Hunters & Collectors: Hands-On With The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze
We took this updated classic military timepiece for a ride.
Timepieces are often marketed for specific tasks. For example, a pilot’s watch is meant to be worn while flying. However, that doesn’t mean we stick it in a drawer when we deplane. Likewise, a dive watch is meant for underwater exploration, but we’re hardly going to take it off the moment we’re back on land too. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that we like to mix things up.
That’s why we were interested in testing out the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze in an equestrian setting. Could this classic military timepiece take the pounding pace of a Hunter-class ride?
Let’s saddle up and find out.
We don’t need to tell you that bronze is kind of a big deal with watch enthusiasts. Just look at all the community love for Oris’ bronze Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy” and the 2020 Hölstein Edition Chronograph or Tudor’s Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition.
One of the reasons for the popularity of this alloy’s appeal is that the metal is mutable. The patina changes every time you wear it, leaving a record of every adventure you have. But most bronze watches tend to fall into the diver or pilot class, so we were excited to see Hamilton enter the competition back in June with a bronze version of the Khaki Field Mechanical.
If those of us in the watch industry were to be honest with ourselves, we grossly overuse the word “iconic.” That is why I’ve been trying to cut back on its use, but (unfortunately for my personal goals) it’s an apt descriptor of this military watch. It has wide-set lugs, slab case sides, a flat bezel, and a pillbox crown, all of which have been instantly recognizable features of Hamilton’s field watch designs since World War II.
The Khaki Field Mechanical is specifically an update of the FAPD 5101 Type 1 Navigator, a US military-commissioned wristwatch produced from 1969 into the 1980s, better known as the “GI.”
Of course, horses have a long history with the military too. The first evidence of horses in warfare can be dated to Eurasia circa 4000 and 3000 BCE. In the Americas, indigenous people advanced the development of mounted warfare. Indeed, many of their tactics were used successfully by mobile horse regiments during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War.
Today, our time on horseback tends to be a much more genteel pursuit. For instance, the Hunter division of horse show competitions, which evolved from the relatively brutal tradition of the British fox hunt, now focus on the form of the horse as it jumps over fences and other obstacles. As graceful as it looks, the sport, like a cavalry, relies on discipline and precision.
The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze is first and foremost an outdoorsy timepiece with the brand’s exclusive mil-spec-inspired, hand-wound H-50 movement that sports an impressive 80-hour power reserve to help absorb the bumps from jumps.
The look of the watch also feels right in the equestrian milieu, especially as the warmth of the bronze case recalls horse brass – a familiar form of harness decoration. Plus, the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze watch comes 20mm wide brown leather NATO-style strap the closes with a pin buckle that instantly recalls the strength and suppleness of halters and other horse tacks.
And like a rider navigating the short turns, jumps, and other obstacles of a Hunter course, the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze is a ready-for-anything timepiece.
Its compact dimensions (38mm diameter, 9.5mm thickness, and 47mm lug-to-lug across the wrist) are practical. Moreover, the white-printed Arabic hour numerals, inner ring with 24-hour scale displaying military time, and the minute hashes along the outer rim of the dial contrast the matte black dial extremely well, making it super legible. The central hours, minutes, and lollipop arrow seconds hands are coated with aged Super-LumiNova that lend a lived-in vintage look.
All of these elements make the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze a great timepiece for desk jockeys as well as actual jockeys and equestrians. The brushed bronze alloy merely gives the case a different mood than the stainless steel versions of this time-only watch. It also comes with a solid titanium caseback to prevent the bronze from turning your wrist green as the case develops its distinct patina.
The special CuSn8 bronze alloy that Hamilton employs is also used in the marine industry for its anti-corrosive properties, so you know it will age gracefully. And considering that riders often compete well into their 60s, like member of the Australian Dressage Team, Mary Hanna, aged 66, this is definitely a good thing. Interestingly, as equestrian events generally don’t differentiate between gender, the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze, with its compact size, can be worn by anyone.
Best of all, it’s a great value proposition. Whether you’re looking to add a bronze watch to your collection or even looking for your first high-end mechanical watch, the Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze is accessibly priced at $850, proving that it’s not just for the horsey set.