The Hamtun H1, is the first watch from a brand new UK company Hamtun Watches who are based out of Southampton. As is fashionable nowadays (and financially prudent) they are crowdfunding the H1 production via Kickstarter. They aim to rise above the sea of Kickstarter watch campaigns that fill the site, and in their own words “build something that was both truly affordable and high quality”
As aways the devil will be in the detail so let us delve deeper and look at what they consider high quality in a watch and how that high quality translates into affordability.
First and upfront so there is no ambiguity this is going to be my first preview of a watch that has not even completed production, it’s detail is taken from press release and Kickstarter data, I intend to followup with a full review once I have the product in hand (this should be in a few weeks if review copies become available).
With a brand new company like Hamtun Watches I cannot give a large amount of background but I can fill you in on the basics. Based in Southhampton, UK, they are the brainchild of Ross Davis, who has been working on the H1 for a little over a year. It has been his goal to deliver a high quality automatic dive watch constructed of premium materials at an affordable price. Outside of the movement (it would be truly unheard of for a new company to build an in-house movement for its first watch and a little insane), the H1 has been completely custom designed and prototyped by Hamtun, with the manufacture being completed in China.
The Hamtun H1 comes in at 41mm, so it is on the smaller end of dive watches, not that this is a problem, at 41mm it should still be large enough to be legible and easy to use. It will be interesting to see when its on my wrist, but I doubt it will look undersized. The H1 case is constructed from grade 5 titanium with a satin finish and from the press shots it does look fantastic, it has a gun metal colour and I think it would look great on the wrist.
Titanium is an interesting choice of material for a watch, it is incredibly durable and very lightweight, it is approximately half the weight of a comparable steel watch, which can be alarming if you are used to a dive watch being heavy of the wrist, I personally find it great when you get used to it.
Titanium is highly impact resistant and can be up to five times a strong as stainless steel, it is unlikely that you could accidentally break the case, in fact the force you would likely need would destroy the movement long before the case would fail. It is also incredibly corrosion resistant, it is almost impossible to rust titanium and it is impervious to all acids apart from nitric, for a dive watch this is fantastic, repeated exposure to salty water and other elements when diving will have less of a corrosive effect than on a stainless steel watch. For us desk divers there is a softer side to titanium, it is hypoallergenic so it will not produce adverse reactions with the skin that other materials can do.
Titanium truly is a wonder material but it has to have an Achilles heel, and its one is scratch resistance. Depending on its manufacturing properties it can be more prone to scratching than the more frequently used stainless steel. I do not at the time of writing have any information about the manufacturing process used on the H1 so it would be prudent to assume it will scratch easier than your standard steel watch.
Now given the upsides of titanium, the fact that it is slightly more prone to being scratched is not a massive deal breaker, for a workhorse dive watch I would take the anti corrosion and durability every day.
The watch is rated as water resistant to 20ATM so it should be capable of being used down to 200 meters, quite a reasonable depth for a dive watch especially at this price point. However water resistance ratings are a little complicated and confusing as there are multiple standards in play, as of now any watch that claims water resistance to a given depth is covered by ISO 22810 which states the watch must perform at that depth without any ingress into the case (this change had passed me by but it is a great update to the 90’s standard). There is an additional divers standard ISO certification that some watches have (ISO 6425) that has far stricter testing methods, this standard is voluntary and expensive to test so not all dive watches are put forward for this testing, something unsurprisingly Hamtun has not tested on the H1.
So is this a dive watch in the traditional sense? I would say yes but with some advisories, if you are skin diving or doing light recreational diving I would not expect there to be any issues using this watch, if you are a professional diver or wreck diving I would advise caution. This is not a complaint, at this price point it is fantastic to have 20ATM water resistance, but in my view professional divers should have watched rated for higher depths and ideally ISO 6425 certified. Desk divers need not worry.
Continuing the theme of premium materials the H1 bezel is constructed of ceramic which is incredibly scratch and scuff resistant, so much so that over the lifetime of the watch I would expect it to look as good as the day it was bought. The bezel styling itself is minimalist but functional and is classically presented, it is notched with a 120 click unidirectional ratchet, marked at 5 and 10 minute increments with the markers filled with lume (no idea at this stage if it is superluminova or similar).
The crown, which sits at the 4 o’clock position, is coin cut and is nestled into reasonably chunky crown guards for protection agains knocks. The crown screws down to provided the necessary water resistance and is signed with the Hamtun logo.
The Hamtun H1 features a double domed sapphire crystal, with anti-reflective coating inside and out, this should provide and incredibly tough and scratch resistant crystal that is both easy to read at multiple angles and lighting conditions with virtually no glare.
The dial is presented in matt grey and is constructed using sandwiched layers to produce a 3D raised effect, the hour markers are cut out of the top layer showing the coloured layer below. The 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock markers are presented in a larger square format with all other hours, (excluding the 4 o’clock where the date window is presented) are in smaller squares. The minute and hour hands are sword style presented in white with a contrasting baton second hand in blue, both hands and hour markers are lumed but as to how bright they are I will have to wait until I have the watch in hand. The chapter ring is marked with simple minute batons with each 5 minute interval in the contrast blue colour. The dial and hands are very clean and follow the minimalist stylings of the watch, the blue contrast colour does make the watch pop without being too over the top, those who dislike the blue have a muted option in the stealth edition.
Hamtun are offering two different strap choices with the H1, there is a titanium bracelet finished in the same style as the watch body with a locking single fold deployment and a black silicone strap with the same single fold deployment. They are both well designed and fit well with the overall styling of the watch types, the deployment itself is singed with the Hamtun logo and is compact, three levels of micro adjustment are available on the deployment itself so a good fit should be easy to achieve.
I do question the usefulness of a deployment on the silicone strap as traditionally one of the reasons to move to a rubber strap on a dive watch is the ease of adjustment (for fitting the watch over wetsuits or similar), at 22mm it should be easy to source a more traditional dive strap but it is shame this is not an included option.
From the start Ross decided that if Hamtun was going to produce a dive watch that it would have to be automatic, he did not see the point in going to the effort of designing, styling and prototyping a new watch to then power it using a quartz movement (there are great quartz dive watches out there but I do enjoy the purism of a good quality mechanical watch). The list of requirements did not stop there, it had to be reliable, it had to support automatic and manual winding, it had to be hacking, it had to fit in the tight budget and it needed to be easily serviceable.
Quite a list for a first watch, the movement that was eventually settled on was the Seiko NH35A.
The NH35A is a progression of Seiko’s 7S26 movement, the 7S26 has been a workhorse of many years used by Seiko and many other watch manufacturers to produce, cheep, accurate and reliable automatic watches with long service interval windows. What the 7S26 lacked was both hacking and the ability to hand wind, the NH35A is the answer to these two limitations. Taking the the balance wheel, escapement and mainspring from the 7S series and adding a hacking leaver and hand winding bridge, Seiko produced the NH35A. I personally do not own any watches with the NH35A movement but I do own a few with the 7S26, I can attest to the reliability of this class of movement. With the NH35A you should expect a power reserve of 41 hours and an unregulated accuracy of -25/+35 seconds a day, acceptable for this class of watch and in all likelihood you would get a better rate than this.
In conclusion, you are getting a lot of watch for your money here, and depending on how quick you are off the mark there is a chance to pickup the H1 for £150, that is admittedly the early bird price and limited to the first 25. There are further offers with the price being £170 for the next 50 and then £190 for all others (when the Kickstarter campaign finishes the RRP will be £250). I think it would only be fair for me to consider the watch at its RRP of £250 as most backers will not have the opportunity to purchase one at the £150 mark.
A £250 automatic divers watch, rated to 200m, crafted out of titanium with a ceramic bezel and a double domed sapphire crystal (with dual AR coating), backed by a 2 year warranty and sporting a Seiko movement. Quite the mouthful and quite a promise to deliver on, if Hamtun manage to deliver and the watch in production form looks as good as the press shots, performs as robustly as the materials should allow and is as reliable as a Seiko movement should be I would be hard pushed to not recommend this watch.
Yes it is not perfect, there is the annoying silicone strap with a deployment and I suspect most professional divers would use this watch without a higher level certification, we also have Hamtun, an unknown factor with no history of watch delivery. Still this has happened before, Christopher Ward was formed out of three friends taking a boating trip and deciding to make watches, I am not suggesting Hamtun is the next Christopher Ward, but who knows. We also do not have to look back far to another watch company Pebble who did fantastically well creating their first smart watch on Kickstarter.
So should you back it? That is a question that I will never answer with regards to any crowd funded projects, in my mind (and this maybe a little harsh) crowdfunding is great for promoting innovation, but it is little different to gambling, you must look at any investment as money you are prepared to lose. This is not me saying don’t back Hamtun, and am an certainly not saying they will not deliver, it is me saying that you have to make your own decision on things, and you must look at this differently to going into a store and purchasing an item.
I think the Hamtun H1 is a great watch if it delivers on what it promises, if it was in the store now for me to go and look at I would have no problem saying, yes go and purchase one, especially at this price point.
My final thoughts are, go and look at the Kickstarter, make your own mind up and if this is your first foray into crowd funding, please consider the differences between this and a store purchase or pre-order.
Read more about the Hamtun H1 and consider if you would like to back it here.