Johan Hanhart started out as a watch retailer in 1882, but 20 years later his son Wilhelm joined the business and set about turning Hanhart into a manufacturer by opening a factory in Schwenningen, Germany. ‘Willy’ was a keen athlete and didn’t take too kindly to the fact that all the stopwatches used for timing his track-and-field events were Swiss-made and expensive.
He remedied the situation in 1924 by producing the first Hanhart stopwatches, which soon became popular thanks to being both accurate and affordable. By 1935, Hanhart was producing split-second stopwatches and by 1938 it had reduced the size of its mechanisms to enable the creation of the first Hanhart wrist chronograph.
Production ramped up at the start of World War II when Hanhart was flooded with orders for military chronographs that, primarily, were issued to pilots and naval officers. By 1940, the firm’s original single-button design had been augmented by a model with two chronograph buttons, the lower of which was red to help prevent accidental use of the re-set mechanism – a distinctive feature still used today.