Best known for its military history and its partnerships with Hollywood, Hamilton debuted two new watches in its Khaki Aviation series in January 2024.  The new Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot watches are offered in a number of variants in 36mm and 42mm. The smaller 36mm options are part of Hamilton’s expansion into more unisex sizing. This move pays homage to the styles of the past while also welcoming women (and other smaller-wristed folks) into the fold. I had the rose-gold PVD case with a midnight blue dial in for review, a model that is versatile and sure to flatter a wide range of wrist sizes. 

The dial gives it a sense of versatility when it comes to styling: Unless you’re looking at the dial in direct light, it can appear black, which is great for matching with a variety of different outfits. The dial is arranged in a Type B flieger style, with the minutes on the external track in multiples of five and hour markers on the inside track. The 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions have stick indices coated with Super-LumiNova, and a lumed triangle marker at 12. There is, admittedly, a lot of information packed into an already small dial. However, there isn’t a sense of crowding, thanks to the lack of a date window and the overall balance. The Type B layout keeps the minutes as the focal point of legibility, which mitigates some of the busy feeling that is common when the hours are on the outside track.

Advertising Message

The shape of the sapphire crystal, in addition to the anti-reflective coating, adds to the legibility of this Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto. Its flatness precludes any distortion seen at an angle. Fans of Hamilton know that its watches are often subject to glare, but this really feels like a point that Hamilton addressed in this watch. Not once did I notice a time of day when the dial was hard to read. The hands are an alternating skeleton design that line up beautifully once each hour. They are also liberally coated with green Super-LumiNova. As an owner of the Hamilton Murph 38mm, I can confirm the lume on this Khaki Aviation Pilot lasts longer, keeping it legible through the night. The markers and hands are a true white in color, as opposed to the “fauxtina” on some of Hamilton’s other models, which likely accounts for the difference in lume longevity.

One of the stylistic hallmarks of this watch is how the skeletonized portion of the hour hand perfectly frames each hour numeral. As many owners know, sometimes it’s the little things that can bring a lot of joy when wearing a watch, and I found myself looking at the dial at the top of each hour to see the time expertly framed by the gilt hour hand. While this feature is done just as well, if not better than its 42mm sibling, the proportion of the hands to the rest of the dial was actually one of the things I liked least. The dial feels slightly too small to accommodate the wide sword hands and the overall look, on some wrists, may look disproportionate. Making the minute hand narrower would have helped mitigate that, while still allowing for the hour hand to frame the hour marker like Hamilton intended. This point doesn’t turn me off of the watch at all, but it’s a phenomenon I’ve become more aware of as I get hands-on with a variety of 36mm watches, especially (I would venture to say entirely) when those watches have a larger identical sibling. There is a spirit, sometimes, of the smaller version “playing dress-up” to look like the larger reference. I think this Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto is just shy of falling victim to that experience — and some might not even notice — but I could see this being a sticking point for the especially astute (or owners of the 42mm options).

With a case height of 11.15mm, this reference wears fairly standard for a field watch of its size. Hamilton states the water resistance is 10 bar, or 100 meters. Though this is common for many Hamilton watches and not really a selling point for most people, I still think this figure is worth including. Though every brand will determine “true” water resistance and all its subsequent ramifications differently, 100 meters feels like the golden number for many wearers who like to put a watch through its paces. Even if you’re not planning to take a swim with the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto (and if you do, please take it off the nice leather strap!), it can simply add to someone’s peace of mind.

Advertising Message

With a lug width of 18mm, this watch would take to a variety of straps nicely, and there’s a subtle taper on the included strap to 16mm at the buckle. This particular reference is only available for purchase on the calf leather strap, as is the white dial. However, the black and blue dials are available on a stainless steel bracelet. Anyone purchasing the rose gold option, specifically, should keep in mind that this case might be a tough color to match when purchasing aftermarket straps.  

The rose gold and midnight blue dial model comes on a rose-colored calf leather strap, and this addition single-handedly makes this Khaki Aviation stand apart from its predecessors. Hamilton, in my anecdotal experience, has a reputation for including some less-than-comfortable stock straps on a handful of their watches. Most require the wearer to embark on a long break-in period or just swap the strap to an aftermarket option entirely. I was hesitant when I unboxed this one, knowing I’ve been burned by Hamilton’s straps in the past. However, I was really surprised to find that this calf leather strap was not only comfortable immediately, but it was also perfectly sized to fit smaller wrists. My wrists are around 5.75 inches, and I wore this watch on the second tightest setting with a little over an inch left in the strap. While this would fit anyone with a wrist 5.50 inches to about 6.75 inches very well, it might be a tight fit for anyone with a wrist over 7 inches. That problem seems like it wouldn’t be an issue with the models that come on bracelets since the brand’s website offers this watch on a bracelet up to 14 inches, but I can’t speak to that directly.

The 36mm references are powered by Hamilton’s H-10 caliber, which is a three-hand movement found in many of the popular models in the Khaki lines. This is a modified ETA caliber that is available with or without the date function. The larger 42mm Khaki Field Aviation Pilot Auto features an H-30 with a day/date complication at 3 o’clock. The H-10 boasts a power reserve of 80 hours, a hallmark of the caliber, and all of the movements in the pilot series have streamlined surfaces (as opposed to the American Classic series which have snail and pearled patterning). As with most options in the Khaki Aviation line, this watch has an open caseback that shows off the Nivachron™ balance spring and a Hamilton engraved rotor. 

Overall, this Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto is an excellent addition to the series. It’s compact enough to look fantastic on a wide variety of wrists while remaining extremely legible. It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Hamilton — both its history and its typical aesthetics — though I’m usually sized out of many models due to their long lugs and larger cases. When Hamilton released this model at 36mm, it felt like the brand’s response to the same sort of crowd feedback that got us the Murph 38mm. This is yet another example of Hamilton’s finger on the pulse of its consumer base, and it’s something I think other brands will need to tap into as they seek to move toward younger and more diverse markets where representation is critical to success.

While I typically consider my love of watches to be a slow burn, even in reviews, this particular Hamilton made me realize that first impressions can be telling and credit should sometimes be given to a gut reaction. I’ve never felt such an instant connection to a watch or wanted to so quickly add a review watch to my personal collection. Though I initially thought that part of my love of this model was due to the PVD rose-gold coating, I also had the 36mm black dial on wrist briefly and felt the same level of connection to that one. Regardless of the dial or case color, this is just a handsome watch that speaks to the aspiring adventurer in me, in a size that makes me feel (finally!) like part of the team.

The Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Auto (36mm) is available in several versions, with the black and blue dials on a stainless steel bracelet and the rose gold PVD on a leather strap (seen here) priced at $1,045 USD and the white dial option on a leather strap priced at $995 USDFor more information, please visit the Hamilton website

Advertising Message

Subscribe to our Newsletter