Guest Post: Hamilton Khaki Navy Sub - Boy Wonder's Own Diver ¶
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By Jeff Buchanan-Dorrance, Guest Columnist
Like all of you, I have a passion for fine timepieces. I am an active family man and busy CEO living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I value astute advice on my purchases and place a premium on personal service, so buy all my watches through Matt Baily in Montreal.
After discussing the ultra-competent, ultra-deep diving Bremont Supermarine S2000 last week, I want to dial back those Batman job parameters and look at what Robin does for a living.
When taken out of Batman's shadow, you have to admit that The Boy Wonder is a pretty competent operator. He is capable of covering the Dark Knight's flanks in an ambush, answering the phones, and injecting a little levity into the working life of an otherwise dour blunt-instrument-of-Justice.
Having a diver for beating around is a given in the male watch repertoire. Even if you don't need its capabilities, a diver makes a statement about the ruggedness and adventurousness of the wearer. For many, it's the only type of watch worth considering for daily wear.
All deep divers are not created equal but, for our purposes, let's just call anything rated 500 metres or more, "Batman". Apart from extreme pursuits or sheer love of engineering prowess, we don't need Batman. Enter Robin.
Robin looks heroic: competent and with a certain amount of style, yet not too flashy. Missions get accomplished free of fanfare. Nobody gets hurt. All arrive home safe and sound for dinner, which is still warm.
The new Hamilton Navy Sub is a stylish and competent little diver--a Robin in steel. This is Boy Wonder's own watch.
Hamilton has a long heritage as America's Watch Brand. Formed in the late 19th Century in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, this brand grew with America into its golden age. This brand has been featured in more Hollywood films than any other. Elvis Presley wore a Hamilton Ventura and that design remains iconic. Enough said.
Hamilton is a Swiss brand now and resides at the top end of the value range within the Swatch Group. Grumble about Swatch if you like but Hamilton fulfills its value mission beautifully, offering a lot of content for entry-level prices. Matt Baily is an authorized Hamilton distributor.
Like Elvis, I cut my teeth on "real watches" with Hamilton (the similarities end there; I don't marry teenagers nor do I smell of sweat, pills, and deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches--though do suffer from a little mid-life weight gain...). Hamilton set the hook, and here I am a decade later spending all my money on watches. Ya... Thanks, Elvis...
The more I opened my eyes and wallet to the watch world, the less satisfied I became with the basic Hamilton offerings. But Hamilton has a long history, a strong following, and can still surprise (in a good way). The new Navy Sub is one such good surprise.
This diver has a unique case design, the shape of which is inspired by their Piping Rock design of 1928. I would describe it as being round but suspended in a tonneau-shaped frame that incorporates the lugs. It is available with a black, silver or grey dial with either a rubber or stainless steel bracelet. The grey dial/orange rubber strap model features an orange second hand. Chronograph models are available. The example I have today has the black dial on a bracelet.
"Holy timepieces, Batman; I don't recall ever seeing a case this interesting at this price point!" Normally, I'd expect a simple, easy-to-produce casting. Instead, there is a complicated and interesting suspended case effect here with the solid shoulders you expect behind the lugs being effectively cut out to a skeletal but sturdy case outline. You can see through this case! If you pay attention, the effect is of a floating bezel and dial. And you must pay attention because the effect is subtle from a distance. My only criticism in its execution is that they weren't more aggressive in pushing that element. But, whether you notice it right away or not, it is still a very cool little feat of design. Bravo, Hamilton!
The 42mm case is adequately finished with evenly brushed surfaces. This is no winder queen Patek so you should not be expecting perfection. This finish will mask some minor scratching and that is good for our purposes. There is some top case edge polishing that reflects the light attractively. The case itself is surprisingly thin.
The bracelet is tight and heavy with solid Hamilton-themed H-shaped links. There is a very solid deployante with a double latch and fine microadjustment. I have seen and own bracelets of this quality on watches easily five times the price of this Navy Sub. The lugs won't receive a standard strap so the only other options are their black or orange rubber straps, which also look to be really nice in photos.
The caseback is closed and features an exceptionally well-finished engraving of a manta ray. It looks very cool but makes no sense to me. If some designer is going to engrave a random doodle on the back of your watch, the manta isn't a bad way to go. Sharks are cool, too. So are old tractors and giant hyenas with jetpacks. Robin would prefer a bat. Who knows why they do these things; nobody sees them anyways. And maybe they just felt they owed us something, as the workhorse ETA 2824 engine probably isn't worth a display window.
No helium release valve is required for its 300 metres of water resistance so it doesn't have one. The sharply-sculpted crown screws down firmly. I'm sure the Navy Sub will fare well in water sports and at the beach. No worries.
Up top, the smooth-turning, unidirectional rotating bezel has a nice rubber grip and raised rubber numbers protruding through the matte steel bezel insert. It is attractive and could be turned easily wearing standard-issue superhero sidekick gloves. The matte steel insert resembles aluminum but it produces a nice contrast with the steel of the case. It works very well here.
The dial under the flat sapphire crystal features raised luminescent numerals with stick markers at 3 and 9. The font is large and clear. Date is at 6. I really like the use of "0" instead of "12"; it is simple and effective. Lume paint is best on the hands but adequate on the numbers and the pip on the bezel. The hands are simple batons. Red on the tip of the second hand breaks up the monochromatic dial.
The dial itself is attractive. It is of a single piece with a basketweave pattern of Hs in the centre. It is a nice look and concept. At a higher price point they could have given this more depth as a sandwich dial with more texture and fine finishing. I wouldn't be surprised if they advanced this concept in future models.
Would Robin be able to glance at this watch mid-cartwheel and read the time while taunting an evildoer? Being a scientist through and through, I assigned my 14 year old son (a master taunter) to simulate this Robinesque scenario (he owes me). He had no trouble reading the Navy Sub bouncing on our trampoline at sundown wearing a mask while complaining that I don't respect him.
Dive deep without torpedoing your wallet! The Hamilton Navy Sub is a very well-priced Swiss Automatic watch -- a stylish and solid diver for everyday use. If your routine heroics don't entail battling homicidal villains in the Marianas Trench, then this is your watch.