When it comes to the chronographs in its classic Pioneer line, German watchmaker Hanhart does not get very adventurous. If you look at the collection, you’ll see a lot of black, some white, a few cream dials, and not much else. The handsets, too, stay true to the past, with versions featuring either cathedral or syringe-style hour and minute hands. The only things that make them stand out are the red, coin-edge bezel and the red chronograph pusher. Aside from that, the Pioneer chronographs are a rather staid bunch of vintage-inspired watches. But recently, the brand made some tweaks that genuinely change the character of the watches. Based on the 2010 Red X Chronograph LE and released in a limited edition of 140 pieces each, the Hanhart Red X Blue and Hanhart Red X Grey chronograph sets bring new colors and a modern handset to the Pioneer chronographs, giving them a refreshing update — and come complete with a stopwatch with its own display stand.

The new Hanhart Red X Blue chronograph borrows its case from the Hanhart Pioneer 417 ES 1954 Flyback. This case design features a historically accurate 39mm diameter based on the original 1954 design, with a 45.5mm lug-to-lug and a thickness of 14.5mm. I should note that this is 1.2mm thicker than the 417ES 1954 Flyback, and I could not, for the life of me, figure out how or why that was until I took a closer look at the dial. On the wrist, the watch never felt too large or top heavy, as stout watches are wont to do, so I was surprised when I saw that it was so thick; there’s a bit of a bulbous feel, but it’s not overwhelming. It has an unexpected but welcome 100m water resistance and is paired with a suede ox leather strap matched to the dial and equipped with a pin buckle. The strap itself is comfortable and affords easy changes thanks to the quick-release pins.

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Of particular note (on pretty much every Hanhart watch) is the bi-directional coin-edge bezel with its red indicator and the matching cap on the 4 o’clock reset pusher. These are undoubtedly the brand’s signature, making its watches instantly recognizable. As the legend goes, a pilot’s lover had painted the reset button with her red nail polish. More practically, the red served as a warning for pilots not to push the reset button by mistake. With the use of a flyback chronograph movement, the red pusher not only resets the chronograph after it’s stopped but can also bring it back to zero to restart timing with a single push, no stop needed. It’s a fun trick to watch and maybe to show others, but I didn’t find it provided much day-to-day utility. The bidirectional bezel was similar. In theory, it offers more functionality, with the ability to mark a starting point or an ending point, relative to the minute, hour, or chronograph seconds hand. It rotates easily but is a bit prone to getting nudged out of place due to its lack of detents.  The lack of markings adds another step, though, but perhaps it’s all irrelevant because how often does one actually use the chronograph for such purposes? Not I.

The box sets released come in a choice of blue or gray dials. Aside from their base color, the dials are identical. Both receive a sunray brushed finish that plays with the light, and while the blue is more brilliant, I think the gray is more beautiful. The dials have received several updates (or perhaps just changes) compared to the usual Pioneer chronograph dials. The numerals are slimmer and more modern, with alternating hours marked by split red-white markings. Most obviously, the handset here is neither the cathedral nor the syringe handset that has graced previous Pioneer chronographs. Instead, the watch gets slender obelisk hands, while the chronograph and subdial hands are lacquered in a bright red to match the case accents. Those subordinate hands have also been updated, the chronograph hand now a straight baton instead of a slim leaf, and the subdial hands a long point instead of a straight black or white baton.

The entire dial package is measurably more appealing to me than the other Pioneer options, which look a bit too vintage for my liking. By streamlining the design, there’s a bit more punch to the dial, instead of relying solely on historicity for design. With the sunken, azurage subdials, there’s also plenty of depth, but the sloped chapter ring adds even more — and accounts, I believe, for the additional thickness of the watch! Puzzle solved. You’re welcome.

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The Hanhart Red X chronographs feature the Sellita AMT Caliber 5100 M, which Hanhart first used with the Hanhart 417 ES Flyback. AMT is Sellita’s customization arm for when brands want more than a custom rotor, blued screws, and COSC certification. This division allows Sellita to modify its base movements to a client’s needs and here, the base SW510 M was converted from a cam-operated chronograph to a column wheel mechanism. The movement delivers crisp chronograph action and a 58-hour power reserve, which should be sufficient for most owners.

As mentioned, in addition to the actual watch, the box set includes a Hanhart Addition Timer stopwatch with a dial made just for these limited editions. On display herein is the gray dial that would come with the Red x Grey set, which gives a good look at the anthracite hue that Hanhart has given that model. Dwelling in gray and occasionally shifting to something almost taupe, the dial is perhaps a bit more striking than the blue, if not as brilliant. The case is 55mm and sits comfortably in the hand, with crisp actuation of the buttons. Inside, believe it or not, is an in-house movement, the Hanhart Caliber 122. This manual wind movement delivers a flyback function and an interrupt option. The set includes a dashboard mounting plate with a leather inset with decidedly aspirational “at the Races” text and a stand with a foldout support for use on a desk or a plane or car dash or wherever you race and put stopwatches when they’re on stands.

While not a drastic leap in design, the new Hanhart Red X Blue and Red X Grey demonstrate the brand’s ability to make small changes that have a big visual impact, even if it is confined to limited editions. With the column wheel flyback movement and the sleek handset against your choice of blue or gray, the Hanhart offers a chronograph that is both historic and modern. What you do with the extra stopwatch is up to you. The Hanhart Red x Blue chronograph set is priced at $3,180 USD. For more information, please visit the Hanhart website.


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