Hands-On With The Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer, A Convertible Deck Watch (With Live Photos And Price)

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Recently launched at Baselworld 2012, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer limited edition celebrates the brand’s 120th anniversary. Like the sold-out Pan Europ limited edition chronograph, the Khaki Navy Pioneer watch is a retro-inspired and well priced watch.

Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer

The Navy Pioneer is modelled on the marine chronometers Hamilton supplied the US Navy with during the Second World War (when it was still an American, rather than Swiss, company). Several companies have made wristwatch versions of marine chronometers or deck watches, but the Khaki Navy Pioneer is by far the most interesting.  The dial is an attractive matte, grained silver with blued steel hands. Both the dial and hands are of high quality, higher than other Hamiltons of recent vintage. The dial printing is sharp and even, while the hands have a rounded profile and a deep blue colour. But the obvious “Swiss Made” at six o’clock is a bit jarring for those who understand the history of the brand though.  A nice addition would have been a power reserve at 12, like the marine chronometers of old. As it is now the dial looks more like a deck watch than marine chronometer.

But the standout feature of this watch is the fact that it can be set into the gimballed box as a desk clock, or worn on the wrist. Unlike other convertible wristwatches which have inordinately clunky mechanisms, this is accomplished with a simple yet brilliant idea that is easy to use and also minimises the case height.

Gimballed box enabling the watch to stay horizontal regardless of the position of the box, just like in a marine chronometer

The locking mechanism works with a twist and lock, like that of a camera lens. It even has a red dot on the case holder like a camera, to indicate where the crown should be positioned to lock in the watch. This is an elegant idea that works very well; the watch head locks with a reassuring click. Once locked it sits securely, with no rattling. A little imagination can go a long way.

Photographers will find this very familiar

Though it’s 46.5 mm the case doesn’t appear unreasonably large. The case is entirely polished with knurling on the bezel for grip when locking or removing the watch head.

The back is laser engraved with lots of text; I would have prefered a brushed finish on the back which not only looks more refined but helps hide scratches.

The only downside I can imagine is the sewn-in strap. On the prototype there appeared to be no way of removing it. But I will post more info on the strap once available. The strap works well enough but I expect many buyers would want to change the strap. The movement is a Unitas 6498. It is decorated but in an industrial fashion in keeping with a watch of this price point. The retail price in Singapore will be S$3820, or about US$3100.

Industrial-looking, machine applied beveling

Hamilton also unveiled a regular production 42 mm version with date containing an ETA 2892, but this doesn’t have the presence or dial balance of the larger limited edition.

The 42 mm lacks the perfect proportions of its larger brother

Only 1892 pieces of the Khaki Navy Pioneer will be made. Given the price-quality ratio I expect them to sell very well. Lots more pictures follow below. – SJX

Both the watch and box will be numbered

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