The German’s are well known for their precision machinery. Companies such as BMW, VW, Porsche and Leica have carved out huge reputations for quality and functionality, of their mechanical products.
Another less famous manufacturer of precision engineering products, is Hanhart AG of Diessenhofen, in Germany. Like many other manufacturers in Germany, at the time, Hanhart were contracted to produce watches for the Pilots of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, in the second world war.
They produced a chronograph in 1939 with the famous red painted button, which prevented accidental resetting. It was a very handsome watch for its day, with a steel case, fabric strap and 2 dials. Simple, accurate and quite stunning to anyone who appreciates mechanical design. At the end of the war the watch factory was looted and most of the machinery was shipped out of the country. The business was wound up. Willy Hanhart, the founder was facing total ruin. However, near the end of the 40’s he managed to get some new machinery together and restart the business.
Today, the company still exists and makes watches to German design in Switzerland. The design is very similar to those made during the war years. Putting the watches side by side you can see the basic design elements of the 1939 model, reflected in the 2010 model.
Collectors will always be interested in watches with an interesting history. The Hanhart range certainly has this. As further evidence, most interested in the 40’s era of technological development, will remember the name “Dornier” the German seaplane company. Recently the grandson of the original designer, Claude Dornier, commissioned Hanhart, to produce a Chronograph remembering one of Dornier’s most successful aircraft designs, the Do-X flying boat. Irén Dornier, the grandson, wore this new watch during his recent circumnavigation of the world in the historic seaplane.
Its difficult to buy these watches outside of Europe. Distribution is closely controlled through dealerships of unique character.
But if you want to add something really interesting to your collection, a Pilots watch from Hitler’s Luftwaffe, or one from a U boat captain, you will find one with that heritage, in this range, of Chronographs.