By Paul Delury
The Hamilton line of chronographs are considered to be “entry-level” Swiss chronographs. They are some of the least expensive watches employing the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750 auto chronograph movement. In fact, as both Hamilton and Valjoux/ETA are owned by the Swiss SMH conglomerate, you could say that these watches have “in-house” movements, (my little joke). I have pictured the watch above in an aviation setting, as this is one of the traditional uses people perceive for chronographs. Personally, I would not use this watch for flying duties, nor any other mechanical chrono, as I find them a little fiddly to read quickly. That’s a chore best left to BIG quartz digital displays in my book. But that’s just me.
Front and rear views of the Hamilton Chrono-Matic II.
I have owned this Hamilton Chrono-Matic II for just over one year, and have found it to be reliable and a very accurate timekeeper. OK, so my measuring methodology leaves something to be desired – I checked the watch during normal wear. That is, it was worn during the day & taken off and left resting dial up until the next morning. Over two weeks of such wear I measured the accuracy to be +3 seconds per day. I have recently rechecked the accuracy to see what affect 12 months of use would have. The watch was still running around +2 to +3 seconds per day.
That’s good enough for me! The watch has a power reserve in excess of 40 hours, although I have never measured this exactly. The watch was purchased as NOS (New Old Stock, manufactured mid 90s) and came with box and papers, including the original price hang tag, which indicates a retail price of US$695. I purchased my watch for US$290, and I have regularly seen both the Chrono-Matics, and their
stablemates, the Khaki Chronos for sale at around US$280 to $350 on the Net. As the Americans are fond of saying, “never pay retail!”.
Some Facts & Figures.
Diameter: 39mm (not including crown or lugs)
Thickness: 15mm (including crystal)
The watch has a mineral glass crystal which is domed 2mm above the top surface of the case. It is set within a thin gold rim that sits within the inner circumference of the bezel. The non-rotating tachymeter bezel is a black insert 3mm wide with silver numbers. The dial is black with silver subdials (appears white in photos & scans). The subdials are as follows:
12 oclock position – Minute recorder (up to 30 hours)
6 oclock position – Hour recorder (up to 12 hours)
9 oclock position – Seconds
Close-up of the dial.
All the details are spelled out in the diagram below, from the Hamilton Instruction booklet:
The chrono functions operate well, and all hands return to zero correctly. I have heard that this is not always so with the Valjoux 7750 movement. The chrono pushers take quite a bit of force to activate, certainly more that I had expected. No doubt they would free up a bit with use, but as I rarely have any need to time events, they have had only moderate use. I generally just run the chrono every two weeks to keep the workings lubricated. An interesting characteristic of this chrono movement is that the minute recorder jumps to the next minute mark only in the last second of the travel of the large chrono second-hand. I
don’t find this to be a problem, probably as I don’t seriously use the watch as a timer.
I have also never used the tachymeter bezel, and don’t think I ever will. Hamilton were at least gracious enough to advise me in the instruction booklet on just how to use this quaint feature, should the desire ever grab me.
My watch was supplied with a black, waterproof, signed Hamilton leather strap which, as with many straps, failed dismally to encompass my somewhat gargantuan wrist. I wore the watch for quite a while on a thin extra-long leather strap, but found that this allowed too much movement on the wrist, as the watch sits quite high. As the pictures show, the watch is now on a thick, padded leather strap, which affords a much more secure anchorage. The picture below shows the thickness of the stainless steel case. It does sit very high on the wrist, and is prone to getting hit on objects you could swear you were going to avoid. The watch has in fact been dubbed by non watch-loving friends, rather unkindly, as the “fat” watch. Heathens!
Side view of watch, showing the thickness of the case.
As I have mentioned, the heart of this watch is the 17 jewel Valjoux 7750 auto chrono movement. Hamilton have engraved the rotor, and applied some faux Geneva stripes, but apart from this I do not have enough knowledge to ascertain if any other work has been done to the movement. I fully expect that very little modification, if any, has been made. Note: I believe some Hamiltons use the more recent 25 jewel version of the Valjoux 7750.
Another characteristic of the Valjoux movement that surprised me, and indeed most people who have had the pleasure of experiencing it, is the “Hammy Wobble”. Thats not a technical term, in case you
didn’t already realize it. Given the right flick of the wrist, as one is wont to do when wearing an auto, the old rotor gets a real spin up, and transfers its rotational forces, (stop me if
I’m getting too technical), to the rest of the watch. The end product is a watch that “wobbles” visibly on the wrist from time to time. This had me worried at first, but I was pleased, in a way, to hear similar reports from other Hamilton chrono owners. It appears this phenomenon is related more to the movement than to the particular watch. Anyway, its an interesting conversation piece at slow parties.
I have described the watch as an entry level “Swiss” chronograph. The question is though, just how much of the watch is actually Swiss? After receiving advise from a fellow TZner that his example of the Hamilton chrono had a case that was made in Thailand, I opened up the screwback case to have a looksee. Sure enough, there it was stamped on the inside of the caseback, “Case made in Thailand”. Now, the thing is, I had been quite impressed with the quality of the finish on this case. It is certainly up to the standards of watches I have seen which are priced much higher. So, does finding out the case is outsourced change my opinion? Qualitatively, no, of course. Nothing has changed, except my perception. How much more of the watch is outsourced to the far flung corners of the world? Does, it matter? Ostensibly, the watch must have met the requirements to carry the “Swiss” designation on the dial. I certainly had never considered Thailand to be the watch-case manufacturing center of the universe. However, they do seem to have done a very decent job on this one. Just between you and me, it does bother me a little, but at this price point it is something that seems to come with the territory.
Hamilton make a range of Chrono-Matics, in varying styles, as well as the more militarily styled Khaki Chronos. All use the Valjoux 7750 movement, some retaining both the Day & Date displays, whilst others, as with the Chrono-Matic II, delete the Day display. The Date display has a quick-set function. All-in-all, the watch is a good, affordable medium sized chronograph. It seems a lot of people, including myself, choose a chrono as their first watch when they become interested in matters horological. Perhaps we believe we are getting more “bang for the buck” with the chrono functions. I just like the look of them. I chose the Chrono-Matic II, (& I did have a choice of numerous Hamilton models at the time), due to its faintly art deco-ish styling, which, to me at least, was reminiscent of the Hamilton of old – the Piping Rock & Yankee watches.
07 August 1998