Look at almost any field watch marketing campaign, and one of the first things you’re liable to notice is a heavy emphasis on the great outdoors. On paper, this is perfectly natural, as field watches are (obviously) built to operate out in the field. With very few exceptions, though, a field excursion is not a single-tool endeavor. Alongside a watch, one of the most important pieces of equipment for any wilderness trekker is a reliable compass. With this in mind, a compass bezel is a natural, highly useful addition to a field watch platform, and Hamilton’s latest effort manages to blend this useful functionality with rugged good looks and a timeless presentation. The new Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition is a bolder, more purposeful twist on the fan-favorite Khaki Field formula, with a more muscular stance alongside classic tool watch visual cues.
Available in both 37mm and 41mm diameters, the Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition’s stainless steel case brings an almost diver-esque silhouette to the series. The athletic, tapering unchamfered lugs, slab case sides, and fully brushed finish give the Khaki Field Expedition a purposeful, utilitarian look, and our sample model’s 41mm wide proportions work to elevate this sense of clean, masculine dependability on the wrist. Hamilton tops this simple case off with a heavily toothed, bidirectional engraved bezel, complete with a set of cardinal directions and intermediate markings. This, naturally, is the Khaki Field Expedition’s compass bezel, and unlike the smoothly rotating internal compass bezels sometimes used in field watches, this design opts for a sturdier heavy-duty feel. Bezel operation is pleasingly heavy and precise, with a robust, backplay-free click between notches. To use the bezel as a compass, the wearer needs to keep the watch dial parallel to the ground, align the hour hand with the current position of the sun, and align the bezel’s south marking (north for wearers in the Southern Hemisphere) with the midway point between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock index on the dial. It may not be as precise or as all-purpose as a traditional magnetic compass (for a start, this method does not work without the sun visible in the sky), but it can form a potentially vital backup for wearers in the wilderness. For those less inclined to explore the wilds, the bezel markings also occur at five-minute intervals, so the Khaki Field Expedition can be used as an ersatz diver-style countdown or count-up scale by treating the north marking as 12 o’clock. Hamilton’s only major decoration for the Khaki Field Expedition’s case is its sapphire display caseback, showcasing the H-10 automatic movement within. This is a true field watch, however, and Hamilton rates this case for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
For the most part, the Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition’s dial is pure field watch simplicity. Everything from the grainy matte black dial surface to the wide printed Arabic hours numerals, the open, airy outer minutes scale, and the syringe-tipped minutes hand is classic Khaki Field series hallmarks. For the hours hand, however, Hamilton gives this new model a dose of unique character with a broad, flaring arrow-tipped design. Designed to be more easily used in conjunction with the outer compass bezel, this hours hand also proves itself to be ultra-legible in regular use. Like much of the modern Khaki Field collection, Hamilton equips the Khaki Field Expedition’s dial with sandy fauxtina lume, but at this point, this lume color is as much an independent aesthetic choice as it is an attempt to give the watch a vintage feel on the wrist. As with all khaki lume, however, it’s sure to prove controversial in some enthusiast circles.
Inside the Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition beats the H-10 automatic movement. Developed by parent company Swatch Group exclusively for Hamilton and its sister brands, the H-10 is a capable, thoroughly modern automatic with a hefty 80-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate. In keeping with the rest of the Kahki Field Expedition’s no-nonsense finishing, the H-10 is largely matte blasted here, with a simple Hamilton “H” logo engraved on the balance cock and a crisply brushed cutout rotor. To complete the design, Hamilton fits this particular variant of the Khaki Field Expedition with an olive-drab leather strap. Topped with cream-white box stitching and a finely-grained semi-gloss finish, this strap handsomely echoes the military undertones of the Khaki Field platform while offering a supple, thick, and soft feel on the wrist right out of the box.
A compass bezel is a natural addition to the rugged, go-anywhere outdoor ethos of the field watch, adding both style and potentially life-saving functionality. The new Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition is no exception to this, with a compass bezel that adds a durable, capable new charm to what is arguably the archetypal field watch design. The Hamilton Khaki Field Expedition is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for this watch as tested stands at $995 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.