Hanhart Pioneer Monocontrol Review

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When we talk about value, one region of the world always comes to mind; Germany. German-made watches continually offer incredible build quality, remarkable tech and even in-house movements all at fair prices. Not cheap, but fair. The brands, which are typically not available at retail, usually command prices that take a commitment, but for watches that deliver far beyond what their Swiss counterparts would. From Archimede to Sinn, Damasko to Nomos, Stowa to Junghans, there isn’t a brand that manufactures in Germany that has disappointed us. Today, we are going to take a look at a brand that is new to worn&wound, but has been in existence for over 100 years, Hanhart.

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Founded by Willy Hanhart in 1882, the brand was originally based in Switzerland and then moved to Germany. In 1924 Hanhart created the first affordable mechanical stopwatch for use in track and field. In fact, they to this day, produce many varieties of mechanical stopwatches, including split-seconds and flybacks. In 1938 they released their first chronograph wristwatch with a mono-pusher movement called the “Caliber 40”. This watch and similar models that followed became widely used by the Luftwaffe in WWII and then were officially issued by the West German Airforce in the 1950’s. One small claim to fame is that Steve McQueen was a fan of the brand and wore a model called the 417.

Now based in Gutenbach, Germany, which is in the Black Forest region, Hanhart is continuing to create very impressive chronographs and stop watches. With lines that are based on their historical models as well as new designs, they are doing things with chronographs that few brands are, such as mono-pushers, stacked sub-dials, sub-dials that are pushed farther out from the center, flybacks and a mix of all those various things. Featuring Swiss movements based on ETA platforms developed with La Joux Perret, a high end complication manufacturer, and German made cases, these small batch watches represent a value you wont find elsewhere.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the Hanhart Pioneer Monocontrol. This mono-pusher chronograph is based on their watches from the 30’s and 40’s, but takes things in a slightly different and perhaps more modern direction. It’s a luxury watch if I’ve ever felt one, with exceptional build and detailing, yet a price tag of $2,490. That’s not to say that is inexpensive, hardly, but for what you are getting, it’s a value and a fair price. The watch features a sapphire crystal, 100m WR and an automatic chronograph movement you wont find elsewhere, so let’s take a closer look.

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$2490

Hanhart Pioneer Monocontrol Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
HAN3911 (modified Valjoux 7750)
Dial
Silver
Lume
C3
Lens
Domed Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
42.4 x 51mm
Thickness
14.8mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
9 x 5.6mm
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$2490

Case

The case of the Pioneer Monocontrol is a slightly modern update to the classic design. Measuring 42.4 (listed as 42) x 51 x 14.8mm, it’s a medium/large watch, but certainly within scope of your typical pilot’s watch. They do have a smaller series as well, with a diameter of 40mm. Regardless of the actual size, what matters the most here are proportions, and the Pioneer is perfectly balanced. This makes it wear a bit smaller, in my opinion. The design itself is nothing fancy. The case has classic flowing contours with nice, thick lugs, slab sides and the gorgeous fluted bezel which I’ll get to shortly. It’s very finely brushed, giving it a satin finish, save a lip under the bezel which is polished, adding the occasional glint of light.

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On the three o’clock side is the main crown and single chrono-pusher. The crown is something to behold; it’s massive. Measuring 9 x 5.6mm, it’s one of the largest crowns I’ve encountered, yet it works on the watch. It looks big, that’s for sure, perhaps making the rest of the watch appear a bit smaller, but it works with the design, and it appears to be a detail that carries over from historical models, as most pilot’s watch had large crowns for use with gloves. What I particularly like about it is that it’s not an onion or diamond crown, rather it’s a classic cylinder making it less likely to jab your wrist. The size and fine toothing also make it a delight to grasp and turn should you choose to manually wind the watch.

The pusher has a couple of notable features. First is obviously it’s solo-status, as this is a “mono-pusher” chronograph. Next, is the red ceramic cap. This is a signature Hanhart detail that dates back to the 30’s as well, and one that I find very attractive. You won’t find a chronograph or stopwatch in their collection without one. On their two-pusher watches, the red demarcates the reset button, but here it just signifies the chronograph function, and beckons to be pressed. Lastly, the pusher is actually at a wider angle (it’s closer to 12) from the crown than you’d typically find. This has to do with the movement modifications, but it’s one that is done for ease of use. The greater space gives the pusher more clearance. When you hold it in your hand like a stop watch, the position is perfect for your thumb.

Another defining feature of the Hanhart is the fluted bezel. This design dates back to the 30’s as well, and though by today’s standards it seems quite decorative, as a functional bezel, the fluting makes it very easy to turn. And the bezel on the Pioneer does in fact work, smoothly gliding in either direction. With out various markings, the functionality is limited, but you do have the red origin point to line up for either counting down or up. Aesthetically, it is a very enjoyable detail, though potentially divisive,. It’s nice and thick, adding mass to the sides of the case, tempering the overall size. The satin finish picks up light in an interesting way, and every nook breaks the reflections.

The case back is a solid steel screw down. There is sort of a main plateau area on which various details are etched, such as “Made in Germany” and “100M”. It’s a simple design, but it works. One interesting thing to note is that it doesn’t have the classic grooves for use with a case back tool. Instead, there are three flanges that must coordinate with a specific tool they use. This might limit one’s ability to bring it in for maintenance, but considering the movement inside it would be best to get this serviced by Hanhart or an authorized service center.

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Dial

The dial is the real showstopper for me. It takes the general design of the watch from the 30’s and dresses it up and modernizes it just enough. What you get is both military and luxury, sporty and elegant, and perfectly balanced. Starting with the color, there are two options; black or silver. Clearly here we have silver, which immediately departs from the classic style. That said, it’s gorgeous. On top of that, they add various texturing and debossing. So what you get is a pale silver that is made dynamic, and classic military markings that don’t look old-fashioned.

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The primary index consists of pale green lumed arabic numerals with fine black outlines. The printing here is superb as the black lines perfectly encase the lume, making the numbers jump out. The surface below this area has a fine circular graining, giving it a more metallic finish than the satin areas around it. This sets the whole hour index apart from the rest of the dial, aiding in legibility while also providing an attractive detail. On the outer edge of the dial you have a minutes and chono-seconds index with numerals at intervals of 5 and, lines per individual units and sub-seconds delineation. Once again, the typeface and index design are very close to that of the model’s from the 30’s and 40’s.

At 3 and 9 are sub-registers for the 30-minute counter and the active seconds, respectively. The active seconds stays very true to the original, with a railroad index and numerals at intervals of 10. The minute-counter is been dressed up a bit, featuring multiple layers and a surface of circular graining. For such a small area, there is actually quite a lot going on, yet it remains clean and legible. It’s this sort of detailing that really makes this watch feel like a high-end piece (not that it isn’t). The size and spacing of the sub-registers is also ideal. Part of what I love about the watch as a whole is that the design clearly started with the movement and was built out, so, everything is where it should be and proportioned correctly. A good example of this is the subtle amount of space between the edges of the sub-registers and the outer index track; it’s just enough space to let everything breath.

Below 12, on the matte inner area, is the “hanhart 1882” logo. This is a more modern version of their logo, and it looks good. The use of italicized lower case lettering gives the logo and understated feel, which is quite uncommon. At 6 there is a date window showing a white date disk with black lettering. It is placed just above a small lumed square. The date here works well as it preserves the watch’s symmetry. Just above that in small caps it reads “automatic”. All in all, the text and date are well balanced, not taking up too much real estate.

The Pioneer Monocontrol features lumed “squelette” style hands for the hour and minute that refer to the original. I always find these hands a bit odd, and a bit baroque, but they are the correct style and now that I’ve grown accustomed to them I find they work. The center chrono-seconds hand is a long, thin stick in black with a red tip and a spade shaped counter weight. To match the seconds, the chrono-minutes too is a black and red, but with a small arrow, followed by a long tip. The active seconds is simply a polished stick. There are two details about the hands I love. First is that the chrono-seconds and the main minutes hands curve down towards the dials. This is especially noticeable on the seconds and gives it even more of a stop-watch look. The second is the color coordinating of the time vs the chrono functions. This is simply one of those logical things that I like to see in a design. It’s worth noting that the lume all around is excellent, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Movement: HAN3911

Powering the Pioneer Monocontrol is a heavily modified Valjoux 7750/3 dubbed the HAN3911. The most obvious alteration is that the mechanism has been reconfigured for mono-pusher function. For those unaware, the start, stop and reset mechanism are all achieved via the single button above 2. While this is not necessarily as practical as a double pusher configuration, which allows you to start, stop and start again, it’s more about the history and, frankly, aesthetics of it. Furthermore, in today’s market, it’s also about rarity. You just don’t find mono-pushers with frequency in the price range as there simply aren’t movements that are available. Longines, Bell&Ross and Habring2 are the only that come to mind, but they cost quite a bit more. C Ward too, but their watch is sort of it’s own thing. Additionally, as mentioned in the case section, the pusher itself has been moved closer towards 12, which is a modification I don’t believe anyone else is doing. Lastly, assuming the base it literally a 7753, the hours have been removed.

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As far as specs go, the HAN3911 is an automatic with 28-jewels, date, hacking seconds, hand winding, a 42-hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800bph. It’s really remarkable that this movement is in a watch that is under $2,500, especially when considering no one else is using it and that they worked with La Joux Perret, who are typically known for working with very high end brands. Case in point, both Bell&Ross and Vulcain use Le Joux Perret mono-pushers in watches that start around $8,000.

Straps and Wearability

The Pioneer Monocontrol comes mounted to a 21mm black leather strap with a single rivet per side. Let’s start with the one thing that annoyed me about this watch; the 21mm lug width. It’s a minor nuisance, granted, but it makes finding third party straps less convenient. Yes, you can squeeze a 22mm in there, but that’s not ideal. Moving on, the strap itself is very nicely made and comfortable. The leather is thick, but supple, and the strap tapers slightly towards the buckle for a more comfortable wear. I’m not usually a fan of riveted straps, but here they didn’t bother me and they look the part. The rivets sit about half an inch below the lugs, and don’t press too hard into one’s skin.

The watch also wears very well. While it’s not small by any means, it doesn’t feel or look too big. Even the height of nearly 15mm is somehow not an issue. This is largely because of the really well balanced proportions. Everything is where it should be, as thick as it should be, as wide, etc. Granted, this is true on a 7″ wrist and simply might not be true for a thinner wrist.

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Aesthetically, it’s a winner too (if you can’t tell by now, I really like this watch). The mix of early 20th century military design with the textured silver dial makes this a great day-to-day watch. It’s not nearly as aggressive as many military watches are, even coming across as elegant. The occasional flecks of red add some vibrancy to it and the single pusher make it a bit quirky; just enough for the watch to have a unique personality. I found it very comfortable to wear with my usual jeans and oxford attire, but I feel like you could pull it off with more formal clothing as well. Definitely a watch you wear to the office, and then tell your Breitling-wearing boss about how cool it is.

Conclusion

Whenever I get a chance to try on a watch I’ve never seen before, I take it. Whether it’s inexpensive or outrageously priced (I think $500k holds the record for having been on my wrist) I find it’s important to put it on. This isn’t to play flashy, but rather to feel and see the watch the way it’s meant to be felt and seen. In doing so, I’ve built a mental archive of these experiences and can compare new watches to old. Why I’m saying this is that we come across many really well-made watches in the affordable market, watches that are seriously solid, that you couldn’t imagine being better built, but when you feel the gravity of some luxury pieces, there is a difference, even if it’s just mental. This watch, the Hanhart Pioneer Monocontrol, feels like a watch that costs many times more. There’s an air to it, something about the way everything comes together, all the details and the proportions that make it more than the sum of its parts.

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This doesn’t make the price tag of $2,490 any less of a commitment, but I am truly certain that the watch will deliver at least what its dollar value promises. It’s a great watch that is well built and finished and unlike so many others these days offers something interesting and different inside. If you’re a chronograph fan, as I helplessly am, that single red pusher will have already gotten it’s claws in you. If you’re a military watch fan, the original styling will call out to you. If you’re neither, but just are just looking for something different, the Pioneer Monocontrol is unlike pretty much anything else out on the market today.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to trying out more of Hanhart’s watches as this one surpassed my expectations. They have some more modern pieces, and other chronographs with interesting functions. It’s also worth noting that the Pioneer MK I also is a mono-pusher and comes in at a slightly more modest $2,160, with a design that is even more closely based on the models from the 30’s.

To purchase a Hanhart in the US and Canada, check out: watchbuys.com
To purchase a Hanhart in the UK, check out: pageandcooper.com

Images from this post:
Zach is the co-founder and Executive Editor of worn&wound. Before diving head first into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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  • Curmudgeon

    Normally, I don’t really care about chronographs, despite the fact that I have a few really nice ones. But this one!!!!! Wow! I’d own one in a second. From the styling, to the movement, to the single pusher, it’s one of the most compelling chronos on the market. And in today’s world of Johnny-come-latelies, it’s refreshing to encounter a watch with an authentic history. My only gripe is the 21mm lug width. I have several watches with this problem, and it really is ANNOYING when you want to change the strap. None the less, Hanhart is forgiven!

  • CortexUK

    Beautiful. I really like it.

    Now make it in 38mm. <42mm watches are for premiership footballers, reality show "stars", and lottery millionaires.

    • Roman K.

      I own a 42mm squale 1521 and I think its perfect size. 42 would be the biggest I’d buy. I think you referring to 45/48mm hublot looking things that people buy as an accessory.
      Now this hanhart is pure beauty!

      • Ilya Ryvin

        I own the same squale and I’m always amazed at just how small it wears.

  • r56curt

    You know, I find the ‘size’ monkeys very tiresome. The notion that only certain sizes of watches can be taken seriously is utterly ridiculous… watches – just like absolutely EVERYTHING in life – come in various shapes and colors and sizes. A watch that looks absolutely perfect on the wrist of a 5′-8″ man may not look especially fantastic on someone who is 6′-3″. Furthermore, the smaller (or larger) may not appeal to the person you think it should. To each his/her own…

    • Eldo Rado

      Nonsense. There’s a rational limit to everything. Otherwise we’d all be wearing wall clocks on our biceps.

  • Timemit

    Is the similar-at-first-glance relationship of this to a number of Russian watches (looking at you, Buran, as one example) just a coincidence?