Hemel HFT20

When I previewed the Hemel HFT20 Flight Series watches last year, I praised their modern interpretation of the classic jet pilot’s watch. I was only working off of ad copy and photographs, but the new line appeared to reflect the spirit of a vintage Dodane or Breuget in an appealing, budget-priced package. Now that production is well underway, and HFT20s are finding their way into customers’ hands, Hemel has sent me a pair of press loaners so I could find out firsthand.


I won’t repeat everything from my initial post, but I’ll hit the highlights. The HFT20 is military style chronograph, powered by one of two Seiko movements: a VK64 MechaQuartz (1/5th second sweep and mechanical chrono module), or a NE88 automatic (34 jewels, 28.8k bph, 45+ hour power reserve, hacking and hand winding). Both versions share the same brushed stainless steel case, which features a flat sapphire crystal, solid decorated caseback, and 100m water resistance. There are three bezel options: 60 minute ceramic, 12 hour engraved steel, and smooth steel. My test watches has the ceramic and engraved steel bezels. Both traveled smoothly through their 120-click rotation without any wobble or back play. The indecisive among us can order the bezels a la carte and switch them as we like, but note that Hemel takes no responsibility for your swapping skills or lack of same.


Popping one on my wrist gave me a new perspective on its proportions. Its compact 49mm length combined with tightly tapered lugs makes it seem smaller than its 42mm width might suggest, particularly when it is fitted with the steel bezel; however, the 15mm thickness counteracts the illusion, giving it real heft. Heavily textured, piston-shaped buttons that respond with a firm, mechanical click (on both movements) reinforce the HFT20’s purposeful bearing as does the fat diamond crown. There is no question that you are wearing a tool watch.



The Hemel’s strap is a traditional 20mm riveted aviator style in a lovely tan (Cognac) color leather that exhibits a pull-up effect, lightening where bent. Like the watch, it is a thick, muscular piece. A twice-signed, square frame, flat tang buckle, finishes it off.


I found the HFT20 to be an excellent fit on my 6.5” wrist, offering loads of presence without overwhelming it. Because of the thick case and fat strap, I could not wear it comfortably under a buttoned cuff, but it really isn’t that kind of watch. It is much more at home with short sleeves or a sweater on the weekends.


As promised by the initial prototype photos, the layout and hand length are excellent. This is a tried and true format, and Hemel did nothing to disturb it. The hands and numbers are C3 SuperLuminova. True lume freaks will love the glowing markers in the ceramic bezel, but oddly, the orange triangle is just painted. I would have preferred a C3 pip like that on the stainless bezel.


I like what Hemel has done with these watches. The specs are spot-on, and they faithfully pay tribute to the watches that inspired them while still establishing their own distinctive identity. The fact that you can choose your movement (and price point) and swap bezels make them all the more appealing.

The Hemel HFT20 automatic sells for $999.99, and the Mechaquartz for $449.99. Extra bezels are $40 each. Buyers can still squeeze out a 10% discount on code TENOFF. Better still, 5% of your purchase will go to your choice of three charities: Toys for Tots, Wounded Warriors, or the Bob Woodruff Foundation. For more information or to place an order, see HemelWatches.com. ⬩



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