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Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronographs: manual shift sticks vs automatic transmission?

In search for a ‘serious’ watch with credible history, stylish, reliable but not too expensive? The Hamilton Intra-Matic chronographs come to mind. Now available with automatic and manual wind movements, and a few subtle differences

Who doesn’t know the situation? Your annual vacation is approaching, you’ll be relaxed, free of the daily chores, with your family, the kids and the dog: it’s all about enjoying life at the beach, indulging in the city jungles, or going all in with your (outdoor) adventures.

But wait, you are a watch lover at heart, meaning, you really feel naked without an appropriate, ticking companion on your wrist. Surely, your minute repeater won’t do it last but not least due to lack of environmental proofing, your Rolex might attract those who you prefer to keep at bay, and a smart watch is not really up to our taste. Oh, and it should cost around probably €2000 to free you from any compunctions about substantial damages or even loss.

So, what are your options? Probably a versatile watch suitable for every day, with a robust, reliable and proven movement, decent water tightness, a date (perhaps), and a chronograph would come in handy. Oh, and it shouldn’t look foreign on your wrist, too!

Hamilton has one such watch on offer: The vintage inspired chronographs Intra-Matic Auto Chrono  and Intra-Matic Chronograph H:

(Hamilton Intra-Matic chronographs: Auto Chrono (automatic, left) and Intra-Matic Chronograph H (manual, right))

Both watches are 2-register chronographs that takes their cues directly from the watchmaker’s famous vintage chronographs Hamilton Chrono-Matic and Chronograph A, with particularly the former one a highly collectible watch that was powered by the famous Heuer(-Leonidas), Breitling and Hamilton(-Buren) developed Calibre 11 – one of the world’s first automatic chronograph movements:

Hamilton Chrono-Matic Chronograph A Calibre 11 Heuer Leonidas Breitling Buren Valjoux 7730 Atom Moore(Hamilton Chrono-Matic (left) and Chronograph A (right); images © Atom Moore / AnalogShift)

Already two years ago, Hamilton presented the 40mm automatic Intra-Matic version, called Auto Chrono, and now the brand doubles down with a hand wound version, the Chronograph H. Both share a similar case, the same base movement in bi-compax layout (based on a Valjoux 7753, but with 60h of autonomy (up from 54h) thanks to a different mainspring and a slimmer mainspring arbour), albeit in different configuration, but are separated by a few subtle tweaks – which seem minor on first view, but make for quite different watches:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph novelty 2019

The Intra-Matic Auto Chrono comes with a ‘full Panda’ dial, i.e., black subdials and tachymeter scale on an opaline face, a date, and a stainless steel case of 14.45mm height with a domed sapphire crystal, a bombé solid case back, and a finely fluted screw-down crown.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H novelty 2021

One needs to look close to spot what separate it from the new manual wound version called Intra-Matic Chronograph H: the dial now comes with an opaline tachymeter ring as well, and there is no date. Owing to the manual nature of the movement Hamilton opted against a screw-down crown, and also made the fluting more pronounced.

What is surprising at first view is that the case is only slightly thinner (14.35mm), despite the omission of the automatic winding bridge as well as of the rotor and hence the flatter case back. The reason however is obvious when you put them sidewise next to each other:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph H novelty 2021(Unexpected differences: side view of the Chronograph H (top) and the Intra-Matic Auto Chrono (bottom))

The entire case construction might appear same but is indeed different: if you look closely, you note the box shaped sapphire crystal of the Chronograph H and the much flatter, domed sapphire on the Auto Chrono. And there is more, the bezel and the case band are different as well, and of course the case back also.

Amazing how much thought Hamilton put into the two versions of essentially a very similar watch, even more so as the brand decided to forego some economies of scale.

Yet, when I compared the watches in detail, I was surprised how profoundly individual they render the pieces:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph H novelty 2021(Intra-Matic Auto Chrono (left) and the Chronograph H (right))

Both have a flat, downward sloping dial, with or without a date, respectively, and an ‘automatic’ or a ‘mechanical’ inscription, the latter sitting a bit more from the centre than the former (owing to the date of the automatic watch). The tachymeter scale is in different colour, there are subtle difference in the dial itself as well, with the manual watch displaying a more ‘vintage’ appearance (warmer opaque tone, ‘patina’ lume). Note also the different crowns.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph H novelty 2021(Intra-Matic Auto Chrono (left) and the Chronograph H (right))

There is more to it: look closely at the tachymetre scale, and you’ll see the remarkable difference the crystal makes:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph H novelty 2021(Intra-Matic Auto Chrono (left) and the Chronograph H (right))

The boxed sapphire crystal of the Chronograph H distorts the scale quite differently than the domed one on the automatic watch, further accentuating the more vintage vibrance of the former.

There is another final difference: the Intra-Matic Auto Chrono has no quick-set date, a consequence of ETA’s subdial modification of the Valjoux 7753, and thus there is a pusher at 10 o’clock which of course is missing on the Chronograph H:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph novelty 2019

Both watches come with a simple but efficient Hamilton buckle:

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph H novelty 2021

Tough choice? Well, let’s summarise: The Intra-Matic Auto Chrono is in any aspect closer to the original, even down to the crystal. It does not carry the original legendary movement, but the one used is tested, reliable and performant.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph novelty 2029 Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono Chronograph novelty 2019

The newer Chronograph H is feels more vintage all around, with clever and unexpected changes made throughout the watch. The movement started as an automatic one and was later converted to hand winding, essentially turning the history of the original upside down.

Hamilton Intra-Matic Chronograph H novelty 2021 Hamilton Intra-Mati Chronograph H novelty 2021

Taken together, the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono and Chronograph H watches deliver on their promises: a solid, reliable everyday watch with attractive design* at an equally attractive price (€ 2045.- and € 1895.-, respectively). Its shortcomings are appropriate for the prices range and the compromises are well chosen. Nothing more, nothing less, and the watch does not pretend to be haute horlogerie!

A classical beauty appropriate for many occasions and maybe even the perfect 24h/7d watch for your junior to start with fine watches – that doesn´t break the bank.

Which one to choose? Like with ´manual shift sticks vs automatic transmission` that’s up to you as it is only a matter of taste!




*) Please, Hamilton, replace the ‘automatic’ and the ‘mechanical’ simply with ‘Intra-Matic’, thank you!


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