It’s a question that comes up all the time: “I’m thinking of buying my first mechanical watch that won’t break the bank, what should I get?” My first answer is almost always to buy what you love, not what I love. But sometimes folks need a little direction, a starting point. I have a short list of options, and that list is anchored by the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical.
It’s versatile. Durable. Affordable. And handsome. But in the past, buying this watch meant doing one (if not both) of two things: Wearing a single-pass military-style strap in either leather or nylon, or investing in other more traditional strap options – which also meant changing the strap.
For some (present company included), all of that sounds great. This watch offers a historically significant design with a military-adjacent strap configuration, and the thing simply oozes cool. To me, it’s always been worth the trouble. But a lot of beginners just want a terrific daily watch they can put on and leave on. The Khaki Field Mechanical with a bracelet is just that. The added bracelet gives the vintage/Mil-spec aesthetic a triple-espresso jolt of everyday watch-ness. It can be hard to rock a NATO strap to the office every day, but this bracelet is so good, and so business-appropriate, it’ll make you miss putting on pants and showing up to work.
Although this iteration of the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical was released in 2018, it is not some new-fangled homage watch. Rather, it’s a stalwart dating to the brand’s pre-Switzerland days as a true icon of American watchmaking – back when Hamilton was supplying watches to the U.S. military during WWII and Vietnam.
At its core, this has always been a field watch designed to do one thing: Tell the time. It still is. It has the same 38mm textured steel case, closed caseback, drilled lug holes, and the same manual winding, hackable, H-50 movement with a whopping 80 hours of power reserve. And it looks elevated thanks to a matte dial (in white or black) with thick Arabic numerals, and lacquer-like sand-colored (read, faux patina) painted arrows – all of which pair nicely with this bracelet I won’t shut up about.
Look, I admit the bracelet itself is nothing particularly special on its own. There’s a real “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” quotient going on here. The bracelet has the same texture as the case, and the same dark shade to it. The clasp is a fairly standard double-enclosure configuration and is signed with the Hamilton wordmark. It also features something akin to a diving extension when you unlatch the underside. In some ways, the whole package looks a bit like titanium. It is decidedly not titanium.
In the hand, the bracelet has quite a vintage feel. I believe the technical terms are light and jangly. The links are also very fluid. The bracelet almost feels like a jubilee the way it’s able to fold into itself. Some of the links feature arrows engraved on the back to indicate which ones are removable. Everything is matte from the dial to the case to the bracelet to the clasp. And it’s all preposterously thin for such a ruggedly toolish design.
Watches are meant to be worn, and this is the kind of watch you’ll not only want to wear, but may very well also have trouble taking off (figuratively speaking, of course). On a bracelet, the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical transforms from a military-inspired field watch to a daily driver among the watch world’s absolute best value propositions.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical: case, stainless steel, 50-meter water resistance, 38mm x 9.5mm thick with solid engraved back. Black and white-dial options with Arabic numerals and Super-LumiNova. Movement, Hamilton H-50 hand-wound (base ETA 2801-2), with 80-hour power reserve. 20mm lug width, with stainless steel bracelet.
Photos, Kasia Milton
As many of you are no doubt aware, the HODINKEE Shop is an Authorized Dealer for Hamilton. If you’re interested in the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical in the strap configuration, don’t forget to check The Shop.