Hamilton is a brand that needs little introduction. Once one of the great American watch brands, Hamilton is now owned and operated by the Swiss Swatch group. Being a brand with such a distinct and rich history, Swatch has preserved the underlying aesthetic spirit and heritage of the brand by continually drawing upon their own archives for new products. These re-issues tend to stay very faithful to their original counterparts, with case and dial designs only having minor changes, but materials and movements being upgraded to today’s standards.
The Intra-matic, which was first (re)-introduced at Basel World 2012, is a very faithful recreation of a watch from the mid 60’s. With subtle, refined details and minimal dial, the watch speaks to a time when form, graphic elements and a sense of modesty defined a casual or dress watch. The new Intra-matic takes the mid-century design vocabulary and places them in either a retro 38mm or a contemporary large 42mm case.
We had the pleasure of spending a couple of weeks with a 38mm gold plated version with black leather strap, which is likely the dressiest variety of the watch. Featuring a domed sapphire crystal and an ETA 2892-2 automatic movement, this version of the Intra-matic comes in at $945, which is quite fair for a Swiss made dress watch, let alone one that is so unique.
Case: Steel w/ Gold PVD
Movement: ETA 2892-2
Water Res.: 50m
Dimensions: 38 x 44.25mm
Thickness: 10 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 5 x 2.5 mm screw down
Warranty: 2 year
The vintage theme of the Intra-matic is immediately visible in its geometric case design, which is very faithful to some of the original Intra-matics of the 60’s. Measuring 38 x 44 x 10mm, the watch is small by today’s standards, but larger than the original design. Nevertheless, it is a completely appropriate for a dress watch of this style, and proportionally very attractive. The design itself looks to be simple, but has many interesting features.
From above, the case appears as a cylinder with fairly thin, angular lugs. From the side you can see that the case is not a slab sided shape, but rather has a saucer form, tapering up to the high-domed sapphire crystal and down to the case back. This gives the watch a much thinner feeling than that of 10mm, and more elegant and flowing form, though the design is geometric. The lugs are then a bit taller than expected, giving them a stronger and more masculine shape. If you look very closely, you can also see how the very top of the lugs, where they meet the bezel, goes a little past the bezel. This subtle detail gives them a more defined look from above, as there is a line that is created in the gap between the lug and bezel.
At 3 is a small crown that measures 5 x 2.5 mm and features a coin edge and a 60’s Hamilton H logo. Though the crown is petite it is easy to manipulate and suits the case size and design perfectly. On the flip side is the exhibition case back, which nicely shows off the ETA 2892-2 movement inside. Though generally lacking in decoration, the rotor of the 2892-2 has been etched with a simple design and a large Hamilton logo. The metal of the case back has a very gentle curve to it, making it comfortable against the wrist, as well as some basic info etched in. It is held in place by four small screws.
The gold plating on the case is perfectly applied, as to be expected, and is polished throughout. The gold lends the watch a much dressier appearance, but given the design of the case, does not feel tacky or ostentatious. Though the steel version might be easier as a daily wear, the gold makes the watch feel a bit special, like something you would only wear to certain occasions.
The Intra-matic has a very simple and minimal dial that is still quite exciting and elegant. The surface is a domed silver sunburst that has a very dynamic quality to it. As light hits the surface, it is thrown off in radial lines and fan shapes. Though the color is a light grey, it is always changing and takes on qualities of the light in the space you are in. The slightly domed shape then adds another dimension to the dial, giving some sense of depth.
The dial features one simple index of long, thin charcoal colored lines, one at each hour. The lines are thicker for 12, 3, 6 and 9, giving the watch a sense of orientation as well as slight “crosshair” appearance. At the 6-position is an outlined window that displays the black on white date. This positioning is faithful to the time period and helps keep the symmetry of the dial in tact. I personally prefer 6 o’clock date windows, so I was very glad to see it implemented here.
There are a few lines of text on the dial that are well sized as not to overweigh the layout. Just below the 12 marker is a 60’s “H” logo as well as italicized “Hamilton” and “automatic” in all caps. And just above the date window at 6 is the watch name, Intra-matic, in all lowercase and at the very bottom it reads “swiss made”. Though it is a decent amount of text for a dress watch, the styling of it helps make the watch feel like a retro piece and it eats up what would likely be odd empty areas.
The Intra-matic features thin black stick hands for the hour and minute and no active seconds hand. The hand style suits the watch perfectly, tying in well with the linear index and maintaining the overall minimal dress aesthetic. The minute hand, which extends nearly to the edge of the dial, curves with the domed dial. Though subtle, it is noticeable under scrutiny and simply an enjoyable detail of the watch.
The lack of a seconds hand is a bold decision for a modern watch. It stays true to the original and gives the watch a more subdued and quiet demeanor that works, but also takes away from the sort of spectator aspect of having a watch, that is to say, there is nothing in motion on the front side. Having owned several watches without active seconds hands, mostly vintage pieces, I know it is something that one gets used to very quickly, but I am still a bit surprised that they went this direction on a retail watch. That being said, I think it was a bit of a risk and I applaud them for taking it.
The overall look of the dial is clean, minimal and very attractive. Between the thin index, hands and lack of seconds, the watch speaks to the Bauhaus aesthetic. Given that the original is from the 60’s, this seems fitting. On the gold version, the silver sunburst dial also picks up some warm tones from the case. As a dress watch, it really comes together to be a modest and elegant piece.
It is worth noting that the watch is also available with a black sunburst dial that features white markers and text. Though I haven’t seen it in person, I’d imagine this combination to actually be the most casual and perhaps most masculine, dropping the glimmer of the silver for something more simple and austere.
Movement: ETA 2892-2
At its heart, the Intra-matic contains an ETA 2892-2 21-jewel automatic movement. This hacking, hand-winding movement features a date, 42-hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph, though the hacking is moot as there is no seconds hand. The 2892-2 is generally perceived as a slightly higher end movement than the more common (at least in this price range) 2824-2. Since I am not a watchmaker, I can’t speak to the validity of this, but here is an interesting article that sheds some light on the matter. The most notable difference, it would seem, and likely why it is in the Intra-matic, is that the 2892-2 is 1mm thinner.
Strap and Wearability
The gold plated version of the Intra-matic comes mounted on a black 20mm leather strap that tapers to 18mm at the buckle. It’s a very simply styled strap, as one would expect given the overall watch design, which also has a very retro style. The black leather has a slightly pebbled texture to it and the strap has no visible stitching. This gives it a very clean, but since the leather is textured, still somewhat organic and warm appearance. It’s appropriately thin at just shy of 3mm, so it doesn’t overweigh the lugs, and is also quite comfortable. The buckle is gold plated and has an angular profile to match the general aesthetic of the case. Overall, it’s a very nice strap that compliments the watch design.
On the wrist, the 38mm case wears very comfortably. As I mentioned previously, the case wears thinner that 10mm due to the saucer shape of the central case, as well as the rounded case back and domed sapphire crystal. The dome itself likely adds a false couple of millimeters, so the watch wears more like it is 7 or 8mm thick. This allows it fit easily under a shirtsleeve. While 38mm is small by today’s standards since it is fairly flat and the bezel is thin, the watch has wears a bit larger, looking more like a 40mm or so. Either way, on my 7” wrist, the size was very appropriate.
A gold watch will never be my first choice for daily wear, but as a special occasion dress watch, it can feel all the more elegant. Clearly it would work with a grey or black suit, but for something a casual and a bit retro, check out the Pairs Well With we did several months ago. That being said, the steel version would be a great daily wear, especially for an office environment. It’s subtle, classic, yet still very stylized and would work with jeans as well as slacks.
When you look at watches from the 60’s, you can’t help but admire the style and flare with which they were designed. Maybe it’s just that it’s hard to appreciate the time you are in, but things from the mid 20th century just seem more elegant and straightforward. The Intra-matic, having been based very closely on a watch from the Hamilton archives, distills all of the right aesthetic qualities of a 60’s watch into a modern timepiece.
As such, the watch has an interesting feel to it. A glance at your wrist and you might forget for a moment that it is brand new, but when you hold it in your hand, admire the light coming off of the domed sapphire, the watch feels like a contemporary piece. It’s also solid, having just enough heft to not feel fragile giving it the build of modern watch. And though the look speaks to the design of another generation, it is still relevant to today’s aesthetic, as a classic design ought to be.
Naturally, the design will not appeal to everyone, but for those of you who are craving something vintage, but want the build quality and components of a modern piece, the Intra-matic might be perfect for you. And at $945, though not an impulse buy, it is fairly priced for what it is.
by Zach Weiss
Review unit supplied by Hamilton Watch US