While Hanhart may be better know for mechanical stopwatches, under veteran watch executive Thomas Morf the Swiss-German brand is now building up its wristwatch business. Already well known in its home ground, the company is now looking at global expansion. During the recent Baselworld, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up with Morf to get the details on what’s new and his plans.
ET: Tell us about Hanhart’s history?
Thomas Morf: In 2012, Hanhart celebrates its 130th anniversary! The Swiss-German watch brand is known for its high-precision, 100% reliable and robust instrument watches for use in the air, on the land and on the sea. It combines cutting-edge Swiss and German knowledge and skills with the long-standing tradition and expertise of its own manufactory in Southern Germany, which has its origins in the watch business established by Johann A. Hanhart in the Swiss town Diessenhofen in 1882. The brand not only launched the first affordable mechanical stopwatch in 1924, but also began manufacturing wristwatches at an early stage. These included the single-button “Calibre 40” chronograph – usually used by naval officers – as well as the legendary “Calibre 41” and “Tachy Tele” pilot’s chronographs, which date back to 1939. Hanhart remains the leading manufacturer of precision timekeeping instruments to this very day.
ET: What is the make-up of Hanhart’s business today?
Thomas Morf: The design and technology of our Pioneer watch models are based on our long tradition and these legendary chronographs. They therefore include features such as the unmistakable red reset button, the typical “bicompax” dial design as well as the asymmetrical button arrangement – which has been the trademark characteristics of the brand’s chronographs right from the start. The watch models of the Primus collection combine these historical features with state-of-the-art technology and progressive design. The Pilot, Racer and Diver models are based on our core competence: high-precision, extremely reliable and robust instrument watches for use in the air, on the land and on the sea. But high-quality mechanical stopwatches under the name ClassicTimer, manufactured in our manufactory, still represent a key product segment for Hanhart. Used in the past at all the important motor races, today these stopwatches are most popular among ambitious vintage car rally drivers.
Our head office in Diessenhofen, Switzerland, is responsible for the worldwide positioning and management of our brand, the product development as well as the global distribution of wristwatches and ClassicTimer stopwatches. In the manufactory in Gütenbach, Southern Germany, we have an experienced team for the engineering and manufacturing of wristwatches and stopwatches. Over all, Hanhart produces approx. 2500 wristwatches and 25,000 mechanical stopwatches. Our main markets for the moment are Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, France, the Middle East, Russia and soon the US market.
ET: What attracted you to join Hanhart?
Thomas Morf: Hanhart is looking back on an unbroken tradition of manufacturing and a successful and innovative company history. And the brand is clearly specialised in instrument watches designed for use in the air, on the land and on the sea. With this fascinating and traceable brand history, the high technical expertise and consistent focus on the stop function. Hanhart is a pearl among watch manufacturers and has great potential internationally. This is why I am not only highly committed to this watch brand, but also a shareholder.
ET: What are the most exciting novelties for this year?
Thomas Morf: To mark our 130th anniversary, we are launching the new Pioneer Stealth 1882 in two limited versions. This extraordinary watch takes its name from the stealth technology used in aviation and reproduces all the characteristic elements of the legendary Hanhart pilot’s chronographs from the 1930s in an eye-catching contemporary design. Enclosed in its black ADLC-coated stainless steel case is an exclusively modified chronograph movement. It features increased spacing between the two displays at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, an integrated hour counter in the small seconds and a flyback function. The dial also offers practical tachymeter and telemeter scales, with designs reminiscent of the traditional Hanhart “Tachy Tele” model from 1939.
The second exciting novelty of this year is the Pioneer MonoScope. Just like its legendary predecessors produced by Hanhart, it features a single button for controlling the entire range of chronograph functions. Like the Pioneer Stealth 1882, the MonoScope bears another striking hallmark of our early chronographs: the widely spaced arrangement of its small seconds and 30-minute counter displays.
ET: Who do you see as Hanhart’s target customer?
Thomas Morf: People who own Hanhart wristwatches and stopwatches have always had ‘petrol in their veins’; they relish the sense of speed, adventure and fun they experience when they are flying or driving their motorised vehicles. Men want to be heroes and adventurers in many ways. Sports and instrument watches such as chronographs and divers watches support this dream perfectly.
ET: What are your plans for Hanhart over the next several years?
Thomas Morf: For Hanhart, 130 years mean an unbroken brand tradition and manufacturing expertise, pioneering achievements in timekeeping and legendary, exemplary instrument watches. Above all, 130 years of Hanhart means this: putting the stop function at the very heart of the art of watchmaking. The stop function always was and is still a key focus in our work today – and will remain so in the future too. Because our target is to position Hanhart as the benchmark for instrument watches.
Over the next few years, the further expansion of Hanhart’s home markets of Germany and Switzerland as well as all key export markets will become increasingly important.
And we are investing in our manufactory in order to be ready for the increased demand for Hanhart. The entire range of stopwatches, as well as the Pioneer collection are produced in this manufactory. The building is currently undergoing a renovation that is due to be completed in mid-2012, with an extension being added to house a state-of-the-art watchmaking workshop for assembling wristwatches and a museum chronicling Hanhart’s company history.
ET: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Thomas Morf: Yes. This year, we present a world first in watchmaking! Hanhart is the only watch brand in the world to use a certain kind of nickel-free stainless steel for its wrist chronograph cases. This steel has been treated using a special finishing process, making it harder and therefore improving its scratch resistance by more than 10,000%. This means that watches that are put under a lot of stress will look as good as new even after years of wear! The use of this finishing process is patented for the watch- and jewellery making industry under the brand name HDSPro®. The first Hanhart watches with cases made from this scratch-resistant stainless steel are due to be launched in fall 2012.