Let’s assume you are just getting into watches and looking for your first watch or you are a seasoned veteran looking for something fun and different to diversify your collection. The standard answer in either of these situations is Seiko.
For example, go get yourself an SKX (R.I.P.).[i] However, in addition to Seiko discontinuing the venerable and much loved SKX line, Seiko has also been repositioning themselves upmarket. It appears Seiko was not satisfied being the enthusiast brand of choice for value-for-money watches. But as they say, the king is dead; long live the king because enthusiasts are fortunate to have a plethora of micro brand/enthusiast brand/independent brand (will someone please decided what the politically correct term is? I’ll go with enthusiast brand) coming into the market to fill the value-for-money void that Seiko appears to be creating. One such brand is Dan Henry.
On July 4th 2019 Dan Henry watches released a cryptic and frankly creepy video on Instagram promising their 8th watch would be, “the timepiece you’ve been waiting for” and would debut on the 8th of July at 8pm GMT. I see what you did there Mr. Henry.[ii] On July 8th I went to the Dan Henry watches website and saw the brand new 1962 chronograph. To sum up my feelings about the Dan Henry 1962 after first seeing it, I quote the great 1960’s icon, Austin Powers, “yeah baby, yeah.” The creepy Instagram video was right, it was the watch I had been waiting for.
The model that I have is the panda non-date variant, arguably the enthusiast model of choice.[iii] Now, before going any further it’s important to get one controversial fact out of the way, this is a homage watch.[iv] This watch is a homage to the Universal Genève tricompax commonly referred to as the “Nina Rindt” while the reverse panda variant is referred to as the “Evil Nina.”[v] Now, before all of you anti-homagers get all riled-up let me just say an original “Nina Rindt” can cost you upwards of $20,000 while the Dan Henry will only set you back $260. Plus, I’m willing to bet most of you did not even know about the Universal “Nina” until I mentioned it, so just forget I said anything.
The 1962 is not an exact reproduction of the original “Nina.” The original “Nina” was a period-appropriate 36mm while the Dan Henry has been supersized to a now period-appropriate 39mm. The rest of the watch measurements are 45.5mm lug-to-lug, 13.5mm in height, 31mm dial diameter, and a 20mm lug width. The 1962’s dimensions for my wrist (16.5cm) are perfect. It wears like a modern vintage watch if that makes any sense. The dimensions are small for a modern-day sports watch but large for a vintage watch, putting the watch dimensions in the goldilocks zone for someone who wants the build quality of a modern watch without the smaller vintage dimensions but with all the vintage charm.
One of my favorite things about the 1962 is the legibility. Having a legible dial seems like an obvious design choice for any watch but this is not always the case. Anyone wearing a Daytona probably knows this truth, why yes; yes I did go there.
My panda variant is perhaps the most legible variant of the 1962 dial options. Under the mineral glass double-domed crystal, my 1962 has a crisp flat white dial with applied black hour markers all framed by a black tachymetre bezel. The watch has, almost abstract, dauphine style hands with broad-swordesque hands in the sub-dials. Speaking of sub-dials, there is running seconds at the 6 o’clock position, a 60-minute chronograph counter at the 9 o’clock position, and at the 3 o’clock position is a 24-hour am/pm indicator. As far as I can tell this 3 o’clock sub-dial cannot be set independently from the main time so as to be used as a poor man’s GMT but if anyone knows differently please let me know.
Regarding the movement, this is perhaps the most interesting part. The 1962 utilizes a solid Seiko movement, which is a mecaquartz movement. A mecaquartz movement is a quartz movement that uses a mechanical module to operate the chronograph functions.[vi] The chronograph engages with a satisfying mechanical click but the chronograph second-hand moves with almost a quartz like tick, actually more like a clunk around the dial, which is unsatisfying but perhaps not a deal-breaker unless you want a chronograph to actually time an event with accuracy to the second. Besides the fact that this is a mecaquartz movement, the interesting fact about this movement is that it is a Seiko movement. As Seiko itself leaves behind the value-for-money watch market it is interesting to note how many enthusiast brands are actually able to use Seiko movements to power their watches which begs the question as to how Seiko, with their economy of scale advantage, cannot continue to produce value for money watches? The easy answer is Seiko does not want to, they want to move themselves upmarket (Which is what I thought Grand Seiko was for?). However, if I am being honest, I would have paid more for a 1962 using a variant of the Seagull mechanical chronograph movement, which is perhaps the only mechanical chronograph movement one can find in this price bracket.
Besides the movement, the only other thing I would change about the 1962 are the straps it comes with. The panda variant comes with two straps, an all black and a light tan leather strap. The straps are nice and soft and are what one would expect at this price point. However, for me a leather strap feels out of place for this watch. The straps may be the period appropriate option, really if you want the “Nina” effect is should be a bund strap, but I would have preferred a bracelet option. Although, being the former owner of a Dan Henry 1972 chronograph the bracelets are also nothing to write home about in my opinion. So, I have been wearing my 1962 on a Barton Bands black elite silicon strap. A further possible compliant to note is for those lume-lovers out there, the 1962 has lume but it’s the kind of lume where you say, “I am not angry, I am just disappointed.” These are small complaints considering the price point and the quality of watch one is getting.
The 1962 is a great watch for anyone who wants their first watch or wants to add a pure fun watch to their collection. This watch surprised me, I was not expecting the value for money proposition when I ordered the watch but joy per dollar spent on this watch is higher than perhaps any other watch I have owned. So, now that Seiko is moving further upmarket maybe it’s time to change up the standard watch enthusiast answer to the question, “what should I get as my first watch?” Thanks to the Dan Henry 1962 I have a new answer to that question.
Words and Photographs by: Sean O’Tormey
[i] The venerable SKX appears to have been axed by Seiko. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5alFPHdP12Q
[ii] Dan Henry Watches Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BzgbZylnuvq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
[iii] As of writing this variant is sold out but the “Evil Nina” and the blue and orange variant are still available. https://danhenrywatches.com/collections/vintage-watches/products/1962-racing-chronograph
[iv] For more information about the beautiful original Universal Genève reference 885103 https://www.universalgenevecompax.com/1960s-universal-geneve-compax. See also, https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/found-tropical-universal-genve-nina-rindt-compax-chronograph.
[v] For more information about Nina Rindt and her watches: https://www.watchonista.com/articles/novelties/woman-substance-five-ways-which-nina-rindt-original-watch-influencer.
[vi] For more information on the mecaquartz movement: http://calibercorner.com/hattori-sii-caliber-vk63/