Flieger Friday: HANHART Primus Desert Pilot

This summer, Bhanu Chopra, WatchUSeek Senior Editor, Mario Gaspar from Czech & Slovakia Watch Forum, and I visited watch manufacturers in the Black Forest region. We included visit to HANHART into our tour. You will find a report here on FliegerFriday.


Hanhart is located in the heart of the Black forest, in Gutenbach, about 7 km west of Furtwangen.

Around 1800s, there were nearly one hundred clockmakers in the small town of Gütenbach with only 800 inhabitants. This figure lasted nearly the entire 19th century. Up until the turn of the century almost every house had clocks or components manufactured for them in Gütenbach. During winter, the Gütenbach farmers used to manufacture clocks at their home. Later, the town morphed into a well-established clock-industry.

Nowadays, Gütenbach is known for producing watches (HANHART) and toys (FALLER).


HANHART was founded in 1882 in Diessenhofen, Switzerland and is best known for its vintage pilot watches. In the course of their expansion in the 20th century a second manufactory was founded in Gütenbach in 1934, devoted mainly to the HANHART stopwatches.


1938 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the company – the first model of the HANHART chronograph went into series production: the one-button “caliber 40” became the main product of the company.  Only one year later, 1939, the legendary “Fliegerchronograph” with the red pusher followed. The reason to lacquer one pusher in red was to prevent unintentional resetting.

During WW II pilots and naval officers wore chronographs made by HANHART. The German “Bundeswehr”, founded in 1955, also flew with HANHART chronographs as did the French Air Force (VIXA chronographs) for quite a while.

Currently, and due to its history, HANHART offers a lot of watches with vintage appeal (PIONEER series). However, HANHART offers much more: we’ve got pilot’s, (PRIMUS Pilot) car rally inspired watches (RACEMASTER + PRIMUS Racer) and divers (PRIMUS Diver) in a modern but nevertheless timeless design.


When visiting the HANHART museum and showroom I immediately became attached to the PRIMUS Desert Pilot. I am not sure what attracted me most, the distinct case design with the flexible lugs, the atypical khaki colored dial, the red pusher, the 24mm sand/khaki nylon 2-piece strap with its folding clasp repeating the “red” of the pusher, the bezel with the red anodized aluminum inlay at 12, or the overall beastie look.
It was most likely the “WOW” factor which made me want the Desert Pilot. The watch arrived just in time to accompany me on my vacation to South Tyrol and the Dolomites. I have had the HANHART Primus Desert Pilot for only three weeks on my wrist, so here are my initial thoughts:

The Primus Desert Pilot, is a contemporary interpretation of vintage HANHART pilot’s watches. In a heartbeat you will recognize that the Primus Desert Pilot does not follow its predecessors as far as design of case, lugs, color and hands are concerned. That’s why I speak of a contemporary interpretation. HANHART’s tradition however is clearly recognizable by the use of one of the brand’s distinctive features, the red button.


The sturdy sandblasted-matt stainless steel case of the HANHART Primus Desert Pilot, the Sahara-like sand-colored dial and the matching robust textile strap form a casual sporty outdoor look, but still inspired by its predecessors.


For wearing comfort and additional flexibility moveable lugs ensure a pleasing fit on (almost) all wrist sizes.

The Primus Desert Pilot is equipped with an automatic HAN3809 chronograph movement, whose basis is an ETA/Valjoux 7750. To switch from the typically 3-register 7750 (12, 6 and 9) chrono to a 2-register (bicompax) chronograph (3 and 9) HANHART hired in the services of La Joux-Perret (formerly Jaquet SA), a well-known Swiss movement manufacturer who in the past supported companies such as HUBLOT, SINN (Sinn 6066) and ORIS (Artelier Alarm, AS 5008 remake).


Of course, the typical HANHART features can also be found with the Primus Desert Pilot. The distinctive HANHART design is interpreted in a modern, unobtrusively manner with the red anodized aluminum pusher, the distinctive fluted bezel and the characteristic bi-compax dial design of the WWII pilot’s watches with caliber 41.




I wore the HANHART throughout the whole vacation visiting places like Lake Starnberg, Lake Garda, the Dolomites, Bolzano, and Meran. I wore the watch for activities like grape harvesting, hiking, cycling, and of course shopping with my wife and wine tasting (I highly recommend the “Weinschmiede” in Kaltern). All in all the Primus Desert Pilot was and still is the ideal chronograph for all outdoor activities and a perfect companion for all obstacles of everyday’s life, not to mention that the Desert Pilot is also an eye-catcher.


The Desert Pilot is a very challenging chronograph that really looks like no other. With all my enthusiasm, I have to admit that this HANHART is not a complete all-rounder. With a diameter of 44mm and a height of 15mm the HANHART does not really fit under a shirt cuff. But, honestly, this isn’t and wasn’t its intended determination. The HANHART Primus Desert Pilot is more of a bold statement piece, bold and beautiful and not a watch for those who prefer subtle watches.

Admired by the likes of Steve McQueen who wore HANHART watches almost religiously, you are in good company if you like it, even decades later. It should be noted that, since 2014, HANHART and the off-road pilots Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt, X-Raid Mini All4 Racing Team, are teaming up in partnership. The HANHART Primus Desert Pilot currently decorates the bonnet of the Mini-Cooper (i.e. 2015 Dakar, 2016 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge).


Ad finem I’d like to sum up the technical specs of the HANHART Primus Desert Pilot:
Automatic chronograph movement HAN3809 (bicompax), base ETA/Valjoux 7750, 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz), 28 jewels, rotor with a skeletonized, incised Hanhart logo, power reserve of min. 42 hours

Small seconds at 9 o’clock, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, date window at 6 o’clock (white on black wheel)

Sand-blasted stainless steel, anodized aluminum red button, fluted bezel with inlaid red marking, slightly domed sapphire crystal, AR coating on the inside only, display case back, screw-down crown.

The lugs are flexible so the lug-to-lug isn’t a single number as the lugs can move in and out to adapt to your wrist.  On a flat surface the lug-to-lug is 52mm, when on the wrist, it is about 46/47mm.

Case diameter 44 mm, height 15 mm, water-resistant to 10 bar/100 m.

Sand-colored, coated with Super-LumiNova, luminous Arabic numerals, index markers and hands.

Textile, folding clasp with inlaid red marking (anodized aluminum) made from stainless steel

Editorial: Mike Stuffler

Photo Credit: Monika & Mike Stuffler, Hanhart

Steve McQueen Photo Credit: Heuerville