29 Apr Hands On Review: Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical AKA “The Hack”
I’m going to be honest and admit that despite their solid reputation and enduring popularity, Hamilton’s Khaki Field range does nothing for me. The polished bezels on some are too dressy, and the dials are generally too busy and unbalanced for my taste. Even the best of them, the hand wound Officer Mechanical looks sterile and bland to my eye.
Then, a few months ago, Hamilton announced they were reissuing the watch that started it all, the MIL-W-46374B field watch, a.k.a. the “Hack”. This is a modern interpretation of the milspec watch Hamilton (along with several other U.S. watch brands) produced for the U.S. Military during the 1960’s until quartz watches made them obsolete. As you might guess, it gets its name from the movement’s hacking feature, which means the seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled out. From a military point of view back then it was a key feature for ensuring all personnel were operating to the same time. If you’ve ever seen a film where the characters synchronise their watches before a mission, it’s so they’re all working to exactly the same schedule as briefed, and not carrying out orders too soon because their watch is fast!
For me the Hamilton “Hack” is a great interpretation of a classic military watch. The dial and hands are very close to the original, though the case is slightly different, and is a more reasonable 38mm instead of the original 34mm.
Starting with the case it’s the same as can be found on the other hand wound pieces in the khaki range. Made from stainless steel the case is sandblasted to produce a satin finish that is smooth to the touch, but won’t show up scratches easily. It’s the same finish as the original milspec watches, and is entirely utilitarian, showing that this is a tool watch first, and a fashion piece second.
As mentioned earlier, the case is 38mm, which for me is the perfect size for such a straight forward watch. It’s also big enough for the modern wrist without being grossly larger than the original. The case shape itself is not much different to the original Khaki field watches. The lugs blend smoothly into the case, but its edges are crisp and the simple lines are elegant and no-nonsense. At the end of the day this is exactly what you want from a modern field watch, as its simplicity makes it great as either a work watch or a casual piece.
Flipping the watch over the case-back is fairly simple, with the Hamilton logo in the centre and the usual engravings of the watch specs & serial numbers around the edge. But the engravings are crisp and deep and the finishes are flawless, as you’d expect from a manufacturer of Hamilton’s reputation.
The dial is of an identical layout to the original field watch, following the U.S. military’s specifications from the 1960’s. The dial is matt black, with a printed white minute track, large Arabic numerals and a smaller set of 24 hour numerals inside those. The bold printing makes the dial extremely legible, and whilst I’ll give points to Hamilton for using the same font as the original watch, the printing could be crisper. To be fair, the field watches from the Sixties had the same issue, so it’s a toss-up as to whether you prefer originality or precision.
The hands are again the same shape as the original, and a good length. The seconds hand brushes the triangular hour markers on the minute track, the minute had stops just short of the minute track, and the hour hand extends just past the 24 hour markers. They’re also very well finished with white paint and filled with a creamy vintage coloured lume that adds a much-needed touch of warmth to the dial. The triangular markers and tip of the seconds hand also have vintage lume, but in disappointingly small doses that aren’t as bold as Hamilton’s press photos would have you believe.
The lume used is Super-Luminova’s “old Radium”, which can be found on many vintage reissues these days. I find the hands very legible in darkness, and they hold their charge for a good length of time. However as you might have guessed, the lume on the hour markers and tip of the seconds hand is disappointingly weak. Overall I rate the Hamilton’s legibility in low-light as adequate for a field watch, but not brilliant.
Hamilton don’t actively advertise which material the crystal is made from, though several horological sites list in as sapphire in their press releases for the model. This would make sense given that their other hand wound models use sapphire, and honestly it’s something I’d expect for this price point, especially given that this watch is intended to take a few knocks and scrapes. It would have been nice too if the crystal had some anti-reflective coating to help improve legibility in sunlight, but the military dial is usually legible enough to compensate for this.
The movement used by the Hack is the hand wound 17 jewel ETA 2801-2. The choice of movement is a solid one, as the original military watch was hand wound, and it keeps the watch’s thickness down to under 10mm. It beats at a smooth 28,800 bph, and has an impressive 42 hours power reserve, so no need to panic if you forget to wind it for a day. The watch winds very smoothly, and the crown is very easy to grip thanks to crisply machined ridges. Timekeeping wise, mine is gaining about 10 seconds a day, which is very acceptable to me for a watch at this price point.
The Hack is rated 50m water resistant, which isn’t bad for a field watch (again it’s the same as the older Officer Mechanical). That’s enough for submersion in water for short periods of time, but I wouldn’t take it diving. More water resistance wouldn’t be a bad thing, but as this is a field watch and not a dive watch, it’s hardly necessary for people who won’t be spending hours submerged in water.
The NATO strap Hamilton supply is a classic military olive green colour that suits the watch perfectly. It also has brown calfskin keeper loops and trim that add to the vintage military feel and act as a nice finishing touch. The Hamilton signed buckle also has a sweet brushed finish, and is noticeably more solid than those found on a standard NATO. The strap is comfortable to wear, but even on my small wrist I didn’t have enough excess to fold it over like a regular NATO, and the keepers are fixed. That said, if you don’t like the standard strap the drilled lugs make it easy to switch over to a leather one or a different NATO.
At £395 / $475 the latest addition to the Hamilton Khaki Field line-up is a tempting value proposition to those on the lookout for a vintage military inspired timepiece. It’s simple, no-frills aesthetics hark back to the days when these were intended as rugged tool pieces for military personnel, but also lend a simple elegance that makes it a great casual addition to the modern man’s wardrobe. The specs are also solid for a watch that’s under £400, but I wouldn’t mind some AR coating on the crystal and better lume on the dial. However, I think the pros far outweigh the cons with this watch. It’s a perfect example of a reissue from a classic brand done right, and I think that it offers classic field watch looks that are hard to find today. So, if you’re somebody who’s after a rugged military-style timepiece with a solid build quality, but don’t want to splash serious cash, then this s the watch for you!
You can visit Hamilton’s website and purchase the Hack here!