History of watches : Hanhart
The name of Hanhart, more than any other, has long been synonymous with precision timekeeping. With its own innovative developments, the Swiss-German brand was a pioneer in the manufacture of stopwatches and wrist chronographs. Ever since the company was first established, all of Hanhart’s timepieces have been geared towards a few simple principles: maximum precision and reliability, perfect readability, simple and secure operation, and the greatest possible robustness. And we are still conforming to these standards today in the development of our stopwatches and chronographs. This makes them ideal accessories for use in the air, on the land on the sea. Our brand slogan, “Mastering the Elements”, is an unequivocal obligation for us.
Thanks to cutting-edge knowledge and skills, the long-standing tradition and expertise of its own manufactory, which has its origins in the watch business established by Johann A. Hanhart in Diessenhofen in 1882, and the first-class functionality of all products, Hanhart is today a worldwide market leader and the most important producer of precision timepieces.
We intend to develop Hanhart even further, to tap into new markets and to win over new customers through clear and rigorous brand management. We are breaking new ground with innovative products which stand at the heart of the brand and whose aesthetics and technology distinguish them from the mundane. In so doing, we are honouring our origins, yet also building a bridge into the future. Thomas Morf, CEO
Foundation of Hanhart
The sun glows red in the evening sky over the little town of Diessenhofen, located on the River Rhine in northeast Switzerland, as the watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart sits down, takes out a pen and paper and drafts an announcement. He “respectfully informs the worthy residents of Diessenhofen and surroundings” that he has purchased a business and its premises at the town’s Hauptstrasse with the intention of opening a watch shop.
The notice appeared in the “Anzeiger am Rhein” newspaper on 1 July 1882. Johann A. Hanhart, who was born in Diessenhofen on 11 May 1856, went on to serve the community as mayor for a number of years before relocating his business in 1902 to Schwenningen in southern Germany, the stronghold of watchmaking.
The innovative epoch
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 established the watch manufactory.
Wolrd’s first reasonably priced mechanical stopwatch
This sport-loving Willy Hanhart introduced the world’s first reasonably priced mechanical stopwatch in 1924. He had participated in a track and field sports meeting in the previous year, for which the organizers had great difficulty in finding even four stopwatches of varying quality.
These timepieces came exclusively from Switzerland at that time and were only available at exorbitant prices – if at all – since essentially only individual watches were produced to order. The young man became so irritated by this that he decided to manufacture stopwatches himself. In association with a watchmaker, he conceived and designed the first reasonably priced mechanical stopwatch – and in doing so he pressed the start button for the company that leads the stopwatch sector to this day.
Hanhart did not let up
The first pocket watches and wristwatches extended the product range. Willy Hanhart concentrated on manufacturing his own movement blanks. A second manufactory, which continues to manufacture the Hanhart stopwatch collection to this day, 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. Even in those days, first-class precision in perfected form was one of the maxims of the company.
The single – button “calibre 40″
1938 marked the start of a new epoch in the history of the company – when the first Hanhart chronograph model entered series production. This was the single-button “Calibre 40”, which would soon become established as the company’s main product and its new re-issue as the “Primus” model has become a coveted collectors’ piece and connoisseur’s item.
The legendary pilot’s chronographs followed
The legendary “Calibre 41” and “TachyTele” pilot’s chronographs followed in 1939 – with a red painted button to prevent unintentional resetting.
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 were looted and dismantled, most of the machines were taken to France. Willy Hanhart was interned 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.
1947 he flees to Switzerland and did not return to Germany until 1949. In the two years he acquired his first machines in exchange for chronograph wristwatches, and his employees collected movements along with small machines and tools from secure hiding places.
Production of the chronograph “Admiral”
The production of chronographs was resumed in 1948. Under a commission from the French, Hanhart manufactured the “Admiral” chronograph – especially for doctors and military officers. Precision timepieces were supplied to Navys.
Production was once again running at full speed by the early 1950s. Hanhart concentrated increasingly on the manufacture of mechanical stopwatches and at the same time introduced a variety of innovative products onto the market such as automatic timers and the “Sans Souci” wristwatch alarm.
The first time at the swiss watch fair at Basel
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. After equipping the German Armed Forces, formed in 1955, with pilot’s chronographs, their manufacture ceased in 1962 and gradually also the production of 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 continued to develop new models. In 1962, Hanhart repeated his coup of 1924: with the “Amigo” he took the market by surprise with a new stopwatch. The company became the market leader and Europe’s largest producer of mechanical stopwatches.
Hanhart now moved up a gear
Hanhart now moved up a gear and commissioned an additional production facility in Neukirch in 1963. There is hardly a school or sports club in Germany in which Hanhart stopwatches are not used for time recording.
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 or Hanhart produced products according to their design. Then the first cheap quartz movements arrived on the market from the Far East. Pressure on prices increased, and the volume of sales fell.
The calibre 3305
The Gütenbach manufacturer responded to this offensive from the Far East by developing a low-priced movement of its own, the Calibre 3305, in 1981. This went into production in 1982. No fewer than 40 million units were sold! In 1983, Willy Hanhart’s son-in-law, Klaus Eble, who had joined the company in 1966, took over the management of the business.
The Pilot’s chronograph as replica
With the rediscovery of traditional art of watchmaking, in the 1990s Hanhart turned to another of its own earlier pioneering achievements: the legendary Hanhart pilot’s chronograph of 1939 was presented as a replica at the Antiques Fair in Furtwangen in August 1997. Every detail of the original’s case and dial was copied with the greatest care, from the old Hanhart lettering to the asymmetrical offset of the buttons.
The limited edition of 2,500 pieces sold out in only a short time. Spurred on by this success, the Gütenbach company immediately followed it up with the manufacture of the “TachyTele” pilot’s chronograph. These replica chronographs have become coveted collector’s pieces and connoisseur’s items for those with a penchant for fine precision watches.
Dornier by Hanhart
Hanhart watches are increasingly developing into exclusive objects for collectors and connoisseurs of fine precision watches. The “Primus” single-button chronograph appeared in 2003.
The German company became a pioneer in its own time, too, 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.
125th anniversary – two special editions
Two special editions were issued in 2007 to mark the 125th anniversary of the company. These reflect the firm’s history: the “Opus 41” and “Spirit of Racing”. The “Opus 41” hand-wound chronograph in platinum, equipped with an original, historic Hanhart “Calibre 41” column wheel movement, is limited to 39 watches. The high-quality “Spirit of Racing” collector’s set, comprising the classic Hanhart “Minos” wristwatch as well as a special model of a rattrapante flyback stopwatch, recognizes the spirit of 125 years of time recording for sporting competitions.
The World – first “Tachymaster”
Also dedicated to this spirit is the world-first “Tachymaster” model, which Hanhart brought to the market in 2008. This watch provides passionate classic rally drivers with an entirely novel and innovative tool on the rally stages. The watch shows the target time for the stage, making the individual stage times much easier to manage. With the launch of the “Tachymaster” for classic rallies, this old-established watch manufactory underlines its prominent position as Europe’s leading manufacturer of stopwatches.
Fondation of Hanhart AG
Hanhart AG was founded January 31st, 2008; the official starting date was exactly 126 years after the foundation of the Hanhart company, on 1 July 2008. The company has its headquarters in the Swiss town of Diessenhofen on the River Rhine, at Hauptstrasse 17, – only a few steps from the building in which Johann A. Hanhart opened his watch shop in 1882.
The company’s area of responsibility is for the positioning of the company’s chronographs internationally. Klaus J. Eble continues as director of production and stopwatch sales in Gütenbach.
The primus Collection is launched
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” and presented for the first time at Baselworld 2009.
It builds on the tradition and expertise of the own manufacture workshops and combines historical features – such as the unmistakeable ret button, which has distinguished Hanhart watches since 1939 – 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.
New Ceo in Thomas Morf – New majority shareholder in the Gaydoul Group
Thomas Morf took over as CEO of Hanhart on 1 October 2011. At the same time, through the expansion of its holding in Hanhart Group AG, Gaydoul Group AG, Switzerland, has become the company’s majority shareholder.
The further expansion of the Hanhart brand will be based on its fascinating and unique history, as well as a high level of technical expertise and an unwavering focus on instrument watches. The collection will be extended by the addition of new models, patterned on the legendary Hanhart timepieces, which will also set new benchmarks in the future; in the air, on the land and on the sea. The brand claim ‘Mastering the Elements’ underlines this high standard clearly and unmistakeably.
Hanhart is presenting new Pioneer Models
At the Baselworld 2011, Hanhart presented three new models from its Pioneer collection. In terms of their design and the technology used, the MonoControl, the TwinControl and the TwinDicator are based on the brand’s legendary chronographs, thus carrying on the company’s long tradition and maintaining its high level of expertise while implementing these qualities in a contemporary way. With the hour counter integrated into the small seconds and the displays positioned right on the edge of the dial, the Pioneer TwinDicator in particular is a highlight of the collection.