Teased in sneak previews prior to its debut at Baselworld 2017, the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 Autochrono attracted a lot of attention — partly due to its own aesthetic value, but much more so because of the popular vintage watch that inspired it — the Hamilton Chrono-matic. Originally released in the new model’s namesake year of 1968 (picture below, left, via MentaWatches), the Chrono-Matic has become famous within vintage-collector circles as the “poor man’s Carrera” — but also prized for later examples of the watch that used the famed Caliber 11 movement— one of very first automatic chronograph mechanisms.
In the modern day, these vintage Chrono-matics have become one of the greatest examples of price inflation in vintage watches in recent times — costing around $500 to $1,000 in early 2013, with most models now selling for well over $3,000 since mid-2016. I myself purchased a vintage Caliber 11 Hamilton Chrono-matic Fontainebleau (photo below) right before prices skyrocketed, and I certainly feel very lucky about that. In many ways, the Chrono-matic has well represented the growth in interest in the vintage-watch market over the past few years, and so it is perfectly appropriate that today’s Hamilton has chosen to pay homage with this modern replica.
The modern watch, Ref. H38716731, obviously has many similarities to its forbearer, but also some clear distinctions. With a 42-mm steel case, the piece uses elongated lugs, simple pump pushers, and a large, right-side-mounted crown. On the black dial, there is an outer white tachymeter scale, applied hour markers with luminescent inserts, two oversized white subdials for running seconds and a 30-minute counter, and an enlarged date window at the 6 o’clock position. Interestingly, Hamilton decided to use its vintage logo on this piece — a feature rarely used by the brand, and one that didn’t even appear on its popular (and also vintage-inspired) Pan Europ models. The hands on the watch are in a simple sword configuration, and powering the piece is the automatic Hamilton Caliber H-31 — based on the ETA 7753 — which stores a 60-hour power reserve. Production will be limited to 1,968 pieces, and pricing for the watch is currently listed by Hamilton at $2,195.
Comparably to the pre-Caliber 11 vintage models, this watch hits many of the right spots to draw the approval of many. With its “reverse panda” dial configuration; simple case, pushers, and crown; black leather “racing” strap; and vintage Hamilton logo, the watch offers a straightforward nod to the historical collection it set out to showcase. The brand seems to show restraint in not giving the piece a sapphire caseback, as it has done on many other of its homage models (although the solid caseback is engraved in a very modern way), and most of its attributes seem to derive clear inspiration from the watches of the past.
However, there are some obvious changes that have drawn the critique of some purists. Regarding the case: the pushers have longer necks, the crown is slightly thicker, the size has gone from 36 mm in diameter to 42 mm, and the lugs seem more on par with those on the Caliber 11 variations (released in 1969 and in subsequent years), rather than on the 1968 examples. Regarding the dial: both subdials are enlarged, as is the 6 o’clock date window; the outer white tachymeter scale is off-date (to the best of my knowledge) and did not appear until the later variations of the watch post-1968. Lastly, the famed “Chrono-matic” writing no longer appears towards the 6 o’clock position, having been replaced with simply “Automatic.”
Considering these changes, the watch overall tends to combine elements of many different Chrono-matics from this time period rather than simply re-creating the 1968 piece. What is also clear is that Hamilton, despite working to create a vintage-inspired piece, modernized many of the watch’s features to appeal to their contemporary consumers. Whether this was for easier readability, stylistic trends, or simply to differentiate the Intra-Matic 68 from the collections that preceded it, the brand nonetheless thought it important to alter the design. It might have been nice to see a left-sided crown, or maybe some cross-brand collaboration with TAG Heuer and its revised Caliber 11 movement — similar to the one seen in the current Monaco homage, but since LVMH owns TAG Heuer and Swatch Group owns Hamilton, I certainly understand why this was not the case. It would have also been nice to see the “Chrono-matic” script, or even a new “Intra-Matic” script, on the dial, and a few different color variations with vintage navy blue dials (as in the photo above, courtesy of Fratellowatches) or white dials wouldn’t have hurt, but perhaps these are features the market will have to look forward to in the watch’s next iteration.
When the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 was first released, it received high praises throughout the industry — rightfully so, for the most part, in my opinion. The vintage model was, and is, a great watch, representing some of the best utilitarian watchmaking of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, and Hamilton attempting to capitalize on this milestone is a smart move by the brand. With vintage Chrono-matic prices skyrocketing, this new watch offers a great value: a re-creation of a historical watch, produced with modern watchmaking practices, at a relatively solid price point.
For our most recent article, in which I look into the historical lineage behind the Seiko Prospex SLA017, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.