Hands-On: The Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph — Bund-Strapped And Ready For Action
Bund-strap haters beware, there’s a new sheriff in town! The new Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph takes the rugged good looks of the brand’s beloved field watch and transforms them into a beefy Flieger-style chronograph offering. Hamilton has quite literally dared to go big in this latest offering in their Khaki Field lineup. But is this a watch that flies too close to the sun, or is it a bull’s eye? As one of the few Fratello proponents for a bund strap, I was given a special mission to strap this one on and head to the front lines to see if this truly was a watch worthy of the leather it sits on.
Size does matter
Before I get started, there’s something you should know about me and my collection. And that’s the fact that I do not own a watch larger than my Omega Speedmaster or my Seiko Baby Turtle (which tops the collection at 42.3mm). In fact, I’ve even started gravitating towards smaller watches of late. Something which I blame the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze, which I wrote about last month here. The 38mm case inspired me to start wearing some of the smaller watches in my collection. Later on this week, you’ll even get to read an article on my vintage Tissot dress watch from the late 1950s, which has a 34mm 14k gold case.
Switching over to the 44mm Hamilton Khaki Field Chronograph should have been a shock to the system. It even comes on a thick bund strap, which is the best way of making a large watch feel even bigger. But somehow, I absolutely loved the watch. Though some might say that 44mm is too big for my 7 inch (17.8 cm) wrist, I’d say “mind your own business!” And happily go on wearing this chunky Hamilton all day long, bund and all! Though I haven’t yet felt the need to add an oversized pilot’s chronograph to my collection. This Hamilton would be a serious contender should this ever be the case. Would this watch work in 42mm? Absolutely! But there’s something charming about the unapologetic dimensions. Sometimes you gotta go big!
The Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph
So, you now know two things about the watch. It’s big, and I love it. Let’s look at what justifies my infatuation with this watch. The Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph is a field watch on paper, but to me, the size, dial layout, hands, strap, and chronograph function make this a pilot’s watch. Speaking of the dial, the matte black dial holds two recessed sub-dials at the 12 and 6 o’clock positions. These offer an elapsed 30 minute and 12 hour counter respectively. At 9 o’clock, a small running seconds hand sweeps over a white indicator every 15 seconds. At the 3 o’clock position the Hamilton “H” logo, brand name, and the word “automatic” balance out the dial perfectly.
Balance is one of the strongest points of this watch. This dial is exemplary when it comes to taking an existing design and integrating a chronograph complication to it. Five white Vertex-style three-dimensional Super-LumiNova numerals line each side of the dial, the “12” and “6” make way for the aforementioned subdials. Each of the hour markers is flanked by an additional 3D lume triangle, matching the aged-radium lume look also found on the hands. It’s a subtle detail, but the markers, which are part of the minute track, at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions are slightly longer and more slender than the rest. Did I mention the date window? No? Well, that’s because there isn’t one! Kudos to Hamilton for upholding their field watch’s datelessness.
Six hands, two pushers
Hamilton has gone with nickeled syringe hands for this watch. I noticed that they are the same hands found in their Khaki Aviation models. Including the Khaki Aviation Converter automatic Chronograph Air Zermatt that Rob covered earlier this year. The nickel finish on the hands is complemented by their beautiful matte finish. This means that they often appear white when being looked at head-on, without offering any shine or reflection. The same finish can be found on the small baton hands in the sub-dials, and the long needle-like chronograph hand, as well as the watch’s case. The chronograph hand features the only element on the watch which is remotely shiny, in its lacquered red tip. A round “lollypop” counterpoise echoes the design of the second’s hand found in most of Hamilton’s Khaki Field watches.
The watch’s case is 44 × 52 millimeters of sleek bead-blasted steel. Standing tall at 14.2mm thick, this is a watch with plenty of wrist presence without going over-the-top in terms of thickness. The bund strap boosts this dimension to 16.5mm. Meaning that, should you want to take off the pad, the watch would gain in terms of how streamlined it sits on the wrist. The pushers are extremely satisfying to operate, starting, stopping, and resetting the chronograph with a hearty satisfying click. The crown is large and grippy, making it a joy to set the time. Once you’ve set the time, you’ll be happy to screw it back into the case, restoring the 100m water-resistance of this watch. This is a watch ready for anything you might throw at it.
Inside the chunky steel case, we find Hamilton’s H-21 automatic chronograph movement, which offers the wearer of the watch a generous 60-hour power reserve. If you find yourself in a quiet room, you’ll definitely hear the rotor kick into action whenever you move your wrist. This is something which I don’t personally mind, as it reminds you that you’re wearing a mechanical watch, and adds to the overall charm of the experience. However, for those of you that have an issue with rotor noise: you have been warned. The H-21 caliber also includes a 12-hour chronograph, which I feel is as useful as it gets in terms of chronographs. Anything under six hours feels like it might, on rare occasions, not be enough, and anything more than 12 feels like overkill. This is just, like, my opinion man. Don’t DM me!
You might have noticed that I’ve left the most divisive element for last: the bund strap. In all seriousness though, I really appreciate that Hamilton makes the bold choice to go with this style of strap. It’s extremely well finished, and the brown calf-backed khaki green nubuck makes it not just comfortable, but tough. It’s bound to develop plenty of character the more you wear it. The good thing with leather straps is that it’s simple enough to swap them out. If you’re anything like I am, you probably already own a couple of decent 22mm options that would perfectly suit this watch. That being said, if you truly are anything like me, you’ll proudly rock this watch on the bund strap provided!
Call me an optimist, or call me a fool. Call me whatever you want (just not on my cell phone), but I truly struggled to find anything to critique with this watch. Does it have flaws? Sure. But somehow, because the Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph know exactly what its trying to be, all the flaws can be forgiven. It is a big pilot’s chronograph, and any issues you might have with this one come with the genre and not the watch itself — a 44mm IWC wouldn’t fit the wrist that differently, but would certainly drain your bank account in a whole different way.
So what does this leave us with? Well, I would say that this watch is one of Hamilton’s strongest offerings to date, especially when it comes to chronographs. The charm of their 38mm field watches is undeniable, and if you already own one, what better companion than a big chunky chronograph with the same rugged handsome looks. Check out the Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic Chronograph and other offerings on the Hamilton website here.