Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Hanhart Pioneer One Limited Edition

Hanhart is a German watch brand that, for the better part of the twentieth century, was a staple in the production of pilots’ watches and chronographs in Europe. In more recent years, the brand’s focus has remained across the pond with little means of distribution in the United States, yet their watches — especially their historical pieces — have begun to garner more attention in the vintage scene. As such, the brand has dedicated much of its modern collections towards catering to this growing trend, especially in the heritage-focused Pioneer collection, which includes the recently released Pioneer One Limited Edition.

Hanhart 417 ES flyback chronograph

This new pilot’s watch draws its inspiration from the Hanhart 417 ES flyback chronograph series produced by the brand in the 1950s (picture above via Worn & Wound), which used a design originally introduced during World War II. The vintage model is best known for being favorited by Hollywood legend Steve McQueen — when he wasn’t making the Heuer Monaco an icon — and was distinguished by its coin-edged, smooth-turning, bidirectional bezel, and red stripe at 12 o’clock. The brand, in an effort to expand the Pioneer series, opted to make the Pioneer One LE time-only to better balance out its Pioneer series, which is chronograph heavy, and in turn, has produced a watch that is both distinctly modern and vintage-inspired.

The new watch uses a 42-mm highly bead-blasted steel case (bead-blasting is when a surface is blasted with very fine glass beads— similar to sandblasting, yet slightly less abrasive), to give it a matte, gun-metal finish. On its right side is what has become Hanhart’s go-to crown, an oversized design meant to assist those wearing large gloves adjust the time, and one popular in historical pilot watch designs. Inside the coin-edged and red-topped bezel is the straightforward black and faux-patina accented dial. On the outer edge is a white minute ring somewhat reminiscent of a tachymetric scale and the dial is slightly lowered for an inner circle with large Arabic numerals for each hour mark, with it being raised again towards the center. The watch uses syringe-tipped hour and minute hands similar to the 417 ES flyback chronograph, with a red-tipped needle-style center seconds counter; these hands are powered by the automatic Sellita SW 200 capable of a 38-hour power reserve, a reliable movement also found in the Bell & Ross Vintage BR V1-92 Military. This new wristwatch is limited to 150 total pieces and is available for purchase in North America exclusively through WatchBuys for $1,170.

In comparison to the original 417 ES flyback chronograph, the modern watch is by no means a direct re-issue. Yet, for the many differences between the watches, the DNA of the original piece is still visible. Most apparent is the red-striped coin-edged bezel and syringe hands, both designs which were directly lifted from the historical piece. More subtly, the case shape — while enlarged — is of a similar style, especially in the shape of the lugs; the outer white minute ring is closer to the edge of the dial, yet remains virtually the same between the watches, and the numerals use a slightly-altered vintage design.

Of the differences, foremost is the time-only factor, where the historical piece — and much of the brand’s watches from the mid-20th century — is a chronograph. Yet the option for the time-only design allowed for Hanhart to explore new design options, such as the multi-level dial, the enlarged crown popular on many time-only pilot watches throughout the last century, and the bead-blasted gunmetal finishing. The red-tipped seconds hand was also an interesting touch, as it is a style that would fit naturally on a chronograph and thus draws the historical allusion on the Pioneer One LE, yet it doesn’t seem to have existed on the original vintage piece— it’s a bit unorthodox, but it works well with the rest of the watch’s chronograph-inspired design.

The purpose of Hanhart’s most recent addition to the Pioneer collection is clear: it is a small step towards expanding its presence outside the crowded chronograph market. To do so, they stuck with their timeless designs — namely in the vintage and chronograph field — and kept the total production numbers low. If the piece is a hit, then you can expect more time-only pieces from the German brand in the years to come, and if it’s slow to sell, then a doubling-down on chronographs — potentially in the non-vintage inspired collections — may be just on the horizon.

For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the IWC  Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years,” to its historical predecessor, 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.


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