In the field of instrument or tool watches, military forces and their highly specific requirements have played an important role in defining some of the best no-nonsense watches ever created. This is especially true when it comes to classic pilot’s watches, with most of the emblematic models rooted in military specifications – think B-Uhr, Type XX or Bund Chronographs. And here, the British RAF has given us some of the best-in-class models; among the watches issued to these forces was a chronograph made during the 1970s, noticeable thanks to its asymmetrical case and known as the Hamilton “Fab Four” watch. Today, the brand introduces a slightly modernised version with the new Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph.
It is widely known that the once-American watchmaker Hamilton has a long tradition of military watches issued to forces around the globe. Now owned by Swatch Group, the Swiss brand Hamilton has revived some of its former glories. This includes, but not only the Khaki Field Mechanical (modelled after the Hamilton Hacked), the Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical (modelled after the W10 watches) and the recent Khaki Pilot Pioneer (loosely inspired by the Model 23 made for the U.S. Air Force). Today marks the return of the 1970s RAF Chronograph known as the Fab Four.
Hamilton re-edited this watch – somewhat liberally – last year with the quartz-powered Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Chrono. But now, it’s time to be far more faithful, both visually and mechanically. This watch is modelled after one of the most famous pilot’s chronographs issued to the British Royal Air Force pilots during the 1970s. Produced by Hamilton but also CWC, Newmark and Precista, the watch was characterised by its focused design, its clean black dial with luminous markers and bi-compax display, but primarily by its reinforced case on the right side to protect the crown and pushers. It was the second generation of the RAF pilot’s chronograph, following the Lemania Mono-Pusher. These new models were powered by a Valjoux 7733 and measured 39mm in diameter.
The new Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph doesn’t try to hide its origins. It clearly is a re-edition of the old Fab Four concept, yet with some concessions to modernity to make it a perfectly usable watch. Starting with the case, we can see a slight increase in diameter, which is now 40mm. The case is still made of brushed stainless steel, with its characteristic asymmetrical design and a protective shoulder on the right, where the crown and the pushers are slightly recessed.
The rest follows the no-nonsense, utilitarian spirit of the original watch. Don’t expect many concessions to luxury in this Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph, which is why it’s such a cool watch. Modernity has been brought, however, with the addition of a sapphire crystal in place of the Plexiglas used on the vintage model. It still uses a retro box-shape design and features an anti-reflective coating. The rest is classic, focused and clean with a large notched crown, two pump pushers, fully brushed surfaces and a screwed solid steel caseback. For a vintage-oriented pilot chronograph, the 100m water-resistance is an asset. Due to the combination of a relatively thick movement and a highly domed crystal, the case is not the thinnest and has a thickness of 14.35mm.
The dial follows suit and again respects the original 1970s watches. On the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph, this means a matte grained black dial with simple printed tracks and large markers and numerals. The two-register layout has been respected, and no, there’s no date to ruin this beautifully clean dial. The hands, like the original, are white lacquered, and all the elements are generously filled with Old Radium Super-LumiNova. Simple, efficient, ultra-legible and, for all of these reasons, attractive.
Although Hamilton respects the original hand-wound architecture, there is a far more modern movement inside the case. The well-known base is the Valjoux 7753 without its self-winding module. However, Hamilton benefits from Swatch Group’s investments and uses the calibre H-51-Si, first introduced on the hand-wound Intra-Matic Chronograph. This means a movement equipped with an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring and an extended power reserve of 60 hours with a revised kinetic chain and mainspring. The 4Hz frequency is, however, kept.
The watch is delivered with a vintage-style brown leather strap and a steel pin buckle, yet I’m sure your imagination will work to find some even cooler solutions, elevating the military spirit of this watch to a higher level.
Availability & Price
The RAF-inspired Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical Chronograph (reference H76409530) will be offered as part of the permanent collection. It will be priced at CHF 1,995, EUR 1,995 or USD 2,045, which is excellent value for money, as usual with Hamilton.
For more details, please visit www.hamiltonwatch.com.
All images of the Vintage Hamilton Fab Four 6BB Chronograph were sourced from ssongwatches.com.