So well-regarded was Hamilton’s contribution to the war effort that between 1943 and 1945, it was awarded with the
Army-Navy “E” award five times. This award was a symbol of unparalleled excellence in production. Of the 85,000
companies contributing to the war efforts, fewer than five per cent would receive this distinction. Hamilton’s
production included less specialized pieces, such as the accurate wristwatches supplied to the U.S. Army Ordnance
Department, which, like most military issued watches, was powered by the brand’s caliber 987 and its variants, and
the standard-issue military wristwatch which, with its black dial, luminous hours and well-built case truly fit the
mold of a field watch.
From the Field to the Jungle
It is a different watch, from a different war, that serves as the template for the Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm. It is
a watch made according to the military specifications laid down in 1964, known as MIL-W-46374, which listed the
requirements for the general issue military watch, requiring an economical and mass-produced timepiece. This
document, more than any other, effectively codified and standardized the modern field watch. It wasn’t long before
these watches started being issued in bulk by quartermasters across the American sphere of influence as American
combat troops entered the Vietnam War from 1965, with more than half a million in the theater by 1969.
The watch that Hamilton made for these GIs was a 33mm time-only watch with a clear dial layout and notable 24-hour
inner scale. Simple and effective, and, like the Hamilton watches worn by the generation before them, these watches
continued into civilian life. Not just on the wrists of returned soldiers, they were also sold in army surplus
stores and by companies like L.L. Bean and Orvis through the ’80s and ’90s. At this point, the watch’s identity was
well established as the Hamilton Khaki Field watch.
The Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm in Bronze
In 2019, Hamilton, now part of The Swatch Group, took the field watch back to its roots with a remake of the popular
Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm collection, a direct descendant of the military watches of the 1960s, albeit with some
welcome modern twists. Today we get the latest evolution of Hamilton’s best-selling model.
Of course, there’s the black dial with luminous triangles on the hour, both 12- and 24-hour time scales, and hash
marks for the minutes. The white hands are also luminous, with beige Super-LumiNova to match the dial. The crystal,
unlike its Vietnam-era ancestors, is hard-wearing sapphire, virtually scratch-proof. And the movement is the unique
H-50, a hand-wound mechanical with a solid 80 hours (or three-and-a-bit days) of power reserve. It’s wonderful that
Hamilton has kept true to the legacy of the field watch by opting to use a manual movement. Naturally there are
automatic watches in the brand’s catalog as well, but for this unabashed nostalgia piece, the hand-winder is
appropriate and appreciated. The lack of rotor keeps the case slim too, at 9.6mm tall, perfectly in proportion with
the 38mm width.
The real talking point about this case is the material. Bronze, an ancient alloy with great corrosion resistance and
the tendency to develop a patina unique to its wearer and the environment it’s in, is a popular material in watch
cases. Of course it also makes sense in the context of a military-inspired watch, as bronze is a metal commonly used
for military decorations and medals. The warm tones and charm of the alloy certainly synergize with the world-weary
aesthetic of the Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm beautifully. What’s more, the titanium caseback and 20mm leather NATO
strap ensure that the watch won’t leave any patina on your skin, which is a bonus.
This latest step in the long and winding journey of Hamilton’s field watches manages to both be looking back at the
model’s rich past while striding into its exciting future. While the adventures you might take the Hamilton Khaki
Mechanical 38mm in bronze on are likely a little less extreme than those of previous generations, the watch still
lives up to the rigorous standards and reputation of the field watch. In fact, with its improved mechanical
movement, sapphire crystal and a bronze case in need of a patina, this could well be the greatest Hamilton Khaki
yet. Add to this the price of USD 825, and you've got a watch that isn't just made for adventure, but asking for