During the past year of working with vintage watches at Theo & Harris, I’ve come to develop the (healthy or unhealthy?) habit of treating every piece I come across like a newborn baby lamb. Outside of the few pieces I own personally (which, in all honesty, I tend to push to the limits of what a watch can do), I’m often extremely cautious in handling watches that aren’t mine. Vintage pieces especially are usually very delicate, and I would never forgive myself for breaking somebody’s first, favorite, or famous watch.
Enter a historic “tool watch” brand like Hamilton, with its vintage-inspired Pan Europ Auto Chrono. This piece, based largely upon the brand’s Pan Europ automatic Caliber 11 chronograph released in 1971, offers a stark contrast to the delicate nature of vintage pieces with a similar look, and a contemporary durability. Released in 2011 with a limited edition blue-sunburst dial, the modern Hamilton Pan Europ series has become one of the more fascinating additions to Hamilton’s growing collection of historically influenced watches, and offers a truly vintage-inspired look for a fraction of what one may expect to pay for such a piece.
The watch we’re covering today, the Ref. H35756735, is available in the option of a black dial with white-accented subdials, or with a white dial with black-accented subdials (commonly referred to as “reverse panda” or “panda” dials, respectively). The watch is housed in a relatively large 45-mm, steel cushion-shaped case, and behind the clear caseback ticks the ETA-modified automatic Valjoux 7750 movement (renamed Caliber H31) with a 60-hour power reserve.
In the center of the dial, ringed by a thin, rotating bezel, are two subdials — one for running-seconds and the other for counting up to 30 chronograph minutes. The hours are notated by applied tick marks, a date window is located at the 6 o’clock mark, and a tachymetric scale details the outline of the dial. The Hamilton Pan Europ Auto Chrono, listed by Hamilton at $1,945, is often found for significantly less at various dealers, sometimes even below $1,000.
Before we compare this modern example of the Pan Europ to its vintage counterpart, it should be noted that vintage examples of this chronograph, within the larger scope of the series, are pretty uncommon, especially when compared to the very common non-chronograph pieces, or the very popular vintage Hamilton Chrono-matic line. However, that said, the modern Hamilton Pan Europ Auto Chrono does have some significant and interesting parallels to the 1970s designs upon which it’s based.
From the very ‘70s brushed steel, cushion case; to the red-accented chronograph hands and minimalistic pushers; to the applied hour markers and stick hands — it might be easier to note all the non-vintage derived features. These include, of course, the larger 45-mm case, as compared to the more common historical sizes ranging from 36 to 42 mm; the clear caseback and modern finishing; and the right-side crown compared to the original’s famous left-side crown, which resulted from the architecture of the Caliber 11 movement.
This modern watch appeals to a rather niche market, i.e., those seeking a larger but still vintage-inspired piece, but it fulfills this desire well. It offers all the interesting and unconventional touches from a past era, but with the benefit of a modern construction, and a price below those of other much-sought-after historical Hamilton chronographs. Would it be more appealing in a smaller case and with a left-side crown? Possibly to some consumers, but with no new iterations of this watch released in over four years, those hoping for something new might one day soon have that hope fulfilled.
For our most recent article, in which I compare modern and vintage examples of the Longines Heritage Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch, click here.
Caleb Anderson is the Director of Outreach at the online vintage watch boutique and blog theoandharris.com. Since starting at Theo & Harris, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on watches, and a casual runner.