Wednesday, February 21, 2018

An Open Letter to Hodinkee re: the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical

You want me to get excited about the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical, a new item in your online shop.

And maybe I should be very excited about it, I don't know.

I know that the Hamilton 992b pocket watch, made from 1940 to 1969 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was an outstanding watch in its time, maybe the one truly outstanding model made by the American company (the 992 and 992a, as well as most of the other models made by American Hamilton since the late 19th century, didn't quite get it right). But 1969 was a long time ago, and I don't know squat about the current Swiss Hamilton brand except that it's one of the many brands owned by the Swatch Group. Does it really have anything in common with the old American brand except the name and the look of the dial?

And even if it has a lot in common with the old American brand, does that mean that a new Hamilton is as good as a new watch from a quality Swiss brand? Horological technology hasn't stood still for the last 50 years. A good new watch tends to be much more durable, reliable and waterproof, to name just 3 things, than a good watch made in 1969.

If all of you watch journalists didn't tell me to get excited over each and every watch you write about -- with the lone exception, as far as I know, of the Watch Snob® at askmen, who goes perhaps too far in the other direction -- then I actually might get excited about watches even more often than I already do, which is very often.

Just not about every single watch. Your recent rave review of the new overpriced mechanical piece of crap from Timex, to name one egregious example, was not helpful in this regard. You wrote that even if it's not a great watch, hey, it's only $200. For some of us, $200 is actually a lot of money which we'd rather not throw away if we can help it, especially not when $200 will get us several perfectly good mechanical watches from Seiko. And for a watch enthusiast for whom $200 really isn't a lot, it still could be $200 toward the price of something like a nice Longines, which might cost 5 or 10 times as much as the new mechanical Timex, but will look much nicer (because it's the actual item which the Timex [American English for "fake Rolex"] is trying to resemble), keep much better time, last far longer than 10 times as long as the Timex, etc, etc.

But that's the sort of advice one never gets from watch journalists, with the exception of the Watch Snob, and for all I know, he has to remain anonymous because if any of you wrote what you really think and it were known who you were, the entire industry would banish you and you'd never be able to write about any new watch again unless you bought it, and, unfortunately, not all of you can afford to spend a million Euros a year on watches, year in and year out, because life is unfair. I realize there must be reasons for the current state of affairs, and I don't think that people who write about watches are bad people.

But until some of you buck the trend and start writing in a much more straightforward manner, how will things ever change?

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