Bronze Age: Hands-on with the Hanhart 417 C Flyback

German manufacturer Hanhart has presented the new 417 C Flyback timepiece in collaboration with Chronos — the German sister magazine of WatchTime. The watch features a hand-wound flyback chronograph that has some exciting special features in store. We had the opportunity to wear the watch beforehand, but before we delve into our experience, let’s explore a bit of its fascinating historical background.

The origins of the 417 date back to the mid-1950s when the newly established West German Bundeswehr required a wrist chronograph with a flyback function for its pilots. This function allowed for the initiation of a new measurement while the chronograph was already in operation. It eliminated the need to stop and reset the chronograph before restarting, a significant advantage for specific flight maneuvers, such as maintaining consistent lengths in triangular or oval flight paths.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

Hanhart supplied these watches to the German armed forces for approximately a decade. Notably, actor and racing driver Steve McQueen sported this chronograph at numerous motorbike races and even featured it in the 1962 film “The War Lover.” Today, vintage examples of the 417 are highly sought-after collector’s items, often fetching impressive prices at auctions.

The original model came in two versions: the 417 in nickel-plated brass and the 417 ES in stainless steel. The design of the new Hanhart limited edition 417 C draws inspiration from the unique character that develops in older models where the nickel plating has naturally worn away due to frequent use of the pushers, crown, and rotating bezel, revealing a golden hue from the underlying brass.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

The novelty here was in achieving this vintage look using case components made of steel and bronze. This endeavor has succeeded remarkably well. Combined with vintage luminous material, gold-colored hands, and a high-arched sapphire crystal, the result is a stunning retro design. The dial, with its bicompax layout, and the historically accurate Hanhart logo contribute to the authentic vintage charm. Retaining the original 39-millimeter diameter and featuring a characteristic calfskin strap with contrast stitching and an optional leather underlay, the watch maintains its nostalgic appeal.

The removable leather underlay ensures that the watch always sits comfortably centered on the wrist. The pin buckle complements the retro aesthetic and features a satin finish matching the case flanks. An interesting option is the ability to select the strap length when ordering from Hanhart or upgrading to a steel bracelet for an additional 200 euros.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

Given the presence of a column wheel in the movement, our expectations for operational comfort were high. Indeed, the start-stop button of the chronograph operates with smooth precision. The reset pusher, however, demands a bit more force. Thankfully, the unscrewing crown makes daily winding effortless for a hand-wound watch. The finely ribbed crown is easy to grip and turn. Another convenient feature is the substantial 58-hour power reserve, ensuring the watch continues running reliably even after two days without winding.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

The bezel of the 417 C features a red marking and can be smoothly turned in both directions without detents, proving useful for measuring additional time intervals or marking specific times. It was originally designed with flying in mind: when planning a flight based on visual flight rules (the primary method before satellite navigation), pilots would plot their course on a flight map and note the time taken between prominent terrain features like rivers or railway lines. This information helped them navigate during the flight.

The case is adorned with beautiful details, including alternating polished and satin-finished surfaces and meticulously crafted mushroom-shaped pushers. Notably, during our wear test, no patina formed on the bronze components of the watch. Hanhart’s use of aluminum bronze in this model generally resists aging more effectively than other bronze alloys. Despite its relatively slim profile of 13.3 millimeters, the 417 C can withstand water pressures up to 100 meters and benefits from Hanhart’s proprietary movement damping, offering protection against shocks.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

One appealing feature is the sapphire crystal case back, allowing a view of the movement. The new AMT5100 M caliber originates from the Manufacture AMT division of the Swiss movement specialist Sellita. As a hand-wound movement, it lacks the rotor found in automatic watches, providing a clear view of the intricate mechanics. Highlights include the blued column wheel, an elegantly striped finish on the plate, and blued screws. The movement boasts 23 jewels and operates at a modern 28,800 vibrations per hour.

Considering the elaborate and rare movement with its flyback function and column wheel, the limited edition of only 150 pieces, and the inclusion of sapphire crystals, the price of $2,860 is remarkably reasonable.

Hanhart 417 C Flyback, Limited Edition x Chronos

In summary, the Hanhart 417 C is a meticulously executed retro watch with a captivating history, exceptional craftsmanship, and an impressive movement. The combination of steel and bronze not only looks great, but also adds a distinctive character to the timepiece without overpowering it.

To learn more and to purchase the new timepiece, click here.

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