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Watch Review Review - The new Hemel HFT20 series watch - Three watches in one. Watch Review
avatar October 23, 2017 05:52AM
Review - The new Hemel HFT20 series watch - Three watches in one.

I have to admit that I have long wanted a Bundeswehr style watch. These watches are hard to find and generally pretty expensive. I was very happy to see that the new Hemel watch was inspired by military flight chronographs from the 1950s and 1960s. I got a chance to test drive the new Hemel watch which is available for preorder on the Hemel website.

Case & Lugs:

This watch has an original case design by Hemel. It looks a lot like the vintage pieces, but the lugs have a modern deep curve.The case is 42mm wide and 49 mm lug-to-lug. This is similar in size to other pilot watches like many Laco Fliegers. It’s a bit larger than some of the vintage Type 20/21 watches upon which it was inspired, but it still has a classic look and feel of a vintage military piece. The case has good presence, and still fits my slim wrist.

Just like the previous Hemel watch, the HM1, the case and lugs were custom designed with a deep downward curve that drops the lug tips down to the watch back. This allows the watch and strap to sit very well following the natural curve of one’s wrist. A NATO style strap will pass neatly over the spring bar and under the case back. Just like with the HM1, the new HFT20 does not want to move or “flop around” like so many other watches with straighter lugs.

It has a flat sapphire crystal, and solid metal caseback. There is no option for a see through back. The diamond shaped crown is a good size, and it’s nicely engraved with the Hemel logo “H.” The diamond shaped crown is functional. It does not screw down, but it’s a pilot’s watch, and not a diver. The pushers have a very unique knurled surface that I have never seen before. This original design keeps the fingers from slipping when engaging and resetting the chronograph and adds to the tool watch feel of this piece. The chronograph starts, stops and resets in the usual way.

Three Bezels - 60 minute Black Ceramic, Steel 12 Hour and Coin Edge:

There are three different bezel options. You can chose which one you prefer,and you can swap them too. If you are a fan of the vintage Bundeswehr and vintage Type 20/21 watches, then you may know that they were produced over many years by a variety of companies, and there were many variations. Hemel allows you to configure and reconfigure the bezel taking inspiration from three different classic/vintage designs. I love the black ceramic insert which gives the HFT20 the look and feel of a German Bundeswehr. This bezel is fully indexed and fully lumed except for the orange triangle marker. With the stainless steel 12 hour GMT bezel, the watch evokes the French air force “Type 20/21” from the 1950 and 1960s. The third bezel has no markings except a lumed pointer/triangle and a classic coin edge giving it a dressier, less toolish feel. On a black strap, the watch with the coin edge bezel could go well with a suit and tie. Unless you have experience changing bezels, I suggest having a watchmaker or jeweler do the swapping, as scratching the case and bezel is very easy to do (and I have done my share of scratching and marring various Seikos and Vostoks in the past).

Movement/Dial:

There are two movement choices and the dials differ very slightly depending on which movement you choose; either the Seiko VK64 meca-quartz or the Seiko NE88 automatic. Both dials are black with classic flieger style numerals in bright C3 lume, and a Hemel logo.

On the VK64 there is a 24 hour sub dial on the right side which is set to the hour hand. It’s not independently adjustable as a second time zone. The left dial is a 60 minute totalizer for the chronograph. In the space on the dial above the six is written “Chronograph” in a neat small font. It fills the space without distracting from the dial. There is no running seconds hand, but if you need one, you and just engage the chronographs second hand.

On the NE88 version, the dial has a running seconds hand on the right subdial, and the left register is a 30 minute totalizer for the chronograph. On the NE88, in the space on the dial above the six, the word “Automatic” is found in a small font which like on the VK64, fills the space without taking away from the clean dial. I would just note that both the VK64 and NE88 are well regarded movements, and one can choose their preference.

One small detail I noticed is that the letters in the hemel logo are stepped: H E M E L This may be a very subtle nod to the classic Heuer logo found on the German Bundeswehr.

Strap:

The HFT20 with black bezel would look great on a bund, and I intend to put it on one. The OEM pilot style uses good quality leather, and the rivets look like screws. The buckle is twice engraved with the Hemel logo.

Overall Impression:

Overall, I am thrilled with this watch. It wears very well and feels very solid. It scratches an itch that I have long had. It also fills what I considered a hole in my collection. I have long wanted a NE88 and a Bundeswehr. Now I will have both. I returned the prototype VK64, and I have pre-ordered the NE88 version. I will update this review after I receive the NE88. I plan to change up the bezels, and wear the 12 hour steel bezel on a pilot strap. When the black ceramic bezel is swapped in, the watch will live on a rounded black leather Bund, just like the German defense force jet pilots wore them in the 1960s.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/19/2017 08:41AM by JohnSNY.


Subject Author Views Posted
Watch Review Review - The new Hemel HFT20 series watch - Three watches in one. Watch Review Jpeg Attachments JohnSNY 785 October 23, 2017 05:52AM
UPDATE to the Watch Review Jpeg Attachments JohnSNY 389 December 13, 2017 09:59AM
Thanks for the "fix" while I wait for the black bezel version. Cheers! (n/t) Robmks 138 October 23, 2017 02:27PM
Envy I can't wait! That's exactly the one I'm getting - auto with 12 hour bezel. (n/t) Zeb 125 October 23, 2017 12:50PM
Nice "sneak peek" review. That's a good looking watch. (n/t) BobbyMikeRedux 116 October 23, 2017 12:16PM



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