Some watches cause quite the stir in watchworld and the Hamilton Intra-matic 68 Auto Chrono is certainly one of them. First announced in January of last year at Hamilton’s Basel World Preview, the Intra-matic 68 has been the center of a lot of attention since being unveiled. In many ways, it’s the watch people, yours truly included, have been waiting for from the brand. Inspired by vintage racing chronographs, the Intra-matic 68 plays off of some iconic designs from their archives that have gained a lot of notoriety in the last few years. But, like many other vintage-watches revisited, it’s not without some controversy that has added to the buzz.
The Intra-matic 68 isn’t a recreation of a specific watch, rather it pulls from several that were made in the ’60s and ’70s. The unfortunately colloquially titled “poor man’s Carreras” had dual-register layouts with tachymeters, usually in panda or inverse panda coloring. They largely featured manual wound Valjoux movements (such as these beauties), save the Chrono-matic from 1969 which sports the Caliber 11. The Intra-matic 68 keeps the essence and many of the details of these dual register watches, but puts them in a larger and more modern case.
And there’s the rub. Coming in at 42mm, the Intra-matic 68 has set off alarms in the eyes of many enthusiasts, jumping up from the original 36mm, and perhaps past the Goldilocks zone of around 40mm. It’s hardly the only 42mm chronograph out there–Speedmasters and Autavias are there too–so the question is really if the design still works at that scale. Of course, nearly 50 years later, the size isn’t the only thing to change. Inside, you’ll find the modern H-31 automatic chonograph movement, and it features a domed sapphire instead of acrylic. Coming in at $2,195, the Intra-matic 68 still has a substantial price tag, though it comes in under its rapidly ascending vintage brethren.
Hamilton Intra-matic 68 Auto Chrono Review
The Intra-matic 68’s case pays respect to the lines of the watches from the ’60s and ’70s while upping the proportions. Measuring 42 x 50.2 x 14.7mm the Intra-matic has gone full-modern in scale, with a height corresponding to the automatic chronograph within. From above, the harsh lines of its vintage inspirations are clear; the mid-case is a cylinder with planar lugs jutting out and tapering slightly. Everything is polished, giving an even, albeit somewhat bland finish to the watch. While the originals would have been full-polished too, after years of existence they have largely become patinated with scratches and scuffs, toning down the shine. I think the Intra-matic could have reflected this in some use of brushing, perhaps on the lugs or bezel, tempering the shine a bit.
From the side, the case remains very simple in design. There’s a very normal bezel, and the lugs come out and angle down a bit to accommodate the shape of the wrist. There’s also a domed case back. The proportions of the case components are curious and do lead to one issue I had with the watch. The mid-case is kept relatively thin, which is good in theory, but the result is that the case back comes very far down, and the lugs don’t drop past the back. On the wrist, this makes the watch wear a bit oddly and creates large gaps between the strap and the wrist.
On the right side of the case you’ll find two large, vintage style pump pushers for the chronograph and a screw-down crown. The pushers look great, standing very far out from the case, beckoning to be pushed. Given that the H-31 movement inside is based on the Valjoux 7750 family, you’ll find the pushers also have a very satisfying click that requires a decent amount of pressure. The crown is big at 7 x 4mm, which suits the case. It’s screw-down, which adds to the solid feel of the watch, but I can’t help but want to hand-wind this one, even if it’s an automatic.
On the left side of the case at 10 is a depressed pusher that is used for setting the date. This is common on most of the newer Swatch group watches with Valjoux 7750-based movements. I’m not really sure if I find that more convenient than a crown setting, which seems to get the job done just fine. The caseback is solid steel, which is suggested to be a reference to the vintage watches as well. There is an etching at the center made of modern Hamilton logos and Hs. It’s not the most exciting art, so I think they could have stuck with a display case to show off the H-31 a bit.
The dial of the Intra-matic 68 is really where the watch shines, playfully bringing back the aesthetic of the originals. It’s a two-tone dial with a black/dark gray center and off-white sub-dials and tachymeter, giving it an inverse panda palette. I really like the colors chosen here. Rather than straight black and white, they tweaked them just a touch, giving a bit of a tropical look to the dial, but not seemingly like obvious faux-patina. The off-white is also an interesting pale putty color that is uncommon.
On the dial, you’ll find very similar graphics as that of the originals, but sort of a mix of those references. On the black inner surface there is a primary index of applied steel markers with a faceted shape and lume plots on one side. These have a very appealing look, speaking to the hand-wound models from the ’60s. Between and around the markers is a minute/chrono-second index of off-white lines that are long per minute/second and short for quarter seconds. The printed and applied index work well together. There’s a lot going on, but they don’t interfere with each other.
The outer ring of the dial is a contrasting tachymeter scale with an off-white surface and black text. While more often than not tachymeters are on applied chapter rings or bezels, here it’s printed on the same level. Actually, the dial domes a bit, so the tach recedes back a little bit visually. Having a Chrono-matic to compare it to, I prefer the applied ring of the vintage model, as it adds a bit of depth. It’s a small difference, but one worth noting.
Back to the center of the dial, at three and nine you’ll find the 30-minute totalizer and active seconds sub-dials, respectively. I love what they did with these. They’re huge, and they look great. They feel perfectly proportioned for the dial, coming near the center, but not too near, and aligning with the length of the seconds markers on the other side. They’re big and bold and while substantially larger than what would have been on the original they make the dial at 42mm work. The sub-dials are rendered in that same off-white color and feature black indexes with numbers at thirds, making the two registers mirror each other, even though they display different information.
At six, you’ll find a date window that, like the sub-dials, feels perfectly positioned, and it closely reflects the date window on the Chrono-matic. It features a white border and white on black date disk, making it stand out a bit, but not too much. The positioning keeps the dial symmetrical, and it is very well positioned in terms of the surround indexes. It cuts into the marker at six, but looks appropriately spaced from both the center and outer edge of the dial.
Lastly, under 12, you’ll find a vintage styled Hamilton logo in white and “automatic” above the date window at six. The vintage logo looks great, and the automatic reflects the positioning of “chrono-matic” on the ’69 model. No issues here, but I think they could have replaced automatic with intra-matic for another playful reference. For the hands, Hamilton stayed classic with a polished straight sword for the hour and minute, and sticks for the rest. The central chrono hand is white, while the sub-dial hands are black, both contrasting the surfaces below them.
The H-31 features 27-jewels, a chronograph function, hacking seconds, hand winding, date, a 60-hour power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. It’s a newer variation (well, it’s been out for a few years now) on the 7750/3 that has been in use by Swatch Group brands and it has the particular added benefit of a longer power reserve. We’ve seen it before on the Khaki Pilot Pioneer from a couple of years back. In my time with the Intra-matic 68 (and the Khaki Pilot) the H-31 worked well, kept good time and had a solid power reserve.
Straps and Wearability
The Intra-matic 68 comes mounted to a 22mm black leather faux-rally strap. It’s “faux” because it features a top layer of perforated leather with a series of holes, but they don’t pass through in true rally fashion. That aside, it’s a sturdy leather strap with padding, painted edges and a very nice buckle.
On the wrist, the Intra-matic wears, well, large–not too large, but close to it. It’s definitely the biggest it could be before becoming truly oversized. On my 7-inch wrist, I felt that the dial looked really nice and had a lot of presence, but the case felt a touch too big for me. It’s less the diameter of my wrist, and more the distance across that’s the issue. The 50mm lug-to-lug, coupled with lugs that don’t turn down created a bit too much span across my wrist, coming over the edges slightly. Additionally, the height of the watch makes it wear high off the wrist and feel a bit top heavy. This resulted in a watch that wasn’t very comfortable at first and took some getting used to.
Once settled in, the Intra-matic 68 became more enjoyable to wear. It’s a very attractive watch, speaking to vintage references, but still having a modern edge. The dial really sings in person. The proportions and almost exaggeration of certain elements gives it a cool, aggressive undertone that reminds you that it’s drawing from an era of racing inspired watches. Additionally, the clever palette of off-white and not-quite-black add just enough of a stylish fade to it. It hints at patina, while not seeming like a forced vintage-look like so many brands go for. This watch goes great with rugged casual clothes and materials.
The Hamilton Intra-matic 68 Auto Chrono is another fun watch from the storied brand, and it’s probably the coolest watch they’ve released in some time. They really nailed the dial, which celebrates the vintage chronographs its based on, but doesn’t come across as fake or trying too hard. It’s not a modern watch that wants to be vintage, it’s a modern watch that stays true to its roots. Frankly, it’s such a classic dial design and it easily works just as a modern chronograph.
The case then gets the spirit of the original’s across, but perhaps got a little lost along the way. 42mm is big, and while I found it tolerable, others might not. 40mm would have definitely worn better, and while I really like the dial as is, I think they could have saved a little room in the tachymeter to brings things in a bit. But, that doesn’t really matter as the watch is the way it is, and as is, it’s still enjoyable.
With a suggested retail of $2,195, the Intra-matic 68 isn’t cheap, but it falls within expectation. Oddly, it does come in a couple hundred higher than the Khaki Pilot Pioneer which is certainly no less of a watch, but perhaps the fact that the Intra-matic is limited adds a bit to the price. Either way, that’s MSRP, so you’ll likely be able to find it for less. For people out there who like the look of the ’60s and ’70s Hamilton chronographs, but not the price tags (or small sizes), or people who want a modern chronograph with some vintage flair, or perhaps those who missed out on the Longines 1973 Heritage, the Intra-matic 68 is worth your consideration.