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.|
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: