Review: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical (2018)

Introduction

Since the day I saw the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical 2018 on Hodinkee in February, I fell in love with it. I had not considered a Hamilton watch before, largely because Hamilton’s modern reinterpretation of the field watch just never looked right to me. However, with the 2018 release’s cleaner and more throwback aesthetic, I knew had to get one in for review.

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Specifications

Name: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical H69429931

Case Size: 38mm

Case Thickness: 9.5mm

Lug Width: 20mm

Lume: Superluminova

Crystal: Sapphire Crystal

Movement: ETA 2801-2

Water Resistance: 50m

Price: $495

Link: https://shop.hodinkee.com/products/hamilton-khaki-field-mechanical-38mm?variant=5420686901263

Case

The 38mm-in-diameter, sandblasted stainless steel case of the Khaki Field Mechanical has that fly under the radar, low-key cool aesthetic that I think a pure tool watch should have. It is also relatively slim at 9.5mm thick, and as such it sits low to the wrist with the distressed leather strap I have it on. It is very much the opposite of a flashy jewellery piece, and I adore that about this watch.

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The case profile is spare too, with minimal embellishments to be found. The slightly stepped bezel is the only additional design element on the case, and even that is done very cleanly. The case back is also minimally adorned, baring just the typical branding marks, ‘Swiss Made’ insignia, water resistance and model number.

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The lugs on the Khaki Field Mechanical are longer than what is typically proportional for its 38mm case size. This is done presumably to complement the Nato strap (which we’ll get to) that comes with the watch. The case-to-strap gap is very noticeable when using a non-NATO Strap — quite the shame as the drilled lugs make changing straps easy, but doing so can ruin the watch’s aesthetic.

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Obvious gap between the case and non-NATO strap

Dial and Crystal

On budget watches like this one, dial design is extremely important as it is the cheapest way to make the watch stand out from the pack, and the Khaki Field Mechanical really nails it.

While the Khaki Field Mechanical is very much a modern watch in its build and proportions, it stays true to that 70s field watch look in dial design. The concentric 24 hour military time markers, triangular 5-minute markers and uncluttered dial is evocative of the 70s, Hamilton-made GG-W-113.

The designers at Hamilton also left the date window out to really stay true to the old design. Watch purists, rejoice!

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Legibility on the Khaki Field Mechanical is pretty decent, but not fantastic. The white printed arabic numerals, white/cream hands and black dial base make for a well-contrasted dial that is easy to read head-on. However, because the slightly concaved sapphire crystal is not coated, the crystal does glare up quite a bit, especially at off-angles.

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Some glare in the crystal

In the dark, the Superluminova lume glows brightly and works well, but only lasts for about 4 hours after exposure to sunlight. I’m also not a fan of faux-patina in general because it can feel forced, but it is used minimally (and thus tastefully, in my opinion) here on the Khaki Field Mechanical.

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Strap

The stock NATO strap that comes with the Khaki Field Mechanical is done very well for the price of the watch. The strap that came with mine is the olive drab variant with dark brown leather accents, and works very well with the military look of the watch.

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The strap is reinforced with dark brown leather at the high wear areas of the strap holes and the insertion end. I don’t see this kind of attention to detail often in NATO straps, especially at this price point. Very impressive, Hamilton.

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Leather reinforcements at the strap holes

As much as I like how well the strap is built and how nice the color combination is, I’m just not a NATO guy. The NATO strap makes the watch sit higher above the wrist than it would on a regular strap, making it wear larger than its dimensions would suggest. This may be a good thing for some as the watch is small to begin with. For me though, I like my watches smaller as I prefer that old school small watch look on my wrist. I also wear cuffed shirts often and getting a tall watch under that can be a pain.

Movement

Timekeeping of the ETA 2801.2 inboard the Khaki Field Mechanical has been stellar. From my usage, it has kept to within 2-3 seconds per day, which is far better than what I expected from a watch in this price range. In fact, I don’t remember ever owning a watch at this price point that had accuracy like this watch out of the box.

While I’m not a stickler for movement accuracy — all I need is accuracy to the minute — it’s nice to know that Hamilton went through the trouble of regulating the watch. It adds to the perceived value of the watch, and is nice to see at this price point.

Serviceability is a huge factor in long-term ownership of a watch and the Khaki Field Mechanical excels in this respect. With its Swatch group association and thus access to ETA movements, this watch is infinitely serviceable both watchmaker-wise and parts-wise.

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The experience of winding and setting the watch is about average as far as manual winding watches go. The nicely sized and well-ribbed crown has a nice feedback to it during winding, but the experience is not the amazing tactile sensation that winding a high-end manual is.

Conclusion

The Khaki Field Mechanical is the watch to beat under $500. It’s a watch that has a storied history, is well-designed and comes with a great movement. Its low price does show through as design compromises like the sparely finished case, cheap hands and uncoated crystal, but that is part of the watch’s charm.

For the reasons mentioned above, I would get this watch over the common fixtures at this price range like Seiko SARBs, Seiko Presages, the Tissot Visodate, miscellaneous microbrand watches, vintage Zeniths and vintage Omegas. The Khaki Field Mechanical is awesome.

Further Reading

Amazing Hodinkee article: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/confusing-fall-warblers-collection-hamilton-field-watches-found

Official Milspec Document: http://everyspec.com/FED_SPECS/G/GG-W-113A_22400/

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