Although most pilot watch designs can trace their stylistic roots back to World War II or even earlier, a sizeable portion of the market is dedicated to taking the segment in a modern, ultra-functional direction. Hamilton’s Khaki Aviation X-Wind series is a prime example of this second style of pilot designs, with a complex and beefy package that integrates an inner rotating calculator bezel uniquely calibrated to determine crosswinds and corresponding aircraft drift angles for precise in-flight navigation. The X-Wind line has always been a serious aviator’s tool first, and for 2021 Hamilton brings two new flavors to the series that inject vibrant personalities into this function-forward design. The new Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph models bring a refreshed face and two markedly different attitudes to this modern pilot design, making this a surprisingly diverse lineup.
The Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph could be called the A-10 Thunderbolt II of pilot’s watches. Both the watch and the U.S. Air Force attack plane are beefy, utilitarian, and devastatingly effective at their intended roles, and these new versions will likely do little to change that. At 45mm-wide and 14.85mm-thick, there’s no denying the stainless steel case of the Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph carries a sizeable wrist presence, but beyond the sheer size, the most eye-catching feature of this case is the complex layout of crowns and pushers. The oversized, heavily toothed crowns with squared-off guards at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock rotate the components of the inner calculator bezel, working in conjunction with the bidirectional brushed outer bezel scale to perform crucial flight navigation calculations. On the 9 o’clock side of the case, the similarly beefy left-hand winding crown is flanked by the long rectangular chronograph pushers. With five tactile elements (six, if the outer bezel is included) filling out the case profile, there’s a wealth of visual complexity to take in, and the level of complexity may come off as daunting to the uninitiated. Both of the new models interpret this style in markedly different contexts. For the more classical blue dial option, the case is rendered in traditional stainless steel, with even brushing punctuated by flashy polished accents on the crowns, pushers, and the external bezel. Hamilton refers to the second model in the series as Sandstorm Beige. This warm PVD tone appears to straddle the visual line between bronze and rose-gold tone in initial images, and the polished accents are contrasted more sharply by matte blasted surfacing. Both models offer a decent 100 meters of water resistance.
Like the cases, the dials of the two new Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph variants give the complex base design two deeply different personalities. Both models share an unorthodox 12-3-6 subdial layout owing to the rotated 7750-based movement inside, which also accounts for the day/date display at 9 o’clock. The sheer width of the angled inner rotating bezel has the effect of visually compressing the rest of the dial, leaving as much real estate as possible to aid legibility for its complex numerical scales. Even with this compressing effect, the syringe-tipped sword handset arguably comes off as a hair too short for the rest of the dial, although this does always leave the bold printed Arabic numerals and full seconds scale fully legible. The subdials and indices of these new models are reworked from previous models, with a deeper more layered effect for the subdials accented by bold azurage and flight instrument-inspired new scales for each subdial. For the indices at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and 9 o’clock, Hamilton eschews the applied dots of previous versions in favor of applied squares with a triangle at 12 o’clock. Both new models share this same dial layout, but the stylistic gulf between the two is greater than with the cases. The blue dial version paints this multifunctional tool design in a more refined, business-casual light, with a cobalt blue sunburst main dial dressed up with brightly polished subdial rings, matching hands, and splashes of vibrant contrasting red. For the Sandstorm Beige model, Hamilton instead offers a fashion-forward, stylized modern military approach. The main dial surface is a desert camouflage patchwork of warm tans and browns, complemented by a warm khaki for all lume fills and dial text. The brightwork of the blue dial version is gone here, replaced with simple black for the hands and brown rings around the chronograph subdials.
Both new versions of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph are powered by the Valjoux 7750 based H-21 automatic chronograph movement. While the H-21 has been a staple of the X-Wind line for years, these new models sport an upgraded magnetic-resistant silicon balance spring. Outside of the new balance spring, performance remains similar to previous models, with a robust 60-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Hamilton finishes both variants with a riveted pilot-style box-stitched fabric strap. For the blue dial model, this comes in a matching navy blue tone, while Hamilton completes the warm palette of the Sandstorm Beige version with a dark tan strap.
While both new models in the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph series share the same bold, super-functional basic design, the diversity of these new additions gives the long-running pilot watch line impressive adaptability. Both new versions of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation X-Wind Automatic Chronograph will be available through authorized dealers in June 2021, with an MSRP of $1,995 for the blue dial model and $2,145 for the Sandstorm Beige version. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.