About the author: Aaron K was first brought to Dappered by his love of watches, but has found it to be a great resource for so much more. When not reading Dappered, he’s usually relishing being a dad, spending time with his family & friends, learning about most anything that can fly, or taking photographs.
I’m a sucker for a good chronograph, especially with a healthy dose of vintage styling in the mix. I don’t own any vintage models, though, because they are increasingly expensive, are harder to guarantee as authentic, and will require sometimes costly servicing to stay, or even become, functional. That’s a pretty dicey combination when style and value are key. What to do?
Enter Dan Henry and his eponymous watch company. Henry is a watch collector (with a website showcasing his collection) who seems to have recognized the problems facing the value-oriented vintage watch fan. He has released a range of reasonably-priced watches based directly on models from his collection, including the subject of this review: the not-helpfully-named 1963 Pilot Chronograph.
42.5mm diameter and 22mm lug. Double Domed Crystal.
The 1963 can be had with a silver or black bezel, each selling for $230. To like the 1963, you’d better not mind homages too much, since both versions are ringers for a pair of 1960s Breitling chronographs. Naturally, the chronograph complication differs from the original. It isn’t mechanical, but a Japanese Miyota 6S20 quartz chronograph. Set it and forget it! The central elapsed seconds hand moves smoothly, nicely belying the quartz underpinnings. The only quartz tip-off is the running seconds hand in the bottom sub-dial with the usual dead-seconds motion — but thankfully, no loud ticking, here.
With a 42.5mm diameter and 22mm lug width, the 1963 isn’t small, but feels very light and wears nicely on my 7” wrist. A sapphire-coated, double-domed mineral crystal tops everything off, providing a great vintage look with lovely edge distortion. Water resistance is a good-enough 50m. The watch ships with an attractive leather strap, NATO strap, strap changing tool, and even a watch roll. The packaging is basic, but that’s fine by me, since I’d rather have my money go into the watch.
Miyota Quartz movement. Lots of different textures on the dial.
The 1963’s bezel is a 12-click, bidirectional 12 hour unit. The bezel looks great and is one of my favorite features of the 1963, but it’s where the low price shows most plainly. While it’s easy to display a second timezone with the bezel, it feels rather cheap. Also, the bezel has a bit of play and moves almost too easily from one position to the next. A firmer motion would be appreciated here.
The dial has an appealing mix of textures, colors, and layers. Part of the dial’s multi-layered look comes from its sandwich construction, with cutouts for the hour markers exposing a layer of lume below. That’s a really nice detail at this price point. While I’m generally ok with the en vogue faux-patina lume, if I have to be picky, the coloration used for the 1963 is a bit too yellow.
The SR-71 on the back of the Dan Henry 1963 Pilot.
Finally, the caseback. Good grief, it’s fantastic! There’s an SR-71 Blackbird embossed on the caseback, and it’s spectacular. Each Dan Henry model has a different caseback embossing, and that Blackbird finally pushed me to proceed to checkout with the 1963. I still have yet to get a nice imprint of the SR-71 on my wrist, though…
Sure, I’d tweak a few things about the Dan Henry 1963, but as a whole package, and especially given the price, this is a great watch. The 1963 provides classic chronograph good looks (plus that fantastic caseback), uses a movement which won’t require expensive servicing and hides its quartz identity well, and does it all for an extremely palatable price. I think that Dan Henry has provided a great solution to the vintage + value watch dilemma.