Along For The Ride: The Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto
It’s a two-hour ride from my apartment in Brooklyn to New Paltz, New York, where I was scheduled to meet my producer, Kyle, at 11:15 AM for a photoshoot with the Indian FTR 1200 S I was reviewing for Forbes.com. This upstate bohemian enclave doubles as the cozy front porch to the Minnewaska State Park, and the surrounding area makes for one hell of a place to ride, not to mention to capture some stunning images along the way.
First on the docket for the day was coffee in town to review our itinerary, followed by a photoshoot and a track test at nearby Coppersea Distillery, lunch, then photos at the overlook, ending the day with golden hour rolling shots amongst the famous upstate autumn foliage. Along for the ride on my wrist, keeping us on schedule, and perfectly suited for this Americana-filled day was the lightweight, highly visible Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto in black PVD.
Cruising along Highway 87, about a half-hour from the New Paltz exit, I glance down at my fuel gauge. I’m not exactly running on fumes, but there’s no way I’m making it the rest of the way. Pulling into the gas station, I got a fleeting sense of anxiety that I’m behind schedule, but a quick and easy glance at the Hamilton put me at ease.
I’ve become accustomed to always slapping a timepiece on my wrist when going for a ride. Not all motorcycles have clocks, and for the most part, even modern bikes tend to reserve the smallest space possible on the dashboard for timekeeping and bury a clock amongst the oil and engine temperature gauges. And flying down the highway while straddling a motorcycle is no time for a scavenger hunt.
At a substantial but not overly large 42mm, the Khaki Field Titanium required merely a swift glimpse at the wrist to get the info I needed. The contrasting beige numerals against the black dial of the Hamilton was a borderline luxury.
Not to mention at less than 12mm thick, this watch slid safely and easily beneath the cuff of my riding jacket when not needed.
It’s only 89 miles from Brooklyn to New Paltz, so I figured a stop along the way wouldn’t set me back, especially since the FTR’s modest 3.4-gallon tank makes every fill-up a true splash-and-dash. The thirsty 1203cc V-twin engine, on the other hand, doesn’t exactly help the range, but its 123 horsepower engine helped me get back up to speed and barreling towards my meet-up.
Kyle was waiting at the table when I pulled up, and as soon as I took my helmet off, there was a mutual expression of “today’s going to be a good’n.” The ride into New Paltz and the view from where we sat gave us all the assurance we needed for the photoshoot. Upstate New York is famous for its mountain backdrops and fluorescent autumn colors in every direction. It’s why we picked New Paltz for a location, and it did not disappoint.
After taking in the view and some critical cups of coffee, we got down to hashing out the day’s schedule. He, too, was sporting a Hamilton, the Khaki Field Titanium Auto, though Kyle’s was encased in bare metal with a silver dial. We synced the military-inspired watches mission-style before setting out for the day.
We wanted to be at Coppersea Distillery by noon. Outpost BBQ at 1:30 PM for a late lunch. At the scenic overlook by 3:00 PM for the soft afternoon light, then Mohonk Road in time for the golden hour near sunset, with some car-to-bike rolling shots along the way.
The First Stop
The Hamilton let me know it was noon, sharp, as we pulled into Coppersea Distillery. Right on time.
When originally planning the shoot, I was absolutely adamant about stopping at Coppersea. I’ve frequented the distillery a few times over the summer, and while the whiskey is as pleasant to take in with the view they have of Mohonk Mountain, there was something off-menu I was chomping at the bit to get a taste of.
Earlier in the summer, after chatting with Coppersea Chief Distiller, Christopher Williams, about the grounds, he let me in on a secret. Before it was used to distill spirits, it used to be a racehorse training farm, complete with a half-mile dirt track. Most importantly (and thankfully), Williams said I was welcome to it.
An abandoned racetrack with an autumn backdrop most multi-million-dollar race facilities only dream of, and I had it all to myself? How could I say no?
The Track Test
After a sighting lap, making sure it was clear of fallen trees and noting the ruts, a few hot laps were in order.
After a few runs around the track, it was impossible to resist doing a timed lap. The Hamilton Khaki Field is not a chronograph, and it doesn’t try to be. However, in the absence of one, the highly legible dial and clear second marker make it a versatile and more-than-sufficient stand-in.
Kyle took up time-keeping duties, gave a countdown, and I set off. The V-twin handles highway riding and around-town duties just fine, but this is the purpose of the bike's existence: kicking up dirt, getting sideways, and going as fast as the rider dares.
Before calling it quits, I clocked a fastest lap of 51 seconds flat. I’m not exactly an Indian Motorcycles factory racer, so I’m sure there’s a quicker way around Coppersea’s track. But seeing as how I was the first person on a motorcycle to set a time, I currently hold the unofficial lap record. We figured that was a good enough note to end on.
Get The Shot
After a hearty helping of brisket and cajun fries at Outpost BBQ, Kyle and I went through the shots we had already captured and the itinerary for the rest of the day to make sure we stayed on schedule and got all the shots we needed.
While the open-lapping session at Coppersea was the crown jewel of my day, our photographer Jean Pierre had his eye on capturing an epic, golden hour rolling wrist shot. Keeping an eye on the time, we made our way up to the scenic overlook.
As talented as he is, the panorama from Mohonk Mountain made JP’s job infinitely easier. With a jaw-dropping view in every direction, all I had to do was ride a motorcycle on a stretch of winding asphalt. I was quite happy to call it my office for the day.
A Natural Pairing
The Indian FTR 1200 S is the home-built bike America has been craving for years. It is powered by a torque-filled, horsepower-rich 1203cc V-twin and revs to 9,000 RPM. Put simply: It’s a ruggedly versatile bike asking to be ridden rough.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto is the ideal companion for this adventurous motorcycle. It doesn’t have the horsepower to match, but critically, at only 66g, it weighs substantially less than the 514-lb bike, but it is clearly cut from the same cloth as the FTR 1200 S. It’s light, svelte, easy-to-read at a glance, and aesthetically on point. I continuously admired how the Hamilton’s black PVD coating complimented the Indian’s race-replica edition paint scheme. These two were meant to be matched.
All-day on the road, enduring hot laps on the track, with flying dirt, mud, rocks, and knocks, both machines held up to the abuse. A Hamilton watch, on an Indian Motorcycle, indulging in a little flat track riding and some BBQ, all while soaking up the autumn colors – you could’ve cut the Americana with a trusty Bowie knife.