The pilot watch is one of the most coveted categories on the market with a wide range of models ranging from accessible to high-end, time-only or chronograph functionality to vintage or modern styling. Several brands enjoy a certain legitimacy in the field of pilot watches, among them is the German manufacturer Hanhart – arguably one of the best-known brands today for aviation-inspired instruments. While most of us are familiar with the heritage-inspired Pioneer collection or the robust Primus, the brand recently launched a new series of watches. Classic but not old-school, purpose-built instruments with no-nonsense attire: this is the Hanhart S-Series 105 OE.
Hanhart, a rich history
Although manufacturing takes place today in Germany, Hanhart was initially founded in Diessenhofen, Switzerland by watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart in 1882. The brand’s registered offices are still located there. The manufactory relocated to Schwenningen in southern Germany in 1902. By 1962 the brand was Europe’s largest producer of mechanical stopwatches and the market leader. In fact, all watch production stopped in the late 1950s and the company focused solely on stopwatches. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that standard watch production resumed en masse with the dawn of the quartz era.
In 1926 pocket and wristwatch production began alongside stopwatches and the brand focused on developing in-house movements. The company expanded with a second manufactory in Gütenbach, Germany in 1934 and the first Hanhart chronograph launched in 1938. It was powered by the company’s in-house, single-pusher calibre 40 – a legendary movement that put the brand on the map.
With WWII on the horizon and the need to produce watches for military forces, Hanhart started to supply pilots and naval officers with chronographs specifically developed for aviation purposes – watches which were immediately recognizable thanks to their fluted bezel and red push button. In 1945, the brand continued down this path producing a so-called “B-Uhr” with manual-winding calibre 44. This 3-hand watch was very popular as a Bundeswehr watch but also as a civil watch.
The brand continued later to supply military forces equipping the German Armed Forces, formed in 1957, with pilot’s chronographs. However, their manufacture ceased in 1962 and gradually also the production of wristwatches. But all in all, the name Hanhart will always remain linked to the production of pilot’s watches.
The story behind the Hanhart S-Series 105 OE
The new Hanhart S-Series pays tribute to the Austrian Air Force Saab 105, a Swedish twin-jet trainer and lightweight attack aircraft. The jets were introduced to the Austrian Air Force in 1970 and the Hanhart S-Series celebrates the 50th anniversary with design elements inspired by the cockpit’s instrument clock. Five decades later, twelve planes of the original forty are still in Austrian service, a testament to its legendary design.
The Hanhart S-Series consists of three watches, two based on the Austrian Saab 105 (the two models that are part of this article) and the third on the SK 60, the Swedish Air Force variant (not photographed here). The design of these instrument watches is based on the cockpit clocks of the Saab 105 that is used by the Austrian Air Force.
No-Nonsense Pilot’s watches
Straightforward, accessible, well-thought-through and devoid of unnecessary elements… The Hanhart S-Series 105 OE and 105 OE GMT are timepieces with a mission and not luxury pieces to show off. Don’t expect them to shine bright and to be statement pieces. This isn’t their goal and, to be honest, this is exactly why they are desirable. Simple, resilient, legible instruments with solid aviation credentials.
These two watches are built around a simple but robust 40mm case with a height of 12mm. The cases are stainless steel, fully brushed and coated with a dark grey PVD treatment – to avoid reflections. The choice of anthracite PVD is actually very nice since it brings an even more tool-ish look to these watches compared to a full black treatment. The combination of metallic reflections with the brushed surfaces produces a very convincing result.
The cases are simple in shape, with a raised flat bezel and lugs that are curved enough to make the watch ergonomic. The solid steel caseback is screwed and engraved with the outline of a Saab 105 jet-fighter. The whole execution feels serious and durable, and the water-resistance is very decent at 100m – something rare for true pilot’s watches. The dial is protected by a slightly domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating.
The dials of the Hanhart S-Series 105 OE are executed in the same vein. Nothing superfluous, just the essential elements of a pilot’s watch. A matte black base, large white Arabic numerals and highly contrasted tracks, bold propeller-shaped hands with a fair amount of Super-LumiNova and overall, a focus on legibility day and night – which is exactly what you should be looking for in an instrument-like aviation piece. The only concession to modernity is the date complication at 3 o’clock, with an aperture that displays three digits at once and a triangular index marking the central numeral. Personally, I prefer this over a small aperture with a single digit.
Two layout and displays are available in this Hanhart S-Series. First is a classic time-and-date model, with central H-M-S. The second model is equipped with a GMT function to display a second time zone, a coherent function for a pilot’s watch. This additional function is displayed with a 24-hour arrow-shaped hand that indicates the current home time on the inner flange (replacing the minute track of the time-and-date model).
The “48 02 35 N 008 08 11 E” inscription at 6 o’clock needs some explanation. Well, you’ll find the answer here… The numbers are the actual coordinates of Hanhart in Gütenbach, Germany. If not entirely necessary, it’s a cool detail that easily relates to the pilot’s context.
To power these watches Hanhart has selected a robust, well-known and easily serviceable Sellita (ETA clones) movements. The time-and-date version gets an SW 200-1 (4Hz, 38h power reserve, 26 jewels) while the GMT model receives an SW 330-1 (4Hz, 42h power reserve, 25 jewels).
The Hanhart S-Series 105 OE are delivered on smooth black leather straps with a PVD-coated steel pin buckle – and I can easily see them worn on a khaki NATO strap or a military-like textile strap to reinforce their personalities.
What I particularly like about the Hanhart S-Series 105 OE is how honest these watches are. They don’t try to be something fancy or luxurious. These are instrument, purpose-built watches that are designed for the job. Period. And this no-frills, classic, timeless design is what makes them cool. One could argue that the dials lack colour and originality but for that, you can look at the third model in the collection, the Hanhart S-Series SK 60 GMT with yellow accents on the dial.
What’s best is that the price is right, the mechanics and execution are solid and the watch manages to transmit a sensation of quality on the wrist… And final point, these watches come from a brand with real legitimacy in the field of pilot’s watches.
Price and availability
The watches from the Hanhart S-Series are available for pre-order now, on the dedicated page at www.hanhart.com. The time-and-date model is priced at EUR 990 and the GMT version at EUR 1,290. Each version is limited to 105 pieces.