Sunday, February 4, 2024

Doing Time With The Hager Diplomat

So, I have been treated to a wonderful 2 weeks with a wonderful watch from Hager -

I have known Pete (Pierre) Brown for more than a few minutes. He came up with the idea for Hager back in 2009, and has slowly built a very loyal following around the world, but probably the strongest here in the US. 

And yes, he even has followers in Switzerland. Pete and I would regularly meet up in my "office" at the Hyperion hotel in Basel during the fair. And it was there, over espressos, ham sandwiches and beers that he reached entirely new sets of fans.

Over time, Hager has grown from a micro brand to a thriving business, a real brand. And through Hager's success, and Pete's collegial support, a bright light has shined on Maryland based watch brands. In addition to Hager Watches, Pete is the co-owner of Maryland Watch Works which not only provides warranty and after-sales service for several brands both regional and international, but also does the assembly for several brands. Essentially, if you buy a Hager Watch, you know that it was not only assembled in the US, it was assembled in Hagerstown, Maryland - the home of Hager Watches. 

Hager is quite well known for its dive watches -

Courtesy of Hager
And they are quite fine. But man (and woman) do not necessarily live on sports watches alone...

Pete had told me that he had been working on a dress watch, and that it was something that he felt would truly round out the Hager collection. That was, in fact, when we first met at BaselWorld in 2016. 

Fast forward several years, and the inaugural Watches & Whiskey was held in Hagerstown. Browsing through the display cases of the Hager boutique, my eye landed on this piece, which was one of a few samples that Pete had created as he was exploring the idea of a dress watch -

For me, it ticked all the boxes. The case size was modern - 40 mm in diameter. The dial was clean and easy to read. Lastly, it was gold. Now before long-time followers of Hager freak out and shout:

"Hager has never made a gold watch!" 

My sardonic response is - "Duh!"

But my more considered response is that Hager makes great looking, very desirable, very reliable watches at great prices. So it is only natural that they would offer both stainless steel and gold tone dress watches. In the case of the offerings from Hager, they are rose gold PVD.

The final production of the Diplomat hit more than a few snags, not the least of which was a rather nasty global pandemic that you might have heard about...
Courtesy of Hager

But finally, after a lot of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, the long-awaited Diplomat has arrived -

And just in time, the Hager Emerald Smoke fumé dial Diplomat came my way for review, and following some quality time on my wrist, it is time to sum it up and offer you my honest opinions.

Courtesy of Hager

Okay, so right off the bat while this is a review, I must be clear that I am a fan of Hager Watches. That does not mean I am a "Fan-Boy", I've been known to give some feedback that wasn't 100% "amaze-balls", but by and large they tend to hit the mark for me. I should also make clear that I count its owner, Pete Brown, as one of my close friends in Watch Town. 

So with that said let's get on with it!

Confession time - I am not a huge fan of the fumé effect for watch dials. I realize that I might not be in the majority on this, but there you have it. With that said, the fumé green (that's Emerald Smoke, to you) could perhaps change my mind on this topic. The visual effect of this darker hue, rather than a lighter or brighter tone actually suits the overall look and feel of the Diplomat. It has, to be precise, the "Goldilocks effect" - it is just right. The alternating indices with four numeric indications at the quarter hours (12, 3, 6, 9) is a pleasant balance.

And for me, personally, I like the alternation with cold tone applied baton makers and white stylized numerals as well as the white Hager logo. The gold look is very pleasing against the green, but without the white to offset the dial and it gets a bit washed out. Now part of that is due (no doubt) to my aging eyes, but with that said I actually like to be able to look at a watch and get the time at a glance. One of my hesitations in wearing some of my vintage pieces is that while I am "keeping it real" by wearing something with patina, it is not always easy to read it. Now while fumé and patina are decidedly two different things, the effect that they have on quick, at-a-glance legibility are much the same. So for me this was a great decision in terms of design.

The case is well finished and sits very comfortably on the wrist.

And the finishing work is solid. The crown operates (setting and re-start winding) smoothly and it looks quite smart.

And this attention to detail carries over to the case back. With the original Diplomat concept pieces, a solid case back was used -

The concept pieces used stock movements, no fancy decoration, so there was really no need to show off the inside.

Well, let's just say things have changed ; )

Hager has been working towards creating a movement that meets all of the requirements to be labeled "Made in the USA". Needless to say, this is no small feat and despite the crowing and boasting of some other players out there, with the exception of some very (justifiably) high end brands, the whole made in the US thing is not, as yet, fully there. 

The movement in the Diplomat is the HGR 1165. This is described as an American clone of the 2895. This is a movement that is comprised of components from different countries, and assembled in the US by Maryland Watch Works. 
Courtesy of Hager

Now for the poo-pooers and armchair experts out there, allow me to share a wee bit of inside baseball - the big dog Swiss movement manufacturers source parts from multiple Cantons, including one just outside of Bangkok...(Thailand).

With all of that said, the timing of the Diplomat is first rate. No major deviations (gains or losses) were experienced. It is a solid timekeeper.

The strap and the clasp are sound. The strap is sufficiently long to accommodate most wrist sizes.

Overall, the fit and feel are quite good. the finish is of a good quality, and the color codes are a good match for the watch head.

The strap is a 20 mm width, so it is neither too fat or too thin, and is the perfect width for the watch. 

My only critique on the strap is that it is a wee bit stiff, but in fairness, 90% of all watch straps are straight out of the box, and after several days of wear, it is starting to soften up nicely.

Now many of you reading this review have maybe never heard of Hager. Fair enough. I think in the coming years the name will begin to ring out more and more. The Diplomat delivers on everything it promises. It is a unique, high quality dress watch at a very fair price. and for those of you out there in the US who like to "shop local", this is your opportunity to support a smaller, family owned business.

The Diplomat in the small second configuration sells for $895, and is available in very, very limited quantities. So if one of these is in your wheelhouse, I suggest you move most Riki-Tik (that's quick, to you).

I personally love this version, and unequivocally recommend it. The only thing I would (personally) do would be to upgrade the strap to something like ostrich, ostrich foot, etc. 

Then Prime Minister, now Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and an English teacher who would go on to create Tempus Fugit and later Henki Time. We were both a lot younger then...

The world is a challenging place in the best of times, but right now we all, collectively, seem to be challenged with getting along, seeing the other person's point of view, and looking for reasonable solutions. So if nothing else, I take my time with this latest watch from Hager as a reminder that we can all be a bit more diplomatic.

Here are the pertinents -

Technical Details Small Seconds


40mm Diameter: Thickness: 9.3mm; Length: 48.5mm

AISI 316L polished steel with exhibition casebook

Scratch resistant domed sapphire crystal


Convex Gradient Fumé sunburst dial


HGR 1165 (American Clone of the 2895.)


Hours, minutes, small seconds (Seconds at Six) hacking


20mm leather strap with a stainless steel tang buckle that matches the dial of the models.

Water Resistance

5 atm = 50 meters


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