Hands on review of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
Hamilton is a brand that works very well within the Swatch Group. Thanks to its history and its positioning, it offers watches at reasonable prices that appeal to both watchmaking enthusiasts looking for reeditions of classic models and customers who wish to acquire well-made mechanical watches without breaking the bank. It cannot be said enough: Hamilton's role is fundamental to the Swatch Group. The production volumes are not those of Tissot or even Longines but Hamilton has a key mission: to give taste to mechanical watchmaking so that subsequently the seduced customers can purchase other watches from the same group at higher prices. This is the reason why Hamilton explores many universes, is very involved in the world of cinema and even dares to have more "fashion" partnerships such as, for example, quite recently with Schott. However, the cornerstone of Hamilton remains watches inspired by military models because the reputation of the brand is primarily due to its position as an official supplier to the American armed forces.
We immediately think about the Khaki Field with multiple variations and which exists with different movements (quartz, automatic or handwind). The very good news was the presentation at the end of 2017 of a handwind model with a diameter of 38mm, the Khaki Field Mechanical which is a reedition of a watch from the 60s. With no date display and now equipped with the movement H-50 which is an evolution of the venerable ETA2801, this Khaki Field Mechanical is considered as one of the most desirable models of the collection because close to the original watch.
Hamilton made the decision not to stop there and to apply the same recipe to its Khaki Aviation collection. The brand leaves mainland and finds itself in the air thanks to the Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical which is a reedition of the W10 watch from the 70s. And there, I must once again take my hat off to Hamilton who was able to resist (I imagine) many temptations to make this watch even more commercial. There isn't any automatic movement, any date window, any see-through caseback ... the Pilot Pioneer Mechanical also wants to be faithful to the original watch and it is so in many details.
This watch is successful and it is in a way more ambitious than the Khaki Field Mechanical. The case is more complex with its tonneau shape without bezel (or better said: with an integrated bezel). Its dimensions are ideal (36x33mm) because the perceived size is bigger, as for any non-round watch. On the other hand, and this is for me a very rare example of such a situation, this reedition (or rather this inspiration) is smaller than the original model! The satin finish of the case gives a very pleasant rendering and creates a nice contrast with the black dial.
The dial is the element that I liked the most: its grained finish is superb and enhances the perceived quality. The peripheral scale is done with care and the beige super-luminova of the indexes and hands reinforces the neo-retro style. Hamilton also avoided unnecessary words, only the brand name (pleasantly written in italics) and the word "mechanical" were put on the dial. We could almost have done without the latter but as the original watch had the broad arrow symbol at this location, its presence doesn't shock me. All that's left is to focus on reading the time using the two main hands and the second hand. If I speak about the second hand, which doesn't have anything special, it is important to remember that the movement that powers the watch is again the caliber H-50.
The caliber H-50 is indeed a movement with a long power reserve (80 hours) obtained in particular thanks to a reduction in the frequency to 3 Hz. And obviously, this is felt on the behavior of the second hand which is less fluid than the one of a 4hz ETA2801. Nothing too serious, however, but the long power reserve makes less sense on a handwind watch since we would wind it everyday. The H-50 caliber also has the particularity of a fine adjustment which is more difficult to obtain by working directly on the balance wheel because it doesn't have any adjusting screw. Again, nothing serious because the movement H-50 is an excellent caliber carefully adjusted. But it is a point to have in mind if an intervention is necessary.
Either way, the Pilot Pioneer Mechanical is a very successful watch that brings a lot of pleasure. It is comfortable thanks to its contained size. Its retro atmosphere is well interpreted and Hamilton remained faithful and reasonable while avoiding unnecessary style effects. The watch has many attractive details such as the grained dial and the mineral glass also contributes to its charm. In addition, its water resistance is 100 meters, which makes it versatile. It is available with two types of strap: either with a gray NATO at a price of 745 euros or with a calf leather at a price of 795 euros in France. The price therefore seems reasonable but it is significantly higher than that the one of the Khaki Field Mechanical which is below 500 euros. However, the quality of the execution and the use of a specific case seemed to me to justify this difference. In any case, Hamilton again proves its ability to offer attractive military-inspired watches at fair prices.
+ a watch which is faithful to the spirit of the original piece
+ the finish of the dial
+ the comfort on the wrist
- the caliber is more difficult to adjust outside the Swatch Group