Hamilton is one of those brands that has such a long and historic reach that thoughts of the watchmaker can conjure wildly different things depending on who you’re speaking with. To some, they are the quintessential American pocket watch manufacturer. Others associate Hamilton with the watches that were worn primarily by military personnel, and have become highly collectible (and subsequently reissued by the brand) in the years since they saw combat. And of course in our corner of the enthusiast space, Hamilton is unquestionably one of the great entry points into affordable Swiss watches. From the Khaki Field Mechanical to the recently discussed hand wound Intra-Matic releases, Hamilton offers a ton of bang for buck across a wide spectrum of what’s considered “entry level” these days, with genuine heritage to go along with it. Another highly specific area of watch interest that Hamilton is undeniably a part of is the pilot’s watch. “Pilot’s watch” is sometimes used as a catch-all term for any highly legible, tough, and functional watch a bare, tool-like aesthetic, but Hamilton’s X-Wind line is something else entirely, with features that are actually quite useless unless you find yourself in a cockpit, which in my own opinion makes them that much more special. Hamilton has just updated their X-Wind Auto Chrono with two new variants, so let’s take a look.
What sets the X-Wind line apart from other aviation focused watches, even those in Hamilton’s own catalog, is the drift angle calculator built into the watch’s bezel. The drift angle refers to the effect of wind on the flight of a plane, and is calculated using flight speed, wind speed, flight direction, and wind direction. And it has to be done quickly and reliably to navigate successfully. Pulling this information together allows a pilot to make navigational adjustments that get them to their destination even in the face of the inherent unpredictability of nature.
The X-Wind effectively uses an upper and lower bezel controlled by separate crowns on the case flanks to make these calculations relatively simple. I say “relatively” because for me, a non-pilot, even a layman’s explanation of how this calculator works is confounding, but I’ll do my best to relay its functionality by making the most of my high school physics education and many viewings of Top Gun.
The crown at 4:00 manipulates the upper bezel, which displays wind direction. Once this is set, a bearing is determined through collecting information on the speed of the plane and any active crosswinds (information received from the control tower, or the aircraft’s own instrumentation). The crown at 2:00 is adjusted based on these variables, and then a calculation is performed that relates your magnetic bearing to the crosswind angle, eventually allowing you to land your plane safely in the place you originally intended when you set out on your journey. Simple, right?
Ok, so it’s anything but simple, and makes a tachymeter scale look like a remedial math problem. But there’s something about the highly specific nature of this complication that’s appealing, even if only a fraction of a fraction of the watch buying population will ever put any meaningful use into it. And the watches that Hamilton has paired it with match the bezel calculator’s technical nature. These are left-crown chronographs powered by Hamilton’s H-21-Si automatic chrono movement with 60 hours of power reserve and a silicon balance spring, a day-date display (at 9:00, because this movement has been flipped for the destro crown), and a tough as nails 45mm stainless steel case. The new variants include a blue dial with traditional and flight appropriate brushing on the case, and an extremely cool beige PVD coated version, with a matching camo pattern on the dial.
These watches define “narrow appeal” in a sense, but they’re also an example of what makes Hamilton such an interesting brand – they have a foothold in a bunch of different niches in the watch world, and create interesting watches in each of them with a level of authenticity that few brands can claim. The Khaki Aviation X-Wind Auto Chrono might be more of a curiosity than a must have watch for most people, but the curiosities are what keep this hobby fresh and interesting.
The X-Wind Auto Chrono goes on sale in June. The stainless steel version with a blue dial will retail for $ 1,995, and the beige PVD version with camo dial will sell at $ 2,145. Hamilton