With this gorgeous Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Automatic (ref. H82305931,) the Swiss-based watchmaker that mostly deals in relatively affordable timekeeping instruments not simply expands its line of diving companions. It finally offers a wristwatch that is not just “different” from the rest of the crowd, but -unlike their last year’s Navy Frogman- can actually be worn by a casual person without attracting weird glances from persons who “just don’t get it.”
I have never considered myself a Hamilton Man. I, basically, quite fond of some members of their Khaki series of military-styled timekeepers and even sometimes find myself contemplating buying one, but somehow never pull the trigger. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that their sub-$1000 are just not refined enough for me (not that I am a snob, but it usually takes just one Rolex to sit on your wrist -however briefly- for you to never be the same again,) while those above the psychological mark are sort of overpriced for what they offer.
This new Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Automatic (the one that’s reviewed here is ref. H82305931, but there are other variations of the model available with different straps and color combinations,) however, looks surprisingly interesting.
First of all, it doesn’t look like your average Hamilton diver. Not sure what their design team was inspired with, but the timekeeper nicely mixes all the usual ingredients into a surprisingly original product that no one would be ashamed to put on his or her wrist: it is not an “homage”, not a generic anonymous “just a diver” with not a tiniest grain of imagination behind it, and it’s clearly not an attempt to move upscale by piecing together expensive-looking, yet cheap parts in order to outprice a more established brand without hurting profit margin.
The second factor is that I really like the movement that powers the watch: unlike many competitors that use the same base mechanism in more expensive watches, this one, if my information is correct, is actually an upgraded version with significantly better specs and longer, um, expected lifespan (see more on that below.)
The third… Well, even with their off-the-shelf ingredients, this product just makes great first impression, and this is what most of us buy watches these days!
Case, Bezel & Strap
Surprisingly, there is nothing terribly interesting about the parts that this watch is assembled from. The case sports the traditional shape that most of us have seen thousands times before.
Approximately 40 millimeters in diameter and less than 13 millimeters thick, it is about 51 millimeters from lug to lug that makes it fit any wrist of an average width. Combine it with a metal or rubber bracelet and the Scuba would probably look as heavy as a nuclear submarine. However, with the bi-color NATO textile strap (it seems to be made out of nylon) with bi-color design (the orange and black of the strap play well with the same colors on the dial and bezel) and a nice pin buckle with “HAMILTON” lettering on it makes the timepiece look a lot lighter and somehow more modest: there is nothing arrogant or pretentious about the gadget.
The unidirectional rotating 120-click bezel (as well as the chosen color scheme) reminds me of DOXA watches, although some may argue that the gadget’s source of inspiration was the gorgeous Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600 (ref. 18.104.22.168.01.001) that featured the same color scheme. In other words: it’s just a bezel of a modern diving timekeeper and nothing more.
Ergonomics, too, seems to be average, but quite comfortable for most potential owners: thanks to notching on the bezel and a winding/setting crown of carefully calculated proportions it is easy to operate the watch when you simply need to adjust time (it won’t be as often as with most affordable mechanical watches, but more on that below) or set the rudimentary timer to boil a pair of eggs for a healthy breakfast.
No, there is no fancy “crown protection system” that makes you waste seconds to access the crown (here Hamilton used a tried and true screw-down crown with a rubber gasket design that keeps the watch from leaking water, while making it easier to operate) and no inner diving scales that would require an extra crown just to set the timer, and that’s what I actually like about the timekeeper: it just works.
Surprisingly, the combination of generic parts somehow manages to make the watch look… Well, can’t really call the watch ‘unique’, but it surely has a style of its own. While most affordable ‘Swiss Made’ divers that are currently available on the market try to, um, pay respects -wholly or partially- to classic Submariners, Seamasters and other luxury diving companions that were immortalized by movie heroes and massive advertising efforts, this one tries to form a language of its own, even if the words were borrowed from others.
For some persons, just looking at the watch may provoke random bouts of deja vu, but I personally find the design refreshing and interesting. Maybe not as interesting as that of their Navy Frogman model that, too, was introduced at Baselworld 2017 earlier this year, but still good enough to stand from the rest of contenders from other brands of similar pedigree.
I don’t want to make false claims and speculation here, but the darker shade of grey of the stainless steel case makes me wonder whether Hamilton decided to use steel with higher percentage of carbon in its structure. Potentially, it would make the timekeeper’s body even less prone to scratches compared to other watches. It would be nice to somehow clarify the issue.
What disappoints me a little is the water resistance rating. I mean, for a watch that is stylized to look as a professional diving tool, the WR of just meager 100 meters (10 ATM) doesn’t look particularly impressive. Yes, it is still good for swimming and snorkeling, but… seriously? A model with “Scuba” in its name can’t actually be used for scuba diving?
I presume that for majority of potential customers that won’t be a problem, but, if increased water resistance is what you are looking for in a diving watch, you should probably look somewhere else. However, if you don’t plan to dive any deeper than your PC wallpaper, the water resistance rating should not be a problem: it’s just enough for normal use.
Dial & Legibility
With decades of experience under their belts, Hamilton’s designers never fail to produce timekeepers offering a combination of superb legibility and great overall look.
While the secondary scale with military-style 24-hour chapter ring seems to be superfluous here, I still can’t call it a design mistake: after all the extra scale is an integral part of basically every “tool watch” that was produced by Hamilton during the post-WWII period. Like Breitling’s signature slide rule, it’s a part of their brand’s DNA, if you will. Yes, on their COSD-styled “military” timekeepers the 24-hour ring looks more, um, natural, but here it look very nice, too, making the dial less monotonous.
I like how the orange and light grey elements are playing with those on the bezel and the way the Superluminova is applied in deliberately geometric shapes (trapezoidal for the hour and minute hands as well as the four “main” hour markers, and rectangular for the indices at 1-2, 4-5, 7-8, and 10-11,) too, makes a really good impression on yours truly.
I am also quite fond with the orange central seconds hand whose luminous triangle almost touches the inner parts of the hour markers (you have probably seen how the element is often either too short or too long in less expensive timekeepers like, say, in the recently introduced 2017 Seiko Prospex SRPB-series automatic diver) not only enhancing nighttime legibility, but also making the wristwatch more esthetic.
The tiny calendar aperture doesn’t look as convincing for sure, but that comes courtesy of the mechanism (see below) and, I believe, is purely for economic reasons: it’s probably just too expensive to fit each movement with a bespoke calendar wheel for every model they make. Still, it would be nice to see a more expensive version of the watch with a Big Date complication: it would probably not only look great per se, but would also provide a nice visual counterbalance to the oversized logo at 12 hours, while making the gadget even more readable in the process.
Like many other timekeepers recently introduced by Hamilton, this diver is animated by their beloved Caliber H-10 self-winding movement. While clearly not offering anything groundbreaking neither in terms of extended functionality (why, it’s just the usual garden-variety three-hander with a simple calendar) nor design, the mechanism still has a nice selling point: the guaranteed power reserve. With a minimum of eighty hours of energy stored by its strengthened mainspring barrel, the mechanism gives your normal ETA 2824-based caliber a run for its money.
Well, it may not sound as impressive if you compare it to any 7-Days model currently offered by a brand like IWC, but -come on!- it also costs just a fraction of the price. Also, for a modern mechanical timekeeper that is often worn only on office days and kept on a table or in a chest of drawers for the length of a weekend, the 80 hours of power is what an average owner needs not to worry whether the thing will still tick on any given Monday and, what’s even more important, keeps good time because the aforementioned mainspring still has enough strength in it to supply the balance wheel with all the energy that it needs in a linear fashion.
What’s really interesting about this caliber however is the controversy that surrounds it from the very introduction of the mechanism. You see, the Caliber H-10 is based on the same ETA C07.111 that is also known as Tissot Powermatic 80. Designed to power less expensive wristwatches produced by members of the Swatch Group (including this unassuming Certina DS Powermatic 80 Limited Edition (ref. C026.407.16.087.01) and the gorgeous Hamilton Broadway Day Date (refs. H43515735 & H43515135)) the movement is often labeled as “disposable” and not as bullet-proof reliable as the legendary ETA 2824-2 that was used as the basis for this “new” ebauche.
Compared to its progenitor, the base C07.111 features a lot more impressive power reserve of 80 hours that come courtesy of reinforced mainspring and “suppressed” balance wheel that now beats at just 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour (vs 28,800 vph of the 2824-2,) but also has a reduced jewel count (23 vs 25) and a plastic (!) balance wheel. Not only has the choice of materials reduced the mechanism’s life expectancy (You hoped your Swiss Made Watch will serve you for decades to come? Forget about that,) but as anecdotal evidence tells us, is it also more difficult to regulate since (1) a timing machine often has a hard -um- time hearing the sounds made by plastic balance wheel and (2) your options of adjusting the beater are limited to just two screws on the aforementioned wheel.
Now, the Caliber H-10 is a bit different story although its reputation seems to have been smeared by the way ETA has had cut corners with the C07.111. First, according to the official specification, the jewel count on the H-10 was restored to 25 rubies of the original 2824-2 and, second, as Hamilton University tells us sort of cryptically “entire kinematic chain has been refined, from the barrel to the escapement,” so there is a hope (that seems to be reinforced by the way the movement looks) that the plastic parts of C07.111 were replaced with higher-grade components that won’t wear-off in a matter of years.
Given the mechanism’s relative rarity, you’d still have to service it at the Swatch Group’s official service stations, but that seems to be a small price to pay for such a beautiful -and relatively inexpensive- timekeeper as it powers.
Pricing & Availability
At the time of me writing this review for Worldwatchreview.com, the Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Automatic (not only this ref. H82305931, but also other members of the collection) was still marked as “available soon” without any more information regarding expected availability.
However, the price is already stated at $695 USD if ordered from their online store (not clear whether the shipping, handling and taxes are included or not,) which makes it a really nice choice compared to, for example, a Tissot T-Sport Seastar 1000 diver that, sporting the same base caliber, has a lot more intimidating retail price of $975 and, well, is not as pleasant to look at (although that’s subjective, I know.) In fact, I would say that this new gadget is one of the most competitively priced among divers that are currently available out there. I hope that other watchmakers will understand that times when you could sell almost anything with a “Swiss Made” inscription on the dial for more than $1000 is long gone (unlike the generation of baby-boomers, young people is more interested in value for money rather than being “a member of the club,” you know) and follow suit.
See also: Deep Blue Master 2000 10 Year Anniversary Automatic Diver in Black/Orange (ref. M2KILBLKORGBLKORG) review
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 4.5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Automatic (ref. H82305931) watch specification
Price: $695 (MSRP, official Hamilton online store)
Movement: Hamilton H-10, base ETA C07.111, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Power reserve: 80 hours
Cadence of balance: 21,600 vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case material: Stainless steel, brushed
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 40.00 mm (approx. 51 mm lug-to-lug)
Case height: 12.95 mm
Lug width: 20.00 mm
Dial: Black with orange accents
Numerals: Arabic (secondary military-style scale)
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Bi-color NATO textile strap with steel pin buckle (ref. H600.823.100)
Case back: Solid, engraved, screw-down