Hamilton is known for its signature military-inspired timepieces from the Khaki Aviation, Khaki Field and Khaki Navy collections. The modern functions, innovative materials and new movements these watches feature were not dreamed up in isolation in the watchmaker’s atelier. This is the story of how Hamilton’s proud military heritage continues to influence today’s new timepieces.
When it comes to military history, the Hamilton story is one of absolute precision. It was the superior quality and accuracy of Hamilton’s early pocket watches, as well as the ability to innovate and act quickly while maintaining high standards that first caught the attention of the American military back in 1914. The same qualities kept Hamilton at the forefront of supply, earning five prestigious Army-Navy ‘E’ Awards for manufacturing excellence along the way.
Our link to the military is a point of pride for Hamilton and of fascination for civilian buyers who know that servicemen have tested our watches under the toughest conditions on land, and in the air and sea. The military seal of approval is a guarantee of quality and accuracy.
Hamilton originally began supplying precision railroad watches to soldiers under the command of General ‘Black Jack’ Pershing during World War I. They were used to time troop movements. Although of the requisite accuracy, the watches first had to be adapted from pocket watches to wristwatches to ensure the soldiers could read them quickly and easily.
Having learned from previous experience, and still with a strong reputation for accuracy, Hamilton began supplying watches, timepieces, timers and precision instruments to the U.S. military during the Second World War. In 1942, Hamilton halted all consumer production to ensure we could supply the huge number of watches required by troops. From 1942-1945, Hamilton delivered more than one million watches.
The Navy was one of Hamilton’s biggest military customers during this period, eventually receiving more than 10,000 marine chronometers during the years of conflict. With no other way to plot a course than through ‘dead reckoning’, in which a sailor uses the stars to navigate, the Navy needed to ensure total accuracy. Even an error of a minute could lead to a false position report of several miles.
The U.S. Government put the bid out to tender and Hamilton proved the only company able to mass produce a precise marine chronometer to meet the Navy’s exacting standards. These chronometers eventually played a vital role in the Allied victory.
Necessity is the mother of invention and the years of conflict pushed Hamilton to make new discoveries more quickly than we may have without the pressure to invent.
Since 1945, Hamilton has maintained its close links to the military and has often used feedback from servicemen to refine and improve our watches as well as to help us create new pieces equal to the challenges of modern life. With partnerships with some of the world’s top military air squadrons and military academies, Hamilton looks forward to continuing the development of our signature Khaki collection pieces in the future.