With its vintage styling and hand-wound mechanical movement, this Swiss-made watch is undeniably something of a throwback. But it’s also lightweight, slim and compact, with elegant and eye-catching looks that ensure it works well for office workwear as well as weekends in the great outdoors.
Slim, elegant and lightweight
Swiss-made mechanical movement
Authentic field watch heritage
Inherently more delicate than quartz rivals
Not the best lume
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Hamilton Khaki Mechanical Bronze: first impressions
The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical Bronze is based on one of the most iconic field watches out there. The design is a reinterpretation of the brand’s original FAPD 5101, which was commissioned by the US military and produced from 1969 well into the 1980s.
• RRP: $825 (US) / £720 (UK)
• Dimensions: 47mm (lug-to-lug) x 38mm (case diameter)
• Thickness: 9.5mm
• Weight: 65g / 2.3oz
• Movement: Hamilton H-50 hand-wound mechanical
• Water resistance: 50m / 5 ATM
• Materials & features: CuSn8 bronze alloy case (92% bronze and 8% tin); screw-down titanium case back with unique serial number; single dome sapphire crystal; Aged Super Lumi-Nova; Leather NATO strap
Better known as the “GI”, it was a watch that even saw service in the Vietnam War. Just like its forebears, the modern Field Khaki is a utility-driven timepiece featuring a slabby case with big lugs, a flat bezel and a large crown.
Unusually, this version has a case made from bronze – an alloy that doesn’t rust, ensuring good durability. It does oxidize though, meaning that over time the watch will develop a distinct patina. It makes for an unusual and striking timepiece, with a warmth and glow that stainless steel rivals and GPS watches lack in comparison.
The crystal is a domed sapphire, while the case back is titanium – a metal that is lightweight and incredibly strong, but also hypoallergenic, ideal for those with sensitivities to metallic compounds like nickel or cobalt. This also means that the bronze case doesn’t sit directly against the wrist, since bronze can sometimes leave a greenish tinge on skin.
The watch is powered by a Swiss-made mechanical, hand-winding movement called the Hamilton H-50. Based on an ETA movement, it has 17 jewels and a 21,600bph frequency. This slightly lower beat rate gives it an impressive 80-hour power reserve, meaning when fully wound, it’ll run for just over three days before you’ll need to wind it again.
The Khaki Field mechanical is a compact watch, especially by modern standards, with a 38mm diameter case. It’s just 9.5mm thick, and the total lug-to-lug measurement across the wrist is 47mm. It’s also lightweight – all of which makes it a fairly unobtrusive piece, well suited to even small wrist sizes. With minimal bulk, profile and heft, this isn’t a watch that you’ll feel self-conscious about strapping to your wrist. It slips easily under the cuff of a shirt or jacket too, making it ideal for daily wear when your
Hamilton Khaki Mechanical Bronze: on the trails
The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical Bronze’s dial provides excellent clarity, with large, white-printed numerals on a matte black background. The inner ring adds a 24-hour scale that makes it easy to translate AM and PM into military time, emphasizing the watch’s army origins.
Prominent minute hashing along the outer edge of the dial is interspaced with triangular hour markers. The handset employs syringe-style hour and minute hands, with a lollipop arrow seconds hand. The tip of the seconds hand, and in-filled sections of the other hands, as well as the hour markers, are all coated with aged Super-LumiNova for a vintage look and low-light visibility. While it isn’t the brightest lume we’ve ever seen on a watch face, it’s perfectly serviceable and does the job.
The watch has water resistance of 5 bar or 50 meters, which is more than adequate for a field watch primarily designed for use on terra firma. The leather NATO strap feels great to wear, and its classic design adds more security than a single-pass, two-piece strap. That’s because the strap actually loops under the watch head, so even if a spring bar breaks, the watch will remain attached to the strap, and likewise, the strap will remain attached to your wrist.
There is something undeniably old-school about owning a hand-wound mechanical watch as opposed to an automatic, or even a solar- or battery-powered quartz watch. Luckily, this watch’s large crown makes it easy to enjoy the silky-smooth winding. It also adds plenty of heritage appeal. And despite the mid-century design, the Khaki Field still makes a pretty practical daily wear or adventure watch too. For starters, it’s not too big or bulky, with a slim case profile. The sapphire crystal is highly scratch-resistant, and that bronze case, while softer than steel, should still be plenty tough.
If you’re considering things from the standpoint of outright toughness and shock resistance, though, that hand-wound mechanism is definitely the watch’s Achilles heel. Obviously, this is going to be inherently more delicate than quartz. I still wouldn’t say you need to baby it, though. Treat it right, and it’ll look after you in return. A hand-wound movement also makes this a more authentic tribute to the original field watches, which were all hand-wound. And if it was reliable enough for US soldiers back in the day, it should be good enough for you too, right?
As mechanical movements go, it’s also pretty impressive, thanks to that long 80-hour power reserve.
An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.