Boasting a distinct vintage military aviation design, Hamilton’s Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph brings back the form and function of the chronographs issued to British Royal Air Force pilots in the 1970s.
The black-grained dial of this manual-winding chronograph spotlights two horizontally aligned subdials measuring chronograph minutes and running seconds.
Hands coated in a white lacquer consistent with the original RAF models further the Pilot Pioneer’s heritage appeal, as does a layer of Super-LumiNova. Also used on the dial markings, its beige-tone is reminiscent of the patina found today in vintage radium-based lume and ensures clarity in low light conditions
Distinctive features such as a right-side case bulge designed to protect the crown and pushers, as well as a dome-shaped ‘box’ crystal with double anti-reflective coating also nod to its historic use as a critical aviation tool.
The watch is equipped with the high-performance H-51-Si mechanical movement, introduced in 2021. This hand-winding chronograph caliber features a silicon balance spring and offers 60-hour power reserve.
Dressed in a 40mm diameter stainless steel case, the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph comes with a vintage themed brown leather strap.
Alittle while ago I reviewed what is probably the most popular field watch on the market, the Hamilton’s Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph Whilst it’s a great watch in many ways, it didn’t quite hit the spot for me, and that’s because, to be honest, I found it a bit dull. I know that’s kind of the point of a field watch, but I’m no soldier stuck in the Vietnamese jungle. I’m a watch geek who wants a field watch because I like its aesthetics. And that’s why when I had the KFM, I was left wanting a field watch that was just a little bit nicer. Fortunately for me, Hamilton makes another field watch that I think is just what I’m after. That watch is their Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical.
It’s essentially a reissue of the Hamilton W10, which the company supplied to all three branches of the British military from 1973-1976. It also makes the name Pilot Pioneer something of a misnomer, as the design is for a general service watch, rather than one specifically designed for pilots.
In the past, I’ve been highly critical of the Pilot Pioneer’s retail price of £720, mainly because it’s almost twice the price of the Khaki Field Mechanical. That watch has very similar specs and styling, but it costs only £395. However, recently I’ve begun to wonder if the difference in the prices of these two models isn’t simply because the Pilot Pioneer costs that much more for Hamilton to make. Practically every aspect of it is finished to a higher standard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that meant its production costs were almost double that of the KFM. And, if Hamilton applies the same percentage markup to both watches, then that would result in the large difference in the retail prices.
Let’s start by looking at the case. Just like the original W10, the Pilot Pioneer has a tonneau/cushion-shaped case with a brushed finish. The brushing keeps the watch looking toolish, but it also looks more refined than the bead blasting seen on the Khaki Field Mechanical.
The size of the case is a modest 36mm, with a lug-to-lug of 41mm, and a thickness of 10mm. This is pretty much the same size as the original Hamilton W10, and I’m glad to see Hamilton resisted the urge to upscale the watch for a modern audience. I find that the watch wears pretty true to these dimensions as well, so it will undoubtedly be too small for some people.
To add to the authenticity of the Pilot Pioneer, Hamilton’s Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph opted to fit it with a boxed mineral crystal that mimics the shape of the acrylic crystals found on the original W10. It sits nice and proud from the case, which helps the watch to really nail the vintage look. However, I’m confused as to why Hamilton didn’t go with a sapphire crystal. Sapphire would be much more scratch-resistant, and the fact that the Pilot Pioneer only uses a mineral crystal is frankly inexcusable. Though the one thing the mineral crystal on the Pilot Pioneer does have going for it over the sapphire on the KFM, is that it has a double anti-reflective coating. This severely reduces any glare, and therefore I had no trouble at all in telling the time in bright sunlight.