Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (5)

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Review

Making the irrefutable case for the mechanical watch

One is truly spoiled for choice when looking for a pilot’s watch in Hamilton’s catalog. The brand’s Khaki Aviation line consists of modern timepieces with conversion scales and bezels capable of measuring crosswinds. Hamilton also offers vintage-inspired pieces, such as the watch that is the focus of today’s review. As a brand with a distinctly American heritage, the German Flieger Type-B design from WWII may seem like an odd choice for those well-versed in history. Hamilton itself has over 90 years of history in making timepieces for aviation use, and these Flieger designs merely round out their lineup to bring the consumer as many choices as possible – see above about being spoiled for choice.

Last month, we brought you a first look at the new 2024 Khaki Aviation Pilot watches, and there, we went into detail about the differences between the seven models and which may be best for you.

This article delves into one of those seven models and reviews how it performs in real life and whether this timepiece belongs on your shopping list. So, without further delay, here is our review of the 42mm Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot.

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On Wrist

The specific model we got in for review features a beautiful green dial and a sturdy brown strap. It is reminiscent of the Schott NYC Limited Edition, released in 2020. This 2024 release is more refined in its proportions and stays more faithful to the Beobachtungs-Uhren designs from which it draws inspiration.

This results in a decidedly outdoorsy yet luxurious wearing experience. This is bolstered by Hamilton’s tighter tolerances in their manufacturing over the last half-decade. They have progressed to the point that people without interest in watches have started to notice. This is vital for the many points of sales that the brand appears in department stores in most cities. Now, regular consumers can clearly see, feel, and appreciate the difference in quality between Hamilton and its competitors.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (16)

This military-inspired watch measures 42mm across (46mm including the crown) and 51mm long; it wears pleasantly and is never inappropriate or uncomfortable. This is due to a couple of factors. The first is the watch, only 12mm thick. The second is how smoothly the surfacing of the watch is crafted.

The entirely brushed case steadily transitions from its mid-case to the bezel and onto the sapphire crystal. The crown guard itself makes the crown’s natural protrusion a fluid and frictionless experience. This directly contrasts many other brands’ approach to their pilot watches with overly large vintage-style crowns. There will be very few dress shirt cuffs catching on this watch.

The highly legible dial and beautifully brushed hands push this watch into the performance realm where articles of jewelry are called for, and not simple tools. In these more formal environments, this Aviation Pilot only skipped a beat or two based on the strap and dial color. Ultimately, this particular model is best placed alongside casual wear or with your hiking gear.

If you desire a more versatile version of this watch, Hamilton has you covered with a blue dial on a bracelet and a silver dial on a brown leather strap, a few shades lighter than the model here. Hamilton may have missed an opportunity to offer the silver dial with the bracelet, for that cleaner aesthetic would have made the most versatile variation of this model. Perhaps in the future, this will be made available for the end consumer at their closest point of sale.

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Wearing this watch for about a month, the Khaki Aviation Pilot did what a mechanical watch is supposed to do – keep time and make the wearer smile. This finely crafted and manufactured product has proven to be the very reason why some consumers refuse to wear smartwatches. This watch radiates character, soul, and attention to detail that a rectangular black block never can.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Specs

Case Width




Case Thickness


Lug Width


Water Resistance



Leather Strap






Hamilton H-30



The Dial

The advancements in quality from Hamilton mentioned before can be best witnessed in the dial. Many details do not come across when looking at the watch through a screen, and these need to be pointed out. The triangle (more on this soon) and the rectangular indices at the cardinal points of the watch are placed within slight cutouts of the dial. This adds a fair amount of depth to this watch and is reinforced by the 3, 6, and 9 markers dramatically cutting into the sloped rehaut.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (1)

Hamilton added a sense of dimensionality by leveraging the traditional Flieger Type-B arrangement. This design consists of the outer section of the dial prominently displaying the minutes, while the smaller inner portion highlights the hours. The inner dial is separated from the outer portion with a pronounced crease, which gives the impression that it is raised.

This allows for an optical illusion that works better in person than when viewed on a screen. I had shown this timepiece to watch enthusiasts in person and over the phone, and the differences in their opinions cemented this observation. The proportion of the Hamilton logo on the inner dial was harshly criticized by those who only saw this watch on their smartphone, and those who noticed it in person thought it was perfect. The separation created with the crease is inescapable in person. It reveals that the proportion of the logos and the typeface are directly related to which section of the dial they appear on. When viewed in a vacuum or on a screen, all of the elements may look off, when in reality, they are precise, calculated, and faultless.

The triangle, placed at the 12 o’clock position, is the foremost design element for this watch genre. Most aviation watches distinguish the 12 o’clock marker for easier legibility. Omega’s Speedmaster adds two dots to the rectangular marker, and Marathon uses an orange tritium tube instead of the green, which can be found elsewhere on their dial. As an aside, the simpler Type-A Flieger also adds two dots to the side of its triangular marker.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (7)

In the dark, this Flieger design makes the most sense, and the triangle quickly orients your eyes better than the other methods in practice. This is aided by a spectacular use of X1 Super-LumiNova®, making this one of the most legible watches I have recently handled. Lastly, the luminescent paint is applied perfectly and evenly, resulting in a uniform presentation of the time when in dimmer environments. You’d be surprised how brands overlook this by occupying price points below and well above this timepiece.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (6)

The dark green dial changes from a vivid and striking posture in bright environments to a rugged, more reserved, veiled green that brings tactical gear to mind. Unlike its blue and silver dial stablemates, this green variant is more specialized and thus less versatile. But it does have a lot more character and a sense of purpose.

The day-date window is well-placed and highly legible. The crease which separates the inner and outer portions of the dial perfectly dissects the day disc in half. This further cements the cohesive design approach, making this timepiece successful.

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Regarding some criticisms about date complications, such as seen here, a point must be stated and made clear to the reader and consumer. In this market segment, brands only have a handful of movements to choose from. To make the Calibre H-30 work so flawlessly is something that Hamilton should be commended on. Some have expressed that the day-date window would have been smaller, but this would have meant an entirely different movement would have been needed or even manufactured from scratch. A little perspective on these mass-produced timepieces’ economic and manufacturing realities will go a long way toward understanding the decisions that culminate in the final product before you.

The smaller 36mm models do not have the date complication and may be better suited for those seeking a cleaner and more formal aesthetic. The significant difference between the two sizes is that the smaller 36mm models are more formal than their larger 42mm siblings. Within the first month of 2024, Hamilton has essentially made the perfect “Dress-Flieger” and the perfect Flieger regarding function and everyday usability.

The Hands

One indisputable aspect of the Khaki Aviation Pilot’s brilliance is its hands. First, let us cover its dimensions and design, then move on to the finishing. The hour’s skeletonized portion immaculately reveals the hour markers of the inner dial. The minute hand’s cutout reveals the inner dial’s text for the “AUTOMATIC” and Hamilton logo. Both tips meet their goals of the Arabic minute printing and the rehaut gracefully. When stacked, both hands appear as one solid unit.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (9)

The finishing of the hands is where these models genuinely shine. All three hands are carefully finished with a vertical brushing, which is distinct and eye-catching. In motion, these hands guide and reflect all light sources along them, seemingly always towards the business end of the sword-shaped hands. These hands give the Khaki Aviation Pilot its air of jewelry and truly make it feel like an exceptional wearing experience. The anti-reflective coating on the underside of the sapphire crystal lets the hands take center stage in an unobstructed fashion.

Just as the Dude in the Big Lebowski claimed that the rug tied his living room together, these hands tie the entire experience of the Khaki Aviation Pilot together. Living with this timepiece can be summed up as a refined experience, yet not glaringly so, as to draw unwanted attention to oneself.

The Case and Movement

The subdued and incredibly smooth brushing of the case underpins this purpose of being a luxury product, but not one that will potentially get you into trouble. Hamilton has left a fair amount of luster on the Pilot’s case finishing, unlike bead-blasted or heavily brushed cases. When viewed from the side, the evenly contoured crown guards give the impression that they were hydroformed and not machined.

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (11)

The conservative exhibition caseback is brushed with a more sober hand, but this is functional. The wearer will appreciate the more robust brushing on the timepiece’s underside as the years go on and not be reminded of how much oil their wrist excretes throughout the day.

The sapphire crystal on the caseback reveals Hamilton’s H-30 movement, which proved to be a solid and reliable partner during the review period. The movement is minimally decorated, with only the rotor featuring a vertical brushing. Its brushing is not on the same level of brilliance as the hands, but it is not out of place here.

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Operating the movement is accomplished through the non-screw down crown, which still ensures 100m of water resistance. The signed crown is gently knurled and is incredibly smooth to use. When wound, the movement offers the user an incredibly soft and quiet engagement. With a power reserve of 80 hours, this rounds out the refined experience of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot, in which most complaints thrown at a traditional mechanical watch are addressed.

This watch’s water resistance means that it can go wherever you go. Its automatic movement and its power reserve mean that if worn two to three times a week, it will not need to be set until the end of the month for the date potential date change. Its Nivachron balance spring thwarts and concerns of the watch being magnetized. Finally, the watch is robust enough to be taken on any of your adventures.

The Strap

Lastly, the strap mirrors this level of refined robustness. Incredibly thick yet supple, this strap was the first thing people complimented when handling the piece. The embossed Hamilton logo and the handling of the substantial buckle made everyone smile.

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Shaped like an “H,” the tangs of the brushed buckle secure the strap at two points versus the traditional single hole. This adds to the tough nature of the watch, which is contrasted with the soft underside, which aids in comfort. The keepers are beautifully sculpted and of incredibly high quality. The stitching, adhesives, and dye used now are the best in their class. This strap features a quick-release spring bar mechanism, making strap changes easier than in years past.

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Final Thoughts

Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot (2)

Earlier this month, we reviewed the Longines Heritage Sector Dial, and before that, we looked at the Hamilton Khaki Expedition as last year was coming to an end. The Swatch Group owns and operates these brands and occupies two distinct mid-level entry-luxury market tiers. The quality of these watches has shown that the traditional incumbents in the industry have reacted resoundingly.

Before 2019, many smaller brands, referred to as microbrands, offered a very attractive value proposition. They leveraged competitively priced Chinese manufacturing to offer watches whose quality, fit, and finish rivaled the traditional Swiss and Japanese brands at nearly half the cost. One source who has and currently works in the industry on both sides of the coin mentioned that the era of complacency for established brands is over. They have taken note of what the smaller players in the market are doing, and they have adapted with superior products. Ironically, as the smaller brands have become more numerous, the level of quality control from many microbrands has suffered, which undermines what once made them so appealing.

The landscape has shifted, and it has moved in the favour of brands like Hamilton. In years past, I may have recommended a microbrand watch to rival timepieces from Hamilton, Rado or Longines, but I cannot do that anymore.

The Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot is nearly a perfect product like the Khaki Expedition. There are no jarring omissions or errors, and the manufacturing and quality control also make these easier to recommend for those purchasing such a watch online, sight unseen. If the design of this watch appeals to you, we highly recommend it without any hesitation.

Check out more Hamilton reviews at The Watch Clicker here

Check out the Hamilton website here

More Images of the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot

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