It’s genuinely hard to think of a brand with a catalog that has a deeper reach than Hamilton. The brand has existed in one form or another since 1892, and has made watches for every conceivable purpose, and just about every style imaginable. They can credibly release a completely digital throwback to the early days of quartz (with a movie tie in) one month, and a rugged field watch using modern materials drawing on a vintage aesthetic in another. For some collectors, though, it’s the military themed watches that really speak to what Hamilton is all about, and it’s a huge part of the brand’s history that they’re right to be proud of. Their latest release is a chronograph that slots right in with previous releases inspired by issued watches and captures an era of military watch design that is often ignored.
The new Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph is a 40mm stainless steel chrono with a simple two register layout. What sets this watch apart, though, is the shape of the case. It has a subtle asymmetry thanks to thick integrated crown guards on the 3:00 flank, with short, straight lugs that should help the watch wear more comfortably on a smaller wrist. With no timing bezel and finishing that appears to be fairly utilitarian, this watch is very clearly meant to conjure a tool with a singular and specific focus, as opposed to trying to capture bits of functionality from across every spare millimeter of surface area.
The design is based on chronographs issued to British Royal Air Force pilots in the 1970s. So many classic aviation watches with a military connection are based on timepieces from the World War II era, so it’s great to see Hamilton focus on watches from another generation, allowing collectors to pick out the subtle and not so subtle differences between them. This isn’t the first time Hamilton has dipped into their 70s military output for inspiration, and the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph feels like a sister watch to the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical, released back in 2019.
The dial here is a mostly faithful recreation of the original issued watches, with Arabic numerals at the hours (intersected by the subdials) and a railroad style minutes track. There is ample “old radium” colored Super-LumiNova on the white lacquered hands, matching the tone of the dial, which has been colored to look like a vintage watch. As ever, this is a love-it or hate-it decision on the part of Hamilton, but we can certainly understand the choice on a watch like this that is meant to mimic the original as closely as possible. The black dial also has a subtle grain effect, which is similar to that on the aforementioned Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical.
Powering the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph is the hand wound H-51-Si caliber, which has 60 hours of power reserve and a silicon balance spring. A hand wound movement feels like the correct choice for a watch like this, but unfortunately the lack of a spinning rotor doesn’t substantially reduce the thickness of this watch, which measures 14.35mm thick.
Hamilton’s new Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph has a retail price of $2,045. More information can be found at the Hamilton website.