton ahead of the competition in this price category. The movement inside takes the Valjoux 7753 automatic chronograph architecture and tweaks it, exclusively for Hamilton, to offer better performance and much longer power reserve. The mainspring barrel is enlarged to stretch the power reserve from 40 odd hours to a full 60 hours, while the balance hairspring is modified to improve overall accuracy. The movement is finished to a higher degree than the previous Valjoux Elabore grade movements. Up until this point Hamilton has used off-the-shelf Valjoux calibres with minimal decoration, as you would expect in a automatic chronograph that retails for under 2000$. The new H31/H21 series movements increase the value proposition and sets Hamilton apart from the competition by offering an exclusive movement – without any significant increase in the price.
The Jazzmaster series offers classic designs that have a timeless quality about them, without being too stuffy or traditional like many Swiss dress watches. Where most companies mine the golden age of Swiss design in the 1950s and 60s for their dress models, Hamilton draws upon its rich American design heritage. The Jazzmaster is clearly inspired by 1960s American aesthetics, offering softer and more stylized details that still exude elegance. After all Hamilton was one of the premier American watch brands for most of the 20th century, producing high quality wrist and pocket watches in Lancaster Pennsylvania. The company was purchased by the SSIH (which later became the Swatch Group) in 1971, and production was gradually moved to Switzerland. Today Hamilton is part of the Swatch group, which gives it a leg up on the competition – having access to the Swatch production chain means that Hamilton can make higher quality watches for significantly less money than most midrange Swiss watch brands. Who else offers a Swiss automatic chronograph for under 1500$? Or even under 2000$? Not many brands.
The Auto Chrono is an elegant 42mm design that displays the usual Hamilton traits – sculpted forms on the case, exhibition caseback, sturdy leather strap, clean and nicely detailed dial. It’s a no-nonsense design with fine detail, free from extraneous bobbles. The case is a perfect size for modern tastes, just the right size for a classic design without venturing into oversized territory. Being an automatic chronograph it has a thick case to accommodate the movement; it’s thick for such a classic design, and really makes the watch stand out on the wrist. The case uses the signature Jazzmaster design, with a mixture of brushed and polished elements and flowing lines, a nice departure from the typical boring straight-edge case designs you’ll find in this price category. It’s also quite a heavy case, with a solid heft and substantial feel to the crown and pushers.
The dial is on the Jazzmaster is a treat, featuring a brushed sunburst metallic finish and applied polished hour markers. It’s simple and beautiful, no complaints here. A black dial is also available. The chronograph is laid out in a bicompax fashion, with two registers at 3 and 9 o’clock. Only the running seconds and chronograph minutes are displayed, along with a small date window at 6 o’clock. The date features a handy quickset button on the side of the case rather than a two-position crown – while this might seem like a step backwards, it’s a smart move. Valjoux calibres have always had an issue where quicksetting the date at the wrong time can break the calendar mechanism (never, ever set the date between 9 c’clock and 3 o’clock). The solution is to only quickset when the hour is set near 6 o’clock. Unfortunately it’s quite common to unintentionally quickset the date at the wrong time when you don’t pull the crown out to the second position (Valjoux calibres tend to have stiff crown actions, so you may think you are setting the time but you are in fact still in date set mode). The button negates this error, as there is only one position on the crown.
The strap is a traditional sturdy Hamilton item with croc patterning and contrasting stitching on a tang buckle. On this example strap is a dark chocolate brown with tan stitching, a nice combination with the brilliant silver dial. An optional stainless steel link bracelet is also available.
The Jazzmaster Auto Chrono is typical Hamilton – good quality, great value, beautiful design, and understated elegance. It is not a flashy watch by any means, and that’s fine by me. There is something to be said about a clean, classic and elegant watch that perfectly channels the pure aesthetics of a bygone era without becoming a retro parody of itself. When it comes to value for money, Hamilton is the benchmark for classic Swiss watches (with an American heritage, of course). And now with the addition of the H31 calibre movements, the Jazzmaster series offers even more bang for buck. If you want a nice watch on a modest budget, Hamilton is hard to beat. If you have any questions about Hamilton watches or anything else we carry in store, feel free to call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.