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The Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph is the true-to-the-original homage to the legendary pilot’s watch from the 1950s. With a limited edition of just 150 pieces, the bronze watch was released in the summer of 2020 in cooperation with the watch magazines “The Rake” and “Revolution” and sold out in no time. The good news: I was able to buy one watch!
The Hanhart 417 Flieger Chronograph – one of the most famous pilot watches in history
Without hesitation, I would call the Hanhart 417 Flieger Chronograph one of the greatest pilot watches in history. Based in the Black Forest, this traditional brand specialized in the production of pioneering pilot chronographs since the early 20th century. This culminated with the construction of the legendary Hanhart 417 Flieger Chronograph in 1956, of which just 1000 pieces were made. Accordingly, the watch from which today’s Hanhart pilot watches are descended was and still is rare. Since its release, the watch with the black dial, fluted bezel and chrome plating was considered one of the most beautiful aviators of all time!
If you still don’t have an idea what watch we’re talking about, recall the following image. Steve McQueen, wearing a leather jacket, sitting on his motorcycle. On his wrist he wears Hanhart’s masterpiece, the 417 Flieger Chronograph with the additional designation ‘ES’, which means stainless steel. Where the actor got the 417 Flieger Chronograph and what happened to the watch remains unclear.
The resurrection of a legend
Steve McQueen has certainly played his part in ensuring that the popularity of the Hanhart 417 Flieger Chronograph does not flatten out. Felix Wallner, co-managing director of Hanhart, confirmed as much. “Everyone wants Steve McQueen‘s watch. We have hundreds of requests every month to recreate the 417 Flieger Chronograph,” Wallner was quoted in the Revolution magazine. In 2020, Hanhart has apparently answered those requests. The company announced a tribute to the icon. Co-responsible there was also the Revolution magazine together with the watch magazine The Rake.
And so, in late summer 2020, the Hanhart X The Rake & Revolution collaboration launched a bronze watch that would bring the original back to life. The Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph, in a special limited edition of only 150 pieces and confusingly similar to the original. The price: 1900 US dollars, together with a nice “Belstaff Trialmaster” jacket, of which Steve McQueen would have been proud, 2300 dollars.
How I got my Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph (after all)…
I remember being quite annoyed after having to realize that the 150 watches sold out in a hurry. The Rake and Revolution, the only two stores that had offered Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph exclusively, were like empty-at least for now. In a pinch, I signed up for one of the sites’ newsletters to be notified on time in case there was still a chance to buy a model.
And look, persistence pays off! A few weeks ago I got an email. A watch had been found during inventory and was now for sale. Probably my luck has run out for the next three years, but at the same time of receiving the mail I had my cell phone in my hand. So: I put the watch in the shopping cart, lightened the credit card by 2000 dollars (with customs fees) and hurriedly ordered! “Happy end” you could say at this point. However, I would like to let you participate and describe my impressions in the following watch test!
What to consider when designing a remake…
When I first take a look at the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph with the serial number 096/150, I am amazed. The remake in bronze garb looks confusingly similar to its great prototype. You should not underestimate how difficult it is to restore the old proportions while installing new technology inside.
A new interpretation in bronze
In addition to the perfect diameter of 42 millimeters, a characteristic feature is the narrow case height, which gives the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph such a sporty look. “This took a lot of effort as we wanted to incorporate a more practical hand- wound chronograph movement, the Sellita SW 510”, Felix Wallner explains.
The original model from the 1950s featured a brass case that was coated with chrome. The coating is heavily worn on the surviving models, which gives the watches a quite special charm. This combination of materials, now rare in the watch world, has given way to a material that is currently more fashionable than ever. “First, we selected bronze as a case material. We had the choice between bronze CuSn8, which tends to patina quickly […] versus the far more stable aluminum bronze”. The Hanhart design team decided to go with the quickly developing patina, which embodies more of a vintage feeling and makes each watch unique. This oxidation process can also be seen on my 417. Each new day, the watch looks a bit more historic. Fascinating, in my opinion! Moreover, it reminds me a bit of the gold-tone brass of the old watches.
Hanhart already proved that they know a lot about bronze watches with the Hanhart PIONEER One Bronze, which I was also allowed to test for you. As with that model, Hanhart has managed to process the trendy material to a very high standard with the Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph.
Further details of the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph
Only the case back has remained free of bronze. It is made of satin-finished stainless steel. This has its reason. Bronze stains and leaves unsightly marks on the skin. With its stainless steel caseback, the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph is very pleasant to the skin and impresses with a good wearing comfort. The six-screw case back guarantees the new 417 water resistance up to a pressure of 10 bar/ATM. That would be enough for a diving depth of 100 meters. However, I strongly advise you not to do so! The Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph is not a diver’s watch. However, water splashes are no problem.
Hanhart’s bezels are real specialities. They are characterized by their fine fluting, which allowed them to be operated even by pilots wearing thick gloves. The Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph is no exception. Its manufacturing, in my opinion, is very well done by Hanhart x The Rake & Revolution. The clicks engage cleanly. As with the original, the red 12 o’clock color marking has been omitted.
The watch crystal, which protects the dial, is made of pressure- and shock-resistant sapphire. To my delight, it has the classic slight curvature that exudes a lot of charm. “We went through many designs working off original 417 watches so that when you place the new watch and vintage one next to each other, they look almost identical”, Felix Wallner concludes. If you look at the case and its components, he’s far from wrong.
Modern technology inside the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph
Although the exterior of the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph makes it seem like it’s from a bygone decade, the Hanhart x The Rake & Revolution collaboration didn’t refrain from equipping the pilot’s chronograph with a modern interior. A modern Sellita SW 510 hand-wound caliber works under the steel caseback. The chronograph movement offers typical additional functions such as small seconds at 9 o’clock, 30 minutes time at 3 o’clock and stop functions. It is also equipped with a power reserve of an enduring 48 hours.
I’m still quite happy that Hanhart x The Rake & Revolution decided to go with the classic hand-wound design. To me, that’s a big part of the original charm. Thus, winding it via the flat bronze crown every two days becomes a real ritual. Operating the crown is pleasantly easy thanks to the fine fluting. The same applies to the pushers, whose feel is convincing.
A vintage dream come true
The black dial is almost a one-to-one imitation of the old 417. You have to look closely and at least put a photo of the original next to the bronze pilot chronograph to see subtle differences. The totalizers at 3 and 9 o’clock have more discreet edges and are moved further into the center. Otherwise, the new bronze 417 gives the impression that time has stopped in 1956. Impressive!
This effect is supported by the lovingly recreated numerals, which are coated with Super-LumiNova Light Old Radium and glow yellowish in the dark. The vintage dream is perfect! And why change a dial that has proven itself decades ago in aerial use with good readability? It’s still the non-plus-ultra.
The bracelet in aviator look
In keeping with the casual aviator look, Hanhart x The Rake & Revolution have opted for a black leather strap with a rough, coarse-pored surface. Like the case, the buckle is also made of bronze. Thanks to the soft underside, the wearing comfort is particularly good. The width of the lugs is 21 millimeters.
My conclusion about the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph
It’s no wonder that the 150 pieces of the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph sold out so quickly. With the 2020 remake of its iconic original model, Hanhart x The Rake & Revolution have really hit the mark. Every single detail that made up Steve McQueen’s favorite watch has been meticulously recreated with perfection. All vintage fans and lovers of the 417 get their money’s worth.
The highlight in my opinion is the case. The idea to replace brass and chrome with visually similar and trendy bronze is ingenious. With its characteristic patina, the timepiece looks like it has been sitting in an old closet for the last 30 years after only a short time.
Like the old 417, the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph could perhaps one day become a true legend among pilot chronographs. The great hype surrounding the bronze watch with real rarity value certainly speaks for itself. But one thing can definitely be said. On the wrist of a Steve McQueen sitting on his motorcycle, the Hanhart Bronze 417 Flieger Chronograph would have looked damn good!