Dan Henry 1939 Military Chronograph

As a watch reviewer, I have two categories of watches I review: on loan, and purchased. The ones on loan are a high priority. I usually need to turn those around quickly to post in time for a launch date, or to send to another reviewer, or to just get some aspiring watchmaker’s one and only prototype safely back in his hands. The ones I buy for myself are a low priority. They get reviewed just as soon as I finish all the loaners, which is to say, almost never. That is why I am writing today about the $220 Dan Henry 1939 Military Chronograph I bought back in November.

All Dan Henry models are inspired by vintage pieces, and if you go to their sister page Timeline.Watch, you will likely find the very watch on which they were based. (If you havent discovered Timeline.Watch, then you are missing out on a fantastic gallery of vintage watches arranged in chronological order.) Browse the 1935-1940 section, and you will discover several pieces similar to the 1939, like the Omega-Tissot Chronograph cal. 33.3. 


Measuring 41mm wide, 49mm long, and 13.9mm thick, the Dan Henry is larger than the original piece, but still a reasonable size by modern standards. It is rated for 50m water resistance, which is adequate for daily wear. The case is brushed, as is the top surface of its fixed bezel, but a thick polished edge provides a welcome break, as do the shiny chronograph buttons and onion crown. Tall lugs with generously rounded ends reinforce the 1939’s substantial appearence. 


A double domed, AR coated sapphire crystal and a curved caseback help soften the lines. The case employs the combination of finishes to maximum effect, the rounded lug ends are a unique touch, and while it is highly unlikely that I will ever use the temperature, speed, fuel consumption, and pressure conversion tables on the caseback (unless maybe my iPhone goes dead) the engraving is deep and it is good to know that they are there.



I really like this case, and yet, it here that I must register my only complaint about the watch. The tall, straight sides and 22mm lugs add visual bulk. I have no reason to believe that this was not intentional. After all, a military tool watch should have some presence, right? Still, I would have loved it if some material were shaved off that bezel. Perhaps a fillet to soften the upper edge or a shallow curve to echo and extend that of the domed crystal? I know, this is some serious monday morning quarterbacking, but when I compare the new 1939 to the originals, I miss the slimmer lines of those older watches.


The face is an absolute delight, glossy black with gold syringe hands and applied markers. Multiple scales are rendered in gold, red, and in the case of the centrally located pulsations scale, in a black-on-white band. The layout is faithful to its source. It is almost overwhelming at first, particularly where the index overlaps the CD textured subdials, but everything is crisply rendered and quite legible. There is not a lick of lume on this watch, but for once, that doesn’t bother me at all. 


Dan Henry offers a black-on-sliver dial that swaps the central pulsations, tachymetre, and telemetre indexes for a spiral tachymetre. I suspect that higher contrast version is easier to read at a glance, but to my eye, it not nearly as much fun as the black and gold. I cannot believe they can deliver a dial this intricate, this cheap.


As you might expect from a budget chronograph, the movement is a Japanese quartz, a Miyota 6S21 to be precise. It isn’t exactly sexy, but it is inexpensive and reliable.

The 1939 comes packaged in a hard plastic tube containing a four-pouch leather and canvas watch roll that includes the watch and two straps. The first is a supple Italian leather two-piece fitted with quick release spring bars. It is black with matching stitching and a signed 22mm buckle. The second strap is a black pass-through. When I pulled it out, I literally said, “Oh good, a nylon NATO. Never seen this before.” I then took a closer look and realized that in fact, it really was something my smartass self had not seen before. The strap is fitted with a ladder style buckle similar to what you might find on some perlon straps, but of vastly better quality and finish. The strap loops through and out the underside, allowing you to adjust it, trap the excess on the underside of the keepers and wear the strap at the perfect length without any unruly tail bunching up at the top of your wrist. It is brilliant. I want all my nylon pass through straps to do this now.


As I mentioned at the beginning, the 1939 sells for $220 at danhenrywatches.com. That is an excellent price as-is, but there are other authorized sellers online, and discounts are not uncommon. I got mine from the WatchBandit.com Black Friday sale for $174 (sorry, no longer in stock). After wearing and really appreciating the watch, that price feels like theft. Well, almost. If you are looking for a meticulously executed bit of retro-fashion, I highly recommend the Dan Henry 1939. ⬩


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