When it comes to pedigree, Hamilton has strong roots in the military. While the brand rose to fame for embodying resilient men of war in movies, its legacy is a true story. The brand carries not only their roots but also American history on its back. Deeply rooted in the era of war and civilisation, Hamilton saw the rise and fall of generations. One popular Hamilton model that rose through it all is the Khaki Field. The outdoor watch, however, has a lot more history than you’d imagine. So, what makes the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical the ultimate watch of heroes?
Have you heard of field watches? Field watches are simply military watches. These watches’ roots date back to World War II, helping soldiers navigate through the turmoil with accuracy in time. Field watches, formerly known as trench watches, are dust and waterproof. They also have durable NATO or Zulu single strap to keep them from being lost in the war. The Khaki Field is a field watch. It’s made for the heroes that fought the war. In this article, we’ll look back at the rich history of Hamilton and the rise of field watches in the industry.
A Quick Glance
Hamilton has three collections inspired by the three branches of the military. The Khaki Navy for the Navy, Khaki Aviation for the Air Force, and finally the Khaki Field for the Army. The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical falls on the middle price range. Inside the watch is a hand-wound H-50 movement. The calibre is available with or without a date function. It can also keep the watch running for up to 80 hours. That’s more than double than the average power reserve.
History of Hamilton
Hamilton is an American brand that embraces Swiss precision. The company boasts a long history of numerous milestones as well as a powerful international recognition. What is now a part of the Swatch Group began in the American soil in 1892. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the original Hamilton factory stood for a century and 11 years.
Where roads meet, Hamilton built an empire. In its early days, the company made watches for the modern American railroad. They crafted timepieces that help prevent and reduce accidents by synchronising timing on the rails. By 1918, the age of aviation dawned. Hamilton then took their business to the skies by supplying the US Airmail service with their timepieces. They crafted watches for the service to remain on time and reliable. This ultimately becomes the reason Hamilton equates to the world of aviation. At present, the company is the Official Timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
For the most part, Hamilton was based in the US. However, in 1974, Swatch Group bought the company. Then, in 2003, Hamilton also moved its HQ and production to the centre of the watchmaking industry in Biel, Switzerland. This allows for the watch to bear the prestigious and coveted Swiss-made label. While the watch is still American at heart, it now has a new perspective on accuracy and precision.
Hamilton: A Movie Brand
For the most part, Hamilton established itself as a Movie Brand. It had a really close association with Hollywood and its products. The brand found its first Hollywood silver screen appearance in 1932. The move is ‘Shanghai Express’, starring Marlene Dietrich and directed by Josef von Sternberg. However, the brand rose to recognition in the 1951 Oscar-nominated film ‘The Frogmen’. It features the Khaki Navy Frogman Auto. The watch was produced specifically for the US Naval ‘Frogman’ teams. This feature helped the brand become the symbol of masculinity and bravery among men.
The brand continued its silver screen legacy as the Hamilton Ventura graced the wrist of Elvis Presley on ‘Blue Hawaii’. Today, the company’s watches continue to dominate feature films, including Christopher Nolan’s science-fiction drama ‘Interstellar’. It’s also the official watch for Nolan’s recent time travel, science fiction, ‘Tenet’. As a tribute to the legacy of Hamilton and its affiliation with cinema, they established the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards in 2006. Here, the company honours the heroes behind the scenes of major feature films.
The Rise of Field Watches
Hamilton took the initiative and responded to the government’s need for watches for the Allied forces during the Second World War. Post-war, Hamilton and many other American watch manufacturers stuck to the government-mandated military watch specification. However, in the 1960s, the government updated its watch specifications. The watches got larger with more legible indexes with the updates. The models are MIL-W-3818B and GG-W-113. This would later become the template for the Hamilton 33-mm Ref. 9219. The time-only watch has a 24-hour index and the brand easily produced millions of it. A lot of soldiers and airmen served with these watches. This eventually fought its way through Vietnam War.
In the late 1960s, Hamilton collaborated with L.L. Bean for a co-branded Ref. 9219. With the success of the co-branded watch, the company did it again with Orvis and Brookstone. They crafted a marketing campaign that offers the Ref. 9219 with Swiss Army knives, compasses, as well as thick wool socks. However, the MIL-W-46374A specification was defunct in the 1980s. To avoid losses, the brand takes its watches to the masses. From a military icon, the Khaki Field watch ultimately turns to an outdoor watch.
The New Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Watches
Because the watches no longer has military-mandated designs, Hamilton found more freedom in designing their field watches. The new version of their the Khaki Field comes in black and white as well as green dials. It also comes with a dark green/brown PVD case. They ultimately crafted the aesthetically pleasing version of the Khaki Feld watch. Not only is it stylish but also functional.
Today, there are about 16 models of the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical on the company’s website catalogue. It’s a combination of various case sizes, strap materials, as well as dial colours. The collection has become a classic and one of the brand’s best sellers. The watch heavily carried over the military influence as a hackable time-only watch. Its vintage look makes a strong case for classic timepieces. Let’s break down the collection and its design as well as mechanical aspects.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm
Introduced in 2018 as the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm, the watch has since then become a fan favourite. It’s a well-balanced watch with a very minimal design at an average case diameter. It’s Hamilton’s first re-take on Khaki Field with pure loyalty to its ancestors.
The stainless steel case’s finishing is entirely matte, referencing back to its military roots. Various models have a black PVD coating, making them look more rugged and outdoor appropriate. The introductory 2018 version also has the same double-hour scale or indexes. It has large 1 to 12 Arabic numeral hour markers, as well as smaller 13 to 24 hour markers. The watch debuted with a black matte dial with Arabic numeral with small luminous triangles over each hour index. However, today, the 38 mm model has various dial colours available. It now also comes in a black, brown, white, as well as green dials. Moreover, its crystal is sapphire, making it a durable choice for an outdoor watch.
Its hands are true to their inspiration without any date windows. The indexes, however, are now in cream for a more vintage feel. The 38mm Khaki Field’s strap launched with an appropriate NATO strap with leather inserts. However, it now has a variety of straps to choose from. It now also comes with a leather strap made from natural materials. You may also avail it in a comfortable canvas strap! Either way, the watch looks its vintage best no matter what strap you choose.
The lugs are 20mm in width so it will accommodate most of your strap collections. While its ancestors would have a lug witch of 18mm or smaller, it still carries the vintage military look in general. The lugs are also drilled so changing straps are a bit easier. The case back, on the other hand, is plain with just the Hamilton logo, and a few more inscriptions. You’ll find the words “Swiss Made”, its model number, “35X PSQ HPO” as well as its depth rating.
Movement & Features
The watch’s crown doesn’t screw down. Despite this, the watch has a pretty decent water-resistance of 50m or about 164 feet. It could offer a lot more but it’s splash-proof enough for a quick outdoor trip. This watch launched as a time-0nly watch, you won’t find any other information on the dial like a date dial or a subdial for seconds on other models. However, you might adore the date window on some models (eg., the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical H69439933 or the H69439363).
Powered by the Hamilton calibre H-50, the watch offers 80 hours of power reserve. this hand-wound mechanical movement is based from the ETA 2801-2 or 2804-1 movement. Hamilton built on these movements with 17 jewels and a frequency of 3 Hz or 21,600 beats per hour.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 50mm
There wouldn’t much of a difference with the 50mm version except that it’s a much larger version of its predecessor. This heavier, supersized version makes for a compelling purchase even if it’s twice more expensive than the 38mm versions. It comes in various dial designs such as black with charcoal indexes as well as a brown dial with white indexes. The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 50mm version also comes in black dial/white indexes version. Each of the bigger designs come with a date window making it less empty than you’d expect. The indexes are also much larger to keep its proportions. It comes with a cow leather strap for a comfortable as and luxurious feel around the wrist.
It has the same Hamilton calibre H-50 with the 80-hour power reserve. However, the 50mm watch ups its game on water resistance at 10 bar or 100 meters. This new 328 feet water resistance takes the watch appropriate for a recreational swim.
Hamilton Khaki Field Officer Mechanical
The Khaki Field Officer Auto is a bit of a departure from the other Hamilton field watches. This mechanical watch comes in a 44mm case diameter with relatively large indexes. And by large, we meant large. It had a huge 12 as well as 6 hour markers. On the other hand, 1 to 5 and 7 to 11 comes in a bit smaller. You’d still find the familiar 13 to 24 hour indexes but it’s much smaller with line indexes in between each number. In some models, the second hand is replaced by a second subdial.
The watch comes with an ETA-6497 movement. This movement allows for a 49-hour power reserve and a water resistance of up to 100 metres. This model had already been discontinued but may still be bought from resellers online.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical aligns with the brand’s affordable luxury watches. For a mechanical watch that screams vintage, it’s pretty affordable at $495 to $525 for its original 38mm versions. The 50mm versions come at $1,145 to $1,245. Meanwhile, the Khaki Field Officer Handwinding was priced at $695.
Recreating vintage watches was not something new for any brand. It was, in fact, one of the norms in the industry. However, not anyone could nail the faux vintage look as well as Hamilton did. The brand completely took on the re-release with passion and loyalty to its ancestor. After all, the watch was born in an era of complete chaos. It had a noble cause for its existence that later became its identity.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is an affordable choice for a field watch. It’s a robust choice with a vintage feel to it. Anyone who chooses this watch can easily adjust to its simplicity and settle to its comfort. This watch is imperfect in various means but it’s a purposeful choice. What Hamilton taps on is the emotional appeal of a field watch. It’s the noble roots of the watch as well as its rich history. For a watch that could cost you less than $600? The Khaki Field Mechanical indeed is worth it.
For more options on field watches, check out our list of the best military watches that will survive the battlefield! Spoiler alert: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is one of them.