Hamilton Intra Matic ¶
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2012 has been a year of vintage re-editions and retro designs. After several years of massive sport watches dominating the market, we are seeing a gradual increase in demand for timeless designs that just so happen to equate to the clean and simple appearance of models from the 1950s and 60s. Hamilton has been at the fore of this trend for the past several years, introducing several models that plumb the rich heritage of the (formerly) American brand. Last year we had the Thin-o-matic, this year we have the Intra-Matic, hot on the heels of the retro-sport Pan Europ chronograph.
The Intra-Matic is inspired by dress watches of the 1960s with a very simple design that channels the restrained elegance of men’s fashion of the period. It is distinctly American in inspiration; it is far simpler and cleaner than Swiss design of the same period. Not to say that Swiss classics are busy, but they generally have a little more ornate finish to them – applied dial markers, dauphin hands, worked lugs. The Intra-Matic is much cleaner - simple case and thin lugs, stick hands and printed baton hour markers. Compare it to the Thin-o-Matic and you will see how much the design has been pared down to the minimum. In my opinion, the Intra is the better design of the two. I’ve long been a fan of very basic but perfectly proportioned dress watches and the Intra nails it.
Like the Thin-o-Matic the Intra-Matic has a very slim case profile, but adds an exhibition back. The bezel is extremely narrow which gives the watch a huge amount of wrist presence. The 42mm looks enormous on the wrist. You would never guess it was “only” 42. It’s a poster child for the “proportion is everything” argument – as I often say here on the blog, you need to see a watch in person and try it on to really know how big or small it looks.
If you want a more understated but still sizeable look, the 38 is the way to go. If you are used to 45mm plus watches, the 42 will suit you fine. If you like something more traditional and understated go for the 38. Myself, I like the 38. It looks much bigger than you would think, like an upsized vintage watch – the 42 looks good a large wrist, but not on mine.
The dial and hands are uncomplicated and suit the style to a tee. The dial has a sunburst metallic grain and a subtle domed shape. The sapphire crystal is also domed – while domed sapphire was once restricted to more expensive marques, we are now seeing it included on more affordable brands. It’s very difficult to cut a sapphire into anything but a flat disk, so it used to be prohibitively expensive to include on an entry level/midrange watch. It would seem that the process is getting easier now that we are seeing them on Hamiltons.
The markers and hands are slender batons that make the dial look even more expansive. The date window at 6 is well integrated and doesn’t stand out too much. I found the Thin-o-Matic looked odd with its afterthought date window cutout at 3 (I have the same complaint against the Pioneer automatic). But not having a date display on a modern watch is a big strike against a watch in the minds of most clients, so it’s not surprising that Hamilton adds it to watches that would look better without them. It’s a minor gripe from a purist’s perspective, so feel free to disagree.
Continuing the comparison with the Thin-o-Matic, the Intra-Matic has an exhibition back where the Thin has a plain back with space for engraving. Thankfully the glass back doesn’t add any appreciable thickness to the case, which remains impressively slim for a mass-produced automatic watch with an ETA movement. Exhibition casebacks are always a plus in this price range and a major bonus for most first-time Swiss watch buyers who are keen to gaze upon the inner workings of their mechanical timepiece, so kudos to Hamilton for showing it off.
A little aside: some designs (like the Pioneer, or the IWC Big Pilot and Ingenieur) have a functional closed back – they have an antimagnetic faraday cage inside the case to mitigate the effects of magnetic fields on the sensitive movements. Thus they need to have a closed back because the movement is blocked from view. Sure, antimagnetism doesn’t sound like a useful feature – but you would be surprised how sensitive these movements can be to magnetism. If you worked around MRIs, CRT monitors, or large speakers you would quickly see the effects. I recall accidentally placing one of my watches next to a CRT computer monitor. Normally it ran spot on, within 10 seconds a day. 30 minutes after I put it down it was running 10 minutes fast. Oops.
There are two options for straps. One is a vintage-style calfskin with tang buckle, the other a multi row stainless steel bracelet with hidden clasp. Either one looks the business. The bracelet has a vintage style that suits the Intra to a tee, kind of like a 1960s bead-of-rice bracelet (but more angular). The strap is pretty good by Hamilton standards and looks like it was pulled out of a new-old-stockpile of vintage straps – it’s flat, stitchless calfskin with a buttery smooth texture. Simple but effective and well suited to the style.
The Intra-Matic is a fine watch for the money. No surprise there, as that has become a Hamilton trademark. It is a superbly simple design that channels the spirit of the 60s very well, and would look spectacular with a tailored suit. It is elegant and well finished enough to fit in with the big-boy dress watches from far more expensive marques. Even if you have expensive taste the fact that it is a Hamilton that retails for under 1000$ should not be a deterrent, because this is a fantastic design that sets a new benchmark for the Jazzmaster series.
For more information about Hamilton or any other big-boy watches that we carry, feel free to call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.