Earlier this year, we introduced the Hamilton Flintridge (twice, actually), a throwback to a 1930s watch for sportsmen. Today, when you accidentally knock your watch into a door frame, your watch is more likely to take paint off the frame than become damaged. However, watches weren’t always built like this. Decades ago, your average timepiece had a plastic crystal and limited water resistance, so if you fancied yourself an active man, you probably took off your watch before engaging in any activity that would compromise its safety.
Enter the Flintridge, which boasted a steel, flip-top cover that would protect your watch from dust, scratches and spills. At rest, the cover blocked the view of the dial and kept the lens safe from harm. By pressing on a button located near the top-right lug, the cover would lift for reading the time; release the button and, according to Hamilton, the cover “flies back into position.” But the flip-top cover was not only a sure piece of body armor. As you can see from the advertisement, the smooth cover was ideal for engraving, enabling its owner to personalize an otherwise bland-looking piece of metal.
Hamilton’s new-for-2014 Flintridge is not a practical watch by any means, but then again neither is any wristwatch given the abundance of mobile phones. It’s a throwback to a different era of watches–when they were critical to daily life and countless Swiss brands were gunning for wrists with some of the best damn copywriting in magazines and newspapers. That’s what compelled me to check it out.
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The Hamilton Flintridge
When I first saw the Flintridge, I was floored by its charm and of all of Hamilton’s 2014 novelties, this is the one that stuck with me the most. My mind flooded with several different analogies at once. The Clous de Paris pattern on the cover reminded me of a vintage radio and a luxury car grille; the ports for the weekday and dates made the cover seem like a mask or a knight’s helmet; and, finally, it felt like a pocket watch mixed with Dick Tracy’s famous radio wristwatch on a leather strap. And while I was making all of these familiar comparisons, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
Its tonneau-shaped case measures 37.5mm wide. Full of texture, various finishings and lines, there’s a lot going on to attract and hold attention. Aside from the Clous de Paris pattern, the cover remains primarily brushed (as a sportsmen’s watch should) save for the lip of the cover where you use your finger to reveal the dial. Polished beveling highlights the edges of the case, meeting the polished sides of the case where the surface contrasts with the brushed sides of the lugs, which almost exhibit a horned silhouette.
Through the ports, the weekday is clearly visible but the date window isn’t large enough to let enough light in for decent visibility. Even a cloudy day can make this hard to read, and if you need the date under low-light conditions then you’ll need to raise the cover.
Heavy pearlage decorates the surface under the hood. Through the sapphire crystal, the silver dial explodes with Jazzmaster design cues and continues to exhibit just as much texture as the flip-top cover. Overall, it’s an elegant and symmetrical execution with a guilloche inner dial and a circular grained outer dial with polished and applied luminous markers done in true Jazzmaster fashion.
Turn the case over and you can see Hamilton’s caliber H-40, one of several new movements developed by ETA for Hamilton featuring a whopping 80-hour power reserve, which is a true convenience for those used to 38-42 hours. I don’t consider the Flintridge to be an ideal everyday watch and it’s unlikely you’d wear it several times a week, so I can’t say you could put this back in the watch box on Friday night and pick it up Monday morning and it will still be wound. However, this movement will eventually make its way to more traditional Jazzmasters where it will be a pragmatic win for buyers who hate resetting and winding their watches.
On the Wrist
While it’s generously sized, it’s comfortable on the wrist. Weighing in at only 98 grams, it seems like it’s case size would suggest it weighs more. It’s 13mm thick with a lug-to-lug distance just a hair under 50mm, so while it may find its way beneath a shirt cuff, it will intimidate smaller wrists. I personally have a wrist measuring 6.75 inches and 50mm case heights is typically as large as I’m willing to go.
I love the gray color of the leather strap, but it’s stiff alligator grain that will take some continuous wear to break in. Normally, I don’t fault Hamilton for taking this route on a watch given their usual price range, but for a limited edition of 999 pieces, I’d have liked a higher quality strap. With a 22mm lug width, aftermarket leathers are certainly a viable option if you can’t come to terms with the stock strap. The signed brushed-and-polished deployant buckle, however, is superb. For 2014, Hamilton introduced a new deployant buckle that looks and feels like it should be on a more expensive watch. Its silhouette is subtly H-shaped, a reiteration of the brand itself that’s nothing shamefully obvious like some of their previous pin buckles.
It’s certainly a unique looking watch, but it’s still versatile. Pairing it with an everyday outfit is easy, but it’s not the most practical wristwatch and I personally found that I enjoyed wearing it around others but not during times when I needed to check the time a lot. At the office, for example, it will attract attention and spark conversation, but if you’re in and out of meetings then flipping the top can be tedious and more distracting or rude to others than checking your cell phone for the time.
The gent’s Hamilton Flintridge will be limited to 999 pieces and retail for $1,350.
Usually in reviews like this, I try to offer a couple of comparisons to evaluate the true cost-value ratio, but that’s difficult in this case because the Flintridge is definitely more than just a three-handed Jazzmaster and it’s more nuanced than your average heritage release. Frankly, $1,350 is a completely fair price for a limited edition watch that stands alone and speaks for itself as one of the most interesting novelties released in 2014.
Hamilton’s only real misstep in this watch is releasing it with a subpar strap, and I would definitely pay a few hundred dollars more for something higher quality. You’re not going to get a lot of mileage out of this watch for the money because wearing it everyday might be too impractical, but you will get raw collectibility and, more likely than not, a ton of attention from watch enthusiasts and civilians alike. Who wouldn’t love a watch that basically serves as a license to ramble endlessly about their passions?