Review of the Hanhart Pioneer Mk I
previously Primus 1938 Fliegerchronograph

Published by The Watch Observer

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- the 15 photos of this watch
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- the 22 items of the Manufacturer data (including the retail price)

Not everyone has heard of Hanhart’s pilot’s chronograph, yet it really is a classic reference amongst military wristwatches.
Here’s an introduction to the Pioneer Mk I (formerly known as the Primus 1938).


At the end of the 30s, Hanhart gives birth to a single push-button chronograph. It is waterproof, and can cope with sudden pressure changes.

From then on, many different versions of this chronograph – which also happened to be the ‘official’ watch of German and French air forces during, and following World War II – are designed.

It is then replaced in the 50s by the Type XX chronographs.

At the beginning of the 60s, and for several coming years, Hanhart refocuses on chronograph production.

But it's only in 1997 that the Primus finally returns to the brand's catalogue

Faithful reissue

Therefore, this Pioneer Mk I is a direct heir to this chronograph, now a real classic amongst military watches.

Hanhart has decided to reissue this model in an impressively true-to-the-original configuration, in spite of a few minor changes.

Let’s start by checking out what they have in common.
Bicompax configuration (two sub chronograph counters), fluted rotating bezel with its red marking, single push-down — red again, totally vintage-looking hands, straight-sided case… and an oversized crown…

Now let’s see what has changed.
Current version has red hands for the chronograph as well as an automatic movement, whilst the original version came with a hand-wound calibre.
As a result, this watch gives very good legibility, and conveys genuine vintage touch.

The chronograph’s red hands bring some imaginativeness to this otherwise very functional dial.

Although daytime legibility is excellent, we may regret that as soon as light goes down, the chronograph becomes almost unreadable. Blame it on the hands’ color.

A robust watch

Getting the feel of the Pioneer Mk I matches what you’d expect from a military watch: triggering of the chronograph isn’t exactly easy, the oversized crown can be somewhat surprising, case is rather thick…

But the overall result remains consistent with the use this watch was first designed for: it is a pilot’s instrument.
The ‘robustness’ side of it all overcomes any other characteristic.

Nice finishing

This Hanhart is of the robust kind, yet its finishing hasn’t been neglected.

Indeed, the dial has been delicately designed.
The surfaced, SuperLumiNova-loaded indexes, along with the sub counters’ guilloche work, are well manufactured, and the anti-reflection coating of the domed sapphire crystal is efficient.

As for the case, it is entirely micro beaded.
Although this finishing is adapted to a robust watch, it still can look a little dull when compared to the dial. A few brushed parts or some finishing alternation certainly could have upgraded the whole feeling of this watch.

Yet, the leather strap with safety rivets turns into the perfect cherry on the cake — the cake being this successful, vintage-inspired style.
The bracelet’s manufacturing is disappointing when compared to the overall quality level of this watch.
But still, there’s nothing improper here.
And it will sure give you the opportunity of testing all kinds of other possibilities!

A robust chronograph means a robust movement.
This is exactly what we’re witnessing here, as this reissue has abandoned the manual-winding movement… so as to replace it with a very classic 7750 that can be viewed through the screw-down sapphire glass back.
This calibre has undergone a few modifications. It comes in its bicompax and single push-button version here.
Robustness and reliability guaranteed… exactly what you’d expect from such a watch.


For those who enjoy historic watches, yet do not feel totally comfortable relying on old mechanisms, Hanhart gives them the possibility – with this Pioneer Mk I – to acquire a finely manufactured watch, that brings together modern designing and an absolutely vintage look.
Last but not least, price is ‘sweet’.
Make sure to check out this timepiece!

Special thanks to who lent us the watch tested for this review.

The +:
• reissue stays true to the original model
• the fine finishing
• a good value for money

The –:
• as it gets dark the legibility of the chronograph’s red hands gets worse
• the watch thickness
• the manufacturing of the bracelet isn’t as mind-blowing as the successfully designed case

Additional information:
• journalist’s wrist size = 17.5 cm

Published by The Watch Observer