Hamilton X-Wind Auto Chrono: BBW (Big Beautiful Watch)
Now that you’ve had a moment to recover from the title of this review, let’s get into it. Hamilton was born in 1892, producing its first watch (the 936) in 1893. Located in Lancaster, PA, the company has a long and storied history in the United States. A Hamilton watch was on the wrist of the first pilot to deliver air mail within the US in 1919, and the company halted civilian production in 1942 in order to supply one million timepieces to our armed forces.
Note: watches are key instruments for soldiers. Syncing watches ensures that actions can be coordinated across multiple units that may not be able to communicate. Marine chronometers developed by Hamilton helped the Navy calculate longitude, location, and direction. Hamilton’s chronometers were so well-made and were developed so quickly that the company was awarded the Army-Navy “E” for excellence in military equipment.
In 1957, Hamilton developed the world’s first electric watch. The Ventura, in my opinion, is stupendously ugly. In 1970, they put together the first LED digital watch. Then, in 2003, Hamilton moved its headquarters to Biel, Switzerland. The old American standard is now owned by Swatch, but they’re still putting out quality watches in the spirit and tradition that led to their success. Our focus today will be on one of Hamilton’s mid-range offerings, the X-Wind Auto Chrono from the Aviation collection. MSRP on this model is $1,595, but they can regularly be had on sites like Amazon for less. As an aviation watch, it’s packed with plenty of features and functions that most of us will never need, but it looks great, functions reliably, illuminates nicely, and wears well with just about anything.
Movement: Automatic, Sapphire (H-21)
Case Diameter: 44mm
Band Diameter: 22mm
Partial Case-back Window
Genuine Leather Strap
Fit & Finish
This watch is nearly impeccable. It’s weighty and tall, which is to be expected for a 44mm flight watch. The genuine leather band is thick, and forms well to the wrist after a few days of wear. It’s soft and thick- Hamilton’s double “H” clasp is ultra-secure as well. I wear this watch relatively tightly, and it’s grown to be an almost reassuring presence on my arm. At first I was concerned about its relative clunkiness, but I’ve grown used to it after just a few weeks of wear. That said, its height makes it more likely to bump up against things by accident. The screw-down crowns, multi-directional bezel, and chronometer buttons all function without the slightest bit of grit or spring to them, which is nice. It’s clear that Hamilton put a lot of time and energy into even just the watch face, numerals, and the chrono faces as well: they have a bit of brushed texturing on them that really grabs light effectively. I was concerned at first that with the somewhat ungenerous contrast of the metal numerals against the black face I would have trouble reading this watch, but the reflective surfaces have made this the easiest on my eyes out of my entire collection. It’s worth noting that the black face and light brown strap make this watch easy to pair with just about any clothing short of a kimono. The X-Wind is one of those field-style aviation watches that calls to mind the heyday of American prosperity, classic pickup trucks, and football at Thanksgiving. It’s both nostalgic and modern, featuring some truly innovative functions that I’ll have absolutely no use for.
What the Hell is a Drift-Angle Calculator?
The purpose of a DAC is to help pilots calculate and record cross-winds that they encounter during flights. Basically, a plane has a starting point and a destination. The heading is the exact direction or bearing based on magnetic true north, while the track is the actual position and movement of the aircraft. Wind often ensures that an aircraft’s track is not exactly the same as their heading. Drift-angle calculation allows pilots to understand the angle between their heading and their track. Understanding how cross-winds affect the relationship between heading and track is important for pilots, so having a way to do so manually using your watch is pretty damn nifty. My eyesight made giving this a shot sort of tricky, as the numbers on dial and bezel were etched by Lilliputians. In any event, my feeble attempts at both mathematics and eyesight drove home in my mind the notion that I will never fly a plane and live to tell the tale.
What the Hell is a Tachymeter?
This is a bit simpler. A tachymeter allows the user to calculate speed based on travel time, or distance based on speed using markings on the outer bezel of the watch in concert with the chronograph function. The pilot (or stupefied internet-writing man) will just start the chronograph starting at some “marker of known distance,” let’s use a highway exit visible from the plane for example. At the second marker, or highway exit, the hand of the chronograph will be pointing at a marking on the bezel that will indicate speed. I imagine that iPhones and modern aviation technology make functionality like this either fashionable, or pretty enough to be a pleasing sight before your plane crashes into the ground.
Movement: Swiss-Made H21
“American” watch, Swiss movement. In this case, we just need to run with the idea that the watch was inspired by the American roots of the brand- it’s hard to argue with Swiss quality. The H21 movement features sapphire crystals and has a 60 hour power reserve. Although it’s somewhat expensive for an Automatic, the movement is so smooth that it looks mechanical at first glance. The increase in power reserve from the previous model’s 42 hours is due to an improvement in main springs. Apparently, the H21 is also more accurate than its predecessor, the Valjoux. Hamilton attributes this improvement to a process called “glittering,” so we can just assume some kind of magic is at work there. Here’s a neat video that shows how complicated this movement is.
Red Hatchet Says…
The X-Wind Chrono Auto keeps the time accurately to about a minute within a 24 hour period. It has easily readable date and time features that are simple to reset or adjust, and the lume is fantastic. It’s probably bit large for some, but it feels rock solid to me (6″1 220). It’s casual enough to wear just about anywhere, but when you pair it with more formal clothing it seems to adapt nicely. It’s almost like the ideal girlfriend: comfortable getting dirty while fishing and shooting, then a stunning model of poise and grace at an office function. Aesthetics are subjective, and some folks might not like the brushed steel studs in the strap. To me, they add a touch of industrial heritage to a watch that was meant to reflect Hamilton’s history in the United States. Overall, this watch is a decent daily wearer. My only complaint is that it just has too many damn features, but I’m also the guy who asked for a modern aviation watch when the gorgeously understated Khaki Pilot Auto was available to me.