The trend of vintage-inspired watches is still going strong in 2017 and one of the most talked about watches at Baselworld this year was the Intra-Matic 68 by Hamilton. Not only is it inspired by a vintage Hamilton chronograph, it also has a reverse panda dial, which is in fashion right now. To me, this new Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is a logical progression from the two-handed Intra-Matic watch that was introduced by Hamilton in 2012. The two are not identical, but similar in spirit. So does the Intra-Matic 68 live up to all of its hype? Let's take a closer look.
Now, a little history lesson is required before we begin, because it is necessary to understand the origins of this watch. The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is, as its name might suggest, based on a vintage chronograph from the '60s called the Chronograph B, which has a reverse panda dial with a black background and white registers. There’s a Chronograph A too - surprise, surprise - and it has a reverse configuration with white background and black registers.
Hamilton has history in creating modern reissues of vintage chronographs. Remember the Hamilton Pan Europ from 2011? That particular chronograph was also based on a vintage Hamilton watch design from the '70s and it’s a handsome watch with lots of fans. And if anything, I think the Intra-Matic 68 looks even better.
We begin with the case, which is probably the most "controversial" thing about this watch. It’s not the design that is contentious, it has pretty straight lugs and a thin bezel, which are both design traits that you will see on vintage watches. What is widely debated about this watch, however, is the size. You see, at 42mm it is a tad large, especially when you consider its vintage roots and somewhat dressy overall aesthetics. Because of the large case size, the crown and pushers look a little oversized too. That said, I really like the vintage-style chronograph pushers here.
The bigger problem for me is the thickness. Hamilton didn’t reveal the thickness but it must be around 14mm or so, and that’s too thick for a watch like this. Bear in mind, a Rolex Submariner is about 13mm. But I guess that can’t be helped considering it has an automatic-winding movement (more on the movement later).
The good thing about the Intra-Matic 68’s rather beefy case is the water resistance. When I first saw the watch, I thought it would only be 50 meters tops, but Hamilton says the Intra-Matic 68 can do 100 meters. This is a refreshing change from the usual 30 or 50 meters that we often get from a dressy chronograph watch, and not to mention that chronographs are also notoriously harder to make water-resistant.
In the real world, this means you can take the Intra-Matic 68 swimming, but you would probably want to change out the black leather strap if you want to do so. The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 comes with a vintage-looking semi-perforated black leather strap that is quite nice and I won’t want to ruin it by getting it wet.
That’s not to say that it has been completely ruined by its large case. Oh no. It still looks great of course, but like I said when I first wrote about the Intra-Matic 68 when it was announced, if Hamilton had released it in 39mm or 40mm, it would have been perfect. But I guess that’s just me and what other old-school watch lovers might think. And to be absolutely clear, 42mm for this piece is still not too bad, because at least all other elements of the case and dial are in proportion.
Speaking of the dial, it is simple, clean, and very attractive. It has a reverse panda dial with a black background and an off-white tachymeter and registers. The tachymeter scale runs along the circumference of the dial and the two registers are well positioned and even feature subtle graining for a little contrast.
Usually, I prefer my vintage-inspired watches to dispense with date windows, but the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 has a very cleverly incorporated date window. It is clever because of its positioning and color. At 6 o’clock, it brings symmetry to the dial. Furthermore, the date disc has a black background, which melds into the black background of the dial, making the date window very inconspicuous. If you are not looking out for it, you might miss it altogether.
The movement powering the Intra-Matic 68 is Hamilton’s caliber H-31, which is a modified version of the ever reliable Valjoux 7753. The main modification is the improved mainspring that gives the caliber H-31 a power reserve of 60 hours. The typical Valjoux 7753 has a power reserve of only about 45 hours. The only notable modification is the Hamilton-signed rotor. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the movement because the Intra-Matic 68 has a solid case back. This might be a deal-breaker to some, but I don’t really miss having a display case back here. I’m sure the movement is neatly finished, but it’s not something that I think has to be paraded about.
On a whole, the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is easily one of the standout new releases of the year. And I’m not only referring to Hamilton, I mean for the whole of Baselworld 2017. It is that nice. My only complaint about the watch is the size. It’s a little too wide and too thick for my tastes, but that’s just me. I suspect most people would be fine with it. If you are unsure, I would urge you to head down to a shop and try it. You might be surprised. That said, the dial is just so nice and I really love those pump-style pushers, so much that I might just close an eye to less than ideal case dimensions. The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is priced at $2,195 and is limited to just 1,968 pieces. hamiltonwatch.com