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A lot of people's first "nice" watch was or will be a Hamilton. With mechanical watch prices starting under $500, the Swiss brand with American roots makes a clear effort to offer strong value that even longtime collectors continue to appreciate. Broad-ranging variety for largely under $2k — and plenty under the $1k mark — makes Hamilton approachable and fun, while offering solid quality and even a brand name brimming with history.

Where Are Hamilton Watches Made?

Though modern Hamilton watches are made in Switzerland, many watch enthusiasts perhaps continue to think of Hamilton as an American brand in some sense — even though they know that it's been Swiss-owned for decades. In terms of history and design, almost no other surviving company better represents the era when the United States was a major force in the watch industry. Incorporated in 1892, Hamilton succeeded several companies that were producing watches in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the firm would be based until 1969 and where the original administrative and production structures still stand.

Producing its own movements, Hamilton built fine pocket watches meeting the stringent requirements of the railroads and later supplied the military with the likes of marine chronometers, field watches and even "canteen watches" for early navy divers. Other landmark timepieces included innovative models such as the first electric watch (Ventura) and the first LED watch (Pulsar). The brand also became entrenched in Hollywood, with its watches appearing in over 500 films to date.

original site of hamilton in lancaster pennsylvania
Hamilton is now headquartered and producing watches in Switzerland, but the historic facilities still stand in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Hamilton

Though the company ended US production in 1969 and today exists under the Swatch Group's umbrella of brands, its modern catalog draws on its American background — and not merely with reissues and vintage-inspired looks, but with a design philosophy that often seems informed by American Art Deco. (The tag line "American spirit, Swiss precision" sums up the company's personality well.) Pro tip: when shopping Hamilton watches, always double-check the diameter, as many designs are offered in a couple of sizes.

Benefitting from Swatch Group resources, Hamilton watches are powered by reliable, mass-produced ETA movements, including those with the latest tech such as silicon parts and extended power reserves. Premium features such as sapphire crystal are also typical of Hamilton watches even at the lower price ranges.

hamilton khaki field mechanical review gear patrol slide 1 v2
Gear Patrol
Large brands with vast catalogs like Hamilton can be sliced and diced various ways. Broadly, however, about half of Hamilton's most notable offerings have a military theme and fall within one of three Khaki collections: Field (land), Navy (sea) and Aviation (air). The remaining four have either a contemporary or fashion-oriented motif: the Jazzmaster and Broadway collections are more elegant, while the American Classics is very much what it sounds like, with reissues and vintage-inspired references abounding. The avant-garde Ventura line is quite its own thing.

Are Hamilton Watches Good?

Hamilton watches represent some of the best options at the entry point to luxury or what some might term "good" watches. The brand offers robust construction and high-quality materials despite their often affordable prices.

Do Hamilton watches necessarily hold value like a Rolex or Patek? No. They should be bought in to be worn and appreciated rather than as financial investments, but with proper care and maintenance they can potentially last a lifetime and be passed on to future generations — and that's the kind of watch "investment" we can wholeheartedly get behind.

Hamilton Watch Buying Guide

There's just about every kind of watch for just about every kind of person in Hamilton's lineup. Expect strong value and a healthy dose of personality in the brand's catalog, which we've broken down below.

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Khaki Field

The Khaki Field is a varied but cohesive collection. The men's line currently features over 70 models ranging from some with quartz movements to hand-wound and automatic mechanical ones. One of the brand's strongest lines, the Khaki Field's popularity has soared and more variations have regularly emerged including everything from a range of dial colors to the likes of bronze cases and chronographs.

The Khaki Field is rooted in the brand's history of making military watches in the 1960s, leading to the reference known as MIL-W-46374. Today, that's best represented in the Khaki Field Mechanical (see below) with the extended collection expanding on the design and military concept.

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Diameter: 33mm-50mm
Configurations: Time only; time and date; day of the week and date; chronograph
Price Range: $325-$1,795

Khaki Field Mechanical

Courtesy
Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
hamiltonwatch.com
$495.00

Easily the collection's most notable model is the Gear Patrol-approved affordable favorite and absolute classic, the Khaki Field Mechanical. As noted above, it's based on issued military watches, and it feels most authentic in this, its most basic, form: with minimal finishing, a manually wound movement, an appropriately affordable price. We especially like the 38mm version over the larger 42mm version, as a smaller field watch also feels more genuine.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: H-50 hand-wound
Water Resistance: 50m

Khaki Field Auto

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Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$895.00

The Khaki Field Mechanical's big brother is the Auto — and is also an easy recommendation if you want something more than the above-mentioned basic field watch. It offers premium features like automatic winding, as well as a more refined, modern design with elevated finishing — and it's perhaps even more attractive in lightweight titanium versions.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Field "Murph" Auto

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Khaki Field
hamiltonwatch.com
$995.00

Another standout model is the Murph, a design that didn't previously exist in the Hamilton catalog before being created as a prop for the 2014 film Interstellar. It played a significant role in the movie and caused a stir among watch fans, leading to Hamilton eventually producing the watch for public consumption. It's got a sizable 42mm case — and some subtle details that nod to the film.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Navy

You want dive watches? The Khaki Navy collection is where you'll find them, with examples ranging from retro-leaning to edgy and bold. The Scuba nods to the Field range with its 24-hour track, whereas the Frogman is hyper-modern — while simultaneously referencing the brand's history-making some of the earliest military dive watches.

Diameter: 36mm-46mm
Configurations: Time only; time and date; center seconds; small seconds; GMT; chronograph
Price Range: $695-$2,945

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Khaki Navy Scuba Auto

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Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$745.00

The Khaki Navy Scuba is a great option for daily wear that easily transitions to rugged and even aquatic adventures. We like the 40mm version for its size and value, but if you feel the need for more than its 100m of water resistance, you can get it from the larger 43mm version (300m water-resistant) — or something even beefier like the Frogman below.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Navy Frogman

Courtesy
Hamilton Khaki Navy Frogman Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$1,195.00

The Frogman is modern and boldly sized in 46mm of hulking steel. Updated for 2022, the prominent crown-guard locking mechanism referencing Hamilton's historical canteen watches has been refined to offer a sleeker (though, again, still quite big) look.

Diameter: 46mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 300m

Khaki Aviation

A large and wide-ranging pilot's watch collection, Khaki Aviation encompasses everything from technical-looking chronographs to classic flieger styles and vintage reissues — but certain long and similar-sounding model names can cause some confusion. For example, you might be surprised that the "Pilot," "Pioneer" and "Pilot Pioneer" are all quite different watches — add "Auto" or "Auto Chrono" to any of those, and the variety grows — at least the names are descriptive.

Diameter: 33mm-46mm
Configurations: Three-hand; time and date; day-date; GMT; chronograph
Price Range: $545-$3,295

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Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical

Courtesy
Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical
hamiltonwatch.com
$845.00

The Pilot Pioneer Mechanical (we prefer to just call it the "W10" after the vintage model it's based on) could just as easily be considered a field watch. Though Hamilton isn't (and wasn't historically) the only brand making such watches based on the British Ministry of Defence's specifications in the 1970s, the executions and details make it our favorite. Don't be put off by its rather diminutive-sounding 33mm diameter: we found that it wears great.

Diameter: 33mm
Movement: H-50 hand-wound
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer

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Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Pioneer
hamiltonwatch.com
$995.00

Take the model above and subtract "Mechanical" from the name and what have you got? A completely different watch. It does have the same beige "aged" lume and that gravely dial texture we love, but otherwise, totally different features and design — this one's dial is based on a pocket watch the brand made during WWII.

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono

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Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pioneer Mechanical Chrono
hamiltonwatch.com
$2,045.00

Another reissue, this one's based on pilot's watches made for the British Royal Air Force in the 1970s. It's straight-ahead and tool-like, but a distinctive feature is its asymmetrical case. We also love that the brand is getting in on the trend of retro chronographs that come in smaller sizes with this 40mm-wide chrono kept relatively thin with a manually wound movement (with a silicon balance spring for magnetic resistance).

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: H-51-Si hand-wound
Water Resistance: 100m

Khaki Aviation Converter Auto

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Hamilton Khaki Aviation Converter Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$1,145.00

An interesting sub-collection within Khaki Aviation is the Converter range. With a rotating slide rule bezel for a technical and complicated look, it seems positioned to offer an affordable alternative to the Breitling Navitimer. It's closest to the classic Navitimer in its chronograph form, but also available (and more affordable) as a GMT or plain time-only automatic (as shown here).

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

American Classic

American Classic is where vintage rereleases (of non-military watches) and generally retro-inspired models live — it contains everything from funky, digital LED PSR watches to the Don Draper-handsome Intra-Matic and much more. The collection is rather vast and worth exploring, but here are some standout models to start with.

Diameter: 27mm; 34.5mm;
Configurations: Three-hand; time and date; day-date; GMT; chronograph
Price Range: $445-$3,500

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American Classic Intra-Matic Chronograph H

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Hamilton American Classic Intra-Matic Chronograph H
hamiltonwatch.com
$2,045.00

Beginning with a well-executed, Sixties-style dress watch, the original Intra-Matic Auto is an absolute favorite that went on to spawn a whole sub-collection. It now includes sportier models as well as an automatic chronograph. We, however, have to love the Chronograph H with its manually wound movement, panda dial and thin (for a chrono), 40mm case.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: H-51 automatic
Water Resistance: 100m

American Classic PSR Digital Quartz

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Hamilton American Classic PSR Digital Quartz
hamiltonwatch.com
$995.00

007 wears a Rolex or Omega, right? Well, he also wore one of these. The Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer was the world's first LED watch, and Hamilton brought it back in a faithful recreation of the PSR. In its modern incarnation, it combines an LED display with OLED tech to ensure that the display stays on at all times. Whereas a button press was required to display the time on the original, here it further illuminates the display.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: Quartz
Water Resistance: 100m

Jazzmaster

While American Classics models like the Intra-Matic get plenty of deserved attention as great all-around dress watches, the Jazzmaster is also worth considering. The core of the Jazzmaster line contains simply named models like the Auto and Day Date Auto — but more variations include the Jazzmaster Power Reserve, GMT Auto, Regulator Auto and Auto Chrono — and many, many "open heart" style watches that feature a dial cutout to display the mechanical movement beneath. Easily Hamilton's largest collection, the Jazzmaster men's line currently lists over 120 models.

Diameter: 37mm-46mm
Configurations: Time only; time and date; day-date;
Price Range: $445-$6,195

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Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto

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Hamilton Jazzmaster Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$945.00

If you're tired of all the "vintage inspiration" and just want a versatile everyday watch, you could do a lot worse than the basic Jazzmaster Auto. It's got a traditional enough vibe to pull dress duty, but it's also got enough character that you'll want to keep wearing it on the weekends. A little lume for low-light legibility doesn't hurt, either.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: H-10 automatic
Water Resistance: 50m

Broadway

An aging collection, the Broadway line is comparatively focused and compact, with a consistent aesthetic across its range of models. (And it's entirely unrelated to the hit musical that shares a name with this watch brand.) Often distinguished by a wide vertical line across its dials, the collection's features and configurations will be familiar from other Hamilton lines, with quartz and automatic models with day-date, GMT and chronograph options.

Diameter: 40mm-46mm
Configurations: Day-date; GMT; chronograph
Price Range: $625-$1,945

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Hamilton Broadway GMT Limited Edition

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Hamilton Broadway GMT Limited Edition
hamiltonwatch.com
$1,495.00

If you want a large GMT watch, this will do the trick at 46mm. Its bezel features 24 cities like a world time watch, but this is primarily an aesthetic touch rather than offering true world-time functionality. It does offer a true GMT, however, with a 24-hour hand for tracking another time zone.

Diameter: 46mm
Movement: H-14 automatic
Water Resistance: 50m

Ventura

The Ventura is one of the most quirky and distinctive watches you can credibly call "iconic." In 1957, its space-age look was meant to emphasize the revolutionary tech inside (it was the first electric watch). From the creative mind of famed industrial designer Richard Arbib, the forward-looking watch got a boost of star power when Elvis Presley wore it on set — and the Ventura went on to form a collection based on its triangular case.

Diameter: 14.5mm-42.5mm
Configurations: Time only, chronograph
Price Range: $725-$3,895

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Ventura Quartz

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Hamilton Ventura
hamiltonwatch.com
$845.00

The quartz versions of the Ventura feel the closest to the original, with a faithful design and sizing — not to mention the appropriateness of a battery-powered movement. There are several choices of dial configurations and colors, as well as chronograph options. You can also go futuristic and mechanical with models like the Elvis80.

Diameter: 32.3mm
Movement: F05.111 quartz
Water Resistance: 50m

Experimental Models

An exception to Hamilton's approachable, everyman image is the occasional totally out-there model. There have been more of these in the past (such as a production model of the watch created for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey) — and though they're more expensive than the brand's typical fare, they seem to offer the Hamilton value for its take on avant-garde design as more typically found in the realm of high-end watchmaking.

American Classic ODC X-03 Auto

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Hamilton American Classic ODC X-03 Auto
hamiltonwatch.com
$3,500.00

The totally avant-garde ODC X-03 features three time zones with a dial made to look like the planet Jupiter. With a full titanium case, it's part of a series of triple-time-zone watches, and each of the dials is powered by a separate, individual movement: an automatic for the local time and quartz movements for the additional two time zones.

Diameter: 49mm
Movement: ETA 2671 automatic; ETA 901.001 quartz
Water Resistance: 100m