Recently, I’ve been reflecting upon some classic watches in the “new vintage” trend that represent really good value for their relative intrigue. My mind was drawn to the Mido Multifort Datometer with its unusual triple calendar, and the Tissot Heritage Antimagnetique with its rejuvenated historical styling, and to the Timex Marlin which at $200 is in a category all its own. I most of all considered the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38 mm, based on a standard military issued watch from the ‘60s to 1980s, which I would argue is one of the coolest watches for the money on the market today.
As I considered this last Hamilton watch, I thought back on the many other watches the brand produced in mid-century, and how for so long these pieces adorned such a significant portion of American and global wrists. After all, it wasn’t only military-contracted timepieces and Caliber 11 chronographs the brand produced during its golden age, but also timepieces of elegance and class that were accessible to an entire generation of consumers. Possibly the most significant of these watches was the Intra-matic, a watch the brand produced in the late 1960s into the ‘70s as a follow-up to the Thin-o-matic, at the time established as the primary dress watch offered in Hamilton’s collections (vintage picture above left, via The Watch Forum).
As it has with many other of its historical pieces, Hamilton has revived the vintage Intra-matic for the contemporary market as the Intra-matic Auto. The watch is available in modest 38-mm or larger 42-mm sizes, with the option of either a black or silver dial in a steel case, or a silver dial in a gold-plated case. The steel-cased versions are available on either a steel nine-link bracelet or a leather strap, while the gold-plated options are available only on the leather.
On each of the models, the case has a simple construction with small trapezoidal lugs, a subtle crown, and a thin bezel all meant to showcase the expansive dial that these features frame. The unadorned dial, sunburst and slightly curved, features elongated printed hour markers without an additional minute ring, a 6 o’clock date window, and simple stick hour and minute hands sweeping the face without a seconds counter. Towards the top of the dial is the vintage Hamilton logo, while toward the bottom is the lowercase “intra-matic” script. Inside each watch, and visible through a sapphire caseback, is the Hamilton-finished ETA 2892-2, an automatic movement with a 42-hour power reserve, which is known as a slightly more refined version of the more common ETA 2824-2. Currently, new Intra-matic Autos are being priced by the brand as low as $845 for steel 38-mm options on leather straps, and as high as $1,095 for the 42-mm gold-plated version, though you might be able to find one for significantly less through certain dealers.
Between the vintage and modern versions of the Intra-matic, the shared qualities are obvious. With an expansive sunburst dial, slim case, elongated hands and printed hour markers, the two watches share all of their major features. Even some slightly subtler details remain very similar, such as the style of date window and lowercase “intra-matic” font towards the bottom of the dial, all together showing the effort the brand made to keep the contemporary version as visually consistent as possible with the original.
As for the differences between vintage and contemporary model, they are little more than slight adjustments to better cater to a modern audience and balance the design. The hour markers are slightly longer, the hands and crown slightly thicker, and the dial’s sunburst finish more pronounced. Noticeably, the date window on the vintage version was at the complete bottom of the dial, covering a would-be 6 o’clock hour, where on the modern version it is slightly more towards the center; likely a practical change by the brand to accompany the larger case sizes and placement of the modern movement inside, compared to the 34-mm vintage watch with its Hamilton Caliber 92 (based on the Buren 1282 micro-rotor movement).
In many ways, the modern Intra-matic represents much the same value as the vintage piece did. With its simple elegance, history, and price accessibility, the watch has the ability to become the centerpiece of an expanded collection, or an additional piece of intrigue in one longstanding. Ultimately, it’s a distinctive piece the brand felt it had to offer, and showcases the versatility Hamilton has shown in bringing forth not only desirable sports watches in its modern collections, but also classy formal pieces to round out its portfolio.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare Zodiac Astrographic to its historical counterpart, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.