Hamilton has recently started to capitalize on the homage retro watch trend based on the cachet of historical watches it produced prior to the quartz crisis. This is a positive trend given the reduction in case size and use of in-house mechanical movement in their recent releases. The Khaki Pilot Pioneer Mechanical is a homage to the W10 pilot watch which Hamilton manufactured for the British Royal Air Force in the 1970s.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s Hamilton had a contract with the British Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force) to provide them with field watches. W10 watch was manufactured primarily for the British RAF from 1973 to 1976. W10 with 6BB markings on the case back were issued for the RAF, while the 6B marking on case back was issued to the British Navy. The military issue watch characteristics were 35mm steel Tonneau case, black dial, Broad Arrow (Broad Arrow is symbol for property of British government), Sword hands, “T” marking for Tritium lume, and manual winding Hamilton 649 movement with hacking seconds. A purist three hand tool watch.
So how does the current W10 measure up to the RAF issued watch? I my opinion it is very close to where it certainly captures the spirit of the W10 as a tool watch. The size of reissue is only slightly larger at 36mm. “T” and Broad Arrow markings are not present for the obvious reasons that it is not a military issued watch, and Tritium is no longer safe to use. Tritium has been replaced with Superluminova, albeit with use of “fauxtina” on the markers, hands, and triangle. The black dial has a unique rough texture to make it appear as “field tested” like your $300 pair of vintage jeans.
The pilot watch is powered with the H50 manual winding movement (based on ETA 2802-2) with hacking seconds and 80-hour power reserve. Hamilton retained the retro appeal with use of boxed-shape hardened mineral crystal, but enhanced it with double anti-reflective coating. Khaki Pilot Pioneer is water resistant to 100 meters. There are two references – H76419931 with grey textile NATO strap for $845, and H76419531 with brown leather strap for $895.
Final word: It is good to see Hamilton and other big brands downsizing the case size. Competition of tool pilot watches under $1,000 is tough, especially with the resurgence of micro brands. Khaki Pilot Pioneer delivers bang for buck for a well-executed and built watch, with a 3-day power reserve.
Photo Credit: Theo & Harris for vintage W10, and Hamilton