Back in the days when I bought and sold vintage watches, an annual highpoint was a September visit to Milan, to see my dear friends at Grimoldi Milano. It was at their store in San Babila that I bought my first Panerai (a Mare Nostrum)), and Papa Anselmo, along with sons Roberto, Cesare and Giorgio became not only my “watch mentor”, but my Italian instructor, too.

It was nearly 20 years ago. Roberto, then in charge of the small, jam-packed shop in Piazza Duomo with new and second-hand stocks, knew I was a Hamilton enthusiast, as well as one who lusted after military watches. He had something rather special, not – as I anticipated – an actual Hamilton military issue, but something based on the Khaki. Its dial could have been lifted from a Khaki, with its triangle at 12, and white numerals against a black dial, but there the resemblance ended.

It was a feature I had never seen before, though I have since learned of one or two other models with this function: not one but two rotating bezels. I was instantly intrigued. The dial said “Timeplan” and “Automatic”, there was a small date window at 3 o’clock, the hour hand was a Mercedes-type, with dagger minute hand – all very Submariner – and the sweep seconds hand was red.

Surrounding this handsome, cod-military dial were the two bezels, the inner marked in Roman numerals, I-XII, a chunky affair with each numeral in a recess, but no detents, its bi-directional rotational path completely smooth. Its edges sloped down to a flat outer bezel, also bi-directional but with detents, marked in increments of “5” and ending in a triangle. With the two able to represent minutes and hours, a number of time-marking combinations were possible.

I’m still impressed by the robust case, the screw-down crown, and not one but two protective bezels that suggested this would also prove to offer great strength and shock-resistance. 38mm was on the large side even as recently as 1990, so all that extra real-estate to protect a movement that would probably work in a case 3mm or 4mm smaller also added credibility to the military-style dial. Ruggedness, functionality, rarity and an element of cool? It took me 10 seconds to say “Yes!”

Now, when the brand manager of a well-established watch company tells you he’s never heard of, let alone seen, the watch you’re wearing, you know it’s something pretty rare. All Roberto knew about it was that it was said to be exclusive to Italy. I don’t recall how it came to me, but a faded fax I chanced upon much later provided all the known information. (If you are under 20, please note: faxes were a prehistoric method of sending documents down phone lines, to a thermal printer, hence the fading.)

Recalling my history, and how the late-Gino Macaluso – saviour of Girard-Perregaux – ran Hamilton in Italy and was responsible for popularising the hugely successful Khaki model, I can only assume that the Hamilton Timeplan emerged during his tenure as the brand’s distributor. The screw-in caseback bears only the Hamilton “crest” logo and a serial number, plus the words “Water Resistant 10ATM” (it has a screw-in crown as well) and “All Stainless Steel”.

What the fax added was fascinating, its intended recipient clearly a retailer or sales representative. The Timeplan’s reference number was 90030 AP/BCP, the fax’s original sender Tradema, the Italian importer. Beyond the obvious and self-explanatory – automatic movement, date, 38mm stainless-steel case – I also learned that it was offered with dials in blue and white as well as black, and that the two bezels were expressly designed for the outer to serve as an elapsed or remaining timer and the inner to indicate a second time zone.

Crucially, I also learned that it was issued in 1990, and that the production was “800 pezzi circa”, or approximately 800 – but I don’t know if that was the total for all three dial colours or each. I still wear mine to most Hamilton events, if only to see the brand manager shake his head in disbelief every time.

And the only other Timeplan I‘ve ever seen? A few years later, I found one with the white dial… at Grimoldi, Piazza Duomo. And, to this day, I’m kicking myself for not buying it.