A big stainless steel case, wide and easy-to-read dial, military inspired triangular marker at twelve, thick leather strap with rivets. Where have I seen this watch before? Hamilton has not re-invented the wheel with the Khaki Pilot 46. Is is their take on the classic “Big Pilot” style inspired by watches worn by military aviators of the Thirties and Forties. This look has been undertaken by so many manufacturers that it has become almost as iconic as the Submariner style. While there is not much new that can be added to such a watch without looking gimmicky and departing from the true big pilot style, Hamilton has successfully incorporated some unique details and more importantly their ability to offer a good looking, high-grade, Swiss, automatic watch for under $1,000.
The movement is one of the most respected measures of quality for watches. The Khaki Pilot runs on an the Swiss, 25 jewel, 2836-2 calibre made by ETA. The 2836 offers a hack function, which stops the seconds hand while the crown is pulled to the time-setting position. While this is quite common in today’s automatic movements, it was once an important technological advancement for pilots, as it made the important task of synchronizing watches possible. I still find this feature useful when setting my watch to the Weather Channel’s time in order to be in sync with the train schedule. Geeky, I know.
The case of Hamilton’s Khaki Pilot is in stainless steel and finished with alternating brushed and buffed polishes. One of the major reoccurring features on pilot watches is the bezel. It is light and thin, leaving as much room as possible for the dial. The crown is screw locking, which makes it quite solid, but a pair of protective shoulders are there for extra insurance. A scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is fitted to the case. A second one on the back showcases the mechanics of the movement, including the engraved rotor. The window on the back of the case looks somewhat small, but it is rather the 46mm case that is quite large. A black version of the watch is also available. The black PVD variation comes fitted with an alligator-print strap, which highlights the timepiece’s elegant side. While undeniably sporty, the Khaki Pilot can also be dressed up. The dial has a lot to do with this. The applied, five-minute markers are made of steel, which lends some shine to the the dial. The brown and black alligator-style straps that are available are also pretty classy even though they retain the thickness of the basic leather strap.
The Hamilton Khaki Pilot 46 is a great looking classic. It brings the company’s remarkable quality to price ratio to watch enthusiasts who are fans of the Big Pilot look. Its automatic movement, sapphire crystals, and strong 46mm case are all nice quality features to get for under $1,000. The nicely designed dial and straps are just enough to make this take on the classic military, aviator’s look unique.