Topper’s Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553

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Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

Sponsored Post written by Rob Caplan

In 2012, Hamilton came out with a 46mm limited edition Navy Pioneer. This watch was a manual wind watch/clock combination that took design cues from the massive Hamilton marine chronometers from the 1940s that were produced during World War II. In 2013, Hamilton came out with a 40mm version of the watch. The silver dial color scheme retained the color scheme of both the 1940s clocks and the 2012 limited edition. This year in 2015, after no new Navy Pioneer models in 2014, Hamilton has come out with three new Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer models: a 43mm Automatic H7771553, 43mm Rose gold plated automatic with a small second hand, and a 44mm Chronograph. This post takes a look at the 43mm Automatic.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

A look through the display back revealing the nicely decorated H-10 movement.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The wire lugs of the Pioneer Auto (H7771553).

Hamilton is known as being one of the best value watch brands, and one of most reasonable ways for watch enthusiasts to obtain timepieces with elaborate grade ETA movements. Fans of the brand are always quick to correctly point out that many brands with much heavier marketing budgets will offer the same movement in a timepiece at two or three times the cost of a Hamilton. While Hamilton used to be known as value ETA, over the last few years, they have moved beyond that by offering their own calibres with mechanical enhancements. For instance, instead of all of their new three hand date models featuring the venerable ETA 2824-2, some new models, such as the 43mm Automatic Navy Pioneer, feature the H-10 movement.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

A view through the case back to the perlage on the bridges of the H-10 Calibre in the Pioneer
Auto (H7771553). Note that the rotor features unique skeletonization not found on Hamiltons with
standard ETA movements.

The biggest advantage of the H-10 over the ETA 2824-2 is a longer power reserve; it’s almost doubled from around 40 hours to 80 hours. Similarly, the 43mm rose gold-plated automatic with a small seconds hand model features an H-32 movement that also doubles the power reserve of the 40mm Navy Pioneer models from 2013 which featured the ETA 2895-2. The 44mm Chronograph is also enhanced over an ETA 7750 by featuring an H-21 movement with a sixty-hour power reserve.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The 2012 Limited Edition Navy Pioneer (left) and the 2015 Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto 43mm H771553 (right).

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The thicker 2012 Limited Edition (left) and the 2015 Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto (right).

Aside from the longer power reserve, the H-10 movement is much prettier than those seen through the display backs of the basic Khaki models. Instead of movement bridges with a basic even finish, the bridges on the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto feature an attractive perlage treatment (a metal polishing technique using a spinning abrasive bit to form small, extremely close, concentric and overlapping circular lines to portray the essence of pearls).

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The 2012 Navy Pioneer Limited Edition in “clock mode.”

Above are a photos comparing the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto 43mm to the 46mm Limited Edition from 2012. Even though the 2012 model was a manual wind watch, it is much thicker than the 2015 automatic model. The extra thickness of the 2012 model was a design feature given that it was made to fit into a clock mount that looked like the marine chronometer boxes of the 1940s (see photo above). The 2015 Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto model, which is just under 12mm thick, still leaves intact almost all of the design cues from the 2012 model: the blued hands, slightly silver dial color, rectangular minute track, black Arabic markers, hobnailed bezel edge, and wire lugs are all there. Even though it will not actually convert to a clock, the minimal wire lugs make the aesthetic extremely clock-like.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The minute track and hobnail-edged bezel of the Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto (H7771553).

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

A look at the case profile of the Pioneer Auto (H7771553).

The biggest difference between the 2012 Limited Edition and the 2015 Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto is the centrally attached second hand instead of a sub-dial at six o’clock. One stylistic break from that “marine chronometer” feel is the large printing of the word “automatic” on the dial below the central axis.

Topper's Favorite Swiss Watch Under $1,000? Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto H7771553 Hands-On

The Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto (H7771553) in the midday Burlingame Avenue light.

In previous years, I’ve struggled to come up with an authentic choice for best new model at any specific price point. This year, the best watch at $1,000 is particularly clear to me. The 2015 Hamilton Khaki Navy Pioneer Auto is my favorite watch under $1,000 across all our brands. The stylistic callbacks to the 1940s are tasteful and engaging, yet as a stand alone aesthetic, it works even if you don’t know about the source material.

Rob Caplan is a fourth generation watch retailer whose family owns Topper Fine Jewelers on the edge of Silicon Valley in Burlingame, California. Topper is an authorized dealer of Grand Seiko, Oris, Mühle-Glashütte, Nomos, OMEGA, Glashütte Original, Hamilton, Longines, Zenith, Ball, Bremont, and other fine Swiss & German watch Brands.

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