New Hamilton Pan Europ Chronographs ¶
Last year, Hamilton released the Pan Europ as a limited edition recreation of an iconic design from the 1970s. Produced in a run of 1971 examples with a blue dial, blue bezel and brown rallye strap, the model sold out in short order. It was one of the hottest Hamilton models of recent memory, and for good reason – it looked amazing, was priced really well, and had a distinctive style that set it apart from typical automatic chronographs. This year Hamilton is following up on the success of the initial run by producing two “unlimited” (regular production) versions of the Pan Europ. Available with either black and silver dials, these new Pan Europs are just as stunning as the original.
The original Pan Europ Chrono-Matic was released in 1971 as Hamilton’s first automatic chronograph, sharing a movement with Heuer and Breitling (who introduced one of the first automatic winding chronograph calibres, competing with the Zenith El Primero and Seiko 6139). The original had a distinctly 70s design, featuring thick integrated lugs, a C-shaped case, and an internal tachymeter chapter ring combined with a rotating external bezel. The design is reminiscent of a Heuer Autavia, but in my opinion it has better proportions than the Heuer. Something about the bicolour dial and internal tachymeter gave it a more interesting look compared to the rather plain Autavia.
The re-edition sticks close to the original design. The case is slightly bigger at 45mm across, and the use of a standard Hamilton modified H31 (Valjoux) automatic movement means that the crown is on the right side (the original Buren-Breitling-Heuer movements had the pushers on the right and the crown on the left). The dial and hands are very similar to the 1971 version, but with some modern depth – the subdial rings are raised, the hour markers are applied, and the chapter ring is recessed around the markers. Red subdial hands and sweep second hand add a touch of sporty colour to the design. Either dial is nice, but the black takes my vote for the best look.
The movement is Hamilton’s exclusively modified Valjoux 7753 automatic calibre, dubbed the H31. Produced by ETA for Hamilton, it has several upgraded parts to improve accuracy and bump the power reserve from 40-odd hours to 60 hours. It offers a lot of value for money – many of the latest automatic chronographs from Hamilton feature the H31 and its sister, the H21 (with a 12 and 6 o’clock subdial layout). As ever Hamilton offers some of the nicest automatic chronos you will find in this price range. The extra power reserve and upgraded parts are a bonus that you won’t get from most brands at twice the price, let alone under $2000. That’s the benefit of having a brand within the Swatch group, with direct access to ETA calibres.
The dial layout is a classic bicompax (two register at 9 and 3 o’clock) with a date window at 6, ala original Pan Europ. It’s a clean and uncluttered layout for a chronograph. You lose the hour counter (only the running seconds and minute counter are retained) but considering most owners never make use of the chronograph it’s not a big deal. The look is distinctly vintage, recalling classic two-register chronographs of the 1940s-50s-60s, and of course the original Calibre 11 models (including the Heuer Monaco) that featured a two-register layout with date. A quickset pusher is located at 10 o'clock to adjust the date, like other H31 chronographs.
The Pan Europ is a sizeable watch, clocking in at 45mm with a thick profile. The case is brushed with a sharp polished chamfer along the sides, very simple but quite attractive. The caseback is opened to show the movement (unlike last year’s limited edition). Pushers are simple pump items that stay true to the original design. The C-shaped case gives it a chunky look, as does the rotating bezel. The bezel is an unusual feature that you don’t see on many modern chronograph designs; it’s graduated in minutes to count elapsed time like a diving watch, so you can time two events at once – one on the bezel and one with the chronograph. Nowadays you usually see rotating minute-graduated bezels on diving chronographs exclusively, so it gives the Pan Europ a distinguishing feature among current designs.
Last year’s limited edition Pan Europ was a very hot seller for Hamilton and sold out worldwide in a matter of months. The new versions are equally impressive but far more accessible, something that will make a lot of fans who were unable to secure the limited piece very happy. It’s an excellent re-edition piece that channels the spirit of the original without looking contrived or dorky (which, unfortunately, is the problem with a lot of designs from the 1970s…). Like any Hamilton the Pan Europ offers a lot of value for the money – it’s a well made, nicely detailed, nicely designed watch for a reasonable price. You can’t beat that.
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