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.
I’ve been hovering over this watch for quite sometime and this review doesn’t help me from getting trouble with my wife. Even more amazing seeing the video, great review guys. Off I go!
This is a lovely piece.
The simple and clear dial, wonderful blue heated hands, interesting bezel and wire lugs make this one marvelous package.
If it only had a porcelain (or porcelain-like) dial, a bigger (like the LE) or lower placed second subdial, and possibly a manual movement it would be a perfect watch. This way its “only” very close from being an ideal Marine Chronometer style watch.
I think that a manual movement like the ETA 2801 could also keep the watch dimensions smaller. It does for example for the 37mm Stowa Partitio. And adds that extra feeling.
I really want to love this watch, but the date window ruins it. I have the hand wound version of the Field Pioneer and would love a hand wound marine to go with it.
I agree about the date window. The watch would look better without it. However on the silver dial, unlike the blue and black its not so obvious. What ruins it, in my opinion, is the too small or too close to the center subdial. It makes the watch somehow “vertically” unbalanced. Kemmner, Stowa, Steinhart, Dornblueth, Shaumburg….. don’t have this issue.
Absolutely beautiful watch.
I love the detail on the outside of the bezel and the retro H on the crown.
This is a great looking watch. On the silver dial, I’m ambivalent towards the date window, but I know I would not like it on the black or blue dials.
Nice review, Zach.
If there was a no date option, it would be on my wrist right now. Date window aside, it is IMO the perfect Marine Chronometer design that is within the affordable realm.
What a nice piece. Amongst my friends (I’m sure many of you get this too), I am often asked “what watch should I buy for a maximum of $xxxx?” This one will be a top recommendation at this price range. Great article, btw.
This watch completely k.o.’s all those “I have $2,500-$7,500 to spend on a watch. What should I get?” arguments. The answer is “this one and save the rest for something like car or house payments.” I was taking a break from automatics and now this one shows up!!! It’s proportioned fine (shows you that 40mm is big enough), I don’t mind the date function, and it’s the perfect gentleman’s watch with a nautical theme.
Count me in.
Is it possible to change the strap on this watch? Looks like it might be a pain…
Found out it’s just spring bars… Easy enough
Wow, what a beautiful, classic watch. I simply love your thorough reviews. Thanks for what you do…. And the stress you put on my pocketbook! So many watches… So few dollars! This one may need to be added to the collection!
Help! This or the Stowa MO??
Any idea how to change the strap on that bad boy?
Are the wire lugs held captive under the caseback or something?
There are spring bars holding the straps on, so nothing out of the ordinary.
I did not know that this Hamilton had heated blue hands. I could not find that information elsewhere, can you confirm that the hands are heated blue steel. If so, this gives the Hamilton more points in my tough decision between it and a Stowa marine automatic.
I’curious about that too.
Going to buy this one next month. It looks so damn nice.
Is strap swapping possible with the wire lugs on these?
i”m wondering the same thing and I cant find anything online going through whether strap changes are possible and how to do it
yes, absolutely! There is a spring bar between the wires, so it’s as easy to change as any watch.
Really nice watch, I’m a huge fan of the model 21 chronometer, I have to get this one.
The date ruins it.