Aviation has been a big part of Hamilton’s design inspiration in recent years, but technically, the brand’s association with flight is celebrating its centenary in 2018. Its initial tie-in to the skies was perhaps not the most awe-inspiring: 1918 was the year Hamilton Watches was enlisted to be the official timekeeper of the first ever U.S. Airmail flights traveling between D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. Commemorating this anniversary, Hamilton has revamped a healthy number of pieces in their Aviation collection. On one end of the spectrum, a vintage-inspired design influence is hugely apparent — playing well to the now longstanding trend — and on the other, new references highlighting current aviation partnerships have been launched with bold colour accents.
Leading the charge: a new limited edition Khaki X-Wind Automatic Chronograph has arrived with changes to both its design and its inner workings. Light tan-coloured luminous markers, hands, and details on its running seconds subdial give the piece a tasteful faux-aged aesthetic, available with a matching desert brown leather strap (as well as a steel bracelet). From a functional standpoint, its three-register chronograph, day-date display, and clever crosswind calculator carry through from its predecessor; the updates made to its caliber are where the piece earns some serious brownie points. The Hamilton caliber H-21-Si — based on the Valjoux 7750-based automatic chronograph caliber — is the first movement from the brand to feature a silicon hairspring. A trickle-down innovation from the Swatch Group’s significant R&D department, the new hairspring assists in improving the caliber’s accuracy, longevity, and resistance to magnetism and shock. The accuracy improvements have also led to the new X-Wind to be COSC certified for the first time. The piece will be limited to 1,918 examples in tribute to the brand’s 100 years of “timing the skies.”
Hamilton has a number of interesting partnerships in their portfolio these days, though one we don’t hear about all that frequently is their work with Air Zermatt — the famed search-and-rescue team of the Swiss Alps. “We’ve been working with Air Zermatt for seven years now, and we couldn’t be happier to present a pair of new models celebrating the organization’s 50th year in operation,” stated Hamilton Watches CEO Sylvain Dolla during our meeting. “Unlike a lot of other collaborations you see, half of our 100-piece production run of the X-Wind Auto Chrono Air Zermatt, 50 pieces, are going directly to their team.”
Adding to the uniqueness of the collection, the pieces are also being individually marked with the name and serial numbers of past and present helicopters in the Air Zermatt fleet, or with one of the service’s main landing spots. Otherwise, the references in its design remain quite subtle. The Air Zermatt logo is etched onto the leather strap rivets, and a small version also appears as the counterweight of the chronograph seconds hand. Thankfully for those unable to get their hands on the scarce 50 pieces heading to public market, Hamilton has also released a new Air Zermatt version of their Khaki Pilot Day Date with a black dial and baby blue indices and hands (as well as the same seconds hand counterweight with the AZ logo). This 42mm diameter model will be powered by the self-winding H-40 caliber, with a power reserve of 80 hours.
In other partnership news, Hamilton has renewed its place as official timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2018. “We had such a successful year in 2017 as part of the Air Races, we decided to expand on our existing partnership, adding three new competing pilots as brand ambassadors in 2018,” said Dolla. Sylvain is referring to Canadian pilot Pete McLeod, among others, who finished third in the 2017 Air Race season. Continuing with the partnership also means more limited editions from Hamilton, which this year includes the Khaki Pilot Chrono Quartz, featuring a brushed silver dial accented by blue indices and hands, as well as small red hands for its chronograph subdials. The colour combo is a sharp one — not to mention one that mirrors the colours found on the classic Red Bull energy drink can.