In 2018, the Khaki Field Mechanical took the watch world by storm, re-introducing Hamilton to audiences worldwide as a provider of affordable tool watches based on tried-and-true, utilitarian designs. The “KFM,” with its military origins, brought an entire new generation into the watch collecting hobby, delighting them with a ~$500, hand-wound field watch that quickly spawned an entire collection. These days, one can buy a KFM in its original iteration — brushed steel on a fabric strap — or in a PVD case, or on a stainless steel bracelet, or in one of many other configurations. Selling droves of watches, Swatch Group-owned Hamilton knew it had alighted upon a winning formula.
Given said formula, it’s little surprise that the brand is following up such a gem with a sequel of sorts in the form of the Khaki Field Expedition. Less a departure from the original and more of a slight variation, the “KFE” swaps out the hand-wound H-50 movement for the automatic H-10 with 80 hours of power reserve — a logical choice when appealing to a wider audience, many of whom are too young to be familiar with the concept of a hand-wound timepiece. Reading the proverbial room, Hamilton is offering the watch in two sizes at launch — a 37mm version as well as a larger 41mm reference — which should appeal to both men and women as well as to vintage enthusiasts and non-collectors alike.
The crux of the KFE is a bi-directional, rotating compass bezel — which, with a spot of practice, can be used for orienteering in the wilderness. As the KFM was already a field watch in the classic sense, the KFE slots in right alongside it as a simple, easy-to-use tool devoid of extraneous bells and whistles. But “watch guys” love a good bezel — even if it’s merely providing something to play with during a meeting — and as compass bezels are few and far between these days, the KFE does indeed stand out in a crowded market.
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Housed in a stainless steel case with a screw-down crown and 100m of water resistance, the KFE is being offered in multiple iterations (in both sizes) right off the bat: each size comes in a black dial with a green leather strap ($995); a black dial with a stainless steel bracelet ($1,045); a white dark with a dark brown leather strap ($995); or a blue dial with a light brown leather strap ($995). The stainless steel bracelet features a folding clasp, while the leather straps feature a steel pin buckle.
Regardless of color, the dial —which is protected by a sapphire crystal — is similar to that of the FKM, and likewise inspired by Hamilton’s long history of producing timepieces for the U.S. military: white Arabic numerals are surrounded by a minute track with five-minute markers in yellow Super-LumiNova, while a nickeled and lumed sword handset is paired with an arrow-tipped minute hand. Simple, attractive, and highly legible, the design is a winning one, and will no doubt prove popular in the mold of the KFM. While the KFM oozed pure utility, however, the KFE provides a concession to popular watch aesthetics in the form of a sapphire caseback, giving one a glimpse of the automatic movement ticking away within.
While the KFM’s appeal to watch aficionados who lionize hand-wound movements made perfect sense, its larger appeal beyond the “watch guy” boundaries was more surprising. Could this small, affordable tool watch really bring hordes of new enthusiasts into the hobby? With the collection having expanded widely in the five years since its release, it would appear that the answer is a firm “yes.” And if a 36mm, hand-wound, military-inspired field watch can do the trick, we can only imagine that the new KFE, with its automatic winding, multiple looks, and interesting feature set, will do the same.
The one possible drawback for those entering the watch-buying fray may be the price: At $995 (or $1,045 on steel), it’s nearly double the cost of a base-model KFM, which, priced currently at $595, is much more of a bargain — especially to those on a budget. And with so many brands large and small offering genuinely excellent products for well under $1,000, time will tell if Hamilton is able to compete well in the space with the KFE. Indeed, it may very well be that the brand has shot itself in the foot somewhat with the KFM’s wildly affordable pricing.
Still, zoomed out somewhat, the KFE still appears to pack a hell of a value — especially if you’re a “one-and-done” sort of watch collector. And with Hamilton’s track record of delivering excellent value for money, it’ll be of little surprise if the KFE catches fire in the watch-buying community.
Khaki Field Mechanical
- Diameter: 37mm; 41mm
- Movement: Hamilton Caliber H-10 hand-wound
- Water Resistance: 100m
- Special Features: Bi-directional, rotating compass bezel
- Price: $995-$1,045
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