Review: Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Limited Edition H78719553
What you're looking at here is the result of one man's life's work—John Harrison. Lured by a prize of £20,000 (the equivalent of just under £3million today), he set aside his entire existence to solve the puzzle of Longitude, or to be more precise, to build a clock accurate enough to calculate a ship's position. Such was the problem of wayward ships that the British Government introduced the 1714 Longitude Act that promised a hefty bounty for anybody that could invent a way of accurately measuring Longitude. It was so difficult that even Newton claimed it to be impossible.
Harrison succeeded in his goal and his work went on to change both watchmaking and navigation forever. Marine chronometers continued to remain in use until the late twentieth century before computers began to take over, providing two centuries of precise sailing.
One supplier of marine chronometers during world war two was the American watch manufacturer Hamilton, who produced over 10,000 marine chronometers (and a million watches in total) for the US Army in just one year, earning itself the 'E' Award for its colossal effort. This modern re-edition of that wartime chronometer pays homage to the original, including the rubber tree wooden box that was chosen for its resistance to water. Complete with gimbals, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Limited Edition is a faithful (if slightly reduced and simplified) replica of the original, and even has a gimbal lock so the watch can be used a table clock.
That's nice and all, but carrying a wooden box around can be a tad impractical, so the watchmakers at Hamilton created a solution. Also included in the set is a leather strap, which comes attached to a four lugs, which are in turn attached to a base plate. Grip the watch head, twist it and it pops out of the chronometer box, slot it into the wrist strap, twist it, and it locks in to make wrist watch. Neat!
This charming watch is beautifully made, even down to the decoration of the slow-beat ETA 6498-2, which drives the elegant, blued hands around the impressively crisp silvered dial. What comes as a bit of a shock though, is the price, and not because it is high, but because it is low; the whole ensemble is yours for just £2,130, or if you want the watch slightly smaller and minus the chronometer box, £810. No wonder the US Army could afford so many of them.
Watch Spec | Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Limited Edition H78719553
Case: Stainless steel Dimensions: 46.5mm dia Crystal: Synthetic sapphire Water Resistance: 100m Movement: Modified ETA 6498-2, manual Frequency: 21,600 vph Power Reserve: 56 hours Strap: Tan leather Functions: Time, marine chronometer mounting Price: £2,130, limited to 1,892 pieces