The Jackson Five, ABBA and Queen. The Godfather, Bruce Lee and Star Wars. Platform shoes, sideburns, and bell-bottomed pants. The Royal Oak, Nautilus and Ingenieur. All of them first saw the light of day during the seventies, and in the watch industry, this era seems to be making a comeback when it comes to design. The original Hamilton Pan Europ was introduced in 1971, and in recent years it has come back to life. The Chronograph version was redone and re-issued in 2011, and for 2014 Hamilton offers a non-chronograph version. We at Monochrome Watches conducted a hands-on review of this seventies-inspired looker.
Hamilton, as a brand, dates back to 1892 (no connection to a bloke named Lewis Hamilton, as many people tend to ask me). Among the brand’s accolades are its pocketwatch from 1912 that ensured railroad accuracy in the United States, and the 1957 Hamilton Ventura, the first electric watch available to the public. The latter is also famous for being Elvis Presley’s watch of choice in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii and is also featured in the Men In Black movie franchise.
As mentioned, the original Hamilton Pan Europ — introduced in 1971, and featuring a cushion-shaped case — was one of the very first automatic chronographs. The layout of pushers and crown was similar to that of other iconic chronographs of that era, such as the (TAG) Heuer Autavia and Silverstone and the Breitling Chrono-Matic (crown at 9, pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock), all of which contained the Heuer-Breitling-Hamilton Calibre 11.
The Hamilton Pan Europ is equipped with a simple but reliable movement that provides an indication of hours, minutes, seconds, day of the week and date. For most people, this is more than enough information on the wrist, but there is, of course, a version with a chronograph if you need time-measuring. The Pan Europ also comes with a rotating bezel, marked with a diver-style minute-track. However, it should not be regarded as a professional diving instrument with its 50-meter water resistance. The total package of the Hamilton Pan Europ is well executed: it has two straps (and the tool to change them), one of which is an absolute winner, with crisp lines and a good build quality, all for a very approachable price point.
Dial and hands:
One of the first things you are hit with is the very rich shade of blue that is featured throughout the watch. The very fine sunburst effect makes the dial come alive, and gives the Hamilton Pan Europ a very distinct appeal. We’ve seen it before in the Girard Perregaux 1966 and the Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date, and it works very well. The day and date windows lack a surrounding ring around the apertures, which would have brought the dial up another notch in terms of finishing and detailing.
Surrounding the blue dial is a white chapter ring, with minute markers all around. The first quarter of the chapter ring, between 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock is in red, while the rest is in black. The chapter ring also gives away space to the wedge-shaped hour markers with applied luminous material. The straight hour and minute hands also feature luminous material, though I have seen brighter examples. To finish off the dial, Hamilton has opted for slender, inconspicuous markings, with the only text reading “Hamilton,” “Automatic,” “Pan Europ,” and “Swiss Made.”
Case and straps:
The 42-mm steel, cushion-shaped case of the Hamilton Pan Europ is reminiscent of 1970s racing chronographs and features brushed surfaces and polished edges. At 10.41 mm, the new Pan Europ is not quite as thick as last year’s chronograph version (owing, no doubt, to the slimmer, non-chrono movement). The polished bezel, with an aluminum insert in blue, also feels sturdy. It rotates counterclockwise, with 120 sharp clicks.
The crown is adorned with a polished Hamilton “H” on a brushed surface. The knurled edge of the crown is polished as well. The integrated lugs ensure a tight fit for the strap and curve down for added comfort while wearing. Both on the front and the back, Hamilton opted for a sapphire crystal over the dial, and also in the screw-down caseback to allow a view into the movement. The Hamilton Pan Europ comes with two 22-mm wide straps. The black leather racing-style strap, with a red lining, is very soft and comfortable, albeit a bit too slim. The Omega-style folding buckle, tucking in the nib underneath the other end of the strap, uses a small pin to hold onto the strap. Due to the thinness of the strap it sometimes rotates slightly while wearing and the nib of the strap ends up poking out from under the buckle.
The blue-and-red NATO strap, also included, is a true gem, though, and shows the care and attention that went into this sometimes overlooked aspect of the watch. Matching it in terms of color emphasizes the ’70s feel. The end of the strap is finished with a steel nib, with a Hamilton logo, the holes are squared so the nibs fit tightly and easily into the strap, the buckle is sturdy (again, with the Hamilton logo) and the hole-section of the strap is reinforced with a leather strip. The fit and feel of the strap is superb, and perfectly emphasizes the ’70s racing vibe.
While the original Hamilton Pan Europ was equipped with a chronograph movement, the well-known Caliber 11, the current non-chrono version houses the Hamilton H30 movement. Basically, it is an ETA 2824 automatic movement with an upgraded mainspring, boosting power to a very ample 80 hours. having been a part of the Swatch Group since 1974, Hamilton is safe from the fact that ETA is reducing its supplies to third parties, as most watch-industry watchers know.
The see-through caseback is a nice addition to the overall presentation. Despite the fact that the original Pan Europ had a closed one and the choice of movement doesn’t exactly make it a necessity, there is always something appealing about being able to see a movement tick. Although not the most handsome movement, its rotor has been customized with an openworked “H” and “Hamilton” engraving. It powers hours, minutes, seconds, weekday indication and date functionality (both with instant jumps at midnight).
The day and date indication can be individually set through the crown, by pulling it out one step and turning it one direction for the day and the other direction for the date. Pulling it out one more step allows you to set the time, of course.
Pros and Cons:
- Authentic 1970s feel with historical inspiration
- Well executed NATO strap uplifts the watch
- Very strong value-for-money proposition
- Reliable, adequate movement
- An 80-hour power-reserve
- Lack of refinement keeps it from excelling above its price bracket
- Flimsy-feeling leather strap pokes out from under the buckle
- Only modest water resistance
The Hamilton Pan Europ is available in two versions, the blue-dialed one we covered here and a version with a gray dial and bezel with corresponding NATO strap. The leather strap is the same for both models. Hamilton has succeeded in giving us a watch that oozes “’70s” and is historically significant. Combining that with a price tag of just $1,095 makes this a watch to consider spending your hard-earned dollars on.