Hands-On With Two Hamilton Intra-Matic Smoked Dial Watches
Christmas is always that perfect time to wear a dress watch. Or better said, the time you realize you really need a dress watch in your collection. Last Christmas, I was actually prepared and instead of wearing my Speedmaster or Submariner, I found myself wearing a dress watch almost the entire holiday period. Of course, you don’t just purchase a (dress) watch to wear it during Christmas only, but I can think of more appropriate occasions where you might prefer a more classic watch over a sports watch. Then, there are people like my younger step-brother for example, who wear a dress watch every single day of the year. It is not for me personally, although I do wear my Globemaster a lot, which can definitely be seen as a dress watch (despite its thickness).
Anyway, Hamilton reached out to us with their American Classic Intra-Matic collection and I picked two models I would actually consider myself if I’d be in the market for a new dress watch. It is the 42mm gold (PVD) watch with a brown smoked dial and the 38mm stainless steel watch with a grey smoked dial. Both are under 1000 Euro (or $1145USD) and have the same movement. Without further ado, let’s have a look.
Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic
I was searching for the Intra-Matic collection on the Hamilton website but didn’t find anything. Apparently, the Intra-Matic models are a sub-collection of the ‘American Classic’ family of watches. Although nearly 35% of our readers are from the United States and probably most of them are familiar with Hamilton having American roots, let’s talk about Hamilton’s history for a brief moment. The Hamilton company was founded in 1892 and was in American hands until 1974. From that moment, the ownership of Hamilton became Swiss as SSIH (together with ASUAG the predecessor of the in 1983 founded Swatch Group) bought all shares. But surely most people will think of Hamilton being an American brand, despite being owned by Swatch Group and situated in Switzerland. One look on eBay and you will find an astonishing number of vintage Hamilton watches offered from the USA. It shows how big this brand was, and still is, in the United States.
And who isn’t familiar with the unusual shaped Hamilton electric (Ventura) watch that was on the wrist of Elvis Presley in the movie Blue Hawaii? Hamilton is also known for their (US) military watches (and a lot of the modern Hamilton pieces refer to military watches, as we wrote here and here) and watches used on the movie screen. The first time in 1932, in the Marlene Dietrich movie ‘Shanghai Express’. Since 2003, Hamilton (originally located in Pennsylvania) resides in Biel, where we also can find other big Swiss brands like Swatch, Omega and Rolex. More about the history of Hamilton can be found here. Today, Hamilton produces (Swiss made) watches that are considered affordable and have a wide selection of mechanical watches as well as quartz powered pieces. Myself, I consider them to be a watch brand that offers no-nonsense mechanical watches at an attractive price point even considered that the competition is huge.
38mm and 42mm
Let’s get back to the two watches that I received from Hamilton for this review. Although my initial preference was the 42mm gold version, I have to admit that the 38mm with grey dial version was the one that attracted me more as soon as I unpacked them. The gold is of course not solid, but a PVD layer on a stainless steel case. The colour is a bit darker than solid gold, but certainly not bad. My wrist size is about 18cm (~7 inches) and that’s also why I thought 42mm would be more suitable. But I have to say that 38mm just felt better, for me. That can be entirely different for you, of course. It is a matter of preferences and what you’re comfortable with. I don’t mind wearing 36mm watches (or even smaller), but I know enough people who have similarly sized wrists who are of the opinion that everything under 40mm looks ridiculous. To each his (or her) own, I’d say. Dial wise, these watches are both available in each diameter. So the grey dial Intra-Matic is also available in 42mm and the brown dial model with gold PVD case is also available in 38mm. Good thinking, Hamilton!
Caliber ETA 2892-A2
Inside these Hamilton Intra-Matic 38mm and 42mm models, we find the same mechanical self-winding movement. Strangely enough, the press kit we received nor the website had any mention of the movement caliber inside these Intra-Matic watches. It just informs you that there’s an automatic movement inside. On the American website though, you will find that these watches have an ETA 2892-A2 caliber movement. The stainless steel model with grey smoked dial also has the caliber number engraved on the caseback, the PVD gold model doesn’t.
So anyway, it is the ETA 2892-A2 movement. A movement with a solid track record, as it goes all the way back to 1983 (as ETA2892-2). In 1999, it received an update and was dubbed ETA 2892-A2. It is considered to be the upper-range automatic ETA movement and is regarded higher than the often used ETA 2824-2 for example. This exact movement has also been used by brands before they went ‘in-house’, such as Breitling, Omega and IWC for example. These brands used it as ebauche (base movement) and often made some technical and aesthetical changes of course, but it does show that higher positioned brands rely on this movement as well. The engraving on the steel version (see above) shows 2892-2 and not 2892-A2, which makes me wonder why they decided to skip the ‘A’ (the 2892-2 was discontinued in 2000).
Using this movement means that the Hamilton Intra-Matic 38mm and 42mm watches have a power reserve of 42 hours, feature a stop-seconds hack (important for those who appreciate accurate timekeeping) and a quickset date. The movement ticks at 28,800 beats per hour and have 21 jewels. It can also be admired through the display back of these Intra-Matic watches. Below, the PVD gold version (with the sticker still on the crystal).
The main attraction of these Hamilton Intra-Matic 38mm and 42mm watches are the smoked dials. We’ve seen similar dials on much more expensive watches, such as the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour and Venturer watches for example. The gold and brown really match well on the 42mm watch I have here. Hamilton refers to this dial as whiskey brown (reference H38735501) and the 38mm version has the smoke grey dial. The latter matches with the ‘cold’ steel of the case and the black soft leather strap.
The dials have long and sleek hour markers, that are printed on the dial in a colour that corresponds with the hands. Our yellow PVD gold 42mm Intra-Matic has hands in a matching colour, whereas the steel 38mm watch has rose gold coloured markers and hands. The brand and model name, as well as the ‘Automatic’ indication and date window frame, are also in corresponding colour. A black date disc has been fitted, with contrasting white printing of the numerals. Now, you can say that this should have been also done in either yellow or rose gold colour, but those with less good eye-sight might prefer this contrasting white. Personally, the date would not have been necessary at all for me, but I am happy that Hamilton at least positioned it at 6 o’clock instead of 3 o’clock.
I happen to find the smoked grey dial more attractive in the end. And not only that, but it was also better readable for me.
On The Wrist
Some of you might disagree, but I think 38mm is a great size for a dress watch. Even for me, 1.90m tall and with a wrist size of 18cm I think it works nicely. I can also easily get away with 42mm, but for a dress watch, I simply prefer a somewhat smaller looking watch. For me, larger dress watches (three-handers, round case and leather strap) always remind me a bit too much of design or fashion watches.
Surely, the watch is not as legible as a sports watch, but I didn’t have any difficulties reading time or date on the Hamilton Intra-Matic. Operating the watch is dead simple, pull out the crown to correct the date and pull once more to correct the time. Winding and setting the watch by the crown is very easy, you don’t need an instruction manual for that. At least don’t forget to take off the watch before you wind, set or correct it. Twisting the crown while the watch is on your wrist can damage the mechanics as there can be too much tension on the winding stem this way.
The black strap is a bit boring perhaps, but it doesn’t distract much either. I wouldn’t have minded a dark grey or anthracite strap. The yellow gold PVD version has the brown strap and was a bit too light toned for me, but I also realize that these straps will get darker after some wearing. For those who prefer a metal bracelet, there’s also a stainless steel bracelet version of the grey smoked dial watch. The leather is soft and supple and thus super comfortable. The lug width is 20mm for the 38mm version and 22mm for the 42mm version. Hamilton’s Intra-Matic comes with an engraved pin buckle in matching material (to the case).
The Hamilton Intra-Matic watches I reviewed here are the reference H38455781 (38mm steel, grey smoked dial) and H38735501 (42mm, PVD gold, brown smoked dial). The 38mm steel version has a retail price of 795 Euro ($895USD) and the 42mm retails for 915 Euro ($1145USD) and come with a leather strap and pin buckle.
Under 1000 Euro, there are many watches to choose from these days. Besides a lot of microbrands that operate in this segment, you will also find a pretty decent Seiko Presage under 1000 Euro with a 4R caliber movement (and only one with the higher regarded 6R movement). The microbrands in this price range most of the time use Miyota or STP movements. Nothing wrong with those, but I have to say that I prefer an ETA2892-A2 above any of them. It was actually a bit of a surprise that Hamilton is able to offer a watch for 795 Euro with this movement. I guess that is the power of being part of the Swatch Group.
Intra-Matic Smoked Dial For The Win
Of course, there’s more to a watch than the movement. It is not the first thing that attracts me to a certain watch. In this case, it is the smokey dials that make the Hamilton Intra-Matic stand out from the crowd. Besides the two versions I showed in this article, there’s another model in a rose gold PVD case with a ‘Havanna’ brown smoked dial. Also available in 38mm and 42mm. I would have a hard time making a final decision to pick one of these watches, but I think it would be a tie between the steel model with grey dial and the rose gold PVD version. The yellow was a bit too ‘hard’ for me. As a daily wearer, the steel version would be a no-brainer for me.
The combination of the smoked dial and the ETA2892-A2 movement in a classic looking three-hander watch is simply great. If you are looking for a dress watch under 1000 Euro, this should be on your shortlist.
More information via the official Hamilton website.