Hands-On With The Hand-Wound Hamilton Chronograph H

Hamilton surprised many of us this year by releasing a hand crank, dateless version of their handsome Intra-Matic Chronograph called the Chronograph H. The watch was an immediate hat tip to the enthusiasts who pine for this sort of thing, and had all of us wondering just how good it would be in the flesh. As much as we love the automatic, it’s got a bit more presence on the wrist than we’d prefer at 14.6mm thick, giving them the perfect opportunity to make a thinner hand wound model. So, does the new Chronograph H deliver? Well, sorta.

If you’ve ever entertained the idea of owning an Intra-Matic Chronograph you’re likely aware of Hamilton’s historic Chronograph A and B models. The design of the modern Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph is sourced from these two watches, and that’s a very good thing as they’re sharp watches that stand up well today. The hand-wound Chronograph A, equipped with a Valjoux 7730 based movement, is what set the precedent for the watch we see here in the Chronograph H.

The original Hamilton Chronograph A

Hands-On With The Hand-Wound Hamilton Chronograph H

Stainless Steel
White or Black
Leather or Steel Mesh
Water Resistance
10 Bar
Lug Width
2 Years

Like the source watches, there are a few subtle but important visual cues that separate the Chronograph H from the Automatic. The most notable of which is the tachymeter scale at the dial’s edge is now the same color as the dial itself. This choice creates a very different vibe that you get from the Automatic, which uses this area to create another point of contrast by color matching to the sub-dials. The monotone look makes the dial feel a little bigger, and after some time with the watch it’s a detail I’d have liked to see retained from the Automatic. 

Another visual change to the dial is also a complication that is now absent, and that is the date aperture at 6 o’clock. Often the source of many an enthusiasts ire, the date window has been left off here in favor of a clean, perfectly symmetrical dial. The placement of the date window on the Automatic was one of the better ones, and retained the symmetry of the dial. I wouldn’t have lamented its presence on the hand winder but its removal keeps the watch nearer to its predecessor, the Chronograph A. Instead, the 6 o’clock hour gets its full applied index and the word ‘Mechanical’ appears alone above it. 

As of now, the Chronograph H is offered with two dial colors, a fume grey and the creamy off-white situation you see pictured here. The classic ‘panda’ and ‘reverse-panda’ colorways feel right at home here, and we’d love to see additional colors added to this range as we’ve seen with the Automatic model (green, anyone?).

Overall the dial of the Chronograph is easy to read and looks great, though I suspect some will be disappointed about the tachymeter scale being dial colored here. It’s one of those small changes that makes a big difference in the look of the watch, for better or worse depending on which side you fall. The pencil hands and yellowed lume dots are effective, and don’t draw attention away from the design of the dial. 

So it has lost its date complication and its oscillating weight, surely we’ll see a big difference on wrist as a result. Right? Not so fast on that one. Despite the changes, Hamilton lists the Chronograph H as measuring 14.35mm in thickness, down a quarter of a millimeter from the Automatic model, which is 14.60mm. However, according to our digital calipers, the Chronograph H actually measures… 14.60mm in thickness. That said, the Chronograph H does wear differently on the wrist, because the thickness has been shifted from the case, to the crystal. The Automatic has a noticeably deeper caseback, along with a flatter crystal, whereas the H gets a much flatter caseback and a box sapphire crystal that accounts for a good chunk of the total thickness. Meaning the actual case of the H is indeed thinner than that of the Auto, and does wear a bit flatter on the wrist.

The steel case, which is still fully polished, measures 40mm in diameter with a lug to lug measurement of 49mm. The H is still perfectly wearable, if still a bit thick, but it does beg the question, why make this watch at all? If you’re using a hand-wound movement, but retain the big drawback of using an automatic, what’s the point? There is something to be said in defense of having a hand-wound movement, and I’m all for the experience of winding/setting the watch, but there is some frustration that they went to the trouble of having a modified movement made in the H51 to ditching the automatic winding system and the date, only to fall short in this one area. I’d have encouraged them to take it a step further and go all the way when they were so close to greatness.

I love the concept of this watch, and I applaud Hamilton for making it. A slimmer case with a few brushed surfaces would have pushed this one over the top in my view, but there’s still a lot to love here. The Chrono H features a beautiful dial, has a rock solid heritage, and can be had for about $2,000. There are thinner chronographs out there for the same price, but there is something unique about the approach Hamilton has taken here, and the historic designs they’ve brought to life feel very much at home today. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the little details and measurements, but at the end of the day this isn’t a watch about the numbers. This is a modern interpretation of a watch made for a brief time in the late ‘60s and it says a lot about what Hamilton is paying attention to. By any rational account this is a watch that shouldn’t exist, with features aimed at a pretty small part of the market. I hope Hamilton continues down this path and can manage to hone their heritage products to a greater degree for future releases, and until then, the Chronograph H is a step in the right direction. 

The Hamilton Chronograph H is offered on black leather strap for $2,045, or a steel mesh bracelet for $2,095. Hamilton.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.