If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series Want This, Get This presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. Today we present two vintage style, military-inspired chronographs, one that gets it right and the other that goes one better — for one tenth the price.
Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer
Released at Basel 2013, the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Pioneer Auto Chrono (good thing they shortened the last two words…) is a great throwback to some of the chronographs Hamilton produced for the British military in the 1970s. Like those originals, the Pilot Pioneer sports an asymmetrical case design and a 3:00-9:00 bi-compax chronograph layout. Hamilton did choose to update a few features and design elements to appeal to today’s buyer, to wit: an increase in size from 40mm to 42mm; a glossy, sunburst dial on the yellow dial variant; a polished bezel to offset the primarily bead-blasted case; a date function; a sapphire case back; the option of a bracelet; and an exclusive derivative of the ETA 7753.
Dubbed the caliber H-31, the Pilot Pioneer’s engine has a larger mainspring barrel, increasing the 7753’s power reserve from 42 hours to 60 hours, and has a higher level of finishing overall, making for an attractive and accurate caliber. That automatic H-31 does add considerable bulk in comparison to the original 1970s Hamiltons, which were powered by a hand-wound Valjoux 7733 movement. The watch’s wrist presence will be no problem for casual wear but could mean trouble when fitting it under the cuff. While we may not agree with all of Hamilton’s updated design choices, this is a handsome watch to be sure; its biggest downfall happens to be its price. Coming in at just under $2K, this is one of Hamilton’s more expensive offerings.
Seagull 1963 Chronograph
If we asked you to think of a reliable military-inspired chronograph that oozes with vintage styling, the obvious choice would be not a Chinese watch, right? Well, believe it or not, where we felt Hamilton’s design went astray — opting for an automatic movement, bulking up the case size, and adding a date function — Chinese brand Seagull nailed it.
The 1963 Chronograph could be sent back in time to the ’60s and no one would bat an eye. Chinese watches often get written off as low quality, but Seagull hit the mark with the 1963’s blued hands and applied hour markers. Just about the only truly modern feature of the 1963 is the exhibition case back (as an option, which we recommend), which shows off the nicely finished movement neatly packaged within its 38mm case. Hamilton’s extra effort led to flashy, modern flourishes; Seagull kept their design simple and elegant. For that, we love it.