Are you curious about the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical watch? We have all of the details you need to know. Read on to learn more.
The Khaki Field Mechanical is, to many, the quintessential field watch. It’s a direct reissue of the no-nonsense mil-spec design contracted by the US government throughout the Vietnam Conflict.
Unlike its predecessors however, which were cheap and disposable, the modern Khaki Field line is rugged, yet refined. The kind of watch that looks just as good in a t-shirt and jeans as it does in a smart casual outfit. If that’s the kind of thing that appeals to you, definitely check this one out.
Hamilton is a company that needs little introduction. Established in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1892, their watches have been seen on the wrists of prominent figures throughout history.
They’ve made some notable achievements in watchmaking, including the world’s first electric battery-powered watch—and a favorite of Elvis Presley—the Ventura, and they’ve supplied the US military with timekeeping devices since World War II.
Although they ultimately came under Swiss ownership in 1979, they remain today most well known for their American military styled designs. The Khaki Field we’ll be looking at today is packed with that military heritage.
- Case diameter: 38mm (42mm including the crown).
- Lug to lug distance: 47mm.
- Lug width: 20mm. This is a great standard size with strap offerings from tons of brands.
- Height: Just about 9.7mm tall. Nice and low profile.
- Weight: 1.7oz (47g) and 2oz (60g) with the strap. It’s refreshingly lightweight and practically disappears on the wrist.
The Khaki Field Mechanical is available on a number of NATO straps, varying between nylon and leather and differing in color depending on which color variant of the watch you buy. I opted for the standard olive drab green NATO.
Unlike your average NATO strap, Hamilton has classed theirs up with some calf leather accents and a brushed steel buckle signed with their name.
Designed for legibility, the dial layout consists of a matte black face contrasted by crisply printed white numerals and a 60 minute track around the perimeter.
The syringe handset, a hallmark of military watches, extends right up to the markers, making it incredibly easy to read the time. Lume is applied to the hands along with the triangular 5-minute markers, just as it would be on vintage models.
The lume appears somewhere between tan and peach in color. This “faux patina” is meant to mimic the aging of old tritium lume.
The only other markings on the dial are the moden Hamilton logo above the center and the “Swiss Made” stamp of pride at the bottom. Nice and minimal, considering the old military-issued field watches were unbranded.
The case takes on a sandblasted matte texture. It’s smooth to the touch and gives off a warm subdued sheen. The lugs have a sloped curve to them and a subtle taper that squares off nicely at the ends. The lugs are also drilled out, making springbar changes quick and painless.
The caseback is nice but nothing special to remark on. It’s a standard screw-back with radial brushing and an engraved logo. The serial number and some specs are etched around the edges.
The crown is finished to match the rest of the case and signed with the modern Hamilton “H” logo. The large teeth are easy to grip and a pleasure to wind.
To wind the watch, simply turn the crown clockwise. A clutch in the movement will kick in when it’s fully wound, and you’ll feel it prevent you from winding any further. As there is no date on this watch, the crown pulls out to one position when setting the time. This stops, or “hacks” the second hand, allowing you to set the time precisely.
One luxurious upgrade from the Khaki’s vintage counterparts: the crystal. This one features a domed sapphire crystal that curves seamlessly with the bezel. In unison with the lugs, the profile of this watch is beautifully executed.
The Khaki Field is rated at 50m of water resistance. This means it’s fine for hand-washing, splashes, and light rain, but it’s not suitable for swimming or submersion.
It should be noted that there are two generations of the Khaki Field Mechanical. The first, released in 2017, contained an ETA 2801-2. Hamilton updated the movement to their own caliber H-50 in 2019.
All current versions on the market are powered by the H-50 exclusively. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for this watch on the used market.
- Mechanical hand-winding
- 17 Jewels
- 80 hours of power reserve
- 21,600 beats per hour (BPH)
In short, the power reserve indicates how long your watch will run on one full wind. This is great if you’re the type to wear different watches throughout the week, or if you put this one away for the weekend. It’ll still be ticking away when you come back to it. Just top it off, and you’re good to go.
21,600 BPH refers to the smoothness of the way the second hand ticks, or “sweeps.” Here, it can be broken down to 6 beats per second. Hard to count with the naked eye, but a stark difference in comparison to the 1 tick per second of a quartz powered watch.
While there are a lot of things to love about this watch, it’s not perfect. Here are some things that stood out to me.
Despite being a conservative 38mm, the watch wears larger on the wrist due to its long lug length. This also results in a significant gap between the springbars and the case. While this makes changing NATOs and other one-piece straps a breeze, the gap becomes apparent when worn on a two-piece strap.
Due to this, I believe the watch looks best on a NATO strap. Not only does the extra layer of fabric help to visually reduce the length of the lugs, it also prevents a sharp drop-off your strap might have if the lugs end near the edges of your wrist.
For those of you with smaller wrists like me, this is definitely something to consider.
The lume application isn’t the brightest, but it works fine enough to read the time in a dark room. The faux patina is a polarizing aesthetic choice among watch collectors, but here I find it tastefully done. It breaks up the black and white contrast of the dial without becoming a distraction.
The crystal lacks any kind of anti-reflective coating. While the rest of the watch is committed to being subdued and understated, the domed glass picks up all kinds of glare.
The crystal doesn’t warp the dial, so it’s not difficult to read the time, but it can be challenging to find a viewing angle free from reflections. This is also prominent in photos.
Lastly, and this is a minor nitpick, but I would’ve liked to see a screw-down crown for added water resistance. 50m is great for most situations, but I’d personally like the foolproof reassurance that water won’t find its way into my watch, especially on one as robust as a military field watch.
If you’re not quite sold on this one but still want to scratch that field watch itch, here are some more affordable alternatives to consider:
- Seiko SNZG15J1 – $165
- The Timex Mk1 – $185
- Bulova Hack – $316
- Marathon General Purpose Mechanical– $288
At $495, the Hamilton Khaki Field can be a steep purchase, especially if you’re looking at this one as your first watch.
If you’re a thrifty shopper, you may find one at a significant discount. Department stores like Macy’s are authorized retailers of Hamilton watches and often include them in their promotions.
Even at retail, I’d argue that there’s still great value in this watch. Hamilton is a brand with a ton of heritage that offers high quality Swiss-made watches with in-house movements. This is something that can seldom be found for this price, and many pay much more for similar criteria.
In essence, the Khaki Field Mechanical is all about simplicity. It lacks a date or any other complications you might want on your daily driver, but you don’t buy this watch for those reasons. You learn to love the little daily ritual of winding the watch.
This is a watch for the traditionalists and military nerds out there who want a taste of the old world without the risks of buying a vintage watch. It’s a faithful reissue, something harder to come by than you’d expect.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!