New York, New York – Reported by Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine
As Hanhart celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2012, the Swiss-German watch brand, which was originally founded by Johann A. Hanhart in the Swiss town of Diessenhofen and still enjoys a reputation as a leading manufacturer of precision timekeeping instruments today, is looking back on an unbroken tradition of manufacturing and a successful and innovative company history. Hanhart is today focusing more strongly than ever on its core competence: the manufacture of functional instrument watches for use in the air, on the land and on the sea.
On 1 July 1882, an announcement from the watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart appeared in the Anzeiger am Rhein newspaper, “respectfully informing the worthy residents of Diessenhofen and surroundings” that he had purchased a business and its premises there with the intention of opening a watch shop. With this business, which was situated at Hauptstrasse 33 in this small town in north-eastern Switzerland, he laid the foundations for the Hanhart watch manufactory, which is steeped in tradition today. Johann A. Hanhart, who was born in Diessenhofen on 11 May 1856, went on to serve as mayor of this small town located on the River Rhine for a number of years before relocating his business in 1902 to Schwenningen in southern Germany, a stronghold of watchmaking. The artisanal and retail business proved to be extremely successful and soon became the largest of its kind in the region.
The family of entrepreneurs experienced an initial and extremely innovative epoch here in the 1920s when the youngest Hanhart son, Wilhelm Julius, who was born in Schwenningen on 31 October 1902, joined the business and gradually converted the reassembly company into a manufacture. In 1924, this sport-loving and ambitious young man introduced the world’s first affordable mechanical stopwatch. The previous year he had participated in a track and field sports meeting for which the organisers had great difficulty in finding even four timepieces of varying quality. At that time, these came exclusively from Switzerland and were only available at very high prices – if at all – since essentially only individual watches were being produced. Wilhelm Hanhart became so irritated by this that he decided to manufacture stopwatches himself. In association with a watchmaker, he conceived and designed a manual stopwatch with a pin lever – and in doing so he pressed the start button for the brand that leads the stopwatch sector to this day.
A short time later, the Hanhart product range was extended to include premium pocket watches and wristwatches. From 1932 onwards, following the death of his father, Willy Hanhart concentrated wholeheartedly on manufacturing his own raw movement. A second manufacture, which to this day continues to produce the Hanhart stopwatch collection as well as wristwatches, was established in Gütenbach in 1934 as part of the planned expansion of the business. This was followed by the market launch of a complicated split-second stopwatch in 1935. New and increasingly intricate models went into production as did the ultrafast oscillator with a balance wheel frequency of 360,000 vibrations per hour, which made Hanhart on of the first stopwatch manufacturer to enable the measurement of hundredths of a second. Even in those days, precision in perfected form combined with first-class functionality was one of the maxims of the company.
1938 marked the start of a new era in the company’s history: the first Hanhart chronograph model, the single-button “Calibre 40”, entered series production and would soon become established as the company’s main product. The legendary “Calibre 41” and “Tachy Tele” pilot’s chronographs – with a red painted button to prevent unintentional resetting – followed in 1939.
During the Second World War, pilots and naval officers wore Hanhart chronographs which were capable of withstanding the most severe tests. In addition, the company – like virtually the entire German watch industry – supplied military material. At the end of the war, the businesses in Schwenningen and Gütenbach, both located in the French occupation zone, were looted and dismantled. Most of the machines and design drawings were taken to France. Willy Hanhart was interned for ten months on a specious pretext and the business was compulsorily wound up. His tax trustees advised him to file for bankruptcy. Instead, with the support of his wife Gertraud, he embarked on the reconstruction of his factory in Gütenbach. In 1947, as he was due to be rearrested, he fled to Switzerland and did not return to Germany until 1949.
During these two years he acquired his first machines in exchange for wristwatches, and his employees collected movements along with small machines and tools from secure hiding places, which meant that the production of chronographs could be resumed in 1948. Under a commission from the French, Hanhart manufactured the “Admiral” chronograph intended especially for doctors and military officers. Precision timepieces were supplied to the German Navy. Production was once again running at full speed by the early 1950s. The watch manufacturer concentrated increasingly on producing mechanical stopwatches and soon gained a phenomenal standing in sports timekeeping, while at the same time it introduced a variety of innovative products onto the market such as automatic timers and the “Sans Souci” wristwatch alarm. Hanhart is constantly facing new challenges.
The company headquarters were rebuilt in Schwenningen in 1952. In the same year, Hanhart participated for the first time in the Swiss Watch Fair, now known as Baselworld, in which it has continued to take part without fail ever since. After equipping the German Armed Forces, which was formed in 1955, with pilot’s chronographs, their manufacture was stopped in 1962, followed gradually by the cessation of the production of all wristwatches. This was the age of the stopwatch! Driven as always by the highly motivated Willy Hanhart, with his active involvement in sport, the watchmakers of Gütenbach constantly developed new models. The company became the market leader and Europe’s largest producer of mechanical stopwatches.
Hanhart now moved up a gear and commissioned an additional production facility in Neukirch in 1963. Hanhart stopwatches were used for time recording in virtually every school and sports club in Germany, with popular sport at that time being inconceivable without the brand’s products. The age of the quartz watch then dawned in 1972. Hanhart established an in-house plastics injection moulding plant and developed a quartz movement which was sold by the millions. Customers included well-known companies which used the movement in their own alarm clocks and watches and even in products produced by Hanhart according to their specifications. When the first cheap quartz movements arrived on the market from the Far East, pressure on prices increased and the volume of sales fell. The Gütenbach-based manufacturer responded to this offensive from the Orient by developing a new cost-effective movement in 1981. Approximately 40 million units of the Calibre 3305, which went into production in 1982, were sold! In 1983, Willy Hanhart’s son-in-law, Klaus Eble, who had joined the company in 1966, took over management of the business. With the rediscovery of traditional mechanical watchmaking, in the 1990s Hanhart returned to its own successful pioneering achievements of the past: the legendary Hanhart mono-pusher of 1938 and pilot chronographs of 1939 were presented as a faithful replicas These timepieces, which are steeped in history, generated a great deal of enthusiasm from collectors and connoisseurs of fine precision watches.
However, the company also became a pioneer of its own time and introduced the “Dornier by Hanhart” model in 2004. The impetus came from Irén Dornier, the grandson of the famous aircraft designer Claude Dornier. From the Gütenbach company he commissioned a chronograph which is dedicated to the legendary Do-X flying boat and which accompanied him on an extraordinary journey: Irén Dornier has flown around the world in a historic seaplane wearing the Hanhart chronograph on his wrist.
On 1 July 2008 – exactly 126 years after the Hanhart company was successfully launched – the company Hanhart AG was established in Switzerland in order to position and market the chronographs on the international stage. The company has its registered offices at Hauptstrasse 17 in Diessenhofen, just a few paces away from the very building in which Johann A. Hanhart opened his watch shop in 1882.
Thomas Morf took over as CEO of Hanhart on 1 October 2010. “The company’s fascinating and traceable brand history as well as its high level of technical expertise and an unwavering focus on instrument watches make Hanhart a real gem among watch manufacturers and lend it immense international potential”, is how he explains his commitment to the Swiss-German watch brand, in which he is also a shareholder. At the same time, through the expansion of its holding in Hanhart Group AG, Gaydoul Group AG has become the company’s majority shareholder.
Today, Hanhart offers the three collections Pioneer, Primus and ClassicTimer. The design and technology of the Pioneer watch models are based on Hanhart’s long tradition and its 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. Just like all Hanhart watches, they stand out thanks to their perfect functionality and immaculate readability.
Working in close collaboration with the manufacture workshops in Gütenbach and highly specialised suppliers from the Swiss watch sector, a new, progressively designed collection of mechanical chronographs was developed under the name “Primus” in 2009. It combines historical features with state-of-the-art technology and progressive design. The Pilot, Racer and Diver models are based on the brand’s core competence: high-precision, extremely reliable and robust instrument watches for use in the air, on the land and on the sea. High-quality mechanical stopwatches under the name ClassicTimer, manufactured over several production stages in the Gütenbach factory, 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.
Over the next few years, the further expansion of Hanhart’s home markets of Germany and Switzerland as well as key export markets will become increasingly important. Both the wristwatches and the mechanical stopwatches from the ClassicTimer collection are already available from selected specialist retailers in many countries.
The brand combines cutting-edge Swiss and German knowledge and skills with the long-standing tradition and high level of expertise of its own manufacture. The high-precision, extremely reliable timepieces produced by the brand are constantly redefining standards in the air, on the land and on the sea. Hanhart’s brand motto “Mastering the Elements” underlines this claim.