The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 Autochrono- Upsizing of the Poor Man’s Heuer
Today, we’ll take a look at another vintage inspired piece from Baselworld 2017, the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68. I know that it’s #TBT day today, but I figured I’d continue to sprinkle in these new retro-styled pieces over the next month or so in case you’re tired of fruitlessly searching eBay for the originals. We enjoyed this “Hammy” a bit more than most, so we thought it was worth a look.
The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is Big
First off, the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is controversial. When first shown a couple months back, it was a “love at first sight” internet darling and then…the record needle abruptly skidded across the platter to a complete stop when fans came across the size. The formerly Lancaster, PA founded brand decided to upsize a watch that was originally released (more on that in a minute) in a svelte 36mm to a rather bulky 42mm. “Gasp!”, said the internet jocks! Well, trust us, it’s not as bad as it sounds…
This Was a Surprise Reissue
The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 was a bit of a surprise from the brand because, honestly, I know of no one who was really counting down to the 50th anniversary of a chronograph that, in 1968, Hamilton called the Chronograph A in panda guise and the, you guessed it, Chronograph B in reverse panda format. The watches were Valjoux 7730-powered, 36mm-cased bi-register chronographs that are now thrown into the gumbo pot known as “Poor-Man’s Heuers” due to their similarity to watches from the race watch brand. When I say that no one was banking on a release of this watch, it’s not because the originals aren’t beloved – they’re darn collectible and have only become more so because they’re attractive and also likely because Heuers continue to rise – but it’s because these watches were kind of seen as “also rans”. Many brands used the same case and, let’s face it, the moniker “Poor Man’s” would lead you down the correct path that these were in fact cheaper than their column-wheel equipped semi-relatives in the Carreras. So, yes, it’s a long way of saying that we were surprised with this one.
While I picture the Chronograph B above the prior paragraph, courtesy of a picture from AnalogShift, what’s really odd is that this watch is noted in all the press kits as the inspiration behind the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68. The vintage piece even sat in a showcase, dwarfed by the new rendition. But…it seems Hamilton may have overlooked its history slightly because the new piece contains a date at 6:00. So what, right? Well, the odd part is that Hamilton made an identical Chronograph B variant with a Valjoux 7734 including a date at, you guessed it again, 6:00. Odd not to show this one (picture courtesy of AnalogShift), but maybe we’re just being too nitpicky.
And, just for the heck of it, because I’m enjoying the vintage view, Hamilton also made a third variant with the 3-register Valjoux 7736 (courtesy of Bernard DeVos on Chronocentric).
The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 – the Specs
What we have with the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is a stainless steel chronograph in 42mm with an automatic H-31 movement. You can call it semi in-house as it’s made by ETA and it features a date, a 30 minute counter and runs at 28,800 bph. This movement is based on the well-known 7750 and has 60 hours of power reserve. The lug width is 22mm and the watch comes on a pretty snappy black leather strap with rally holes. 100 meters is the water resistance and a screw down crown helps the cause. Hamilton fitted a domed sapphire to the watch as well as a solid case back.
So, perfunctory data aside, what do I think of the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68? Honestly, I like it. Yes, I get the gripes about size, but let’s not forget that our favorite Moonwatch also cracks in at 42mm. But, the beef I do have is on the thickness – it just seems that watchmakers struggle with a thin automatic chronograph these days and the Valjoux 7750 doesn’t surprise us by bringing the bulk. But then there are the niceties.
A Perfectly Executed Dial
The dial on the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is darn near perfect. The “darn near” comes from the addition of a date window, but it’s even fine and helps break up what would otherwise be a large expanse of space. I could also do without the large “automatic” script, but even that harkens back to the Caliber 11 piece. Overall, though, the dial is wonderful. The registers are perfectly sized and somehow avoid the cross-eyed look that afflicts so many modern chronographs while the matte black dial finish actually looks old when viewed from certain angles. The hands are also great reenactments of the originals – those black gloss finished needle hands are perfectly weighted.
I am also happy that the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 has a solid case back. In a rare case of restraint, a watchmaker finally chose not to show us a movement that, frankly, isn’t worth showing or charging a premium for a viewing lens. The crystal also plays well and does a nice job of adding that distorted touch to the inner tachymeter ring. Finally, we get that iconic vintage “H” logo crown that’s repeated on the dial. As someone who lived in Lancaster for a couple years, I never tire of seeing this motif on a new watch.
The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 is Relatively Affordable…and Limited
On the wrist, the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 wore better than I would have thought. The predominantly black dial helps bring down the perceived size and maybe this is why the reverse panda was issued. If successful, I’d bet on a panda next year or later this year, but let’s see. Sure, I struggle to understand why Hamilton couldn’t have reissued this piece at 40mm, but I think homes will be found for this limited edition.
The Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 will be made in a limited, numbered, series of 1968 pieces. The price was announced as 2,150 Swiss Francs or 1,995 Euros. Size quibbles aside, this is a really good looking chronograph – if you’re at all tempted, perhaps trying it on for size would be the right way to go. You can find more info here on Hamilton’s official site.