This new line of Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical watches come with green, black and white dials and a dark greenish-brown PVD case that pushes them further into the “tacticool” category. To be clear, this isn’t an issued watch, so Hamilton can take some liberties with the colors they use.
The Khaki Mechanical is Hamilton’s way of paying the highest form of respect to original military field watches that left a mark on purposeful watchmaking indefinitely. It tastefully allows more modern wrists to appreciate the origins of many popular designs in a reliable, obtainable way.
Any new iteration of the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical has big shoes – or rather, big combat boots – to fill. What you’re looking at is the progeny of a bona fide piece of American history.
This update to the classic Khaki feels like it’s hit the target. At 38mm it’s modern and wearable, while still maintaining that sort of old-school cool that’s been in American military watch DNA since the ’40s, and it comes with new green and white dials, along with a new case finish called Earth PVD.
When it comes to American military watches, all roads lead to an old set of government specifications put out by the Army Ordnance Department to major watchmakers in the 1940s: a robust hackable movement, tough crystal, center sweeping seconds, and a one-piece strap. In short, it was the perfect recipe for a watch that could take a bit of roughing up; it left out anything it didn’t need in order to do one thing well, and that one thing was simply telling the time.
Hamilton answered the government’s call and produced watches for Allied forces during WW2. It can be argued that this is when the “modern” field watch came to be, setting the tone for this 2019 iteration of the Khaki Field. In the ’60s the government updated to “GG-W-113” and “MIL-W-3818B” specifications, and all that means is that the watches got a little larger and a little more legible with a few tweaks. The Khaki Field Mechanical shares the largest swath of design language with this ’60s-era design. Plenty of airmen and soldiers of the time carried out their duties with these purely functional timepieces on the wrist. Many examples saw duty during the Vietnam Conflict.
This new line of Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical replica watches come with green, black and white dials and a dark greenish-brown PVD case that pushes them further into the “tacticool” category. To be clear, this isn’t an issued watch, so Hamilton can take some liberties with the colors they use. Being free from the government-mandated design regulations has allowed Hamilton to have some fun with the aesthetic; the white dialed version is unequivocally handsome. They’ve kept the philosophy of the original watch but since cost-saving measures and stringent regulations aren’t part of the equation, it’s perhaps a much better watch than its recent ancestors.
The new dial and case colors are the most striking element of this iteration of the Khaki Field watch, but let’s put the new colors aside for a moment and focus on the technical updates. The major change is the inclusion of the H-50 movement, a movement we saw last year in the Khaki 50mm special edition (an upsized Khaki with a red-tipped second hand). There couldn’t be a better movement to put in a watch like this. It’s a proprietary Hamilton caliber, it’s hand-wound, and it features an 80-hour power reserve. That’s double the power reserve of the prior models, which inversely means you’ll have the opportunity to wind it only half as much. Advancement requires a bit of sacrifice, sadly.
At 38mm, it’s just about the perfect size for a field watch too, and naturally it comes on a green or brown NATO. The crystal is a reliable sapphire just in case anyone plans to actually use it in the field, and it’s rated to 50 meters of water resistance. Those are some solid specs, but not surprising given this is a piece of kit whose ancestors have actually seen the sort of action that could mutilate a watch. It’s one of those designs that changes so infrequently because it’s simply so good at what it does that it doesn’t need to.
A larger trend has been happening over the last few years where military looks are creeping into the streetwear and trendy aesthetic; the MA-1 flight jacket has become a mainstay, along with rugged outerwear and combat boots. It’s easy to lump the release of this Hamilton into that world, but for the true milwatch nerds there’s a little treat with the new line of dial colors. In addition to green and black we are getting a crispy white dial. Remember those early government specifications for the American field watch? They mostly called for black dials because it’s much easier to conceal.
Here’s what’s interesting: Before those initial specifications were issued there were plenty of soldiering watches featuring white dials. In fact, many early Hamilton Army Ord. Dept. watches had white dials, so this new Khaki Field Mechanical does in fact draw on some legitimate history. It’s a charming anachronistic mashup of military watches from the distant past wrapped up in a package fit for the present.
The Super-Luminova is what Hamilton calls “sand colored,” but it’s probably best described as faux patina. It fits in with the anachronistic mashup appeal of the watch, and it’s seldom seen on white dials. The contrast the indices present on the white-dialed variant is particularly interesting, as the last time we saw this sort of contrasting look was during the FDR administration. On the black and green dials it works even better, as Hamilton hasn’t been too heavy-handed with the faux vintage look. The numbers printed on the dial(both black and white) have a bit of a glossy finish, which is very much something that wasn’t present on issued watches. The gleaming effect actually helps legibility.
New for this iteration of the Khaki is an Earth PVD coating with a slight textural graininess. The new look is a sensible design break from the norm that’s easy to imagine as a finish a soldier might consider. The Khaki is a watch that’s ripe for frequent strap changes, and it will be interesting to see what makes this new case finish pop. For the purists, however, there’s still a trusty old stainless steel option with a black dial. Technical updates are always a good thing for any piece of military-grade equipment, it’s an essential part of maintaining wrist superiority.
So we already have our everyday watch in the collection, so now its time for something a little different. Field watches. Now, as a concept, they somewhat live in the shadows of divers when it comes to tool watches. However, field watches steam from the same desires a diver has. The necessity for something tough, durable, easy to read and reliable.
The main difference seems to be the field watches disregard for bulk. Diver watches historically benefit from being larger in size. Whether that be favouring a 36mm case size rather than 32 – 34mm back in the 50s, or 44mm over 40mm in 2010. Field watches, on the other hand, suit being more slim, subtle and under the radar. They may not have received the limelight as divers have, but they certainly still have a place in your collection.