If you were jazzed about the Glycine Airman John covered a couple of weeks ago, this new Hemel gives a lot of the same aesthetic, but with the choice of an automatic or mecha-quartz chronograph. Both are Seiko movements, and it’s great to see the automatic NE88 as an option alongside the ubiquitous VK64 mecha-quartz.

The brushed stainless case looks gorgeous in the promo photos. You can change the character of the watch by swapping out three different bezels—either a stainless 12-hour for a second time zone, a black diver for a second timer, or blank steel for that clean/useless look. The push-in onion crown gives the watch vintage charm no matter which bezel is topping it and the pushers have deep square knurling, which should give positive engagement for either movement.

A choice of automatic or quartz movements is common but it seems rarer in a chronograph, especially from a smaller maker. Usually, that choice is an easy one for a mechanical snob like me, but the quartz option here is no slouch. I love the snick of the VK64‘s heart pieces clicking into place enough to ignore that this cyborg movement has an electronic pulse. The NE88—Seiko’s answer to the Valjoux 7750—is only a few years old so it’s great to see it appearing more frequently. It more than doubles the watch’s price to switch from battery-powered to spring-powered, so my guess is more of the VK64 models will sell first. Only 100 of either version of the HFT20 will be produced, shipping November 2017. hemelwatches.com

Hemel HFT20

  • Price: $449USD (VK64 mecha-quartz); $999USD (NE88 automatic)
  • Who’s it for? Military-inspired chronograph enthusiast
  • Would I wear it? I’d opt for the 12-hour bezel and the VK64 (heresy, I know)
  • What I’d change? It’s rather thick at 16mm
  • Standout feature? Solid movement choices in a very functional format

Tech Specs from Hemel

  • Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel, brushed
  • Case Dimensions: 42mm x 16mm
  • Lug-to-Lug: 49mm
  • Lug Width: 20mm
  • Movement: Seiko VK64 mecha-quartz or Seiko NE88 (automatic & manual wind, hacking second hand, 28,800 bph, 34 jewels, 45 hour power reserve)
  • Crystal: Flat sapphire crystal
  • Strap: Vintage cognac leather, two piece with signed buckle and steel rivets


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