Off the Cuff: Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm

Back in 2017, long-time collector, Dan Henry, provided the watch world with a lovely assemblage of vintage-inspired, limited edition, chronographs, and an equally handsome automatic diver. Rather than being direct homages to any one model, the Dan Henry collection take their style cues from various eras, and, as such, are named after the years which influenced them. Since then, Dan Henry has developed quite a following among enthusiasts, becoming synonymous at once with quality and affordability.


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Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Original Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph @calibre321

One of the first of these watches to sell out its run was the 1963 Pilot Chronograph. In fact, it was a watch I, myself, once counted among my collection. The original timepiece measured 42.5mm in diameter and came in a black dial with either a black or a steel bezel. In the end, for me, it was the size that was an issue–certainly not the aesthetic. In fact, I must admit that I have repurchased essentially the same watch…now that it has been made available in a 40mm package. What a difference 2mm can make!

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
New 40mm DanHenry 1963 Chronograph, Black Bezel @calibre321

This new 40mm version comes in both a black and a blue dial, with a choice of matching bezels or steel. But if 42mm is your thing, worry not. The new blue variant will be made available in the original size, as well. And now everybody’s happy.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Sandwich dial and recessed subdials add depth @calibre321

The all-new 40mm black dial (pictured here) is a beautiful thing. Like the original, it harkens back to 60s era masterpieces like the Heuer Autavia and the Breitling Co-Pilot. It employs a sandwich dial where the numerals and indicators have been cut away to reveal the rich Swiss Super-LumiNova underneath. Its subdials, too, have been recessed to provide more depth. Here, though, there are subtle differences. The timepiece still uses a running seconds, but it now has a 24-hour dial to accompany its 60-minute register. The deep black dial is reflected in a matte 12-hour aluminium bezel with five-minute clicks–perfect for tracking a second timezone–and the sapphire dome offers subtle distortions.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
C3 Super-LumiNova @calibre321

In addition to the 40mm diameter, the lug to lug has been reduced to a svelte 46.8mm. The watch, however, remains a chunky 14.2mm thick, like most chronos. The caseback is screwed down and embossed with an attractive rendition of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. It has 50m of water resistance.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Screwed down caseback embossed /w Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird @calibre321

The 1963 uses the Seiko VK63, which is a quartz movement overlaid with a mechanical module for operating the chronograph. The previous version employed the Miyota 6S20. The benefit of the new movement is a “flyback” reset which mimics a mechanical chronograph.

The 1963 comes on a vintage-styled black leather strap with brushed steel hardware. The buckle is signed and the pins are quick release.


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SPECS

Case316L Stainless Steel
40mm Diameter
46.8mm Lug to Lug
14.2mm Thick
12-Hour Bi-directional Bezel
Screwed-down Caseback
50m Water Resistance
Dial & CrystalSapphire Dome /w AR
Sandwich Dial
3 Subdials
Super-LumiNova
MovementSeiko VK63 Meca-Quartz
StrapLeather /w Quick-Release
Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph (40mm)
Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Comfortable on wrist @calibre321

Of Interest

I have written about Dan Henry’s Timeline.watch before, but it bears mentioning again here. The online database that began as a catalogue of his vast personal collection of vintage timepieces, has grown significantly since its inception. Users are able to contribute to the collection by uploading pictures and descriptions of their own watches, which are then slotted into the right chronology, type, and brand. One can browse the storehouse or even search it for specific models. Making this knowledge and experience available has become the guiding principle behind the Dan Henry brand. The watches produced by the company allow enthusiasts affordable access to robust renderings of vintage designs. They breathe new life into references that are quickly on their way to becoming museum pieces due to their scarcity and fragility.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
VK64 meca-quartz movement @calibre321

Quibbles

The thickness of the 1963 is an aesthetic choice–one made as a nod to pilot chronographs of that era. As the modern version makes use of the much thinner VK63 movement, the case could have been more more attenuated and shirt-sleeve friendly. The “not-date” version also has a ghost position.

Some will wonder why Dan Henry has not made use of the mechanical Seagull movement for this latest version of the 1963. Without entering the meca-quartz debate, I would refer readers to Dan’s own justification in “Automatic vs Quartz.” For the sake of brevity, it comes down to reliability and cost. The ST19 is manufactured using outdated technology; the VK63 is accurate, cost-effective, and provides a similar visceral experience in chronograph usage.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Black bezel variant @calibre321

Final Thoughts

Dan Henry’s enthusiasm for horology resonates in his watches. They are immediately arresting because they play on all the archetypical tropes of great watch design. Only someone who has owned and held and worn these vintage models could put together such a carefully selected collection that is at once referential and unique. The 1963 is no exception. Arguably, other than its size and movement, it does not bring anything new to the table that the original did not already offer. And yet I suspect it will sell quite well, because it was so well designed in the first place. It’s the sort of aesthetic that triggers dopamine receptors among enthusiasts (perhaps I am revealing too much of myself here!). The 1963 retails for $280USD, but it wears like a much more expensive piece. Its pushers are smooth and responsive. The flyback action is as you would expect from a mechanical piece. The quality of the finishing and the work in the caseback embossing are next to flawless. And I will tell you, there are a few Easter-eggs in the overall design that I will purposely not mention, so that you can enjoy discovering them for yourselves. Buy it. Wear it. Enjoy it. That’s what it’s meant for.

For more information, check out the brand’s website.

Dan Henry 1963 Pilot Chronograph 40mm Microbrand Watch Review
Dan Henry 40mm 1963 Pilot Chronograph @calibre321

Off The Cuff articles are full-length, hands-on reviews of the watch (or strap…) in question and represent the opinion of the author only. All photos are original, unless specified otherwise. If you would like to have your watch reviewed on this site, contact us here.

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