Hands-On Watch Review: The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze
Hamilton’s 38mm steel sweetheart has stolen the hearts of many watch enthusiasts around the world since its release in 2018. Almost an exact replica of the Vietnam war era US government-issued field watch, the slightly more modern proportions make it a popular choice for an everyday watch. Unafraid to follow the bronze trend, Hamilton released its already popular Khaki Field Mechanical in (you guessed it) bronze earlier this year. Is this a perfect pick for the peculiar patinating alloy? I got a chance to spend some quality time with the watch to try and find out!
Let me start by addressing the elephant in the room: no, the faux-tina used on the hands and markers doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, the toasty tone of the lume used for the hands and markers suits the overall look of this watch. To me, it’s more of a design choice, and not so much an attempt to give the watch a vintage look. White or even greenish lume would simply not have looked as good. The contrast that the creamy color creates with the white hands and markers is as good as the case itself.
Better in bronze?
And the case is pretty damn good. Hamilton has followed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula. Maintaining the shape and dimensions of the steel model released in 2018, but going with bronze… and titanium! That’s right, all that glitters (or turns green) is not bronze, and if you flip over the Khaki Field Mechanical, you’ll find a matte titanium case back. Could Hamilton have used steel and called it a day? Sure. But the use of titanium is not just cool, but it probably saves some weight, is friendlier to the skin, and gives the watch a more premium feel.
That’s just the back of the case, the rest certainly offers something worth talking about. The classic shape works incredibly well with the bead-blasted finish. A finish that is more than suitable for what is in essence a tool watch with some military DNA (which also explains the secondary 24h-track). I don’t need to tell you that the size is also perfect. Whereas I find 38mm a smidge too small for a dive watch with a bezel, fixed-bezel watches like this Hamilton simply shine at this size. Speaking of dimensions, everything else is pretty spot on. Only 9.60mm tall, it sits comfortably on the wrist, and the 20mm lugs allow for a lot of fun to be had with all kinds of straps.
Plenty of wrist presence
A lug-to-lug of 44mm gives the watch plenty of wrist presence, without going overboard. Even if you may be thinking that 38mm is too small for you, keep in mind that the lug-to-lug measurement also makes a big difference when it comes to how it feels on the wrist. The Khaki Field Mechanical feels right at home on my 6.7 in (17cm) wrist. In part, thanks to the leather nato strap that the watch comes on. At first sight, it looks like a single-pass leather nato, but in reality, it has an additional layer below the watch. The only bit of hardware is the matte steel buckle, all other loops are made of leather. This subtle detail adds to the cohesiveness of the look and is something that I had never seen before.
Respect the color palette
The leather used is thin and supple nubuck, in a beautiful brown color. I would love to see how the strap ages and develops character as you wear it. Speaking of metamorphic processes, the strap will certainly be far from the only thing aging gracefully with use. As you are all surely aware by now, the bronze used for the case of this watch will also transform. Oxidation caused by the elements that the watch comes into contact with will slowly change the Hamilton’s Arizona sand-colored case’s earthy reddish-orange tones to darker, muddier hues. Depending on what exactly the material comes into contact with and how far the patination process is allowed to carry on, even hints of teal and green can emerge.
This is certainly part of the appeal of buying a bronze watch. I’m sure you’ve seen the impressive pictures out there, taken by those unafraid to take their bronze watch’s patina to the limits. However, for those not looking to expedite the process, you’ll be happy to hear that the patina is guaranteed. With time, it will come. And for those who would rather maintain the pristine look of their watch, well you can certainly do that too. It will just require a little bit more TLC than your stainless-steel pieces. Something that won’t require any maintenance is the beautiful domed sapphire crystal.
Form follows function
Let’s now take a closer look at what makes this watch such a winner in my book. The perfectly legible black dial with printed white markings could be blamed for being somewhat boring and pedestrian. However, the design, scale, and execution give it such a strong purpose-driven feel that has you not thinking twice about it. The dial just makes sense. It would be impossible to make it more legible and functional. This is a field watch after all, so there’s absolutely no need for shiny applied markers or any other frills.
The Arabic numerals surrounding the dial (flanked by their 24-h equivalents, give you all the information you need. That being said, the hands are, to me, one of the design highlights and signature elements that perfectly straddle the line between highly functional and beautifully ornate.
Simple baton hands would have done the job just as well, but the wonderful syringe hands used by Hamilton are not just a call-back to the vintage models, they also make this watch special. The seconds hand with its subtle lump-filled tip is elegant, functional, and quirky. Although the quirk mostly comes from the large lollypop counterpoise, which was likely also a functional element. Allowing the wearer of the watch to quickly see that the movement is still functioning. I mentioned it before, and I’ll go ahead and insist — the tan-colored lume is in no way a dealbreaker here. It is perfectly integrated into the color scheme of the watch, and would not make sense to have gone with a different tone.
Under the titanium hood
As if all these features were not enough, what’s inside the watch continues to tick all the boxes. Hamilton has gone with the caliber H50. A hand-winding movement with an impressive 80-hour power reserve! Yes, you have to wind it yourself, but you won’t have to do it too often! And when you do have to give the movement a wind, you’ll certainly enjoy the process! The big bronze crown makes it as easy as can be to enjoy the silky-smooth winding, with just enough feedback and sound to remind you that gears are turning and the mainspring is coiling up, ready to provide just over three days of life to the watch.
I never expected to like this watch as much as I did. In fact, I didn’t even expect to see it. It was a pleasant surprise to find it waiting here at Fratello HQ on my first day back after moving to The Hague. Instantly drawn to it, it took its place on my wrist where it spent the rest of the day. Not often does a watch feel so right from the moment you put it on. It was hard to put it back in the box, but when I was asked to write about it, I happily strapped it back on, and the feelings came flooding back. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I see Hamilton in my not-too-distant future. And if the watch that makes its way to my wrist is the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze, I’d certainly be one happy camper.
The watch retails at €745 on the official Hamilton website, and what you get for less than €1000 is hard to beat. For more information please visit the Hamilton website here. Check out our coverage of its release from earlier this year here.
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