Sometimes you find an example of horological excellence that simply captures your imagination. A few timepieces of late have caught my attention, and among them was the Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono. Before I had ever laid eyes on one I was interested in seeing how this watch came together as it was using a new Hamilton built H21 movement.
Based on the Valjoux 7750 and found in all new Hamilton chronographs, the H21 movement features a few improvements compared to the Valjoux 7750:
- The barrel and main spring have been modified to allow a 60 hour power reserve.
- The spiral has been glittered to increase the accuracy of the movement.
- The bridge has been personalized with a “H” pattern.
The movement doesn’t necessarily make the watch, but it’s an integral component and it’s part of what makes the Jazzmaster Auto Chrono such an excellent timepiece. It’s accurate, features a 12 hour chronograph, and is simply gorgeous to look at. It carries excellent build quality and timeless looks. For the uneducated, this $1,7000 Hamilton may well be a $10,000 watch- it gives off that air of refinement, polish, and presence.
I’ve had a lot of watches on my wrist, and with 19 watches in my collection (and counting) there is certainly competition for wrist-time, but none have seen as much action as the Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono. It’s just that good.
Essential Details About the Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono
Case diameter: 42mm
Movement: Automatic, calibre H21
Complications: Chronograph, date display
Crystal material: Sapphire
Power Reserve: 60 hours
Other: 100m water resistance, exhibition caseback.
Note that there are alternate versions of the Jazzmaster Auto Chrono that have steel bracelets, brown/silver faces, or a combination of both.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono Aesthetics & Functionality
When you start a review of something with universal praise it is easy to create the perception of bias. Combine this with the fact that all of the Hamilton’s I’ve reviewed have, thus far, earned excellent scores (with two earning reviewers pick designations), and it’s easy for someone to come to the conclusion that I’m in bed with Hamilton. Of course this isn’t the case, but if you felt that way before this review, well, I doubt your opinion will change much after.
When I first put on a watch I intend to review I look for qualities that I can score objectively. Things such as build components (what its crystal is made of, for example) are easy for me to assess, but far more complicated (and difficult to objectively rate) are the intangible elements of a watch. The elements that defy systematic categorization, yet still play an important factor in the score a watch receives.
In this case, I’m referring to how a watch makes me feel when I’m wearing it. Like a kid unboxing a brand new toy, every watch that comes into my possession is given the same childlike curiosity and excitement. Every time a package comes in the mail it’s like Christmas, and when I first put on the Jazzmaster Auto Chrono in December of 2012, I really felt like Santa had outdone himself.
To be clear: this Hamilton is not a Rolex, Omega, Tag, Breitling, or anything like watches from brands far above the scale covered by this website. As an average guy, who can afford average guy watches, I started this website to wade through the pool of watches that flood that market. Hamilton, Tissot, Seiko… these are brands that an average person can afford. For most people the idea of spending $15,000 on a Rolex is laughable, but $1,000 on a Hamilton might be one of their “one day” purchases. The Auto Chrono, coming in at just under $2,000 is likely the pinnacle of what most people would dare spend on a wrist watch, and frankly, it’s hard to blame them.
However, were you one of those lucky individuals that decided they had $2,000 extra to spend on a luxury item, and were you one of those individuals you might decide to get on to Google to find more information about how to make the best use of that $2,000, and were that the case you might randomly find yourself here, reading this review, wondering what exactly I’m going on about. What does any of this have to do with the Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono, you might (understandably) ask?
Hamilton has created a timepiece that comes complete with its own personality, and when you wear it you are borrowing the best pieces of it.
Well, I’ll tell you: if those things are true, and you are comfortable spending $2,000 on a watch, you won’t find much better than this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you won’t find one better than this one.
The Auto Chrono has struck a balance in the execution of it’s qualities that most watch manufacturers only wish they could achieve. In this trim the rose gold hour markers and hands contrast perfectly against the textured stainless steel face, creating an approachable air of sophistication. When you first hold it in your hand the weight of the piece will surprise you, as it looks for more delicate than its weight suggests. On your wrist you’ll feel the H21 movement turning, reacting to the movements of your arm, charging that massive 60 hour power reserve.
It manages to create such an astounding emotional attachment so quickly because it gives you so much without demanding compromise in return. Despite the inherent intricacy in the face, suggesting an element of fragility within the timepiece itself, you’ll find its stainless steel case and sapphire crystal plenty durable for all but active wear. Thanks to the subtle rose gold accents you are able to dress this Hamilton up or down, with relative ease, and it confidently plays its role well all the same.
The second hand sweeps the face of the Auto Chrono with a certain melody that will cause you to give it a double take. When I wear it I feel as though it should be the centre piece, but it doesn’t demand that kind of status. Hamilton has, in essence, created a timepiece that comes complete with its own personality, and when you wear it you are borrowing the best pieces of it. When the watch is on my wrist I feel less like Cameron Martel and more like James Bond, minus the PPK.
Pressing the button above the crown will reward you with an authorative click as the chronograph springs into action. Pressing it again will stop the chronograph, and pressing the button below the crown will reset the hands to their original positions. Once activated, if left to its own devices, and assuming suitable charge in the power reserve, the chronograph will tick along for a full twelve hours before reaching its maximum display. The 30 minute display is placed prominently at 12 o’clock, while the 12 hour display rests at 6 o’clock. The date display remains at the familiar 4 o’clock position.
As I’ve said numerous times before, with dress watches you are typically left wanting for nighttime visibility. However, the Auto Chrono has a luminescent inlay in the hour and minute hands, as well as the hour markers. It’s not fantastic, but it is quite readable.
Manipulating the movement is easy:
- Pull the crown to position 3 to set the time.
- Pull the crown to position 2 to set the date. Note that you are limited to progressing the date forward only.
Movement Accuracy & Reliability
The Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono is powered by the H21 movement, which itself is based off of the Valjoux 7750. The Valjoux 7750 is widely considered an excellent and reliable movement, and while the H21 is not necessarily the same movement, the fact that it is based off of the Valjoux 7750 suggests that it should be reliable.
However, approximately 7 months after purchasing the Auto Chrono it required servicing as the second hand stopped functioning. Hamilton performed the service for free, and when it was returned four weeks later it functioned normally. I have not experienced any problems with it since.
To Conclude My Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto Chrono Review
The common person would consider themselves lucky to be able to afford a $2,000 watch. At this price point you are often presented with entry-level models from “prestigious brands”, such as quartz powered Tag’s, or used automatics. It’s rare to find a watch that uses a bespoke movement, as most are powered by standard ETA movements. Now, don’t take that the wrong way: most ETA movements are used because they are reliable workhorses, and watches that sport ETA movements can last decades when properly cared for.
Were I to have my say to the common person, however, it’d be simple: find a watch that you genuinely enjoy, and make sure it’s something that feels significant. If the Auto Chrono should catch your eye it’d be well worth your time to give it your consideration. It’s a fantastic timepiece that takes everything you love about watches and timekeeping and packages it into a beautifully crafted 42mm case. When you place it on your wrist you may well find yourself second guessing thoughts with respect to its removal, and frankly, you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling that way.
Hamilton really has built something exceptional with the Auto Chrono, and you’ll feel that every time you put it on.
Reviewers Pick – A Great Buy!
Buy: $1,700 – $2,200, Amazon