When discussing grail watches from all of the different genres of timepieces that exist, we tend to almost always bring up fairly exorbitant references — such as the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch for chronographs and the Rolex Submariner for dive watches, just to name a few. However, one model that sits at the top of its horological segment, routinely outclassing timepieces costing several times what it does, is the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm Watch. Despite an MSRP in the ballpark of $500, this widely beloved field watch boasts just as iconic a status as grail watches with five and six-figure price tags. Wanting to discover how this watch could garner such legendary status after less than a decade on the market, we’ve acquired an example in order to put it to the test in this hands-on review of the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm Field Watch.
At A Glance
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm Specs
Case Size: 38mm
Lug to Lug: 47mm
Case Thickness: 9.5mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement Type: Mechanical
Power Reserve: 80 Hours
Movement: Caliber H-50
Strap: Leather-Accented NATO Strap
Authentic Roots & Inspiration
A Brief History Of Hamilton
To fully appreciate and understand the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm, you first need to have a basic grasp on the company’s history. Founded in 1982 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hamilton started out as a small American watchmaking operation, though it always possessed an affinity for durable and dependable timepiece, with the outfit even producing a patented dust-proof design back when it was still operating under the banner of the Keystone Standard Watch Company. As Hamilton grew, its accuracy and dependability would catch the attention of the railroad industry, which would begin purchasing more than half of its entire stock during the expansion of America’s railroad network.
Though Hamilton had primarily focused on pocket watches for much of its infancy, the firm would start converting these pocket-carried timepieces into wrist watches for soldiers during the First World War. Fast forward to the Second World War and things really picked up for the brand. In 1940, America hadn’t yet joined the fight against the Axis powers in the Second World War, however, the U.S. was supplying equipment to Allied fighting forces during this time. This eventually lead the United States military to task a handful of horological outfits with developing ultra-durable watches that were built specifically to face the rigors of the battlefield — and featured a hackable caliber to help more precisely coordinate timing.
Just two-years-later in 1942, Hamilton would completely shut down its civilian watchmaking operation in favor of exclusively producing timepieces for the war effort — more specifically retooling its facilities in order to mass-produce the mil-spec GG-W-113 model field watch. Widely considered to be one of the first true American-made watches, the GG-W-113 would ultimately serve to aid more than one million U.S. soldiers to eventual victory over the Axis powers.
Though now owned by The Swatch Group and no longer an American brand, Hamilton still possesses a long and illustrious history that includes designing and producing one of the most iconic field watches in history with the GG-W-113 — as well as one of the earliest and most important American-made watches in horological history. And it’s this very watch that would serve as the direct inspiration for Hamilton’s contemporary take on the GG-W-113, the Khaki Field Watch family. In 2017, Hamilton released the Khaki Field range directly, backed up by modern mechanics all the while staying true to the WW2-era original’s mil-spec form. Since then, the company has introduced several additional variants of its iconic field watch, including the version that we’re testing here.
Getting Acquainted With A Reissued Icon
First Impressions Of The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm
Right out of the box, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical boasts an elegant simplicity to it. It sports an overall spartan and unmistakably utilitarian design in just about every way possible, from the case to the dial to its strap. With such an uncluttered design, the elements that are present become all the more important, and it’s abundantly clear that the team at Hamilton thoroughly sweated the details when penning this watch. Even with its blatant military-inspired aesthetic, the watch features what’s very clearly a top-shelf fit and finish that’s so well executed that even non-watch people would still be able to easily identify it as a luxury timepiece. Despite being on the smaller end of the spectrum with a case width of 38mm, the Khaki Field Mechanical also wears surprisingly nicely on the wrist, with a prominent appearance that looks as well proportioned as it is handsome.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm’s Case
Spanning 38mm across, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm is constructed around a stainless steel case with a beautifully-applied uniform-brushed finish. Water resistant down to 50 meters, the case features a sapphire crystal and a knurled push-pull crown with a Hamilton “H” logo. Though equipped with a 47mm lug-to-ug measurement and a fairly standard 20mm lug width, the Khaki Field Mechanical is nonetheless surprisingly svelte, with a case thickness of just 9.5mm. Just as impressive is the fact the watch tips the scales at only 2.04oz, making it hardly noticeable when on wrist — an area furthered by its use of a breathable NATO strap, though we’ll be touching more on that later. Both the watch’s weight and thin case dimensions are both largely owed to the H-50 caliber movement found inside, though more on that later, as well. Not only does Hamilton offer this case in several different finishes and constructions — including a top-shelf titanium variant — but its simple form factor also allows it to pair shockingly well with a wealth of different straps, bands, and bracelets — affording this already accessibly-priced watch a pretty great deal of versatility, as well as value.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm’s Dial
Alongside a simple and minimalistic yet rugged case, another main hallmark trait of field watches are their spartan and utilitarian dials. And in this regard, the Khaki Field Mechanical is wildly authentic, opting to stay true to its roots and GG-W-113 predecessor with 12 and 24-hour time scales with Arabic numerals, inverted triangular hour markers, railroad-style minute markers, a basic Hamilton logo, and absolutely nothing else — all set against a matte black background. Very much employing an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, the lack of liberties taken with the dial’s design make for an unmistakably vintage aesthetic that pays clear homage to WW2-era field watches — namely the A-11 and GG-W-113. A set of Losange-style hour and minute hands circle above the dial, paired with an arrow-style seconds hand with a circular bottom end. Like the triangular indices, the dial’s hand-set comes painted in a generous coat of bright-glowing Super-LumiNova.
An Affordable In-House
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm’s Movement
Keeping the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical ticking is the brand’s in-house-made Caliber H-50 movement. Originally based on the ETA 2801-2, this mechanical movement can be wound up to afford an impressive 80-hour power reserve. Offering a 21,600 frequency, this 17-jewel movement offers pretty solid bang for your buck, as it’s very seldom to come across in-house-developed movements in watches priced below $1,000 — let alone the $600 mark. This makes the Khaki Field Mechanical a particularly enticing choice for novice collectors or individuals looking to invest in their first “serious” watch.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm’s Strap
It’s very seldom that field watches don’t come paired with a nylon or NATO strap straight from the factory. And while the Khaki Field Mechanical is no exception in this regard — though it is available with a staggered three-link bracelet with a matching all-brushed finish for only $60 more — Hamilton has managed to put a rather upscale spin on the traditional nylon band, equipping its NATO strap with leather strap loops, leather-outlined hole punches, and pin buckles engraved with custom Hamilton logos (known as Bracelet Reference # H600694102). Not only does the addition of these leather accents earn the field watch a few additional style points, but the more rugged construction also ensures better longevity compared to an entirely textile band, and results in a more premium look.
An Accessible Horological Icon
Final Thoughts On The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm Field Watch
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm is very much a case of what you see is what you get, albeit in the best way possible. We’d long been fond of how the watch looked in photos online, and only took even more of a liking to it when it arrived at our studio and we began wearing it. And while since that time, we have only grown more fond of the field watch, we haven’t had any subtle details or elements reveal themselves over the course of our testing. It’s a simple yet beautiful watch that does a phenomenal job of paying homage to a WW2 icon. The watch also does a superb job of boasting an unmistakably military-inspired appearance while simultaneously being readily identifiable as a luxury timepiece — an incredibly difficult balancing act to pull off. Couple this with the Hamilton’s comfortable, breathable strap, impressive versatility, and in-house-developed movement — and the value proposition said movement offers — and it really isn’t hard to see why the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm Filed Watch now sits amongst the pantheon of best-in-class grail watches.
The Best Field Watches to Wear Every Day
While Hamilton’s Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm is undoubtedly one of the finest military-style timepieces currently on the market, it’s not the only choice for a top-notch field watch — the latest and greatest of which we’ve hand-selected for this guide to the best field watches to wear every day.