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In the 1960s, Heuer was THE chronograph brand, its Carrera, Autavia, Camaro and Monza wrist timers seen on the wrists of race car drivers and well-heeled enthusiasts alike.
But being the leading brand, they were more expensive than a lot of armchair racers could afford. This gave rise to the so-called “Poor Man’s Heuer”, those chronographs that resembled Heuers and, in some cases, even made by Heuer for other brands. Many of those brands had names lost to history—Clebar, Aristo, Tradition—while others lived on to the present day in one form or another. One of the better known examples of a Poor Man’s Heuer is the Hamilton chronograph we’re featuring today.
Hamilton is a well-known brand, dating back to its 19th century American roots making pocketwatches and chronometers for the railroad and Navy, respectively. By the 1960s, Hamilton was losing ground and tried to stem its losses by purchasing the Swiss company, Buren, where it produced watches with the “Swiss Made” label on the dial.
It also outsourced the production of some of its watches, including a popular line of chronographs which were built to order by Heuer itself, resembling the latter’s Carrera, with dual contrasting “Panda” registers, a broad creamy dial and classic mushroom push-pieces. Inside ticked a hand-wound Landeron 248, a venerable movement that later morphed into the Valjoux 7733.
The watch proved successful for Hamilton and is one of our favorite Poor Man’s Heuers for reasons beyond its OEM build. It’s also eminently more affordable than a vintage Carrera of the same age. Though Hamilton lost its all-American cachet, the watches it sold in the late 1960s had a cool elegance to them. This chronograph is a perfect example. The 36-millimeter case has the clean lines of a classic ‘60s watch and a minimalist design that was a departure from the garish, angular watches it was building in the ‘50s.
Even the logo, with the sans-serif font and stylized “H” look right out of a “Mad Men” episode. The watch is also from the last halcyon years of the hand-wound chronograph, a species we particularly covet. Only a year or two after this watch was originally sold, Hamilton was part of a consortium of brands, including Heuer, that worked to develop the world’s first self-winding chronograph movement. We’ll still take ours hand-cranked, thank you very much.
This Hamilton chronograph comes off of a fresh service in remarkable condition, with only minimal patina to the steel case and a very clean dial, devoid of oxidation or discoloration. The chronograph function snap to attention and the watch keeps good time. We’re selling it on a ‘60s vintage leather strap along with an assortment of Crown & Buckle nylon and leather straps for mix and match fun. This is one time being “poor” isn’t a bad thing.