We Put the New Hamilton Khaki Field Through Torture Tests, Here’s How It Survive

We Put the New Hamilton Khaki Field Through Torture Tests, Here’s How It Survived

The field watch has come a long way since its military roots – can its modern incarnation still claim its position as a rugged tool watch? We took it to the Arizona desert to find out.

By Cait Bazemore

As the name suggests, field watches were originally built for use on the battlefield, with their origins trace back to the early 20th century. At that time, wristwatches were considered a jewelry item reserved for women, and the pocket watch was still the ultimate accessory for men.

Yet, in WWI, soldiers quickly realized the pocket watch couldn’t stand up to the brutality of trench warfare. They needed a timekeeping device they could access quickly and easily on the battlefield. As a result, soldiers began adding wire lugs and leather bands to their pocket watches and strapping them on their wrists.

Then, as soldiers came home with these rugged, makeshift timekeepers, the stigma against wristwatches began to shift. By WWII, nearly every major watchmaker around the globe (including Hamilton) had started producing field watches for the troops. In the past 80 years, the field watch has evolved well beyond its military origins. Thanks to the military-chic fashion trend of the 1970s and ‘80s (think camo prints and denim army jackets), the model was able to shake its strictly utilitarian roots and cross over into style territory.

This gave way to the broader trend we’ve seen in more recent decades, one in which the outdoorsy look of aviators, flannel button-downs, and down-filled puffy vests are no longer reserved solely for backpacking excursions.

However, this evolution begs the question: Can the modern field watch still brave the elements, or has it fallen victim to the likes of glamping culture where you can merely look the part without actually playing the part?

Hamilton Field Watches: Where the Military and Fashion Meet

Hamilton is here to prove that the field watch can be super stylish while retaining its rugged chops. The watchmaker has been producing field wristwatches since World War II, and these military designs ultimately gave way to one of the brand’s most iconic models: the Khaki Field.

In its modern incarnation, the model preserves many quintessential elements of the classic field watch, like a simple, highly legible, and compact design. And two of Hamilton’s latest iterations are the Khaki Field Expedition, launched in 2023, and the brand’s new Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm, now in stainless steel with white and blue dials as well as a bronze model with a white dial.

A few weeks ago, we aimed to push the Khaki Field to its limit through a series of torture tests on air, land, and sea. We opted for the Khaki Field Expedition, fitted with the brand’s all-new NATO straps.

The journey begins in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the stunning Andaz Resort and Bungalows, where, the Khaki Field soared through the first unofficial test: the welcome dinner. The model undeniably ticks the style box.

The Land Test

The following day, we had a 7:00am wake-up call – it was time for the land test. By 9:00 am, we found ourselves in the middle of the Arizona desert outside the Scottsdale city limits.

We ensured our screw-down crowns were properly secured, pulled up our gaiters, strapped on our helmets, and set out in ATVs for our first excursion. Dust-covered and now looking a little less resort-ready, the Khaki Field was still ticking after two hours of plowing through the dry and dirt-filled terrain.

One test down, two to go.

The “Sea” Test

We took a brief lunch break at a casual outpost, then changed clothes in preparation for our next adventure: the “sea” test.

Now, at this point, you may be wondering: How did you test the Khaki Field in the sea in land-locked Arizona? Well, the truth is that this was more of a water test since we put the Khaki Field through its aquatic paces while rafting down the Salt River.

Sunscreen and life vests in tow, we set out for a three-hour tour. In calmer areas free of rapids, it was imperative we dive off the raft and cool down in the water lest we melt in the more than 100-degree Arizona heat.

Yet, after taking multiple dips (and enduring a few splashes in rough waters), the Khaki Field was still ticking thanks to its 100 meters of water resistance. And hey! The watch got thoroughly cleaned from the dust-filled morning – win-win.

One more test to go, but it was time to turn in for the day.

The Air Test

Even after enduring a full day of expeditions, the Khaki Field seamlessly transformed into the ideal dinner date for another evening back at the Andaz Resort and Bungalows.

However, our second night was a brief one – we needed to get a little rest before the 3:00 am wake-up call the next day for the last torture test, air, in the form of a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Thus, mere hours after we’d all been dressed in smart casual southwestern flair over a candlelit meal, we reconvened in far more rustic attire as we rolled out of bed and stumbled to the buses for our 3:30 am departure.

About 90 minutes later, we again found ourselves outside the Scottsdale city limits just as the first signs of the morning sun began cascading over the cactus-filled landscape. There, our pilot enlisted the help of two of the stronger men in our crew to help with the inflation of the hot air balloon, and soon, it was time to take the Khaki Field to new heights in the third and final test.

At over 3000 feet in the open air overlooking the Sonoran Desert, you guessed it: the Khaki Field was still ticking, only losing a few seconds of accuracy over the whirlwind 48 hours.

Pricing & Availability

Hamilton’s Khaki Field Expedition fully lives up to its field watch moniker and is now available in five new styles in 41mm and 37mm references, including four iterations on the brand’s new NATO straps (each priced at just $945) and a more refined bracelet version (priced at $1,045).

Finally, the Khaki Field Mechanical 38mm gets three new colorways, with the stainless steel versions priced at only $595 each and the striking bronze version priced at $895.

For more information, visit the Hamilton website.

(Images © Hamilton)

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