Since this metal is so scarcely seen in watches we were – and are – curious to find out what we can realistically expect regarding its performance out here, in the real world. We reached out to Hamilton hoping that we would find out a few more details beyond their what official communication claims. What we learned is that the process they use is called anodization and while they (understandably) wished to remain secretive about further details of the process, that is nothing to stop us from letting you know what that will probably mean for you if you were hoping to wear one of these out in the wild.
Anodization is a process generally used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts. I do realize we are on the brink of an appalling nerd-out, but bear with me as we are onto something here. What that “natural oxide layer” means in this case is corrosion, more widely known as rust. However, it is this corrosion (artificially grown on the surface of the aluminum) that ultimately results in a surface which is not only up to three times harder than steel, but is also beautifully colorful. You see, this toughness comes from the oxide being structurally similar to precious gem stones (like sapphire).
The million dollar question when it comes to watches, is about how well and how thoroughly executed this treatment is. You will find anodized aluminum on the cases of the numerous colorful iPods and at the back of the iPhone 5 for example, and while those were prone to collecting scuffs and scratches, when anodization is done right you have a product that will last a very long time. How the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Aluminum will hold up to everyday wear and tear though is something we can only tell when we do a wrist-time review of it.
Okay, following that healthy dose of nerdery let’s take a look at some more tangible aspects of this novelty. Available in khaki green, sand, navy blue and black, Hamilton really showcases a wide range of tasteful colors that can be achieved through anodization. All versions will come with a color-coordinated NATO strap with leather inserts and loops. The latter seems to be an interesting decision as NATO straps are primarily coupled with hardware that is made of the same metal as the case of the watch; and even if they did not want to or simply could not make them from aluminum, we feel it would have been a nice detail to see color-matched metal hardware securing the strap.
Another subtle detail is the asymmetrical shape of the case, a design feat which may not be obvious at first sight. It is a minor tweak that arguably adds to the long-term wearability, making the otherwise restrained aesthetics a tad more unusual and, hence, more interesting. It is achieved by shaping the right hand side of the case a bit more bulky, making that profile into a large, extended crown protector. Speaking of crowns, the one located at the 2 o’clock position can be used to set the inner flange ring, making 60 minute countdowns possible once the wearer aligned the “00” mark with the minute hand; while the crown at 4 o’clock position is for winding the movement and setting the time.
Being a pilot’s watch, the dial on the Khaki Pilot Pioneer has a relatively clean looking design that promises to remain legible under most circumstances. The four different colored cases will have their dials’ colors matched to that of the case, while all four iterations will feature the same Arabic numeral indexes, coated with Super-Luminova for better readability in the dark. Inside the watch is the Hamilton H-10 movement, offering a healthy amount of 80 hours power reserve topped off with automatic winding as well as a date indication.
It is exciting to see Hamilton experiment with a new-old material which aluminum undoubtedly is, especially since the brand managed to match it with a simple and yet great looking collection. The real test is ahead of us however, as we can find out how well the aluminum truly performs only once we had the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Aluminum in for a review. For now, what we know is that it is an interesting new offering, and that is all the more the case, considering the relatively competitive price of $1,145 for any one of the variants. hamiltonwatch.com