Saturday, 28 May 2011

Hamilton Khaki Mechanical 44mm Hand-wound--REVIEW

Another unplanned purchase, dammit. First was the Tissot VisoDate 1957 and now this. The Hamilton Khaki 44mm Mechanical.

My collection was lacking something. Something big, loud and slightly ridiculous. Something with a Unitas 6497 hand-wound movement and a military watch look. I have the wrists of a schoolgirl, which measure 6.5 inches, so a 44mm wristwatch is really pushing it.

I should mention that I’ve worked for an Authorised Watch Dealer for over ten years. My store sells many brands, but Hamilton is not available in Australia.  Working for an AD has given me the opportunity to try on a multitude of watches, so I had reached a point where I had a good idea of what I was looking for.

The Hamilton Watch Company was known for producing watches for military use during the Second World War. By war’s end, they had supplied the US armed forces with over a million watches. So they have a rich history when it comes to military timepieces. Those of you reading who know a lot more about this than I, feel free to correct me where necessary.
So anyway, I saw this Hamilton Khaki on eBay and grabbed it. It seemed to meet all of my criteria.

A 44mm diameter wristwatch would positively dwarf my wrist. However, there are times when I want to look like an action figure (or clown) and, on some days, I have enough attitude to carry this look off. Or at least I think I do. I was after a watch that would look like a piece of military kit like those underwater wrist compasses that Panerai made during the war. Basically, I wanted the sort of watch that I could wear in a post-Apocalyptic wasteland, such as  in “Terminator: Salvation”, not “The Road”.
So I purchased the watch and waited.
About a week later, this arrived in the mail;

The letter, not the drink, wiseguy. I hate these postcards.

So I did what any normal guy would do. I dusted off the cocktail shaker, grabbed the Bacardi, some lime juice and a dash of sugar and shook up a Daiquiri from a recipe by David Wondrich in the September issue of US “Esquire” magazine. That hit the spot. The next day, I raced to the Post Office to pick up the watch.

And, to pepper this review with an old Hollywood vibe...*



A MAN sits at a long wooden TABLE. He TYPES away at a LAPTOP. He’s thin, rapidly approaching middle age, and his hair went South years ago. His name is TEERITZ.

                       TEERITZ (V.O.)

               I thought this was just another
               watch review. And then I got an
               idea. And before I knew it, I was
               in over my head...again.

                                                        CUT TO:

“The Army??!! He’s 44 years old, for crying out loud! If Dad were still alive, this’d kill him.”


Day 01 –13:09 HRS –THE CASE
The case is nicely done. All evenly-brushed stainless steel. There’s always a risk with large watches that, because of their size, any flaws will be easily noticeable. The Khaki is an exercise in understated design. There is no adornment or flourish just for the sake of it. It is made up entirely of soft curves throughout with no sharp corners.

The bezel is interesting, too. It reminds me somewhat of the IWC Pilot’s Chronograph in that it is not a removable part, but completely integrated into the case’s design. As such, a hard knock from the wrong angle will put a decent dent in the bezel which would not polish out completely. Just something to be aware of.

Okay, I'm taking a break. All this cutting and pasting is getting on my wick. Gotta go.

Okay, back to it.

"This is gonna take a little longer than I thought."*

 Day 01-18:14 HRS-THE CASE(CONT.)
Okay, back to the case. The lugs have a slight downward curve. Good for me because my wrist is gonna need all the help it can get. You can see the noticeable overhang from the strap.

It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Snigger all you want. Yes, the watch wears large, as you’ll see in numerous photos in this review, but it doesn’t sit as ridiculously as I had assumed.


"I got it! Now to really start giving the enemy a hard time."


There are six screws holding the case-back in place. This is not a screw-down case-back. I am confident that it is secure enough to maintain the watch’s 100 metre water-resistance. Nice to know.


"Not exactly OSS-issue ordnance, but it’ll have to do. The branches are a little damp, too. Luckies make a great fuse, though. Should give me about fifteen minutes.”

Now, the case-back is interesting with regard to how much it holds the wearer’s hand. It basically assumes that you know nothing about the wristwatch you’ve just purchased so there are little symbols engraved on the back that tell you this watch is 100m water-resistant, stainless steel, hand-wound, contains a 6497 movement with and finally, that the watch is indeed a Hamilton, as well as lots of other specs. Perhaps I’m too used to seeing a lot of this info engraved in wording around the outer edge of the case-back. This arrangement doesn’t irk me. It’s merely an observation.

I'll tell you what is nifty, though- the little cut-out/porthole window which shows the hairspring expand and contract while a section of the escapement can be seen doing its little dance in the back-ground. It would have been nice to get a complete exhibition/see-through case-back, but then, knowing Hamilton, they would have given the movement a little decoration. So, I suppose they put in an un-adorned movement in order to cut costs. No big deal. I have enough watches with see-through backs. And speaking of the movement...

Day 01 –21:12 HRS –THE MOVEMENT
There’s a Unitas 6497 purring away inside this thing. Actually, it’s no longer Unitas. It’s ETA. Yeah, you read it right. The Swatch Group bought up Unitas. That’s okay by me if it ensures continuous funding for the production of this calibre. I’d hate to see another tried-and-tested ebauche disappear from the watch industry the way the legendary Lemania 5100 did.
The Unitas hand wound calibre was designed in the 1950s as a pocket watch movement, hence the reason why it tends to turn up in rather large watches. In recent years, it’s been used by brands as diverse as Longines and Panerai. Here are some specs for those of you interested in this stuff;

-36.6mm in diameter
-16 ½ ‘’’ligne
-53 hr power reserve
-21,600 bph
I gave the watch a quick test on the timer at work and it gave me these results;
Dial UP +12 secs per day
Crown UP +13 secs per day
Crown DOWN +17 secs per day

This was by no means a definitive test and it only covered three positions, but the results seemed okay to me, considering this movement hasn’t been adjusted to run at COSC specifications. Also, this is a non-hacking movement, so if you find yourself in a re-enactment of the D-Day landing, you’re gonna look pretty foolish when the Commander announces; “Alright, men, synchronise your watches.”
One thing about this Unitas-ETA 6497 movement- it winds very smoothly and definitively. You can almost feel ratchets lock against each other as you wind it.
Deep down, I’m a sucker for a hand wound watch. I’ve had an Omega Speedmaster Professional for the last 4 years and that got me used to hand wound watches. There’s something old-school about hand winding a watch. It’s the ultimate interaction between the owner and the watch. The watch has a heart-beat and it is you, the wearer, who keeps the watch ‘alive’, so to speak.
My father bought himself a Wyler Incaflex manual wind watch back in the sixties. I don’t wear it often, but it winds like new. And, when I do wear it, I feel a little closer to him, may he rest in peace.
Speaking of winding, I should mention the crown...

Day 01 –21:57 HRS –THE CROWN
The crown on this Hamilton Khaki is just a little bigger than a Coca Cola bottle-top. I exaggerate, but it is a big crown. Nicely ridged, it’s easy to grip and its dimensions perfectly suit the case.

This crown does not screw down, either, so I’m betting that there’s the mother-of-all rubber gaskets next to it to keep water from entering the case itself.

No real big deal. There are a few watch part suppliers on the web who would have hands available to fit this movement.

The hand on the sub-seconds dial is polished stainless steel.


“Jerry can’t take a joke. Just as well those French Resistance fellas showed up. I was about to eat lead.”

 Day 03 –12:41 HRS –THE DIAL
If the Panerai Luminor Marina shows how minimal a Unitas 6497-powered watch dial can look, then the Hamilton Khaki Mechanical is an exercise in how to provide all necessary information without cluttering up the dial. Military products are all about correct function followed by utilitarian design and, while this watch would probably not meet Defence Dept. standards, it does offer a clear and legible dial layout for us civilians. The hour markers are set out in large white Arabic numerals with the 12 and 6 in slightly larger size. There is a sharp and clear contrast between the white numerals and the black-board grey dial.

In bright sunlight, this dial can take on an almost slate-grey hue. My limited photographic skills will, no doubt, be unable to capture the true color of this dial. But I’ll try.


On each hour marker next to the dial edge chapter ring, you can see 5-minute markers. Surrounding the inside edge of the hour markers is a military/European hour readout from 13 to 24 in much smaller font than the main dial.


“She stole the cigarettes from her uncle’s jacket. Wouldn’t let go of ‘em till I handed over the candy bar. There’s just no trust in the world anymore. Oh, yeah, she’s eight years old.”
This dial is what’s sometimes known as a ‘9 eater’. The sub-seconds dial completely eradicates the 9 and takes a decent bite out of the neighbouring 8 and 10 as well. And speaking of the sub-seconds dial, I love the tiny splash of red from the 50 second marker. The sub-dial has a concentric circle pattern through it, just to break up the even landscape of this dial.


The Hamilton brand name appears under the 12 (& 24) mark in a great mix of upper and lower case font. Above the 6, in very small lettering, is the name “Khaki” with the word “Mechanical” beneath it. Both of these words are in uppercase.
And here’s a lume shot. I fell asleep with this watch on and am happy to report that the time was perfectly legible when I woke up and glanced at it at about 4:30am one night.

And this is how it looks after a short exposure to bright sunlight.


"War's been over about six months now. It's a strange new world we live in. But one worth fighting for."

Day 03 –21:04 HRS –CONCLUSION

The Hamilton Khaki Mechanical is a great value-for-money watch. It comes from a brand that has a long and rich history of supplying watches for military use. So in that respect, Hamilton certainly has more credibility than some more modern brands that produce a military style watch, yet have no record of having supplied the armed forces with timepieces.

What this watch does, it does very well and it’s not trying to compete with more expensive brands that produce a similar wristwatch. The build quality and finish is exemplary, but it’s when you begin to look at this watch in detail that you notice just how well put-together it is. You could compare it to other brands like Zeno and Glycine, who both make great watches, but charge a lot more for them. I have seen other brands in the same price range as this Hamilton Khaki and they are pretty average. I’m being generous with that opinion, btw. The more I look at this watch, the better a value it becomes.

Any watch in the Hamilton Khaki range is worth a look. Some of the smaller models owe a great deal of their design to the models produced during the Second World War. However, if you’re after a bigger watch that fits in with the current trend for larger watches, then the 44mm Automatic and hand-wound models are definitely ones to consider.

Thanks for reading.

*Yeah, yeah, dogtags during WWII didn't have rubber silencers on them, but after all this work, the last thing I was going to do was remove some rubber rings from some dogtags for a photo op.
Photos shot on location around the house, back-yard and driveway. Gitane cigarette pack was empty and has been for over a decade. Hershey Bar lasted 4 minutes after that photo was taken. Given to photographer and hand model as payment.
Apologies for any and all inconsistencies and errors regarding Western Union telegram and Office of Strategic Services letter layouts. After all, I had to make them up.

Copyright, teeritz, 2011. This review has appeared elsewhere on the internet. 


  1. First, congratulations for giving in to the vintage watch temptation, that Hamilton looks like a massive, kickass watch!

    Second, awesome post! I wrote screenplays so I really appreciate the creativity. You got me, I really thought you meant the drink. Lol

  2. Thanks, lo-tech. I've got a few unfinished screenplays languishing in my computer so these little bite-sized bursts of creativity are all I can manage until I learn to make better use of my spare time.