On May 15th 1918, the first airmail service flight took place between Washington and New York. This flight officially established the airmail service in the United States. Mail service was contractual between the postal service and the operators of whatever means of transportations the post used. Whether it was railway or steamboat, the owners of these companies signed a contract to carry the mail. The US, however, had no commercial airlines at the time, so the airmail service was carried out by air force pilots (Major Reuben Fleet of the Army Air Corps and Lieutenant George Boyle) and planes. That first airmail service flight delivered 4 bags of mail including a letter from the Postmaster of Washington to the Postmaster of New York. President Wilson placed the letter into one of the bags himself. This day also marked another memorable moment; the start of Hamilton’s history with aviation.
To mark this special occasion, each crew member received a new wrist watch from Hamilton in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Someone at Hamilton had a good sense for marketing campaigns and saw the opportunity to associate their timepieces with the US Airmail. For years, Hamilton advertised their watches as “The Watch of Aeroplane Accuracy” referring to that flight on May 15th, 1918. That was the first of many memorable collaborations between various pilots and other aviation explorers and Hamilton. This year marks the centenary of this association with a special timepiece; the Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono Limited Edition. A watch that only comes out in 1918 pieces and is based on the 2018 X-Wind model. I had my first longer encounter with the watch during the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest and now it is here for a hands-on review.
At first glance, the Hamilton X-Wind Limited Edition looks big. It measures 45mm in diameter, 14mm thick and 53mm from lug tip to lug tip. Still, on the wrist the watch sits comfortably, it does not bother me at all. I have a rather large wrist at 7.5”, which is convenient if I want to wear a larger watch. On the case – just like on the dial – of the Hamilton X-Wind there is a lot going on. The crown and the pushers of the chronograph are on the left side making it a destro (right handed) watch. The bottom pusher starts/stops the chronograph, the top pusher resets it. The screw-down crown with the Hamilton “H” in the middle sticks out quite a bit. The right side of the case also has 2 screw-down crowns. These control the inner rotating scales.
The two inner scales combined with the regular steel rotating bezel are the instruments that gave the name to the Hamilton X-wind; the crosswind calculators. This is a feature that you do not see often in watches, but one that’s very useful for pilots (an explanation can be found here). Let’s be honest here; the majority of the owners of the Hamilton X-Wind Limited Edition does not know how or when to need use this function. Still, it is an interesting feature that is pretty cool once you learn how to use it. The whole case is brushed with some minor polished elements like the sides of the crowns or pushers. The X-Wind is part of Hamilton’s Khaki collection, which mostly has military-inspired watches. Military timepieces (as well as most pilot’s watches) are never polished to prevent the sun gleaming on them. Brushed cases also look optically smaller than polished.
The case back is screw-on with a sapphire crystal fitted. It has an anti-reflective coating just like the crystal on the front. While the window is rather large there’s still enough place around it to display the most important information about the watch. These are; the reference number (H77960), the water resistance (10 bars or 145 psi), the Limited-Edition number (in this case it is 1814/1918) and the fact that the watch is Swiss Made. Also visible on both the case back and the dial, is the grade of the movement: Chronometer certified. The rotor has no branding but instead shows a cross-wind calculator scale. The Hamilton logo decorates the movement, under the rotor.
As mentioned earlier, the dial has a lot going on. First of all, the three subdials cover the 12-3-6 o’clock positions. The day-date, as you’d have with most destro watches, is at 9 o’clock. The indexes are short but the numerals all huge covered in Super-LumiNova, just like the sword hands. The hands and the numerals are sand yellow, but they glow green in the dark, which looks pretty cool I have to say. The 30-minute subdial at 6 has the Hamilton logo in it with dark grey barely visible. The sub at 3, which is the seconds counter, has a motif of a plane’s gyroscope. It’s only decoration though. The 12-hour sub at 12 has a white crosshair, it is the simplest of all 3. The whole dial has this black almost glossy, shiny finish. Despite all of the above, the dial is easy to read.
The X-Wind’s movement is their caliber H-21. It is technically an ETA/Valjoux 7750 with some modifications from Hamilton. The most prominent difference is the power reserve. Normal ETA 7750 movements have about 42-44 hours of power reserve, while the H-21 has 60 hours. This is the result of the silicon hairspring, which is in the H-21 making it the first Hamilton chronograph caliber with such a modification. Other Swatch Group brands like Certina or Tissot also use similar silicon hairsprings in their movements and those calibers are also amazing especially if you consider the price range the watches are offered in. The silicon hairspring, as you know, is neutral to magnetization so the watch does not only have longer power reserves it also becomes more accurate. Furthermore, the H-21 in the Hamilton X-Wind has been chronometer-certified by the COSC.
Some of you may wonder why the crown and the pushers are on the left side of the case. This is nothing new in this model line. Some earlier Hamilton Khaki X-Wind models also have this layout. It is a design necessity. See, pilots need to access the crowns, that control the bezels if they want to calculate the crosswind. They can only do this if the crowns are on the right, given that the pilot wears his/her watch in the left wrist. So, Hamilton took the movement and twisted it 180 degrees making the right side of the watch “empty” and providing space for the extra crowns on the side of the case. This is why the start/stop of the chronograph is the bottom (while it should be the top one) and the top is the reset button (while it should be the one below).
We get to the weakest part of the Hamilton X-Wind in my opinion, which is the strap. First of all, let me say that the quality of the strap is nice. It is pretty thick, 5.3mm, with stitching all around the edges. The H-shape buckle is a great idea and actually fits the watch perfectly. However, what lacks on this strap is the lack of braveness when it comes to patterns. The strap looks too sterile for my taste. It has no depth, no pattern, no texture. This is an area where Hamilton could and should step up. And please lose those two fake snap buttons from each end. Ok, rant over. The strap is 22m wide, non-tapering and relatively soft – for its thickness. Hamilton also offers the X-Wind on a bracelet.
The price of the Hamilton X-Wind is €2.250 on the leather strap. On the steel bracelet, it’s a bit more. Let’s see again what do we get for this price; a Swiss Made, automatic, chronometer certified chronograph with crosswind calculator feature, silicon hairspring with 60 hours of power reserve, a robust but wearable case i.e. an awesome pilots watch. I believe it is a lot that the Hamilton X-Wind has to offer for this money. Due to its large size, I’d suggest anyone who is planning on buying it should visit an AD and try the watch on first. If you love big, pilot chronographs the Hamilton X-Wind will not disappoint you.
If you wish to check out this or any other Hamilton watch please visit their website here.