Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: Hamilton American Classic Chrono-Matic 50 Auto Chrono

Last fall, Swiss-based Hamilton unveiled the latest addition to its American Classic collection with the new Chrono-Matic 50 Auto Chrono. The American Classic collection — which recalls the brand’s historic founding in the U.S. and some of the most iconic watches it manufactured while still stateside — has been the host of many different watches covered in our “Vintage Eye” series, notably the Intra-Matic 68 Autochrono, Intra-Matic Auto, and Pan Europ Auto Chrono, among a few other vintage-inspired watches sold by the brand outside this collection.

This latest watch, the Chrono-Matic 50 Auto Chrono, takes its inspiration from 1972’s Chrono-Matic GMT Count-Down, also known as the Chronomatic E (vintage model pictured above, via Unwind In Time). This vintage model was quite the sight in its time, featuring an inner rotating world time-GMT bezel, a chronograph, and heavy 1970s styling all within a large 47-mm “helmet” case. It used the Caliber 14, a GMT-complication version of the historic Caliber 11 movement, released in 1979 and renowned for being one of the first automatic chronograph movements.

The watch — as if 47-mm size on the vintage model wasn’t large enough — features a 48-mm steel helmet case with hooded lugs, two red chronograph pushers, an embedded right-side crown to adjust the time, a left-side crown to operate the inner rotating countdown bezel, and an additional black pusher at the 10:30 position for a quick-set date change. Beneath the sapphire crystal, you’ll find an outer black tachymetric scale and an inner rotating countdown bezel, both features differing from the vintage model’s inner bezels, which displayed world time and GMT scales. Deeper within the dial you’ll find a chronograph-style minute counter on the outer edge, applied square hour makers, a round 6 o’clock date window operated by the quick-set pusher, and two subdials at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions for a 30-minute counter and running seconds indicator, respectively. Passing over the dial are two metal, baton hands, while a classic red pointer is used for the chronograph seconds. Inside the watch is the H-31 Automatic movement, which not only powers all the watch’s various complications, but also offers a solid 60-hour power reserve.

The new Chrono-Matic 50 Auto Chrono is currently priced by Hamilton at $2,595, and will be limited to 1,972 editions.

In comparison to the vintage model, the new edition clearly maintains its overall design while making some contemporary efforts towards an overall cleaner aesthetic. We see these changes in the placement of the chronograph pushers, now on the right side of the case, and the placement of the rotating inner bezel and its crowns and pushers now on the left side. Also, there is a clear difference in the technology, with the vintage model opting for a GMT and world-time inner bezel — with a matching GMT hand, to boot— while the new model instead eschews the dual time functions altogether in favor of a countdown feature and quick-set date function. Much of these changes are likely due to the use of the modern H-31 movement rather than the vintage Caliber 14, which by its design had a number of physical limitations, most notably in the position of the crowns and chronograph pushers, and also featured an additional GMT functionality which in a modern movement would have likely raised the price of this watch far above its current price point.

Outside of technical features, we also see a more modern accenting, with the watch using more red and contrasting black and white areas throughout the model’s coloration, and of course the slightly larger case size at 48 mm compared to 47 mm.

As a whole, the modern Chrono-Matic 50 Auto Chrono, while using contemporary technology, colors, and finishing, nonetheless provides a strongly retro aesthetic, and is undeniably a more or less faithful — albeit somewhat updated — re-issue of the original Chronomatic E. This watch, considering its very complex look and large size, is a further testament to Hamilton’s continued commitment to producing heritage models, going so far to revive lesser known designs as well as those more famous ones that graced the front pages of its product catalogs almost 50 years ago.

For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we discuss the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Automatic 42 and the historical designs that inspired it, click here.

Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering 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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