Hanhart Pioneer Mk I Review

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Hanhart is quickly establishing themselves as a house favorite here at worn&wound. First we looked at their Pioneer Monocontrol, an exceptional watch that spoke to the brand’s history, but through a modern lens. Then we tried out their Primus Pilot, a hefty beast that is unlike anything else out there. Today, we’ll be looking at what is perhaps the core of their collection, the Pioneer MK I.

In 1938, Hanhart developed the Caliber 40 mono-pusher chronograph, their first wrist watch. Issued to the Germany military during and after WWII, the Caliber 40 and its successors were widely used and highly regarded. The Pioneer MK I is a replica of this watch, recreating the look and functionality out of new components. Perhaps “replica” is not the right word as it’s not 1:1 (simply having automatic on the dial makes sure of that), but it stays very true to the original piece.

Most significantly, it features a mono-pusher chronograph. In order to achieve this, Hanhart works with the haute movement manufacturer and modifier La Joux Perret to create movements that fit their needs. They aren’t the only brand to do so, but with a price tag of $2,160, they offer the best value by miles. Add in the fact that Hanharts are beautifully made, finished and detailed in Germany and you have watches that offer something quite rare in today’s market.

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$2160

Hanhart Pioneer Mk I Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
HAN3601 (7753 base)
Dial
matte black
Lume
Yes
Lens
Domed Sapphire
Strap
Calf
Water Resistance
100m
Dimensions
40 x 49.2mm
Thickness
15mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
8 x 5
Warranty
2 Years
Price
$2160

Case

The case of the Pioneer MK I stays true to the original design, as a replica would, but still feels pleasantly modern. Measuring 40 x 49.2 x 15mm, it’s a great size for a military chronograph, having the presence and build of a sport watch, but not being oversized at all. The MK I also offers a slightly smaller alternative to the Pioneer Monocontrol, which came in at 42mm. Looking at the case from the top you are presented with long lugs that square off sharply. The large fluted bezel takes center stage, and is a very pronounced element of this design. It might not be for everyone, but I find it very appealing, definitely speaking to the early 20th century. The fluting is simultaneously an ornate decorative detail, and a tactile one meant for grip. The small red inlay at 12 is also a nice splash of color.

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The bezel is bi-directional and non-ratcheting, gliding around very smoothly. It has enough resistance that brushing into it wont move it on accident. In all likeliness, you will leave it at 12, but should you want to track something, it’s there for your convenience. On the right side you have the single-pusher for the chronograph and a massive crown.

There are several interesting things about the pusher, first being that there is just one, indicating that the watch is a mono-pusher. The next is its location. It “should” come out at two, but in their modification of the movement, Hanhart increased the distance between the crown and pusher for ease of use. I think that’s amazing, as few brands are willing to do much of anything to a movement, let alone move a pusher a few degrees. This also corresponds to the position on the 1938 model.

Lastly, the pusher is obviously red, featuring a ceramic cap. All Hanhart chronographs feature a red pusher, which is another detail that dates back. I think it’s very cool, and adds to both the uniqueness and underlying story of the watch. Yes, it’s a very pretty watch, but it’s an instrument at heart, and the red highlights the pusher. On their two-pusher models, it’s always the reset button that is red.

The crown measures a whopping 8 x 5mm and a is a straight cylinder. It’s toothed for grip, and features a Hanhart “h” on the end. The Caliber 40 would have been manual, so having a nice big crown made sense. Here, you don’t need it, but it looks great and I found myself manually winding the watch before putting it on, as the crown just beckons to be cranked.

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Looking at the watch from the side, the peculiarity of the lugs becomes more clear. In the style of fliegers from the time, they are fairly thin and stick straight out of the midcase, rather than integrating. This doesn’t change anything, but it’s an odd design that once again is true to the original. The whole case is finely brushed and features crisp lines. Flipping the watch over, you have a solid case back with a nicely designed graphic. There are several arcing boxes with details in them, and a large etched design in the center.

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Dial

The dial of the Pioneer MK I is clean and clear in true military style. The surface is matte black and features a primary index of lumed arabic numerals, only skipping 3 and 9 for sub-dials. The typeface is very attractive. Perhaps a bit less stylized than other military or pilot watches, it’s very legible and has nice proportions and spacing. Around the edge of the dial is a minute/chrono-seconds index with white lines per minute, getting heavier every 5, and smaller 1/5th second increments as well for the chrono. There are also numerals, 5 – 60, every 5 units. THe type face here differs from the hour index, instead being a wider, flatter style. Between the two indexes, there is a lot of information, but it’s all balanced well and very legible.

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At 3 and 9 are sub-dials for the 30-minute counter and active seconds, respectively. They are large sub-dials, positioned perfectly to be centered in their halves of the dial. Both are inset into the surface, featuring a sharp beveled edge and circular graining through out. The graining gives them a satin sheen and a slight sunburst, making them ever so slightly decorative. Both feature indexes in white with a mix of numerals and lines, and a white outline. They are very clear and un-stylized, like the rest of the dial, but in their no-fuss design have an appeal.

The hour and minute hands are an ornate “Cathedral” style that is once again drawn from the 1938 model, and the same as what we found on the Monocontrol. Functionally, they are very easy to read and tell apart from each on the fly. Aesthetically, they take some getting used to, but like the bezel, add a certain amount of decoration that works with the otherwise strict and straightforward design. The chrono-seconds hand is a thin stick with a oval counter-weight that is red for 2/3s and then white at the tip. I really like how that looks, having a different effect than a solid color would have.

Hanhart’s hands are very well executed, and both the minute and chrono-seconds dip down at the end towards the dial, which is a beautiful detail that goes towards the overall fit and finish of the watch. The sub-seconds dial then features a white stick hand, while the 30-minute counter is red and has an arrow shape. A great design feature is that all of the chronograph elements on the watch are red. So, the pusher is red, the pip on the bezel (which could be used in conjunction with the chrono) the chrono-seconds and 30-minute counter. It groups things visually, separating time from stop-watch.

A pleasant surprise of the Pioneer MK I is the quality of the lume. The hour numerals and hour and minute hands all feature a C3-esque lume that glows brightly and evenly. I was particularly surprised by the quality on the numerals as they are quite thin.

Movement: Caliber HAN3601

Perhaps the most important element of this watch is the movement within. As mentioned, Hanhart works with La Joux Perret to make some of the most compelling chronographs currently available. Never satisfied with the stock design, they heavily alter them, adding functions and changing layouts to suit their needs. This is what a good watch brand should do, and the fact that they pull it off at relatively affordable prices should make the luxury brands selling stock movements at 5k plus ashamed.

So, the HAN3601 is based on the Valjoux 7753, but is a mono-pusher, that much has been established. The single button between 1 and 2 starts, stops and resets the chronograph. To make this happen, they have to work with La Joux Perret to seriously reconfigure things. As said, they also reposition pusher, which would be coming off exactly at 2. It would appear to be the same as the HAN3911 found in the Monocontrol, except they have removed the date function. Not just covered it up, the crown only pulls out to one position.

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Because it has a 7753 base, the 3601 has a bph of 28,800, 27-jewels, is hacking and hand winding and features a 42hr power reserve.

Straps and Wearability

The Pioneer MK I comes mounted to a 20mm black calf skin strap that is very well made. It’s the same strap we found on the Monocontrol, save a millimeter in width. It’s thick and supple, with straight cut and painted sides, heavy contrast stitching in off-white and a rivet on each side. I don’t typically like rivet straps, as I find they can be uncomfortable, but this one works well. The Hanhart buckle is also beautifully made, with a unique shape and a mix of brushed and polished finishing. Buckles are so often overlooked, that seeing a nice one speaks to the brand’s attention to detail.

On the wrist… well, let me put it this way, I haven’t wanted to take it off. The Pioneer MK I wears so well and looks so good, you don’t want to change a thing. The 40mm case fits my 7” wrist very well, feeling balanced but masculine. It’s tall at 15mm, but that’s par for the course with an automatic chronograph, and this being a military watch some bulk feels appropriate. Because of the proportions it has a certain compactness to it as well, perhaps making it wear a bit smaller. The Monocontrol actually came in at 42mm, and I recall thinking that wore nicely as well, though was teetering on large. The MK I is just perfect, at least for me.

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Regardless, any slight sizing issues one might find will be overridden by the sheer sexiness of this watch. It comes together so well, everything feeling balanced and just right. The more ornate elements add something eye-catching, as does the red pusher, while the direct military-style dial grounds it in purpose. It’s simpler and more understated than the Monocontrol, but still comes across as a luxurious timepiece. That is perhaps what makes these Hanharts so appealing. They look and feel like something that should have cost much more, because they are designed and built to those higher standards.

Conclusion

If it hasn’t been made clear in this review, I think the Hanhart Pioneer MK I is an incredible watch. In fact, it’s a watch I personally would own, and plan on getting when the time is right. It’s hard to find fault with. Sure, there might be an aesthetic element here and there that isn’t for everyone, that’s probably for the best actually, but if you like the looks of it, you’ll find a watch that has been made with the utmost care and attention to detail. Nothing has been missed, from the lume, to the curvature of the hands, to the nicely shaped and machined buckle. And that’s without even touching on the movement, the masterpiece within. Getting an automatic mono-pusher chronograph for $2,160 is just unbeatable. Heck, it’s hard to find a completely unmodified automatic chronograph for that price these days, so whatever formula Hanhart is using is pretty impressive.
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Part of what many of the big luxury brands like to tout is their age and the provenance of their watches… despite the fact that the brands have been bought and sold over and over again and are now owned by holding groups. With Hanhart you are getting something that many of these brands can’t offer. They have the age and provenance, but are independent. The watches are handled and assembled by a small team in a small shop in the Black Forest region, each watch getting a lot of attention. Add that in with the incredible movement and you have an authentic luxury experience that many more well known brands only play at, or cover up with champagne and fancy boutiques. Add that into the price tag and the value is just incomparable.

The watch reviewed in this article was provided by watchbuys.com.
Watchbuys are also an advertiser and sponsor of worn&wound as of the time of publishing this article, 06/08/16. Editorial Policy

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst 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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