I must admit that I’ve wanted to get my hands on the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39 for a long time. Ever since Hanhart released its most iconic chronograph in a 39mm case size (just like the original watch from 1954), it has been high on my list of watches to try. Now that I have, I can say that it may well be the brand’s best. One thing’s for sure: it packs a lot of punch for just under €2,500.

When you are excited to see a watch in the metal, your expectations can be the tyranny of a good review. This is simply because your expectations are elevated beyond simply assessing a product on its merits. Your emotions come into play. “Don’t meet your heroes,” as the saying goes. Even so, I have not been disappointed in the slightest when handling this Hanhart 417 ES. Read on.

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39

A German watchmaker with Swiss roots

For those of us who are not particularly familiar with Hanhart, the now-German brand was founded in the Swiss town of Diessenhofen in 1882. Twenty years later, the founder (Swiss watchmaker Johann Hanhart) relocated his workshop to Schwenningen in the southern German Black Forest region. By 1939, the brand had started making pilot chronographs for the German Luftwaffe and had already become a local leader in stopwatch production. Nowadays, Hanhart produces its watches in a factory in Gütenbach, also in southern Germany.

Image: Hanhart

The original Hanhart 417 chronograph

In 1954, Hanhart released what would become its best-known watch, though there were no indications at the time that this would be the case. The post-war West German Air Force needed hardy wrist chronographs for navigation. Hanhart was tasked with producing this watch, and in 1954, the original Hanhart 417 (in a chrome-plated brass case) and 417 ES (short for edelstahl, the German word for stainless steel) were born. It’s believed that far fewer than 1,000 of the latter were produced, perhaps around half that number in total. These were never for civilian sale but solely for the West German military.


Nevertheless, somehow, Hollywood icon (and a man with good taste in watches) Steve McQueen ended up owning one. He was pictured wearing it on a Bund-style strap on several occasions. This can be seen in the gallery of photos above taken by François Gragnon for Paris Match as well as an unusual one of McQueen with an animal pelt (I don’t condone the killing and skinning of exotic or endangered animals).

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39

The modern Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback

Because of the connections to military heritage and a Hollywood icon, the vintage Hanhart 417s were popular with collectors but relatively unknown to the broader world. That has continued to the modern day, though Hanhart has a strong following. Thankfully, Hanhart decided to reintroduce iterations of the original 417 ES in different case sizes and dial colors. Nowadays, we have options in both 39mm and 42mm cases. Today, we’re focusing on the 39mm Reverse Panda version.

The first thing I noticed with this watch was the extremely high legibility inherent in the dial design. Double-register chronographs can have a nice symmetry to them. This is particularly found in a Type 20 format, and this Hanhart is no exception. The stark white numerals seem to jump out from the matte black dial. Hanhart did an excellent job of recreating the vibe of the original watch with this dial. The numerals wrap neatly around the dial’s perimeter and reflect the original font, including a beautiful open 6. This is one of my favorite elements of the dial.

Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39 lume shot

Another one of my favorite aspects is the Super-LumiNova treatment on the sub-dials. The overall nighttime capability of this watch is impressive, with plenty of luminescent material in the numerals and hands as well, which I hope the image above illustrates. Unlike the original, the chronograph seconds hand is also luminous. This ensures that both the elapsed seconds and the 30-minute chronograph counter are easily visible in low-light conditions.

A modern flyback chronograph movement

On the edge of the dial of the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39, we find a full set of hash marks along with Arabic numerals in five-minute/second intervals. The latter is a subtle touch that aids in tracking elapsed seconds with the chronograph. Also on the dial, there are reminders that the watch is antimagnetic, shockproof, and a flyback chronograph. This movement is a relatively recent addition from the Swiss movement maker Sellita, caliber AMT5100 M. It’s a hand-wound flyback integrated chronograph with a column wheel. The 23-jewel movement operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour and provides at least 58 hours of power reserve when fully wound. Manually winding the watch is a joy. The crown doesn’t wiggle, and the winding action is smooth and pleasurable.

These Hanhart chronograph watches are adjusted to run between -0 and +8 seconds per day, so they will keep good time. The use of a Sellita movement rather than something in-house is a plus in my mind. It means that as these movements become more widely used, parts should remain available to any independent watchmaker for servicing and repairs in the years to come. However, on the 39mm version, you won’t see the movement because it sits behind an all-steel case back with the attractive Hanhart signature and “Handmade in Germany” (in German). The case back is also fundamental to providing this watch with antimagnetic properties.

Is the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39 GADA material?

Another feature you may have noticed inscribed on the case back is this watch’s water resistance to 10 ATM (100 meters). This means that the 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39 could truly be a “go anywhere, do anything” watch and one I would comfortably take swimming. The 39 × 46mm case provides reassurance, though at 13.3mm thick, it can seem a tad chunky. However, this thickness is quite reasonable for a chronograph with this level of water resistance. The high legibility and solid specifications make this Hanhart excellent GADA material if you like the looks and design. The benefit of a 20mm lug spacing is that you can pair it with many different strap options too.

A quick look at the case might indicate a relatively simple design and treatment, but you would be wrong in your initial impressions. The sides of the case are nicely brushed, while the top surfaces of the lugs have both brushed and polished finishes. Where the underside of the case meets the case back, there is also a small ring of polished metal, creating a fair bit of visual contrast the closer you look at this watch. So there is more to the case than immediately meets the eye, which is a nice touch from Hanhart.

An elapsed-time bezel

One of the quirks of the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback’s design is the red marker on the bezel. This bezel is bidirectional without any clicks and provides the bonus of an elapsed-time marker. Just line up the red mark with the current location of the minute hand, and you have something akin to a rudimentary dive bezel. It’s small touches like this that add to the quirkiness of the watch. Moving the bezel is straightforward. There’s enough resistance to prevent it from getting easily knocked out of place, but there is enough smoothness to allow for painless adjustment.

Another element I should highlight is the quality of the leather strap that came with the watch. You see, if you order it on the strap, you get a Bund-style version in black with off-white stitching. It’s very comfortable. The extra leather pad the watch sits on is removable, though, so you can easily convert it to a regular leather strap. The quality of the strap is excellent, being soft and supple. The buckle, engraved with the Hanhart name, is a nice, quality unit. Quick-release spring bars make for easy removable of the strap if you want to put the watch on something else. Hanhart now also makes a metal bracelet for this watch that looks solid enough.

Closing thoughts

Bravo, Hanhart. The technical advancements over the original 417 ES are considerable. This makes sense since there were several decades between the vintage and modern versions. I must say that the Hanhart 417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39 is a very well-put-together watch. It has the right combination of modern updates and homage to the original design. Hanhart has designed a watch that closely reflects the spirit and feel of the original. In so doing, it has also provided reassuring levels of build quality and ruggedness. At €2,490 on the strap, if I were in the market, this would be very high on my list. Luckily for my wallet, I have a neo-vintage IWC 3706 tri-register chronograph already. Nevertheless, Hanhart once again proves why German watchmakers are worth investigating for a great quality-to-price ratio. This 417 ES 1954 Flyback has the heritage to match.

What do you think, Fratelli? Do you like the looks of this Hanhart and its heritage? What do you think of the brand more broadly, and would you consider owning one of its watches? Let me know in the comments.

Watch specifications

417 ES 1954 Flyback Reverse Panda 39
Black with white luminous Arabic numerals and sub-dials
Case Material
Stainless steel
Case Dimensions
39mm (diameter) × 46mm (lug-to-lug) × 13.3mm (thickness including crystal)
Domed sapphire with antireflective coating
Case Back
Stainless steel, screw-in
Sellita AMT5100 M: flyback chronograph with manual winding, 28,800vph frequency, 58-hour power reserve, 23 jewels, column wheel
Water Resistance
10 ATM (100 meters)
Black calfskin (20/18mm) with removable Bund-style underlay and pin buckle
Time (hours, minutes, small seconds), chronograph (30-minute counter, central seconds, flyback function), timing bezel