Hamilton’s new Broadway line of watches celebrates an urban aesthetic. Even in the sportiest version that I test drove (chronograph, with a tachymetre bezel), the design vocabulary — with its darker colour palette, vertical lines, and flashes of bright silver — has a cityscape of tall buildings, broad thoroughfares, and illuminated metal structures as its inspirations. The engines it evokes aren’t found in sports cars or planes, but on Wall Street and, of course, Broadway. Sinn is the only other brand I can think of that so explicitly honours the energy of city and commerce in its Financial District line. This isn’t a radical departure for Hamilton as its crowded Jazzmaster line has always felt more dressy and urban in purpose, but those watches draw, at least in name, from a different slice of history. The Cotton Club versus Radio City or the NYSE. The Broadway watches are resolutely American, despite being Swiss.
The chronograph version I had is big (43mm) and bold. There are less complicated variations available in the line that offer cleaner dials and bezels that are only there to frame the dial, but the tooled-up variation expressed the “I’m doing things…important things” energy the entire line seems inspired by. Despite the sportiness of the chronograph configuration, this was still a dressy watch to wear. The watch felt most at home with a sport jacket (preferably dark) and dress shirt. It’s a boardroom or dinner-out piece, despite being named after a street.
What’s most impressive about the watch is the design cohesiveness on display. From the single (deep and wide) groove on the leather strap, to the pattern of triple hash marks on the bezel’s foundation ring, to the textured dial, the use of simple, straight lines as a motif consistently reinforces the vertical as its guiding aesthetic, and what’s more vertical than a modern American cityscape? The only small flash of colour resides on the red syringe tip of the chronograph’s second hand which, given the inspiration for the overall design could easily double for a miniature skyscraper from the 1930s. It might be stretching the analogy, but the hands on the sub-dials at 12, 9 and 6 o’clock with their stepped base and tapered lengths seem also to echo the silhouettes of Jazz Age skyscrapers. Given how coherent and faithful to its inspiration the watch is, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to draw these conclusions. Good pieces don’t fall apart under scrutiny, they tell you more about themselves and the Broadway is a good example of a new design that gets its details right.
Wearing the watch is a breeze due in no small part to its legibility. I’ve worn watches with black and silver colour schemes before and found that in certain lighting conditions, the silver hands can disappear entirely. Not so with the Broadway. The width and generous lume on the hour and minute hands made it easy to tell the time at a glance. It not quite pilot watch territory, but very close. The dial contributed to the legibility because of its ribbed texturing. A highly-polished dial can sometimes throw reflections that compete with the hands, but the Broadway’s matte finished dial makes the hour indices and hands stand out to good effect. The small seconds register at 9 o’clock is un-framed with crosshair markers floating at the cardinal points and presents the only legibility challenge on the entire dial but the small seconds hand is really only there to let you know the watch is functioning more than as a way to tell time down to the second. That’s what the chronograph is for.
The Broadway is powered by Hamilton’s H21 calibre, which is a modified ETA 7750. The significant change to the movement, visible through the display case back, (and apart from the decorated rotor and bridge) is the increase in power reserve to an impressive 60 hours. You can set the watch aside for weekend adventures with a Hamilton Khaki and pick up where you left off on Monday morning as you make your way back to the office. The example I test-drove was extremely accurate and as far as I could tell during my time with it was within COSC specifications, even though the watch does not come with this certification.
The Broadway is a new product line from Hamilton and fresh starts can be a good thing because of how focused and unencumbered a clean slate lets you be. These watches are very focused from a design standpoint and are distinct from the more varied Jazzmaster series, their closest cousins from Hamilton. If Hamilton can retain this focus we may be looking at the attractive beginning of a new expression of the brand’s historic American identity.
For more information, go to www.hamiltonwatch.com