Brands like Hamilton are very lucky. Throughout their lifetime, they have manufactured watches of every different type, many of which have earned an iconic status. Now, when they design a new watch, they have a massive archive to draw inspiration from, or recreate directly from. The last time we took a look at a Hamilton, we reviewed the Intra-Matic, which is an elegant dress watch based on a classic 60’s design. Not only did that watch successfully resurrect a beautiful vintage timepiece, it proved how relevant 60’s design is to today’s style.
Staying true to the theme of reviving classic designs, Hamilton released the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Automatic Chronograph at BaselWorld 2013, one of our favorite pieces from the show. The Pilot Pioneer is based on a RAF issued watch from the 70’s, which is highly collectible. Powered by a Valjoux 7733 and sporting a unique and subtly asymmetrical case, the original watch is unlike any other. For a thorough history of this watch, its design and significance, please read our article Time Spec: 1970’s British Military Asymmetrical Chronographs.
The Pilot Pioneer is not a 1:1 copy of the watch from the past, but rather a modern interpretation that stays true where needed for an authentic look. It’s a bit larger and has some subtle design changes, but perhaps the most significant differences are the H-31 automatic chronograph movement and the addition of a silver dialed version. Though a hand-winding chrono might have added to the feel of the watch, the modern automatic was a logical choice for today’s market. The Pilot Pioneer also features a domed sapphire crystal, display case back and is available with either NATO or leather straps or a steel bracelet. With a starting price of $1,845.00 the Pilot Pioneer is well priced for a new Swiss made automatic chronograph, albeit certainly not inexpensive and priced higher than its vintage counterpart.
The Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Automatic Chronograph is a great new offering from the brand. The fact that it brings an old design back to life makes it all the more cool. Especially since the original version was a military issue and somewhat obscure. Overall the design is very successful, fun and seemingly one that would age well. That is to say, it’s clean and classic in a way that you wont get sick of, while being unique and interesting enough to keep your attention.
Of course, I wonder a bit why Hamilton would bring back a cult watch, which is going to attract collectors and watch-nerd types who are obsessed with details, only to change something like adding a date. I get that as a feature, the date makes the watch more full and therefore viable at retail to a general consumer, but it undermines the idea of reviving an old design. Perhaps if it had been subtler, like the addition of an automatic movement, it wouldn’t matter, but since it’s on the dial, it can’t help but be noticed.
As far as the price goes, $1,845 certainly isn’t inexpensive, but for a new Swiss made chronograph, is on the low-moderate end. Most retail brands with similar movements start at 3-4k, so in that context this a very good price. The fact that it has a 60-hr power reserve adds to the value quite a bit.
So, to wrap up the wrap-up, the Pilot Pioneer is a successful watch, with great build quality and styling. Despite my issues, I would wear this watch if it were in my collection, no problem. It’s a versatile design that can be dressed up or down and has an interesting history behind it. So, if you’re in the market for a Swiss Chronograph with genuine military heritage, this is likely a great watch for you.