Introducing the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical, a Watch Inspired by a Beloved Military Classic

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Hamilton’s newest offering is a thorough and largely accurate rendition of a much loved military-issued aviation watch, the W10. Following many years of producing issued watches for the US military, Hamilton got the contract for a simple pilot’s watch for the Royal Air Force in the 1970s. The new Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical pays tribute to the classic W10, and truly gets all the little details just right. Let’s take a closer look.


Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical

Two Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanicals flanking a vintage W10.
  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Textured black
  • Dimensions: 33mm (case from 12 to 6) x 36mm (3 to 9) x 42mm (lug-to-lug)
  • Crystal: Hardened mineral crystal (box shape) with double AR  
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Movement: H-50 (hand-wind caliber based on the ETA 2801) with 80 hours of power reserve
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather or nylon mil-strap
  • Price: $845 on grey textile; $895 on leather
  • Expected Release: Available now

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The first thing to understand about this watch is that it hasn’t been dramatically up-sized, as is the case for many vintage reissues and reinterpretations, including those from Hamilton. The Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical measures just 36mm across by 42mm lug-to-kug. It’s a roughly square shape, so the case wears larger than a circular watch, but this is still very conservative sizing from Hamilton and they get kudos from me for resisting the urge to make this thing a dinner plate on the wrist. Another nice vintage touch is the box-shaped mineral crystal, which should give the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical a strong old school vibe when viewed in profile.

As a true pilot’s watch, consideration has been given to reflective surfaces. That is to say, there really aren’t any. The case has a matte finish all around, and the dial has been given a grainy and textured treatment, which Hamilton says is inspired by camera and binocular cases from the era. To me, it calls to mind the gently degrading dials we often see on vintage watches of the period, caused by a combination of paint that was not made to stand the test of time and radioactive luminous material. Regardless of what the inspiration is here, the finish offers plenty of visual interest and adds a great deal of charm to the piece. Along with the aforementioned box shape of the crystal, the dial has been engineered to be glare free via double AR on the crystal.         

From an aesthetic perspective, the watch is a simple affair, remaining true to the traditions of pilot’s watches through the years, and specifically the historical model from which it pulls inspiration. Arabic numerals are used in a crisp white font, with the triangle denoting the 12:00 position. Sword hands are correctly proportioned and filled with faux-patinated lume, and the dial text is kept to a bare minimum.

Powering the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical is an 80-hour hand-wind movement dubbed the H-50. Again, plenty of vintage charm in a hand-wind timepiece, and one with a power reserve stretching over 3 days is an added bonus.

The largest point of departure here is  a standard case back here versus the original’s monocoque construction.

With plenty of authentic vintage flair and a time-tested aviation design, the new W10-inspired watch from Hamilton is an attractive option, especially if you’re a fan of the originals, which have climbed steadily in price in recent years. Furthermore, this one is a step up in terms of specs, with the higher-finished dial and 3-day caliber ramping up the bang-for-buck value here. I expect this one to be another hit for the brand. Hamilton

(Editor’s note: case dimensions have been updated.)

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.
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