If ever you are on the hunt for a simple, historically relevant and down-to-earth mechanical watch that can stand a couple of knocks and keep perfect time, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical collection is certainly one to consider. A near-perfect embodiment of the concept of a military field watch, where legibility is the prime feature, the Khaki Field Mechanical is now beefed up to a 42mm diameter. Just recently, we had a chance to go hands-on with the white dial Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical.
Hamilton has a rich history when it comes to tool-like, military-inspired watches. There’s a whole range on offer, with everything from dive watches and pilot’s watches to field watches. Gathered under the name Khaki, the collections focus on robustness, legibility and practicality. The models need to withstand a few knocks and bangs, the time has to be read at a glance, and they need to serve a specific purpose. And yes, a time-only watch has a limited purpose, but in a field watch, it needs to fulfil that function perfectly.
If you look at the lineage of the Khaki collection – and we’ll focus on the Khaki Field for obvious reasons – it dates back quite some years. The watch is inspired by the Hamilton “Hacked”, a military watch by Hamilton from the mid-20th century. It might sound a bit silly in today’s world of cyberhacking, but the name is a reference to the stop-seconds system, or hacking seconds, that stops the movement when the crown is pulled. This allows for perfect synchronization of time with fellow combatants in the field (just to set the scene).
Hamilton has used this to build a collection that radiates this military vibe, even though today it is less of a necessity with digital timing instruments. It is a reassuring thought, though, that there are still watches available that can be relied on when needed in the field, even if that “field” is a rocky path somewhere in the mountains where you’re hiking during the summer holidays.
Stemming from that field-issued military watch background, the Khaki Field perfectly embodies this type of watchmaking. The designs are toned down, focused, with perfectly legible dials featuring bold contrasting colours and markings. And while there are additional indications like a day-date or even a chronograph (only one though) within the Khaki Field collection, the purest interpretation of what a field watch should be is perhaps the Khaki Field Mechanical, introduced in 2018. That becomes very clear when you compare it to vintage military watches made by Hamilton, like the 1981 US Military Ref. MIL-W49374B (seen above) with an almost identical dial.
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
As the name indicates, this is all about mechanical watches, and more specifically, hand-wound watches. In 2018, Hamilton released the surprisingly simple yet capable Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical in a very vintage-relevant 38mm diameter. Back then it already showed all the hallmarks of a proper tool watch to be used in the field. It had a well-proportioned case with a matte surface (fewer glares and reflections) and a crisp, legible dial. It indicated the time only through a simple yet reliable hand-wound movement. Time was indicated via central hands contrasting boldly with the black dial underneath.
At first, it was introduced with a black dial, with beige and white markings throughout. By now, there are several dial colours and case finishings available, ramping up the versatility and often the military theme of the watch as well. A white dial for instance, with contrasting black and beige hands, or even a coffee-brown dial, it’s all possible. In terms of case finishings, you have the matte steel of the original but also a coffee-brown or black PVD coating. And earlier this year, the collection was completed with a bronze edition. In 2019, in accordance with other brands within the Swatch Group, Hamilton swapped the initial ETA 2801-2 mechanical movement for the more modern H-50 movement which provides 80 hours of power reserve.
The 42mm big brother (all pictures from this point forward)
While the 38mm Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical proved to be a superb value-for-money watch, the dimensions make it quite small on the wrist. Although this might be historically correct, some people prefer to wear a slightly more substantial watch. So, naturally, Hamilton has introduced a 42mm version, with exactly the same style and proportions as before.
Luckily, the increase in size means it loses nothing of its tool-ish good looks. You still get that very legible dial with double hour scales (from 1 to 12 and from 13 to 14), and you still get the same reliable and practical hand-wound H-50 movement. That means that the essence of the watch hasn’t changed, just the size. For now, it is only available in a white or black dial with a matte steel case but it’s quite likely we can expect other interpretations further down the line.
The larger case wears very well on the wrist and at 42mm it is still a decent size for most. Not too large, not too small, just a watch that fits on most wrists. The watch is fitted with a sapphire crystal on top, a closed caseback and a relatively large crown. This is easy to manipulate thanks to the size and knurled profile, similar to the 38mm one. The only let-down is the 50m water-resistance when you might have expected double that.
In terms of dials, there’s either black with white or beige markings and numerals or black and beige on a white dial. On the outside, there is a minute track with beige triangular markings at every 5-minute increment. Then there’s the main hour track, on a clear 12-hour scale. One step inward is an additional hour scale, running from 13 to 24. While this might clutter up the dial a little, it does fit in with the military theme. The hands are nicely sized with beige luminescent material. A central seconds hand with a beige arrow-shaped tip and a lollipop counterweight round off the indications.
The hand-wound H50 movement powering the Khaki Field Mechanical (both 38 and 42) is a smart choice for several reasons. It is historically more accurate within this type of watch, but it also keeps things simple. It also gives the watch its much-needed reliability and ease of service, as a proper field watch should. Luckily the modern construction means it has a very generous 80 hours of power reserve. This movement runs at a frequency of 21,600vph (3Hz).
The introduction of the larger size comes with the addition of a steel bracelet with a folding buckle in the same matte finishing as the case. This bracelet changes the look of the watch quite a bit, making it seem more sporty and a bit less “field”. Of course, there’s still the option of a woven nylon NATO-style strap in green if you want that pure military look and feel.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is available for CHF 595 on the green NATO strap or CHF 710 with the steel bracelet. This is a reasonable increase considering the 38mm size starts at just under CHF 500 for the bare steel ones on NATO strap.
For more information visit Hamiltonwatch.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.