Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto H64615135

Pilot watches are a bit of an enigma to me. I get that aviators have unique requirements when it comes to the timepieces they wear, but somehow, for the longest time, I couldn't rationalize getting one for myself. "I'm not a pilot." I would say, but then again, I don't dive either, yet I have a clutch of dive watches. "They don't have as much history." But they do. More history in fact, than dive watches. The first purpose-built pilot watch is the Cartier Santos-Dumont wristwatch, made by Louis Cartier for Alberto Santos-Dumont in 1904 and sold commercially in 1911 in collaboration with Edmond Jaeger (of Jaeger-LeCoultre fame). Commercially available water-sealed watches first came out only in 1926 with Rolex's Oyster line, and the first mass-produced watches made specifically for diving came out in 1932 with the Omega Marine.

In a further effort to dissuade myself from getting one I toy with the idea that they aren't as aesthetically pleasing as dive watches, but a lot of pilot watches are in fact lookers, for example the Breitling Navitimer 01, the IWC Pilot's Mark XVII, or the Sinn 857 UTC TESTAF, albeit these particular models are not really within my price range. Okay, so pilot watches are expensive? Not necessarily so. Affordable models include the Seiko SNK809 or Orient FER2A002F0.

So it would seem I don't really have an excuse not to have at least one true pilot watch in my collection.  In finally getting one I set out some requirements before deciding on a particular make or model: at least 41mm case diameter, sapphire crystal, highly water resistant, automatic movement, highly legible dial, stainless steel bracelet, from a reputable watchmaking brand with a bit of relevant history, and relatively affordable.

After some research, I finally settled on one which ticks all of my check boxes, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto, or simply the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date, and here it is:

Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto.
This particular model was made famous as the watch worn by Matthew McCounaghey's character Cooper in the sci-fi movie Interstellar.

The watch itself is a standard model in Hamilton's line up, first introduced in 2010. It features a 100m water resistant stainless steel 42 mm diameter (excluding crown) and 11mm thick case, with a 20mm lug width and a 49mm lug-to-lug length. The bezel and shoulders are all polished, with the rest of the surfaces having a brushed finish. The adequately sized signed crown is at the 3 o'clock position, surrounded by crown guards which flow elegantly from the sides of the case. Curiously, the crown is ridged for added purchase, but the tactile benefits of the ridging are seemingly countered by the polished finish which may make grasping and manipulating the crown a challenge under some circumstances. The crown is not a screw down type though, and admittedly the polished finish of the crown matches the rest of the case. The caseback is crystal, through which one can see the minimally finished, but nonetheless attractive ETA 2834-2 movement.

This variant has a deep black dial with a subtle sunburst effect when viewed at certain angles. The dial extends almost the entire diameter of the case, and this, combined with the thinness of the bezel, makes the watch appear bigger than what its measurements may suggest.  The dial is unique in that the main indices are applied metal Arabic minute values in five minute increments ("60 minute dial"), while the hours markers are in a printed smaller inner ring, following the German B-Type Flieger (navigator) design. Printed and lumed rectangular blocks on the outside perimeter of the dial serve as  second and minute hash marks, with an applied inverted metal triangle marking the 12 o'clock position. There is a full day indicator just below this position, while a date indicator is slightly above the 6 o'clock position, both of which use black text on a white background. There's isn't much in the way of text in the dial, only the HAMILTON brand in the inner ring 12 o'clock position, AUTOMATIC in the inner ring 6 o'clock position, and SWISS MADE straddling the outside 6 o'clock hash mark.

The hands are sword-style, and nice details include lume on the minute hand which only extends from the inner ring outward, while the hour hand is only lumed from the inner ring inward. Both hands are semi-skeletonized, to aid in legibility, and the small hour markers in the inner ring fit nicely in the skeletonized tip of the hour hand. When both hour and minute hands point to the same position on the dial, the create the illusion of single lumed hand extending from the center to almost the very edge of the dial. The second hand is a metal arrow-style one, with a small triangular tip on one end and a small circular counterweight on the other. Unlike the other hands, it isn't lumed.

Topping of the face is a very slightly domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating.

The bracelet is of the brushed stainless steel variety, with a slight 1 mm taper from the lugs to the clasp. End-links are solid, and the bracelet is actuated via a single fold-over clasp with a pinch-to-release lock. Clasp is nicely brushed, and finished with a tasteful Hamilton brand. Links are attached via a pin and collar. The pins are rather large, unlike the tiny pins often used on Seiko divers, so there's little chance of losing one if you are into sizing your own watches.

As mentioned earlier, providing timekeeping duties is a highly reliable standard grade ETA 2834-2 movement which feature both a full day and date complication. The ETA 2834-2 is essentially a variation of the popular ETA 2824-2 movement with the addition of a full day indicator. As such it shares most of the same traits: self-winding, hacking and handwinding, 25-jewels, 28,800 bph, 38-40 hour power reserve. Also, it's a bit stiff to wind, so I don't really recommend winding this, or for that matter, any ETA movement fully. I prefer to use the crown to wind up the mainspring only to get it going, and let the rotor do its thing of winding it fully when its on-wrist. A lot of people have no qualms and had no problems about fully handwinding their ETA based watches, so, it's up to you.

This watch is available locally for about 680 USD, which is just about what you can get it for online as well.

All-in-all, a good first foray in the realm of true pilot watches.

Some more photos:

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba H64515133

Hamilton was an American manufacturer of watches first founded in 1892. The brand became renowned for its line of railroad pocket watches, military wristwatches, and marine chronometers until the 50s and 60s when it ventured into electric watches and watches with self-winding movements. In 1971, it became the third brand under Société Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère (SSIH) after Omega and Tissot, and in 1984 with SSIH's merger with Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhrenindustrie AG (ASUAG) it became part of what we now know as the Swatch Group. Under this parent company, the Hamilton brand forms part of its middle range offerings alongside brands Certina, Mido and Tissot.

Hamilton is quite unique in its marketing and positioning, banking on its extensive history and tradition as an American watchmaker, even though today, it is technically a Swiss brand. This reflects  on its design language with strong Art Deco cues and references to its extensive railroad, military, and marine heritage, and the watch subject of today's review is no exception.

The watch being reviewed in this post the Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba with reference H64515133. First introduced around 2007, in some markets it is referred to as the Hamilton Khaki King Scuba.

First, let's get one thing out of the way. The watch may have the word Scuba in its name, but it's not exactly what one may consider to be a true dive watch for several reasons. It is however, water resistant to 100m, so it can be used extensively in various water activities, including swimming, without much concern for water permeating the case. From a usage standpoint though, it seems more comfortable as a desk diver as the design aesthetic weighs more on the dressy, formal side, as opposed to presenting itself as a functional tool dive watch.

The stainless steel case has a 41mm case diameter (excluding crown), a 14mm thickness, and a 49mm lug-to-lug length. The case overall is not one may really call an oversize case, 41mm being a contemporary diameter shared with similar dive or dive-style watches such as the significantly more expensive Longines HydroConquest (see review here), Tag Heuer Aquaracer or Omega Seamaster 300m. The polished screw-down signed crown is nestled flush with brushed metal crown protectors, and it's relatively small making using it a bit of a chore as will be explained later. Lug width is a rather modest, but similarly contemporary, 20mm. The bracelet is a high-quality, precision machined but relatively unremarkable solid end-link, 3-link design fastened with a pin and collar system and actuated with a single fold-over clasp with a pinch-to-release push-button lock. Not much in the way of micro-adjustment though, with only two positions, so getting the perfect fit may be hit or miss. Surfaces are mostly brushed on the case and bracelet, giving it a subdued, less eye-catching appearance. At first glance, the watch on wrist projects a Rolex-like vibe, but any notions of this being a Submariner homage are quickly dispelled once eyes are laid on the dial.

The dial itself has to be the most polarizing design element of the entire watch, with some people liking it, and some hating it. I myself like it, and find its busy overall appearance to be part of its charm, though I can see why some people dislike it. The dial is black, with an outer border of minute and second hashmarks with Arabic numerals every five minutes. Moving further toward the center of the dial, this is followed by a border consisting of a matte ring (actually many minute concentric rings if you really look at it) with applied polished metal Arabic numeral hour indices. The 3 and 9 indices are larger than the other indices, and the 12 and 6 numerals are absent to give way to a full day indicator at 12 o'clock, and a date indicator at 6 o'clock, both white text on a black background, with polished metal frames and with red triangle highlights. Past the concentric ring border are 24 hour markings, a nod to Hamilton's heritage in making military watches. Printed text on the dial include the HAMILTON brand, KHAKI, AUTOMATIC and 330ft. The hour and minute hands are lumed slim, sword-type style ones with needle tips. Second hand is an arrow-styled polished metal affair with a rear circular counterweight and a lumed arrow tip. Lume overall is pretty sparse, with dots representing the hour indices, but nonetheless functional. Topping off the watch head is a 60-click unidirectional dive bezel with an aluminum insert and a domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The bezel doesn't have a lume pip at the 12 o'clock position, nor does the crystal have much in the way of anti-reflective coating. The domed shape and the lack of AR coating not only makes the watch a bit difficult to read at a glance, but makes it a bit of a pain to photograph without reflections ruining the shot.

Powering the watch is a base ETA 2834-2, which is essentially a variant of the popular ETA 2824-2 with a full day indicator at the 12 o'clock position. As such, it shares the same major characteristics: 25-jewels, hacking and handwinding, automatic, beat rate of 28,800 bph, and power reserve of 38-40 hours. Winding, as with most other 2824-2s, can be quite stiff, and manipulating the crown, with particular emphasis on screwing it down, seems a bit more difficult than it needs to be given the polished knurling given to the crown, its relatively small size, and the inherent stiffness of the 2834-2 movement when being wound. The movement is visible through a see-through caseback, though finishing seems minimal, the only decoration of note being the signed rotor.

It is available here at most authorized dealers at around 500 USD, which seems about the average for what is typically paid for it, even among online resellers, and it represents pretty good value for what it is, a high-quality, contemporary-sized, 100m water resistant, entry-level Swiss watch.

Some photos:

Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba.