I think that for those of us who enjoy vintage watches, we’ve really been spoiled for choice over the past several years when it comes to new watches with a retro look. Brands such as Longines, Omega, Seiko, Doxa and even Rado have introduced some rather faithful reissues of beloved pieces and many of them even border on affordable. Today, we take a look at a recent release with a vintage theme from a brand that I always follow – and one that I’d love to love more: Hamilton. You’ve likely read a bit about this watch, but today we’ll get up close and personal with the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical. Now, I’ll go ahead and clear this up from the beginning: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical retails for $475 (420 Euros for the Continentals). Now, I know that roughly $500 means a lot of different things for a lot of different people, but I do hope to convince you that this watch is worth your time, and ultimately, your money.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is based on a watch manufactured by Hamilton, under the military spec of GG-W-113, for the United States Army between the years of 1967 and 1986. If you’re not familiar with the watch, go have a look here to see some examples made by Hamilton and a number of other companies under contract for Uncle Sam. They’re good looking watches that have a wide fanbase, but they’re still easy to source and they’re affordable at around $250 – 500 depending on the variation and condition. The 113’s contained a manual wind movement, an acrylic crystal, stainless case, and a wonderfully simple design. The only “issue” from a day-to-day perspective for some is that the watches come in at 34mm in diameter and feature a lug width that’s “somewhere around” 18mm, but honestly falls on the underside of that. What I can say is that Hamilton addressed the wearability points of the original 113 quite well.
First, though, you’re likely familiar with the Khaki line from Hamilton. These watches have been around for 20+ years and have rested upon military styling. I can recall my Dad picking up on early automatic version and it was exactly what we generally think of Hamilton Khakis: a really good, cleanly styled daily wear that, to some degree, may have been a bit of a response to the Swiss Army watches that invaded during the early 1990’s. Since that time, Hamilton has issued all sorts of Khaki watches, but they oddly never chose to include a manual wind model that was essentially an update of one of its most famous watches ever, the aforementioned GG-W-113. Thankfully, they chose to do so with the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical and here we are.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical brings the diameter up by a thoughtful 4mm to a still somewhat conservative 38mm. The watch in original form always sported long lugs and the new edition is no exception as the watch grows to a very modern 47mm in length. The case remains as stainless, but adds bead blasting for a rugged look that’s perhaps a bit more matte looking than the original. Still, it’s nicely executed.
In lieu of acrylic, Hamilton chose a flush (non-boxed), but slightly domed, sapphire crystal for the new Mechanical. Now, normally, I’d be upset about this compared to acrylic, but they managed to pull off choosing a crystal that doesn’t detract from the watch’s looks. And, with 50M of water resistance, I suppose the crystal only aids the cause while supplementing general durability.
The 20mm lugs are easily accessed due to drilled lugholes, which, again, remain faithful to the original. On the reverse side, a relatively basic screw down case back can be found stating the particulars.
When talking about the dial and hands found on the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, this is essentially an exact replica of the original 113 aside from the addition of the Hamilton name and “Swiss Made” at the bottom. So, that’s right, Hamilton didn’t muck this up with any type of date window. It’s a timeless design that’s pretty hard to argue with and hard not to fall for right away. And the lume? Yes, we have some SuperLuminova “old Radium” style here and it looks perfect. I know some people bemoan the old look, but if you’re complaining about it on this very watch, you’re probably the type of person who irons his own underwear.
Inside the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, we find the ETA 2801-2 handwinding movement. It’s a 17 jewel engine that runs at a healthy 28,800 bph and has 46 hours of power reserve. My limited use with it thus far tells me it’s a reliable timekeeper. As a plus, the winding is surprisingly smooth and silky.
As for concerns, I have only a couple. The first relates to the signed “H” crown. There’s nothing wrong with the crown itself, but it feels like a parts bin choice and I think it sticks out a bit far from the case. I think a less tall, unsigned choice would have been fine, but I can understand the need for branding. I also found the crown to leave a bit of a gap between its base and the case itself, which made it look like the wrong crown.
My other concern is really more one of indifference; I don’t love the leather and nylon pull-through strap. It doesn’t look bad: I simply don’t love leather with fabric (sorry, I know this is a big fashion thing in Europe – I see it every day). On the other hand, I can understand that Hamilton probably wished to class things up instead of including a basic nylon NATO, but it’s an easily solvable concern from the buyer.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical has apparently proven to be a huge success since its launch earlier this year. I think it shows that a reasonably priced mechanical watch, sans date, can work and that companies don’t have to throw a ton of modern conveniences in to satisfy the 80% of buyers out there. Plus, we finally have a nice alternative response to “Seiko” when friends who are new to the watch world ask about a mechanical watch for under $500. More than that, though, this is a great option for someone who has a diver, a chronograph, and who may not have experience with a manual wind watch. It can be paired with a variety of straps and while I don’t see it as working well with a suit, it’s definitely office suitable.
I’ve mentioned before that I lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for several years and that’s the historic home of Hamilton. I’ve purchased a few vintage models, but I’ve never truly bitten on their modern offerings. With the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, I can finally say that the brand has my attention and the best thing is that it’s affordable. If you find this watch at all attractive in photos, I think you’ll be pretty damn impressed in person.
For more information and to purchase directly, head to www.hamiltonwatch.com.