Hanhart Pioneer MK I
Last year Hanhart introduced the Hanhart Pioneer MK I, a tribute or homage to their first watch, the Calibre 40, introduced in 1938. I might be a little behind in reviewing this model but when I got the chance, I jumped on it, as I have always loved the design of Hanhart watches and wanted to see if they looked as good in person as they do in photos. Spoiler: They certainly do. What makes this watch stand out is not just the precision craftsmanship that is evident in every area you look at, but also a heavily modified Valjoux 7753 automatic movement to allow not only for a monopusher, but also the pusher itself, as it was moved a significant amount from the crown for easier operation of the two. The Hanhart Pioneer MK I is a combination of beauty and engineering, inside and out.
Hanhart Pioneer MK I Specifications:
- 40mm Stainless Steel Case
- 15mm Thick
- 49mm Lug to Lug
- 20mm Lug Width
- HAN3601 Caliber Movement (Base Valjoux 7753)
- Sapphire Crystal
- 100 Meters Water Resistant
- Leather Strap
Price: $2270 USD (Watchbuys.com)
A lot of brands claim to have their own caliber of movement, or will relabel a base movement with their own, only to have added some rotor decoration. This does not make it their own caliber or a modified movement. I would describe that as pure marketing shenanigans. Hanhart, on the other hand, actually did heavily modify the 7753 movement for use in the Hanhart Pioneer MK I. Hanhart works with La Joux Perret to make some very interesting and complex chronographs. For the MKI, they have made it a monopusher, where the red ceramic pusher starts, stops and resets the chronograph. What most might not notice at first glance, is the position of the pusher. It is not lined up with the 2 as most would be, it is moved more between the 1 and the 2 which allows more space between the pusher and very large crown. Another modification was completely removing the date, not just on the dial, but entirely. The HAN3601, which again its base is the 7753, has the following specs: BPH of 28,800, 27-jewels, hacking and hand-winding and 42hr power reserve.
Someone mentioned on a forum the other day that this watch punches above its weight. And it does. The Hanhart Pioneer MK I not only has a modified automatic chronograph, but the construction of the watch is one that will make you feel your money was well spent. That is not marketing speak on my end, nor is it to make you run out and grab one of these. Not my job to do. I do feel my need to convey though how well made this piece is. I’ve seen watches twice the cost that did not have the same level of finish. The massive crown is easy to grab, feels great to turn and is a pleasure to set the time. When it comes to quality, the component that shows how well made this watch is; the AR coated sapphire crystal. I honestly think this is overlooked by most manufactures and maybe even some watch enthusiasts. The crystal and dial is what is looked at most in a watch and when a cheaper grade of sapphire is used or a sub par AR coating, it affects the entire watch for me. It doesn’t just affect how the watch looks in photos, (which can be a huge pain in the butt), but how it looks in real life, how easily you can see the time at a glance, and how you have to move your wrist around so you can remove your reflection out of the crystal. The Pioneer MK I suffers none of these issues. The crystal and AR coating are fantastic and a pleasure to photograph and also stare at, not to look at the time, but rather appreciating the German craftsmanship. Do not roll your eyes at that sentence, we all sit there and gaze at our watches with admiration.
The dial of the Hanhart Pioneer MK I has a distinct military vibe and the dial is not cluttered with text that does not belong. I love the cathedral hands, even though I do see many other brands using them these days (mainly microbrands), they are not as saturated in the market as say the Mercedes hands are. Another feature that may be overlooked is how the minute and second hand curve to the dial and crystal. While it may not sound like much, I feel it allows the hands to be even more noticeable at any point on the dial. Removing the date was a good choice with the sub dials already taking up the 3 and 9, they would have probably had to remove the 6 to insert a date.
Many are probably aware at this point if you have read enough of my reviews that I like a nice solid case back on a watch unless you have a complex or decorated movement. The Hanhart Pioneer MK I has a solid chunk of steel for the case back with clean engraving. Nothing flashy, no planes or propellers here, just a logo and the pertinent info. It does make me wonder though with such a modified movement why they decided to cover it up. I doubt it was for water resistance considering this is a pilot watch with only 100 meters of water resistance. Whatever the reason, I do like the overall look of the back and think it adds to the toolish feel the Pioneer has going on.
There are a few MINOR issues I have with the Hanhart Pioneer MK I, though I do not feel issues are the way to describe them. The first is the overall thickness. While I know much of that is due to the movement, when a 40mm watch is almost 16mm thick, it seems to exaggerate it even more, and at times the watch can feel top heavy. A thicker/heavier strap could balance that out though. Another quibble comes from something that I personally never will use, but bothered me nonetheless. That is the super smooth moving bezel. It just moves around so easily with the touch of a finger or rubbing it against a car seat, couch etc that I do not feel it is of any real functionality. Finally, the stock strap is on the short side, making my 7 1/2 inch wrist feel massive. If you have an 8 inch wrist, you are not going to be able to wear this strap. I actually doubt it will fit anything over 7 3/4 inches if being honest.
Hanhart Pioneer MKI lume
I think it is obvious that I love the Hanhart Pioneer MK I. Sure, I have a few nitpicks, but I can do that with almost anything. The watch just looks great, feels great and while not a large watch, still commands attention when on the wrist, or at least I feel it does. Has anyone noticed my watch this week besides the people that I told to look at it? “Look at my watch dammit, its German!” Well, I went off the rails there for a second, but all jokes aside, it is a fantastic piece of German engineering and design and a nod to Hanhart’s prestigious past. For some reason Hanhart flies under the radar. Maybe because they do not spend millions of dollars on advertising each year, which who can blame them? If you are familiar with this brand, I think you will understand my admiration for them and this Pioneer MK I. If you were unaware before reading and watching my review, I at least hope it will give you the urge to look into the history of the brand and the beautiful pieces they produce. They are not the cheapest out there, but I would consider what you get from them a value.
Special thanks to Chris Shortell for loaning me this watch for review.