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Review: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm – An Affordable Blast from the Past

by Daniel Chua on June 6, 2018

As the vintage market picks up steam, brands have been catching on with re-issues of perennial fan-favourites. Hamilton’s releases for Baselworld 2018 are no different, with striking military-inspired pieces that has quickly garnered attention amongst collectors.

Hamilton has launched 2 dial variations of the model: a black dial and brown “tropical” dial.

 

Review: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm

Historical Considerations

 

There are 2 versions of the original military watch – GG-W-113 and MIL-W-46374. These watches were produced by different manufacturers, including Hamilton. Although they look identical, the former was issued to military pilots and the latter, of which the Khaki Field Mechanical is based upon, was issued to ground troops. They were designed to be cheap and disposable, yet rugged and dependable.

In addition, these watches were issued on nato straps which served a functional aspect: waterproof and durable, allowing them to withstand the rigors of combat.

 

The Dial, Hands and Case

 

The dial of the new Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm bears close resemblance to its military-issued versions.

 

At first glance, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical looks just like any other Hamilton field watches. Its dial, save for the color, is almost an exact copy of the model issued to American soldiers in the past. The new watch dons a handsome black (or “tropical” matte brown) dial with contrasting white double-hour scales and indices. Functionality is prioritised amongst others with the dial being uncluttered and highly legible. Encompassing them are triangular hour markers, which have been painted over with Super-LumiNova “old radium” lume and gives off a green glow. Love it or hate it, we reckon that the choice of faux-patina lume is appropriate as they radiate a nostalgic-charm that is in line with the vintage theme.

And – purists rejoice as there isn’t a date complication to spoil its visual balance. This tasteful design cue pays faithful homage to the original and contributes to the symmetrical outlook. Props to Hamilton.

 

The lack of a date complication contributes to its overall visual balance. Additionally, its hands set and hour markers have been coated with “old radium” style Super-LumiNova lume.

 

Similar to the dial, the hands set are a copy of its historical counterpart. The hour and minute sword hands and arrow-tip seconds hand have been coated with faux-patina Super-LumiNova lume, providing excellent legibility. An interesting note about the hands is that they were originally a design specification by the US Government whom prescribed their dimensions and thickness.

 

An original document by the US Government, which specified the dimensions and thickness of the hands of the original military field watch.

 

The militaresque motif is further exhibited in its case. The Khaki Field Mechanical sports a stainless steel case with bead-blasted finish, giving it a rugged yet chic outlook. Protecting the dial is a domed sapphire crystal. The usage of sapphire, we feel, is an interesting choice given its essence. Nonetheless, it doesn’t detract from its looks. But perhaps the make-or-break detail of any re-issued watches is their size. As its name suggests, the watch comes in a 38mm form factor – a bump of 4mm over the original. Decidedly, most would consider 34mm to be a tad small, with 38mm being the perfect middle ground. Despite its increased size, we feel that the watch still wears and fits rather nicely on the wrist, partly attributed to its slender case profile of 9.5mm.

 

The bead-blasted case on the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical makes it feel like a true military wristwatch: basic and no-nonsense.

 

If we were to nitpick, it would be that of its crown. Although the presence of a signed crown is commendable on a watch at its price bracket, we felt that it could’ve been thinner, though admittedly, a thicker crown would make winding easier.

Turning the watch over, you’ll find a solid metal case back with engraved branding. The watch is accompanied on a green or brown fabric nato strap, depending on dial color, with matching brown leather hardware and padding.

 

The movement

 

Powering the watch is the ETA 2801-2 ébauche – a manual winding and dateless version of the renowned ETA 2824-2. It features a 42-hours power reserve and beats at 28,800 bph. Given its proven track record, we felt that it was a natural choice. There is no clear case back to view the movement, nor official word on modifications made to the standard caliber, if any.

 

A solid stainless steel case back graces the Hamilton Khaki.

 

An intriguing fact about the watch is its nickname. Known as the “hack” watch, the original military-issued Hamilton was labeled as such due to its hacking ability which made time synchronisation easy as soldiers grouped up. Of course, we take hacking for granted as it’s standard of most movements today.

 

Competitive Landscape

 

The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical has a recommended retail price of SGD 690. Considering its build quality and overall feel, we reckon that it’s a good value proposition. Competitively, as a piece outfitted with a mechanical movement in its price point, there are few watches that would rival it, with most of them being offerings from the brand itself. But if price wasn’t a limitation, it’d open up to the sea of horology.

 

 

We kick things off with the the Seiko 5 SNZG15: a timepiece that is sure to tug at the heartstrings of true watch aficionados. It features everything you’d expect of a field watch, such as a distinct dial and powerful lume on its numerals and hands. Though its build quality is not superlative in any aspect, it is nonetheless a solid and extremely versatile piece that’ll withstand your daily jaunts. The watch is equipped with the robust Seiko 7S36 automatic movement with a power reserve of over 40-hours, and day and date complications. Additionally, its water resistance is rated at at 100 atm, compared to the Khaki’s 50 atm. With a retail price of sub $200, we feel its an incredible value-for-money timepiece.

For connoisseurs who’d like vintage charm with modern innovations, we propose the Tudor Heritage Ranger. Launched during Baselworld 2014, its design pays homage to the Tudor Ranger of yesteryear – a close relative of the Rolex Explorer I, and has since grown to become a fan favorite. Not surprising, given its well-proportioned dial, clean looks and dependable build quality. Sized at a modest 41mm, the watch wears nicely on the wrist. Powering it is the Tudor Calibre 2824: a movement based off the elabore ETA 2824. The Tudor Heritage Ranger is priced at CHF 2,700 on leather strap / CHF 2,800 on metal bracelet.

Finally, we suggest the Omega Railmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer 40mm (ref. 220.10.40.20.01.001). The watch is sized at a conservative 40mm and has a full-matte stainless steel case. It offers an uncluttered dial with excellent visual balance. The Railmaster is powered by the Omega caliber 8860: a METAS-certified movement boasting a power reserve of 55-hours and magnetic resistance of 15,000 Gauss. It is priced at SGD 6,750 on leather / SGD 6,900 on bracelet.

 

Conclusion

 

Despite an increased case size, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical manages to pull off a sleek and comfortable fit on the wrist, partly due to its slender case profile.

 

Handsome and versatile, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm is a well-executed take on the original soldier’s watch. It retains most of the original’s core design elements and offers true vintage charm with modern strides. Although its updated size might not suit all, we can’t deny the incredible versatility this piece offers. And, with the attention it attracted among collectors, we reckon that Hamilton have hit a home run.

 

Edited 12:46am 7 June, to correct MilSpec standards as pointed out by commenter.

 

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4 Comments
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  • Beonson
    August 5, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Yes home run once you replace the band with suitable nato

  • Just another guy on the web
    June 10, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Another “thrilling” review by Deployant. For anyone reading this site with the inention of being, you know, informed, my advice is to disregard almost everything written above and visit a real watch site.
    Daniel, do you not think it would be a good idea to read those other sites for the appropriate information before typing nonsense time and time again?
    Or maybe just give up and find another hobby?

  • Bob
    June 6, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    mil-w-3818b spec was meant for ground troops / general purpose and only made by benrus. The gg-w-113 spec was meant for aviators and made by several manufacturers, including benrus, hamilton, marathon

    both specs were not exactly made to be disposable. it was the mil-w-46374 spec issued to procure low cost, disposable alternatives to the previous mil-w-3818b spec watches

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