Hands-On With The Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Automatic Chronograph
Many of the readers of Fratellowatches come from the United States according to our statistics. In that respect, we feel that this part of our readers are probably more familiar with Hamilton than we are. You should know, that Hamilton wasn’t very known in Europe until a few years ago when their PR machine started here as well. Especially with the Khaki models, they quickly conquered the market for affordable mechanical watches. The presentation we received by one of the Hamilton representatives last year in Basel was reason for us to have a closer look at this brand. We asked or a Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Chronograph watch and we received it for a hands-on review.
The Hamilton company has a long history that goes back to 1892 and their aviation heritage to 1919, when pocket watches were still the way to go. The Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Chronograph reference H76416135 we have here seems to be a retro model from the 1970s according to this article on Hodinkee and the official Hamilton website here. We believe that it is. We also believe that there is a group of people that might even buy it because of the link to the Hamilton chronograph used by the Royal Air Force in the 1970s.
We will stick to the watch itself and how we experienced it during the time we had it on our wrists. The design of the case definitely finds its roots in the 1970s, with the C-shaped case model. The dial could be referring to even older watches to be honest, with the bright Luminova numerals and indexes. The hands on this watch seem to be typical for pilot watches, as we’ve also seen similar shaped hands on – for example – the Sinn Flieger Chronograph reference 356.
One of the things we noticed is that this watch has a considerable weight, mainly due to the stainless steel bracelet. If you don’t like this, you can easily put it on a leather strap or NATO-strap. Hamilton also has a version that comes with a NATO-strap. The 41mm stainless steel case feels comfortably on any wrist although it appears to look slightly bigger than that. One point we’d like to raise is that the watch is quite thick. Make sure to try it on your wrists before buying this, or you should be already used to wearing thick watches.
The dial is super legible and the chronograph is very easy to read with only 1 sub counter for the minutes and the large central hand for the chronograph seconds. The sub counter on the left is used for the normal seconds. The chronograph buttons are easy to operate, even though they are slightly hidden in the case design. They have a soft push to it but – if you are a watch enthusiast – you will recognize the use of an ETA movement in this Hamilton.
The movement is a Hamilton caliber H-31 chronograph and exclusively created for Hamilton by ETA. Both companies are part of the Swatch Group and we’ve seen other Swatch Group brands having the same advance of having their own exclusive manufactured movement by ETA (click here).
As you can see in the photo above, the movement has an interesting finish and the rotor has been engraved with ‘Hamilton’. Personally we would rather have a solid stainless steel caseback with it comes to relatively standard ETA-based movements but our guess is that the target group for this watch is into mechanical watches and loves to see the inner workings of the watch. Perhaps we have just become spoiled watch snobs after all these years of running this blog. In any case, there is nothing wrong with this movement or the accuracy in the time we’ve worn it. The photo shows that the case back is screwed on the case itself with 5 screws. We rather see a screw-in case back for watches in this price segment to be totally honest with you, but this will do the job as well.
The case has a small corrector on the left side for setting the date on this Hamilton Khaki. Just like a Speedmaster, we feel that this watch should not have a date. But also here we note that the target audience for this watch could be a bit different from purists and demand some functionality like a date. We feel the watch would have been more ‘finished’ when the date disc would have been in the same color as the dial and the numerals been printed white (or off-white), to match the numerals on the dial. In any case, the corrector makes it easy to adjust the date and perhaps the white date disc makes it easier to identify the date aperture as such.
Some of the details of this Hamilton Khaki Pioneer Pilot Automatic Chronograph are worth mentioning. The clasp has a nice engraving of the brand’s name, is easy to use and feels comfortable on the wrist. Personally we probably would have voted for a NATO-strap on this watch, but that is mainly due to the weight. The bracelet has a polished center link that made us decide on the NATO strap to be honest. We feel that a pilot’s watch is most of all a tool watch and polished parts should be only used very carefully with this type of wrist watch.
The clasp uses two pushers (a spring mechanism is inside) to release and close the clasp. The outside of the clasp is brushed and also carries the brand’s name.
In this price range (1545 Euro ~ $2100 USD) we feel that you buy a solid and good watch from a big brand. Although we have some points of criticism here and there, we do know and understand that the points we raise would perhaps have been more valid on a watch that carries a price tag double the amount of this Khaki Pioneer Pilot Auto Chronograph. You are absolutely buying an interesting every day wear timepiece for this money. If you put this on a cool vintage looking leather strap or a nice NATO-strap, you have a stunning new watch for this kind of money.
More information can be found on the official Hamilton website.