Watchmaker Dan Henry’s newest release is so affordable you may want to buy one in both colors. Created to commemorate the Allied victory in World War II, the new Dan Henry 1945 Pilot Chronograph sports a retro dial with subdials in your choice of silver or black, a coin-edged GMT bezel, and modern touches including a tough sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective treatment and a reliable meca-quartz movement inside.
Dan Henry’s motto is “vintage watches for every collector,” and his new military chronograph remains true to this ethos by offering a collector-worthy watch at $280, which is a truly remarkable price. Drawing inspiration from his own vast vintage watch collection, Henry translates the designs of impossible-to-find or prohibitively expensive vintage watches and creates new interpretations, with each design named for the year that inspired it.
That year also dictates how many watches will be made – 1945 pieces, in this case – and once they sell out, they’re gone. For watches that are inexpensive to begin with, Dan Henry watches leap in value on the pre-owned market once their original run concludes. So there’s nearly no risk in buying one.
Watches of the WWII era reflect the changes in technology that the war accelerated. In the release notes for this watch, Henry points out that the war was a period of rapid technological development, as engineers and designers from different countries raced to get the upper hand. As a result, wristwatches of the era became tougher, more accurate, and more reliable. And as they improved, they became even more indispensable tools. “Timepieces increasingly found roles as powerful problem solvers in war or peace, transforming the wristwatch into the man’s accessory,” he wrote.
On the wrist, the 41.7mm 316L stainless steel case would suit a larger wrist, though it’s only 13.8 millimeters thick due to the quartz movement, so it doesn’t feel bulky. The GMT bezel allows you to monitor a different time zone, and it has a nice solid click on every hour as you rotate it.
There are two versions of the watch: a black dial version that ships with a black leather band, and an “evil panda” version with silver subdials against a black background, which ships with a textured brown leather band. Both share the same “cathedral” hands reminiscent of the aircraft cockpit instruments of the era, and they illuminate at night thanks to the SuperLuminova treatment. The cathedral detail on the hour hands, in particular, is a lovely visual touch.
The dial has a tremendous amount of detail going on: three subdials for hours, seconds, and decimal seconds, which are initiated by the top pusher and reset with the lower pusher. Printed on the dial itself is a complex telemeter and tachymeter in red and cream, all of it adding up to what Henry describes as “a cockpit instrument for the wrist.”
Inside the watch, the meca-quartz movement is a hybrid between mechanical and quartz. The battery should last about four years, so you don’t have to worry about it resetting it every time you wear it––as you would with a manual wind watch, or an automatic watch if left too long off the wrist. The seconds tick one at a time like a quartz watch, but when you engage the chronograph, you get a continuous sweep of “smooth seconds” with the large second hand, as you would with a mechanical movement.
On the back of his watches, Henry always includes a cool engraving of a vintage car or aircraft, and this one is particularly cool––on the screw-down case back of the 1945 is a Supermarine Spitfire in bas relief. The watch is water-resistant to 50 meters, though it’s not likely that anyone will get these watches wet on purpose.
You can purchase each version––the all-black or the evil panda––with or without a date, though the no-date versions have an edge in elegance. A leather and canvas watch roll and one goat leather quick-release strap are included, with six more strap options available separately at danhenry.com.