The Hamilton Watch Company played an important part in Western history. Founded in 1892, it started out producing pocket watches in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now Swiss-owned, the American brand became the official supplier to the U.S armed forces and since then became known for their military-precise timepieces.

An original Hamilton W10 [Photo from: James Dowling/]
Military stock numbers, year, and broad arrow etching [Photo from: James Dowling/]

The Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical is a modern reinterpretation of the iconic classic—the W10, whose design lies deeply rooted in military aviation. A little background on its military history, in the 1960s, Hamilton produced watches specifically for the British Royal Airforce thus making the design elements on the W10 distinctly British in character. These vintage models were produced around 1973 and 1976 (the year can be found on the caseback) and are easily recognizable by the ‘broad arrow’ markings that can be found on it. It is reminiscent of the look of ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches—which are military watches commissioned by the British government during World War 2 from different Swiss watchmakers. Also referred to as W.W.Ws, these are sought out by collectors as they carry with them a rich history. The Hamilton Aviation Pilot Mechanical carries the key characteristics of these British military timepieces: with a black non-reflective dial with a railroad minute track and luminous hands and markers.

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ Collection. [Photo from: Siewming and]
The Hamilton Aviation Pilot Pioneer in a textile NATO strap (leftmost) and leather NATO strap (rightmost). The center piece is an original W10, which features the British broad arrow markings and ‘T’ (tritium) symbol.

This modern remake of the W10 features some modern upgrades but stays faithful to the original design—albeit lacking the signature broad arrow markings (this marks the piece as a property of the British government). The 36-mm piece, set against a mattified stainless steel case has a distinct 1970’s-style case and features a calibre H-50 mechanical hand-wound movement with an 80-hour power reserve, which vintage enthusiasts would appreciate. It may seem smaller than most in the modern era of men’s watches but its bold choice to retain the original’s size is part of what gives it its unique charm.

Touted as an ‘exact replica’ of the W10, the Hamilton Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical features an upgrade with a reinforced mineral crystal face instead of the vintage plexiglass and the dial is a grainy, matte black. With its military origin, visibility and legibility are crucial in a watch’s design so the dial, indexes, and its nickel military sword hands are coated with Super LumiNova for legibility even in the dark. The matte black dial also features beige faux patina lume that is made to look aged (also referred to as faux lume) that strives to recreate that dated look of a vintage timepiece. This may be something that’s up for dispute for some vintage aficionados but if you don’t mind all the technicality, it really looks good with the rest of the watch. The Arabic numeral indexes are pure white though, which strikes a clean contrast against the dial. Another thoughtful touch is keeping the Hamilton brand in its retro italicized font style. The sheer simplicity of the piece is another thing that makes it stand out. Time-only, it lacks the usual complications like a chronograph, for example.

The Aviation Pilot Pioneer Mechanical is also water resistant for up to 100m.  It also reserves its historical background with a mechanism that would allow one to set the time down to the exact second—maintaining its military character. Not really something many would use today but again, a nod to its roots. Its caseback is secured with four screws and paired with a textile or leather NATO strap. Overall, it is a timepiece that combines a classic, military style with modern conveniences but retains the distinct character of its vintage counterparts.

About The Author

Eunice Isobel Lee
Editorial and Business Development Head

As a business major who loves to write, Eunice finds the best out of both worlds managing sales and marketing while also writing full-time. Sometimes preferring books, music, and a steaming cup of coffee over people, she will gladly move to an historic old town somewhere in Italy and make (and eat) pasta, write stories, and paint all day long.