Reviewing Hamilton X-Wind Automatic Chronograph
This summer (2016) Hamilton has not one, but actually four replica watches in Independence Day: Resurgence. I happen to find this relationship particularly exciting as I, and I’m sure many of you, really loved the hell out of the first Independence Day. I can actually remember seeing it in the theaters when I was 12, and being blown away by it. The shadows coming over NYC, the dog-fights with space ships, the utter destruction, big explosions, alien monsters.. it was one of the most memorable theatre experiences I’ve had because, perhaps like the Matrix, it felt so new and big at the time.
Hamilton is a brand that needs no introduction. One of the most well known military/pilot/Americana based replica watch brands, they have a large catalog of replica watches that are fun, functional and value driven. One of the interesting aspects of the Hamilton brand is their on-going relationship with Hollywood. Nearly every year, at least one blockbuster film with feature a Hamilton replica watch on a leading character. Sometimes they are just worn through out the movie, and other times they play a pivotal role. No film better exemplifies the latter than 2014’s Interstellar, where the replica watch is actually one of the most important objects in the film.
Apart from being a movie star, the X-Wind is also a very interesting and different pilots chronograph. The name, pronounced cross-wind (not X), has a system of bezels that are used to calculate crosswinds and drift angles of planes. This is something a pilot would do, in flight, using various data at their disposal and the scales on the replica watch. To my knowledge, this is something only Hamilton makes. Additionally, it’s also an automatic chronograph, which takes no explanation, being powered by the H-21 movement. Coming in at $1,595, it’s also a good value for a new, Swiss-made, auto chrono that is available at retail.
Now, I’m excited to get back into that world, see the characters, etc… but also, look for their replica watches. In the movie, you will find the Pilot Auto Chrono, the Thin-O-Matic, the Jazzmaster GMT and, the replica watch we’re reviewing today, X-Wind Automatic Chronograph. Being the biggest, most aggressive of the four, you can imagine that it’s being worn by a pilot who is engaged in action in the film. In fact, it’s being worn by one of the headlining stars, Liam Helmsworth, as Jake Morrison.
The X-Wind features a large case, but considering it has three bezels, three crowns and two pushers, the size makes sense. Measuring 44 x 54 x 15.5mm, it’s a hefty, chunky pilots replica watch, but one with good proportions, so it never looks like there is any wasted space, or anything that was made large for the sake of size. From above, it has a fairly classic shape, save the abundance of crowns. The lugs are long and contoured with a 22mm width, and nice brushing on their top surface. I like that they went with 22 over 24mm, as the proportions are a bit more elegant.
Still looking from above, you have a steel external bezel with black markings and small cutouts for teeth. This adds a very technical element to the case, giving it the look of an instrument as well as a replica watch. The bezel is bi-directional and non-ratcheting, gliding around smoothly. A very cool aspect of the X-Wind’s design is that it’s “destro” or features the crown and chrono-pushers on the left side. This is in order to put two screw-down crowns on the right side, which are used to control the internal bezels. I suppose the logic being that in most cases one would control them with their right hand.
The chrono-pushers are rectangular with a radiused ends, giving them a bit of a vintage feel. I think this was a very smart design choice as they look great, stand apart from the three crowns, and give you a larger pushing area. Interestingly, the crowns and pushers are all polished, contrasting with the otherwise brushed case.
Flipping the replica watch over, you’ll find a rather cool looking case back. It features a half-circle display window and a black-filled graphic. The graphic is technical and striking, featuring an array of lines, arcs and degrees. One would use a similar graphic to chart the crosswind angle, though here it is just symbolic of the replica watch’s functionality. The half circle display is a cool touch, as it outlines the rotor. Through the window, you can see an obscured view of the H-21 automatic chronograph movement, mostly showing the balance. Though mostly undecorated, there are some plates towards the top that feature a laser-etched “H” pattern.
The three crowns are quite large, measuring 7.5 x 4.5mm, all featuring chunky guards as well. They have deep grooves along their sides and “H” logos on their outer surfaces. They are very easy to grip and turn when using the bezels or when setting the time. I was happy to see that they all screw down as well, though it’s very hard to screw in the internal bezel crowns and not turn the bezel. This doesn’t effect the usage of the bezels, as you don’t “set” them and lock them in, but it’s a bit annoying if you want things to line up a certain way when not in use (such as putting the triangle at 12).
The X-Wind’s dial consists of a main area for time and chronograph functions, and wide nested-internal bezels. It’s complex at a glance, but the various functions are kept separate making it surprisingly legible. The inner dial is actually fairly small compared to the whole, but well balanced. It’s matte black, with a primary index of applied hour numerals in brushed steel, skipping 12, 3, 6 and 9 for sub-dials and the date. The brushed texture was a nice touch, making the numerals a bit more interesting than simply polished, and a bit more legible too.
Around the edge of the inner dial is an index of white lines and lume dots. The dots are all applied and 3-dimensional, hinting at tritium dots of vintage pieces, another detail I really like. Between the numerals and dots, you can really see the Hamilton Khaki lineage in this design as it speaks to their classic military pieces.
At 9 is a day/date window as well as the Hamilton logo and some text about the replica watch. The date is presented in black on white, which in this instance I think was the correct choice. Had it been white on black, thus lower contrast, it could have felt like a gap in the dial. The hour and minute hands are both Roman sword style with elongated tips. These are hands you’ll see on several of Hamilton’s replica watches in their Khaki Field and Aviation lines. The chrono seconds is then a polished stick with a lumed triangle on its end. The sub-dials all feature mini-Roman swords, all filled with lume. I like that they went with a more robust hand design here than your standard stick.
At 12, 3 and 6 are sub-dials for the chronograph and active seconds. Since the movement is based on the 7750, but rotated 180 degrees, you’ll find the same functions, just in different places. 12 and 6 are the 12-hour and 30-minute counters respectively. These two sub-dials are executed in silver, with a step down in the center and circular graining throughout. The contrast sub-dials are a nice choice, giving the dial an inverse panda style, and also separating out the chrono elements. The active seconds sub-dial at 9 has the same step-down/circular graining as the other two, but is all black with a white index. They outline it in white, so it still stands out, but far less than the silver.
The internal bezels that take up the rest of the dial space are used, in conjunction with the external bezel, data and knowledge, to calculate drift/cross winds. I can’t explain how that is done as it really is specific to pilots, but here is a handy instruction guide from Hamilton that might clue you in. What’s very cool is how the internal bezels work. The top bezel is adjusted with the lower crown. On the bezel is a window, through which you can see a red on white disc. This is the second bezel, which is controlled with the upper crown. In theory, you line these all up based on various information regarding your (you being a pilot in a plane) heading, wind direction, speed, etc… to calculate drift. Not something I’ve been able to test out on the streets of NY, but I’m sure it works, otherwise they wouldn’t make it.
Straps and Wearability
The X-Wind comes mounted to a 22mm tan leather strap with rivets. It’s thick and straight cut with contrast white stitching and brown edge paint. The strap is thickest by the lugs, starting at around 6mm, thinning out to about 3. The rivets add a vintage pilot look to the strap, which plays well off of the more classical elements of the dial. A curious design element is the use of a double-pronged “H” buckle. This is a Hamilton signature, though not something they always use. Because of the design, the strap doesn’t have your standard set of holes, rather twin slots.
Aesthetically, the X-Wind is a really good looking pilot replica watch. It has hints of vintage, but comes across modern overall. Is aggressive due to the many crowns and pushers, but not ostentatious. It’s very purposeful and technical looking as well, which makes sense considering what it does. Chronographs alone tend to be more technical in appearance, an aspect that draws me to them, the addition of the various indexes and scales for the x-wind tool increase this by a lot. It really looks like an instrument more than a replica watch, which is pretty cool. That said, in the end of the day it’s a big pilot chronograph, so it looks and feels like one.
On the wrist, the X-Wind is a big replica watch, though it wears smaller than I would have guessed. There’s a lot going on with it, so there is very little dead space. This makes it feel compact. Additionally, the internal and external bezels take up a lot of room, making the actual time-telling portion of the dial quite small, which impacts the look overall. The 54mm lug-to-lug did concern me, and they are long, but they curve down enough to not look crazy on my 7” wrist. That said, smaller wrists might have an issue.
The X-Wind is powered by the H-21, which is a modified version of the Valjoux 7750. It functions the same, and has a frequency of 28,800bph, hacking, hand winding, day, date and 25 jewels, but an increased power reserve of 60 hrs. Having a longer reserve is always a good thing, in my opinion.
The Hamilton X-Wind Automatic Chronograph is a unique and curious replica watch. It’s a replica watch that I think is very cool for Hamilton to make. On one hand, it’s simply a nice, modern pilot’s chronograph with hints of vintage and a rugged case. On the other, it’s a very specific tool that can only be used by specific people for a very specific purpose. Unlike slide rule bezels, you can’t calculate tips with this or do conversions on the fly. No, it’s function is limited to something that in all likeness, you will never actually use. Will you actually use an HEV on a diver? No, you probably wont, so it’s not like that is unheard of in replica watches. In the end, it gives the replica watch a unique look and a good story.
Apart from that, the X-Wind is also a very decent value for a new Swiss-made automatic chronograph. Coming in at $1,595, it’s very reasonable for the components and brand. Considering that it has additional features in the form of 3 bezels as well as the H-21 60-hr movement, which very well could have driven up the price, and that number seems even better. So, if you’re looking for a beast of a pilot chronograph with a lot going on, but a clean and handsome look, the X-Wind is definitely one to consider. And be sure to keep an eye out for it in Independence Day: Resurgence.