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This is a portrait about the traditional watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882, who best known for its legendary stopwatches. Everything you need to know – from history to the best watches of today!

The Hanhart Pioneer One in black – Photo © 2020 by WATCHDAVID® – All rights reserved

Hanhart is a real traditional brand. For almost 140 years, the Black Forest based manufacturer has been producing watches and has become the leading manufacturer of mechanical stopwatches. For decades the unmistakable distinguishing feature: the red pusher! This portrait will tell you the Hollywood-like story behind this brand, what makes Hanhart so special and which models the traditional manufacturer can already look back on in its history.

The birth of Hanhart

With the introduction of the first affordable mechanical stopwatch in 1924, the name Hanhart entered the international stage for the first time and earned attention and recognition. What many people do not know is that even at that time, the then small watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882 could look back on a history of almost 40 years. Hanhart’s roots reach to Switzerland in 1882, when watchmaker Johann Adolf Hanhart opened a small watch store in the north-eastern part of the small town of Diessenhofen. He advertises it in an advertisement in the newspaper. In the following years he becomes a honored watchmaker in Diessenhofen and the surrounding area. For the next step it takes time.

Hanhart Firmengebäude Schwenningen
Hanhart’s company building in Schwenningen, Black Forest – ®Hanhart

In 1902, the still small company changes the location and moves to Germany. Hanhart settles in Schwenningen am Neckar in the Black Forest. The idea behind it is clever. Schwenningen is considered the “clock capital of the world”. Business with suppliers and buyers is therefore much easier. And yet it is a step out of the comfort zone that the Swiss town of Diessenhofen offered the company. The competition is big. Hanhart must focus on innovation. This is what happens with the generation change.

1902 brings not only professional but also family changes. Hanhart’s youngest son Wilhelm Julius is born in his new home in Schwenningen. At this time, nobody could have guessed that he would later lead the manufactory to international fame and success. At the age of 18, the Hanhart offspring joins the company and brings a breath of fresh air.

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Innovation and success – watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882 introduces affordable stopwatches

Fotografie von Wilhelm Julius Hanhart
Wilhelm Julius Hanhart – ®Hanhart

As is well known, necessity is the mother of invention, as was the case with Wilhelm Hanhart. The boy is considered to be very fond of sports. In 1924 he takes part in an athletics tournament. The grievances about which Wilhelm Hanhart is so upset are quite well documented. Four different and mediocre stopwatches are said to have been bought by the organizers. What you need to know about the early 1920s: stopwatches are already invented, but they are also rare. The only manufactories that make them are based in Switzerland and charge horrendous sums for their individual pieces. So Wilhelm Hanhart thinks ahead. He solves the problem and designs his own stopwatch.

Hanhart Uhren historischer Stoppuhren
A historical Hanhart stop watch – ®Hanhart

The vision: affordable stopwatches for everyone, designed and sold by Hanhart in the Black Forest. The inventive spirit should be rewarded. In the same year, the manufactory brought out its first own stopwatch – and thus set the milestone for an innovative company that is still considered the market leader in this segment in the industry today.

In the years that followed, watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882 continually built new watches and expanded its model range. At the end of the twenties, this range also includes the first mechanical wristwatches. The manufactory produces pocket watches, too.

How the red pusher became a trademark of watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882

1938 is another decisive year in the history of Hanhart. For the first time, the company produced pilot’s chronographs. Some big names like “Kaliber 40” or TachyTele are still known today. The reason: Hanhart was already considered a pioneer at that time. The pilot’s chronographs have a stop function, a speed display, are easy to read and impress with their high quality. Features that are still found in the manufacturer’s model range today. And then as now, they have the characteristic red pusher.

Hanhart Historischer Chronograph TachyTele
The first TachyTele – ®Hanhart

This trademark first appeared in 1939. The official function of the red color: the pilot should not inadvertently reset the stopwatch. Unofficially, however, a different story is circulating. Fighter pilot in war was a risky profession. When they said goodbye to their wives and family, pilots did not know whether they would ever see their loved ones again. As an assistance the wives are said to have painted the triggers of their husbands with red nail polish before a mission trip, so that they would always think of them and return safely… How much truth this story carries in itself is left open.

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Hanhart builds its first quartz movement

In the post-war period, Hanhart 1882 is able to build on the successes of the 1920s and 1930s with new stopwatches, so the watch manufacturer stands for very accurate and innovative time measurement at events of various kinds. But even the introduction of quartz movements does not leave the traditional German manufacturer unaffected. The Asian competition is cheap, durable and can produce off-the-shelf. Hanhart is nevertheless pulling along. The first plastic injection moulding shop is built and the first quartz movement goes into series production. Nevertheless, the heels go down. The traditional European manufacturers cannot compete with the companies from the Far East.

Hanhart PRIMUS Desert Pilot
Hanhart Primus Desert Pilot – Photo © 2020 by WATCHDAVID® – All rights reserved

Back to the roots

An eventful century is coming to an end, also for Hanhart. Towards the end of the 1990s, the manufactory ventured a new beginning and returned to its roots. Hanhart revived its series of legendary stopwatches and pilot’s watches with mechanical movements. The original replica of all the old models from times gone by is a resounding success. Mechanical watches are once again regarded as something special and exclusive. The current Hanhart range is still based on the revival from the 1990s.

How does watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882 fit into the market?

The company, which is still based in the Black Forest (in the second production site in Gütenbach), still manufactures directly on site. Accordingly, most of the watches bear the quality seal “Made in Germany”. This quality is also reflected in the price. The cheapest models start with prices in the high three-digit range. For most clocks however clearly higher, four-digit prices become due. Watch manufacturer Hanhart 1882 can therefore be classified in the upper price segment.

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Hanhart RACEMASTER GTF
Details of the Hanhart Racemaster GTF – Photo © 2020 by WATCHDAVID® – All rights reserved

The current range of models extends from classic stopwatches to timepieces for motor sports, diving and aviation watches. However, the interpretation of the terms “pioneering achievement” and “innovation” has changed. While mechanical chronographs were the technical non-plus-ultra in the 1930s and 40s, theoretically no one today is dependent on these watches. Electronic time measurement, sensors and smartphones have already overtaken watches years ago.

Anyone who buys pilot’s chronographs or stopwatches such as those from Hanhart these days, for whom emotional values play a much greater role. The watches are a reminiscence of days gone by. They transport the innovative achievements of those days into the present day. They are collector’s items that have been made by hand. And they are regarded as jewelry and status symbols. Anyone who appreciates and loves these things about watches should have a look at Hanhart.

Hanhart PIONEER MonoScope
Hanhart Pioneer MonoScope – Photo © 2020 by WATCHDAVID® – All rights reserved

More about Hanhart and its watches

Hanhart Pioneer TachyTele Review

Hanhart’s official homepage

Models, collections and more