Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, (Pre-owned)
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While you can certainly drop a huge pile o' money on a field watch from a top-tier brand (the Rolex Explorer comes to mind), the great thing about this particular genre of timepieces is that, for the most part, they're often relatively inexpensive. After all, that was sort of the original point.
The field watch, perhaps more than any other type of watch, is made to be abused — it's made for the field. If many field watches conjure up military imagery in your mind, that's because this is where the origins of this type of watch lie: on the wrists of soldiers going off to battle. The field watch is meant to be legible, robust, unobtrusive, and often, affordable. (It wouldn't be much good as a field watch if it were prohibitively inexpensive for governments or individuals to equip themselves with it.)
American military watches were made by now legendary (once-American owned) brands such a Hamilton, Bulova, Waltham, and others. Nowadays, though Hamilton is part of the Swatch Group, the company founded in Lancaster, PA still offers a watch, the Khaki Field Mechanical, based upon its classic military models — and it might just be the only field watch you'll ever need. Here's why.
It's Based on Tried and True Designs
You see that dial with the dart indices, the lume-filled hands, the inner 24-hour scale, the highly legible minute scale, and not much else? You see that matte, stainless steel case meant to prevent reflections, and the hand-wound movement? All that stuff is there because it works — vintage Hamilton field watches that were actually issued to American soldiers had these traits. This is a no-frills watch meant to be abused in the sun, the rain, and whatever else nature throws at it.
So why would a hand-wound watch trump a quartz version in the 21st century? While you can certainly make arguments in favor for quartz's accuracy and affordability, the thing about a hand-wound movement is that you never have to worry about a battery running out — you just get up in the morning, give it a good wind, and it's good to go....forever. Sure, it'll probably need a service at some point, but so does your car. And best of all, the movement Hamilton's using has an impressive 80-hour power reserve.
It's Available in Multiple Configurations
When the Khaki Field Mechanical came out, it was only available in a classic black dial with matte steel case. Not so anymore: you can get one with a white dial, or with an "earth"-colored PVD case, or a black PVD case. You can even get one with a steel bracelet, which, while less true to the watch's origins, serves the folks who like the feel of steel rather than nylon or leather. All of which brings me to my last point:
It's Not Precious
These watches are under $600 — closer to $500, even. That's a wild bargain for something this good, this useful, this handsome. Shit, you could buy one in four different colors and still not get to half the MSRP of a field watch from certain blue chip brands. Does that mean the KFM is the best field watch in the world? Perhaps not — that's a matter of opinion. But it might be the only one you really need.