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Review: Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono

An affordable tool watch for pilots and enthusiasts
by Dan-Andrei Kluska on September 1, 2017
Positives

• Powerful design
• Modern, good looking pilot watch
• Cool pilot feature with no competition
• Well priced

Negatives

• Cool pilot feature (a normal person will never use it more than some minutes, as curiosity)
• The 180 degrees rotated movement can be frustrating at the beginning for a classical chrono user

Hamilton is remarkable for having their finger in many aspects of the watchmaking world. They participate in many genres, from as a wide ranging as militarily oriented pieces to art and music related watches. Some of their iconic pieces are present in movies and have made history. Other timepieces are contemporary and feature unique designs like the Jazzmaster Face to Face II. Hamilton also has a rich history filled with chronographs. We are reminded of this year’s re-edition of the beautiful Intra Matic 68 Autochrono or the spectacular Khaki Takeoff Auto Chrono Limited Edition. As official timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, Hamilton issued last year the Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono – the first watch with a drift-angle calculator. This year, the brand comes with a new version of the Khaki Aviation instrument. The new X-Wind Auto Chrono comes with a black scheme and a small redesign of the drift-angle calculator and dial.

Review: Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono

Started in 1892 as an American company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Hamilton quickly became known for their precise Railroad watches. In 1914, the brand started to supply the US Armed Forces and by 1918 was the first company to have an aeronautical watch which accompanied the first American airmail postal service. During the WWII, Hamilton supplied the US Forces with a total of one million timepieces.

In 1957 they released one of the most legendary and iconic non-mechanical watch, the Ventura Electric watch. In 1970, Hamilton produced the first LED digital watch. A year later, Pan Europ was available to the public (in 1969, Hamilton and Büren, part of Hamilton in those days, started to work on the famous Calibre 11, the first automatic chronograph movement).

1974 was a year of profound changes for Hamilton. The brand was sold to SSIH, which later became The Swatch Group. The brand continued with the American classic inspired watches and strengthened the relationship with Hollywood’s movie industry. Hamilton watches are featured in many successful movies.

In 2003, the brand transferred the headquarters and production from the US to Switzerland. Hamilton started a strong involvement in aerobatics and air shows like the Red Bull Air Races and Swiss Aerobatic Association in 2005. It was no surprise that Hamilton was announced as the official timekeeper of the EAA AirVenture and, from this year, Hamilton became the official timekeeper for the prestigious  Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Today we review the latest release in the Khaki Aviation Collection, the X-Wind Auto Chrono, in black PVD case.

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The X-Wind is visually balanced and well contrasted. Although some might argue that the day and date on a white background detracts from the sleek all black look of the dial.

 

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The case, dial and hands

Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono is a tool watch designed for pilots. As with many other pilot’s watches, the case is generous. At 45mm, the watch is large for a small wrist and might be uncomfortable. However having tried it on our wrist, we feel it is rather well designed and it wears smaller than the dimensions might suggest. Featuring a 22mm lug size, the case appears to be nicely balanced. The multitude of crowns and pushers makes it interesting and one might ask why so many. But more about the crowns later.

The steel case is 1mm bigger than the 2016 model but follows the same satin brushed finish. This gives it a serious look which fits well the purpose. The classic shape offers protection bumps for each crown and a bi-directional rotating bezel. The two crowns to the right and the bezel are used for the drift-angle calculator function. This is usually done using a “whiz wheel” – a flight computer E6B, one of the most widespread piloting tools. Hamilton stated the drift-angle calculator function “enables pilots to accurately calculate and record the crosswinds they will encounter on their planned journey”.

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The chronograph and time setting is rotated 180° to left. This allows the entire right side of the case to be dedicated to the drift-angle calculation. The big chrono pushers and crown placed left, have a good feeling though – an unexpected ease in handling and functionality.

 

The left side is used by the time/day/date setting crown and by the polished rectangular chrono pushers. The big pushers are easy to use and visually complements the crowns. All three crowns have the H-logo embossed and have a good grip. The screw down design is used for the crown and case-back as well. This case is rated to 100m water resistance. On the other hand, the author (without any knowledge of piloting or pilot’s tools) wonders if the screw down design will make the crowns more cumbersome to operate.

The case back is satin brushed finished and has an inviting see-through window to view the H-21 movement. The engravings are white filled, producing a high contrast.

Ignoring for the moment the drift-angle function, the dial is a typical chronograph met in any classic 7750 based movement.  With the observation that the movement is rotated 180 degrees. This is the reason why the start/stop chrono-pusher is on left down and the reset one on left up.

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The detailed functionality and “how to” of the aviation dedicated function is clearly explained in the user manual. The drift-angle calculation bezel has an interesting instrumentation look and is an eye catcher. However, only a pilot or flight enthusiast can tell how useful it really is. The balanced, technical dial bids excellent legibility.

 

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The dial has a black matte finish with white marks and indexes. The hour indexes use a mix of hefty Arabic numerals with Super-LumiNova® and rectangular luminescent shapes for 3, 6, 9 o’clock and a triangle for 12 o’clock. These offer an excellent legibility on any light condition.

An interesting idea of design is separating the small seconds’ indication from the chrono sub-dials by using a silvery finished surface. For balance, the day and date windows are with black font on white background. It’s a good trick to keep the dial from being boring while avoiding a look which may seem too busy. The hours and minutes hands are filled with Super-LumiNova®. Also, the chrono indicators have the same treatment, promising an excellent visibility.

The inner bezel occupies a large part of the dial. It can be used together with the external bezel to calculate the drift/cross wind. But as we are not pilots or flying enthusiasts, we are not able to offer any comment as to its ease of use. Hamilton offers detailed explanations of the function in the watch’s user manuals.

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono

The X-Wind has large luminescent numerals and Super-LumiNova® filled hands, making a solid contrast on the black matte background and promises an excellent low light usability necessary in the cockpit.

 

The watch is delivered with a black leather strap with black PVD rivets and fits well. The “H” buckle is a plus. It looks excellent and brings a romantic side to a technical, tool watch.

The movement: Calibre H-21

The movement H-21 used for the X-Wind Auto Chrono is based on the ETA/Valjoux7750. This legendary movement has settled its position as one of the most used chronograph movements. Hamilton has taken this calibre as part of Swatch Group and brought a series of modifications. The most notable and important is the power reserve increased to 60 hours. Other modifications are made to the wheel train and escapement regulator for a better overall precision and reliability.

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono movement

The back case offers a complete view of the H-21 movement (the 2016 model used half of the back case for another aviation function and the other half was open to the movement). The Hamilton personalizations look lovely, even for a machined finished movement. A deeper and extensive decoration will raise the price beyond the affordable tag. We are pleased with Hamilton’s offering for the price.

 

The presented finishes are typical for Hamilton. The machine-finished decorations are decent and give a good impression. The rotor weight is personalised with the Hamilton logo. The bridge also features the “H” logo engraved all over. We think its a nice touch that Hamilton spends resources for a proper personalisation of the movement, especially as it comes with a see-through case-back.

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The 30mm diameter movement of course sits small within the large case. but the view of the calibre H-21 from the display back is not ridiculous, as one might expect from the big difference in sizes.

Competitive landscape

Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono comes with an excellent price of S$3,170 (GST included). The wind angle pilot function places it in a category of its own. However, perhaps we may suggest some possibilities within the aviation landscape.

Maybe one of the most important watches in the history of aviation is the Longines Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch – 90th Anniversary. Priced at S$7,950, this limited edition features a black PVD bezel and PVD bezel and a galvanic black rotating centre dial. The watch can be used to calculate the longitude, critical before the GPS days. The Hour angle has a big titanium case of 47.5mm and is powered by another ETA movement, the Calibre L699.2 (ETA A07.L01) with a power reserve of 46 hours. The watch is impressive in size, design and heritage. It does not have a chronograph, nor a wind angle calculator.

 

The Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch – 90th Anniversary with a distinct appearance.

 

Sinn 356 SA Pilot III or the “Flieger” is an affordable pilot watch from the reputable German brand. With a price tag of US$2,570 on leather, the Flieger comes with a Sellita SW500 movement (a movement designed and dedicated as a replacement for the 7750, especially for the companies outside The Swatch Group). The watch comes in a small case of only 38.5mm. The chronograph is beautiful and refined offering a great alternative for a small wrist. But it lacks any kind of flight dedicated functions.

 

Sinn Pilot watch

A discrete and elegant watch – Sinn 356 SA Pilot III.

 

A traditional pilot watch manufacturer is Zenith. The Heritage Pilot Café Racer is a spectacular, vintage looking pilot chronograph. The entire watch transpires and inspires classic vintage. The aged 45mm steel case, the big luminescent numerals and gorgeous hands are a warm transposition in another time. Powered by the automatic El Primero 4069 chronograph calibre, the timepiece offers great specifications. The beauty and beast comes with an expected higher price of  S$11,200.

 

Zenith Cafe racer

A classical looking pilot watch with a warm vintage touch but with modern specifications.

 

Big watches or small watches, there are many brands and collections out there bearing the Pilot watch nomenclature. We should not forget timepieces like the IWC Pilot’s Watch, or the beautiful IWC Big Pilot Annual Calendar Edition “Le Petit Prince” Ref. 502701. Breitling is another brand with deep roots in aviation featuring power tools like the  Exospace B55. From the haute horology side, a lovely piece is represented by the Breguet Type XXI 3817. Or just enjoy our Throwback Sundays article about six chronographs, most of them being pilot watches.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono wrist

The curved lugs and the balanced design wears small and could be cool finding also for a smaller wrist. The wrist feel is great: a modern look and an eye drawing pilot function that will fire curiosity.

 

The Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono is an interesting watch with a special function that is attractive not only for the pilots but also for aviation enthusiasts. It looks excellent with the touch of vintage given by the rivets but definitively a modern watch. It is a flight instrument and this argument is a big plus. The high number of crowns/pushers will make it sparkle in the eyes of technical geeks. But in the end, it is a big chrono pilot and it wears and feels appropriate.

Specification and Price: Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono

The Hamilton Khaki X-Wind Auto Chrono has a suggested retail price of S$3,170 / CHF2,150 / €1,995 / US$2,195.

 

Movement

Calibre: H-21

Type: mechanical self-winding movement

Dimensions: Ø 13 1⁄4’’’, 30mm

Jewels: 25

Power reserve: 60 hours

Frequency: 4 Hz / 28’800 bph

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds, Chronograph

 

Case

Material: Stainless steel with black PVD coating

Dimensions of the case

Diameter: 45mm diameter

Crystal: Sapphire with double anti-reflective coating

Caseback: See-through sapphire

Water resistance: 100m

 

Strap

Material: Black leather strap

Buckle: Stainless steel H-buckle with black PVD coating

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