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Highest standards and competence since 1882
The Pilot Watch Magazine
21 December 2023

Exclusive mechanical timepieces from the Black Forest

Hanhart is a German-Swiss watch manufacturer whose beginnings date back to the end of the 19th century. The company is particularly known for its mechanical watches – including wrist chronographs for pilots – and plays a major role in the history of the German watch industry. And this is how it all began: in 1882, watchmaker and entrepreneur Johann Adolf Hanhart opened a watch and jewelry store in Diessenhofen, Switzerland. To expand its customer base, the small company moves its headquarters to the German town of Schwenningen in 1902. Hanhart expands its production and is soon the largest watchmaker in the region.

In 1920, Wilhelm Julius Hanhart, Johann Adolf’s youngest son, joins his father’s business. In search of new markets, Wilhelm soon recognizes the potential of affordable stopwatches – previously in short supply in German-speaking countries. Hanhart seized the opportunity, designed and manufactured the world’s first truly affordable stopwatch, and launched it in 1924. The company expands, production is intensified and a new manufacturing facility is opened in Gütenbach in the Black Forest. As early as 1939, the first Hanhart pilot’s watch was manufactured.

Others show the time, Hanhart measures it.


Pilot watches for the Luftwaffe

After the war, Hanhart continued the production of pilot watches, initially manufacturing chronometers for the French Air Force and, from 1957 onwards – with slight modifications – also precision timepieces for the re-established German Air Force and German Navy. At this time, Hanhart was the sole watch supplier to the German armed forces and at the same time successfully expanded sales of its pilot watches to other Western European air forces. The business with its mechanical stopwatches also flourishes. Here, the family-owned company has been the market leader since 1962.

High-quality mechanical watches guarantee success

Since the early 1970s, mechanical timepieces have been increasingly displaced by quartz watches. In addition, Japanese companies flooded the market with cheap products in the 1980s – a difficult environment for quality products from Western production in general, and for Hanhart in particular. But the management countered the offensive from the Far East, developing affordable movements and the trendy stopwatches with LCD displays. The inexpensive 3305 caliber alone was sold over 40 million times – a terrific success.

Since the 1990s, the brand has benefited from the renaissance of classic timepieces. Hanhart refocuses on its original core business, the manufacture of high-quality mechanical watches, and successfully launches a new edition of the wrist pilot watch from 1939, which is still popular in specialist and collector circles. Other innovative models follow, continuing the company’s success story to this day.

Functional instrument watches for pilots

in 2022, Hanhart celebrates its 140th anniversary as a major producer of timekeeping instruments. The Swiss-German watch brand looks back on an uninterrupted manufacturing tradition as well as a successful and innovative corporate history. Today, Hanhart, headquartered at its original founding site in Diessenhofen, is focusing more than ever on its core competence: the manufacture of functional instrument watches for use on land, sea and – how could it be otherwise – in the air.

More from Hanhart

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Richard Mille
Richard Mille

Richard Mille

A new era of watchmaking