Introducing

Hamilton Khaki Pilot Converter Chronograph

Hamilton Khaki Pilot Converter Chronograph.

Converter Auto Chrono
Image courtesy of Hamilton


Introduction.


So called Pilots watches are ten a penny in the luxury watch industry. If you take the vague premise of legibility and an easily operated crown as pre-requisites you can see how. It’s not a difficult brief to fulfil. Some watches do pay particular homage to the big dialled, bold numbered, large-crowned offerings from the inauguration of this type back in World War II when pilots depended on these tools to calculate distance, fuel range, etc. These were the most lauded of pilot’s timepieces because they were used by the most revered airborne heroes, the daredevil fighter pilots. However, there was also a requirement for pilots of long haul, less risky flights to have a wrist worn calculator, back when all cockpit instrumentation was analogue. Willy Breitling saw a necessity in his field of aviation watches and the wristwatch with a circular slide rule was born in 1942 with the original Chronomat, offering simplistic mathematical solutions, and then perfected for aviation purpose in 1953, at the bequest of AOPA, with the Navitimer.


And, inevitably, there it is. I now have to address the massive Daddy African Elephant with big flappy ears trumpeting in the room: The most prevalent reaction to viewing the Hamilton Converter range for the first time will be: It’s trying to be a Navitimer. However, we should put that into perspective for a moment. If Hamilton is trying to create a Navitimer clone, then surely it also should be north of £6000. Instead what Hamilton are trying to achieve is create yet another superb timepiece for their admired Khaki Aviation catalogue. Many of which are direct descendants to timepieces that were chosen by Air Forces the world over. So, unlike other luxury brands, who could have been on a hiding to nothing by creating a watch with a circular sliderule, Hamilton have history and integrity in this sector and an uncanny way of creating highly desirable wrist watches at way below the price point you were expecting. Let’s put that to the test quickly. The aforementioned, and glorious I have to admit, Navitimer currently retails for £6810. 

https://amjwatches.co.uk/breitling/navitimer.html


The Hamilton Converter Chronograph with additional day display, a useful 10 bar water resistance (against the Navitimer’s 3 bar), a silicon hairspring offering superior anti-magnetism (more on that later), a scratch resistant sapphire bezel and screw down crown (the Navitimer’s isn’t) retails for how much would you think? Well, I don’t think halving it at £3000 would cause any overpricing accusations towards Hamilton. Nope. Not even close. What about taking another £1000 of that (you can do a lot with £1000). Getting there. The Hamilton Khaki Pilot Converter Chronograph on bracelet retails for £1830. £5000 pounds less! 


I apologise to Breitling for making this comparison seem accusational because the Navitimer’s fit and finish is far superior, the Navitimer bracelet is second to none and the Calibre 01, with its from-the-ground-up in-house design and multiple useful features is in a different league. And some may argue that I’m missing the point. I gladly concede. There is a luxury factor to consider. However, I would again argue that the Hamilton Converter is a bona fide luxury timepiece on many levels. Again, more on that later.

Just to quieten the Breitling fan boys: I have owned eight Breitlings in my collecting past, one of which was a beloved Navitimer. Moreover, when my friend was interested in a sentimental purchase from his wife recently and specified “timeless design that will last me the rest of my life” I told him to buy a Navitimer 01 43mm black dial on leather strap, with a consideration of retrospectively adding the exemplary five link bracelet for a future celebration.

So, getting back to my original point: We should not compare this superb entry into the Hamilton catalogue to the iconic pinnacle of pilot’s watches, the Navitimer. Just don’t do it.

Specification.


The Converter chronograph is powered by Hamilton’s H-21-Si movement, which is based on the respected Valjoux 7750. It has been enhanced in-house with an anti-magnetic silicon hair spring, allowing for carefree use near the everyday abundance of magnetic fields. A power reserve of 60 hours guarantees longer than average autonomy. As befits a utilitarian timepiece, minimal decoration comes in the form of simple radial patterns that add depth and character to this venerable movement.


The 44mm surgical grade stainless steel case with sapphire glass front and back has a reassuring 100m water resistance. Not only does this mean the wearer never have to consider accidental, movement-threatening moisture ingress but it also means that the movement is hermetically sealed within. Subtle contrasting edges, meticulously detailed in either full polished or satin enhance, the overall appeal of this handsome tool watch.


The dial beguiles with exquisitely executed sunburst and fumé effects. The hands are a cross between sword and syringe styles, both of which are pilot watch favourites.


The focal circular slide rule is capable of multiplication, division, kmph to mph or nautical miles, currency conversions, calculating ground speed, distance travelled, fuel consumption and converting volumes, weights and lengths. Apart from the pilot friendly ground speed and fuel consumption all other tools could be utilised day to day. Fear not, you do get a comprehensive manual just for the slide rule. The bi-directional bezel can be positioned accurately with a double coin edge.


Superluminova© is applied to the hands and hour markers.


Three models of the Chronograph are available: The steel on steel example (reference H76726130) I have been generously loaned by Andrew Michaels Jewellers plus a steel on leather and a PVD black/gold on leather. For that extra bit of indulgent glamour, the black and gold version is beautiful to behold. The PVD red gold bezel, hands, crown, pushers and dial accents unite seamlessly with the gorgeous dial. The PVD black case is a brave, yet triumphant, choice to create a contemporary bi-metal option.

Converter Auto Chrono
H6007671061 on leather strap £1755.
Image courtesy of Hamilton

 
Converter Auto Chrono
H6007671071 with PVD black and gold case on leather strap. £1890
Image courtesy of Hamilton


Furthermore, there is a family of Converter 42mm Autos and Converter 44mm GMTs to add to the stable. Both have 80 power reserves from Hamilton’s pseudo inhouse movements, courtesy of stablemate ETA.

Converter 42mm Auto

 H76635730. £1080.
Image courtesy of Hamilton


H76625530. £1080
Image courtesy of Hamilton


 H76615530. £970
Image courtesy of Hamilton


H76615130. £1035  
Image courtesy of Hamilton

                                                                           

Converter 44mm GMT                                  

Converter Auto GMT
H76715540. £1260
Image courtesy of Hamilton


Converter Auto GMT
  H76715140. £1325   
Image courtesy of Hamilton

                                                                                                                                                               

Conclusion.


The Hamilton Converter Chronograph has literally turned my thinking upside down. Normally, I would introduce a timepiece with a couple of paragraphs, wade into the specifications and unburden myself in the conclusion as to why, or why not, you should consider such and such timepiece. However, I was so adamant to give the Converter its own identity that I top loaded this article.

I now simply find myself imploring you to take this superb watch, regardless of price, seriously and ask you to consider what you want or need from a pilot’s watch. If you want history, something produced by a top 5 brand, a full in-house movement and class leading fit and finish then buy the other watch. If you want practicality, accuracy, wonderful detailing, anti-magnetism, an effective water resistance and £5000 in your pocket then buy this one.

Its not all a tickety boo bed of roses though. One aspect of the Converter I am disappointed in is the lack of Chronometer certification. The H-21-Si is capable of this, as proven in the Limited Edition X-Wind 1918 which I own. I appreciate that there would be a price increase but weighing up peace of mind through guaranteed accuracy would be worth it, especially given that the Converter Chrono is such a bargain there is room for a justified incremental price adjustment.


I must give a quick shout to the Converter Auto and Converter GMT models, which are strikingly attractive timepieces at affordable prices and include that practical slide rule calculator. You don’t get the anti-magnetism assurance of the silicon hairspring but you do get a very impressive 80 hour power reserve. And yes, I know, they have a passing resemblance to the Breitling Navitimer 38.

So, to sum up: The Hamilton Khaki Pilot Converter Chronograph will offer you the highest level of functionality and useful information from a timepiece of this variant. It will give years of stress-free performance. It can, rightfully, be regarded as the only watch you’ll ever need. It is endowed with well thought-out, perfectly executed design flourishes throughout. Finally, it is a bargain. None of this is subjective. Therefore, if you appreciate the stunning dial embellishments, the lustre of the sapphire bezel and the handsome case with multi-layered bracelet then you and your wallet will be thankful Hamilton have released yet another must have timepiece. My collection of Hamilton timepieces is constantly at risk of expanding.


All words by Richard Atkins. All images by the author, Hamilton Watches and Breitling Watches, unless otherwise stated. This article may not be reproduced in part or in whole without strict permission.
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