Say you’re looking for a watch for under 300 bucks. And you don’t need it to tell you the weather, your vital signs, or who just texted you. Chances are, you want something that looks great but isn’t a “fashion watch.” Something people who “know watches” won’t roll their eyes at. So you’ll probably come across Seiko automatics… the Sports 5, or an entry diver for their watch snob approval. But your heart’s not in it with the Seiko.
Sure, there are a lot of so-called microbrands that pop up on Kickstarter, borrowing cues from iconic watches you know and love––Submariners, Explorers, Speedmasters, and the like––but it’s hard to sort through the clutter, and even harder to know which brands are likely to stick around in the event that you have any trouble with it in the future. If some or all of these things are true, then Dan Henry is a great watchmaker to zero in on.
It’s a four-year-old brand, but the man himself has been known in watch circles as a collector for far longer. Throughout his life, Henry has amassed a collection by hunting flea markets and small dealers throughout the world. You can explore his vast vintage collection here. After a lifetime of collecting, the affable Brazilian uses his vintage pieces as inspiration for his modern brand, including design elements from many that are either impossible to find at any cost, or cost as much as a house if you do. These new interpretations are named after the years of the watches that inspired them.
“Our mantra is to make pure vintage watches with modern and practical movements for a fair price,” says Henry, adding that the company is the leader of their market, and has achieved that purely on the support of their collectors.
I own a few Dan Henry watches myself, and to me, his new 1962 Chronograph in the gold and black dial version is an instant classic that blends the elegance of a dress watch with the masculinity of a racing watch in one stunning and perfectly-proportioned package. It’s impossible to look at this watch without thinking of the Omega Speedmaster, but with its 39mm diameter, it may actually be a more ideal size on most wrists than the Speedmaster Professional’s 42mm. 39mm has often been called the perfect size––neither too dainty nor too bulky––and I tend to agree.
“Frankly, I do what I like,” says Henry, when I ask about his design process, adding that “the 1962 is a mix of 1960s designs and influences.”
The fit and finish of the 1962 is exquisite. Henry is relentless with his partners in the manufacturing process, and if the watches aren’t perfect, they will never see the light of day. And that eye for detail he earned over a lifetime of collecting is visible not just in the details you do see, but in the rough edges you will never see.
The 1962 has a Seiko VK63 meca-quartz movement, which uses a battery for the time, but the center chrono hand is mechanically driven. So you get the mechanical smooth motion of an automatic when you’re using the timer, but without the hassle of having to re-set it every time you leave it off your wrist for a couple of days. Not to mention the added accuracy of quartz. It has an anti-reflective domed mineral glass crystal, 50 meters of water resistance, and a screw-down case-back 3D embossed with a Maserati Tipo 60 Birdcage sports car.
The gilt bezel has a black and gold tachymetre, and the gold pushers and crown stand out on the 316L stainless steel case. The gold hands are easy to read against the matte black dial, and the subdials almost blend in, so it’s not busy. Only on close inspection do you see their remarkable details, and the hour indices and hands are delicately lumed to read in the dark. All of these carefully considered details add up to a watch that’s guaranteed to run well and that you’ll love staring at on your wrist.
Dan Henry doesn’t pay for marketing, instead opting to pass those savings––generally 50% of the cost of a watch––directly to collectors. For $285, the Gold 1962 includes both a quick-release brown leather racing strap and black alligator-textured leather strap, as well as a canvas and leather watch roll. I recommend also ordering the French-made 1962 leather strap with stitching, as it is my favorite Dan Henry strap, it feels luxurious, and Henry once told me in confidence that they’re such high quality he makes hardly anything on them. And all of his watches are backed by a one-year international warranty.
Bear in mind that all of Dan Henry’s watches are also made in limited editions based on the year number: i.e., there are only 1,962 of these in existence and only ever will be. And as someone who has missed out on a Dan Henry in the past, I would act swiftly if you find one you like. $285