Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph Review

By: Greg Bedrosian

I was on the chairlift with my son when a text came in from a co-worker. We ski / snowboard as a family on Saturday nights. I’m on call a lot for work. So when I see an after-hours text notification from a co-worker my heart tends to sink. It’s usually a work-related problem and the weekend fun will be immediately coming to a halt.

This time it was completely different. Much to my surprise it was a photo of a Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph staged nicely on a wooden table with a beer. I almost jumped off the ski lift with excitement.

I’ve seen plenty of “new watch alert” pictures before, but what was so exciting was that my co-worker made a great horological decision on his own. He is normally an Apple Watch guy. And by “Apple Watch guy” I mean he drove two hours to find a 44mm stainless steel Series 4 with GPS + Cellular when it was first released.

So what could make such a devoted Apple Watch user be so drawn to the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph? I had to find out. He was kind enough to let me spend some time with that watch for this review and needless to say it was an eye-opening experience.

The Case:

Both smaller and larger brands are currently pouring over back-catalogues to freshen their model lines by drawing from the past. The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph’s 39mm 316L stainless steel case seems familiar without being able to exactly pinpoint it. The case style lies within the watch’s namesake.

Dan Henry has one of the most extensive vintage watch collections in the world. His collection website is a rabbit hole that’s easy to go down and lose yourself in. You can sort by year, category, or brand.

A quick glance at the website’s 1960s timeline examples show that The Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph blends design cues from other classic racing chronographs of the same era. The case reads like wine tasting notes: subtle hints of Movado SubSea and Universal Compax, with a strong bouquet of blended Heuer Carerra and Zenith A273.

Three things stand out from the design. The first is the exposed chronograph pumpers. I’m a big fan of exposed pumpers (as seen on the Omega FOIS: First Omega in Space.) The next stand-out feature is the lack of tachymeter scale on the bezel. The bezel itself is smooth, with the tachymeter scale on the dial. It’s a great way to pay homage to vintage racing for those who feel a tachymeter scale on a bezel is to “busy”. It gives the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph a cleaner look than other chronographs in its class. However, it does wear slightly smaller due to the smooth bezel.

The third stand-out characteristic of the case is the straight fang-like lugs congruent with sport watches during the 1960s. Initially I was worried that the lug-to-lug might be too wide or the watch might wear awkwardly. It was a great fit for my 6.75” wrist.

I love when a watch company gives you the magic indicators: height/lug-to-lug measurements and a case profile shot on their website like Dan Henry Watches does. As we see more online DTC (direct to consumer) sales the combination of those three characteristics will be very important for consumers to understand.

By handling enough watches I was able to get a good idea of how the Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo would wear just knowing the lug-to-lug was 44.7mm with a 12.9mm thickness. As long as the case size wasn’t wild, seeing the lugs angled down at a steep angle in the profile shot tells me that this watch will hug the wrist beautifully. Figuring this out from online photos and specs is just as much of an art as it is a science.


 
 

The Dial:

The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph comes in four dial colors: Silver, Slate Grey, Evil Panda, and Panda (Note: A “Panda” is a white dial with three black subdials reminiscent of a panda’s nose and eyes). If that isn’t enough, you get the option on every dial color to go date or no-date, bringing the total variations available to eight. This is a really big deal. Most watches only come in two or three color variations. The colorway I have for review is the Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Evil Panda Date. It’s black with white subdials.


The 3-6-9 subdial layout is my favorite among chronographs. It balances the dial and keeps it clean at the same time. The background of the date wheel matches the dial color. This helps it blend in when not needed.

I also appreciate the solid Slate Grey and Silver colorways. They are great if the “panda” dial isn’t your thing and you want the registers to blend into the rest of the dial for an even cleaner look. This tells you that Dan Henry Watches isn’t just using the “big catalogue” for a franken-watch; they are trying to cater their own components.

Across all variations of the Dan Henry 1964 the chronograph models, seconds hands are blue. Blued hands traditionally come from heating the steel to a very specific point. It was done to keep the hands from rusting. The 1964 retains the look, but the process here is done chemically.

It’s important to note the different watch variations on the more detailed parts of each colorway. These are things like the color for the register hands and the color of text on the tachymeter. The slate gray even has its own unique red-tipped chronograph seconds hand. Look at the details carefully before making a decision. Everyone should be able to find a suitable configuration.

The Bracelet:

If 2018 was the year of the GMT, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of “beads of rice” (BOR) bracelet. The stainless steel beads of rice bracelet is a refreshing departure from the oyster and jubilee style bracelets that currently dominate sport watches. The 19mm BOR style bracelet of the Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo harkens back to the days of vintage motorsports. The bracelet option made me feel like a gentleman racer about to climb into a toy car. The polished rice-shaped center links reflect light to give it a little extra “bling.”

The solid end links follow the flat lugs at a steep angle. Dan Henry Watches understands the relationship between lug angle and lug to lug width better than most other microbrands in my opinion.

I feel that it’s important to compare the 19mm beads of rice bracelet on the Dan Henry 1964 to the 20mm jubilee bracelet found on the Seiko SKX013. The Seiko jubilee will offer more sag and flex. The beads of rice is more ridged and shiny. Think of the Dan Henry BOR as middle ground between a jubilee and an oyster bracelet. The jubilee is sportier while the beads of rice feels dressier. Light can hit the round polished beads at any angle, so be prepared for a little extra flash.

The clasp is unique as well. The safety locking mechanism is not a fold over. It’s a single push button located asymmetrically on the left side of the clasp. It’s easy to use and a welcome departure from the norm. I will say it would have been nice to integrate quick-release spring bars into the design of the steel bracelet. The bracelet can be a challenge to change at times.

The Straps:

The Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo comes with one additional leather strap. The 19mm straps do come with quick release spring bars. The soft leather straps feel higher quality than they actually are. That’s not a bad thing. The thin black leather strap reminded me of putting on a Cartier.

The evil panda colorway comes with a black leather strap. They won’t let you substitute another color. I highly recommend adding an extra strap at checkout. In this case, we have a “caramel” leather strap as our third option. Dan Henry also offers accessory straps in bolder colors as well such as red, light blue, and pink.

Beware: aftermarket 19mm straps are few and far between. Do yourself a favor and buy an extra strap at checkout. You’ll be glad that you did. Part of the fun of the Dan Henry 1964 Chronograph is that it can be a real strap monster.

The Movement:

The Dan Henry Watches 1964 Gran Turismo is powered by the Seiko VK63 mechanical-quartz movement. I had my first experience with the VK63 with my Nezumi Voiture review (where you can read my first impressions of the movement).

At the time of the Nezumi review, a mechanical-quartz movement was voodoo. It was just starting to hit the mainstream micro-market. As positive words spread, so did use of the VK63 movement. Its trickery lies in the combination of a battery for time keeping that also powers the chronograph seconds hand that’s mechanically on-demand.

The VK63 gives you a mechanical look and feel by simultaneously pulling backwards on chronograph seconds hand while in use. This creates the illusion of a sweep and reduces the “tick.” The reset is also a snap-back like a mechanical movement not a quartz style reverse sweep. After playing with the chronograph function, the tactile feedback from the VK63 will make you never want a traditional quartz chronograph again.

Conclusion:

I’m the go-to “watch guy” at work. I get asked a lot of questions. It’s been really fun to give co-workers a little information, point them in the right direction and let them draw their own conclusions. Whether it’s a watch for themselves or a gift, I couldn’t be prouder of the great decisions they are making.

The Dan Henry 1964 Chronograph is a great gateway watch for any aspiring enthusiast. The included extra strap and watch roll makes it a great start to a collection. It’s a true panda dial that can pair well with just about anything. Smaller wrists (6- 7”) should feel right at home with this 39mm watch. If your wrist is larger than 7”, consider the 42mm Dan Henry 1963 as an alternative.

We continue to see smartwatches becoming more complex in their computerized application functions. As they do so, wearable technology often leaves users with a feeling of sterile emptiness. After long term smartwatch use, many people long for an emotional connection to something they can wear Friday night that has character and soul. At $250, The Dan Henry 1964 Gran Turismo Chronograph does just that.


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