One of the cooler items to come out of BaselWorld 2012, in the accessible category, was the limited edition Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer. This 46mm, Unitas 6498-2 powered time piece paid close respect to the Marine Chronometers Hamilton manufactured in the during WWII for Naval vessels. These deck clocks were key maritime instruments, as they provided a precise time reference for calculating longitude. Hamilton recreated, albeit in smaller form, the look and function of this precision instrument by creating a convertible watch, which could be worn on a strap via wire lugs, or mounted in a gimbaled box as a show piece. The Khaki Navy Pioneer was priced at $2,945 and appears to be long gone.
At the same time, however, Hamilton also released the Khaki Navy Pioneer Automatic, which is an open edition watch that also stays true to the Marine Chronometer design, but made to be much more wearable. This 40mm version is much smaller than the LE as well as most other Marine Chronometer style watches on the market, which tend to be 42 – 44mm, and manual wind. By using the ETA 2895-2 automatic, they were able to reduce the size to one that is much more practical in a business/casual design, yet keep the signature 6 o’clock sub-seconds dial. This version also ditched the convertible design for simple and classic wire lugs.
Despite its smaller size, the Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto makes an immediate and lasting impression. The proportions are spot-on for a more practical take on this classic style, the case has some very interesting details and the pale silver dial (also available in blue and black) is simply a thing of beauty. This watch is, essentially, what Hamilton does best. They take an idea from their history, create something new that has close ties to the original, and execute it flawlessly. They also end up with something that is unique in the market, despite being a known style. The Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto has an MSRP of $1,095, which is a fair price for such refined piece.