There is a good chance that you may have seen something of Hemel Watches come across your social media stream well before today. Prior to the start of their Kickstarter campaign–which wrapped earlier this year–the brand had begun with a strong social media push. Hashtagged posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook helped get their first watch out in front of eyes before pledges even began. Based on historic field watch designs, the first Hemel Military (HM) series was successfully funded in the spring of 2016 and is now shipping to campaign backers.
The four watches across the HM line share the same core specs. The case is 316L stainless steel and comes in either a polished or matte bead blasted finish, the former offering a dressier look and the latter giving it more of an appropriately tool-watch vibe. The case is 40mm with a height of 13mm and a lug-to-lug distance of 48mm, so it’s democratic in its size. The prominent bezel means that the watch actually appears smaller than its given 40mm size, wearing more like a 38/39mm watch.
The case design borrows heavily from the A-11 watch standard from the World War II era. From the top down, the bezel features a coin-edge design which is pulled from the aforementioned historical watch. It’s not quite as pronounced as what one would find on vintage examples, but it still stands out enough for effect. On the whole, the case of the HM series feels well-proportioned.
The case back is screwed in and there’s a display window (sapphire crystal) showing off the Miyota 9015 automatic movement held in place by a brass retaining ring. The crown screws in, too, contributing to the 10ATM/100-meter water resistance of the case. It’s by no means a diver, but a little water won’t hurt it either. A domed sapphire crystal rounds off the main case elements.
The dials and hands offer the major differences between models. The four dial types break down into the Hemel 24/HM1 pictured here, which is a design based on the A-17 field watch dial; the Hemel Track/HM2 with has A-11-style railroad dial; the Hemel Arrowhead/HM3 featuring even-numbered Arabic numerals and arrowhead markers; and the Hemel Spear/HM4 that pulls loosely from the WWW/Dirty Dozen standard from the Second World War. The Hemel 24 features a primary 12-hour track, and an inner hours track specifying military time in PM hours, 13-24. The handset on this variation also comes from the A-17 specification. The dial is extremely legible and the lume (C3 Super-LumiNova) is excellent; both the hands and dial charge easily, and the effect is long-lasting. The seconds hand is orange and provides a subtle pop of color.
All four share the same limited dial printing: “HEMEL” below 12 o’clock and “AUTOMATIC” right above 6 o’clock. The positioning of the text feels a little imbalanced as the Hemel logo is closer to the top of the PM hours track, while the automatic marking sits closer to the center of the dial. It’s certainly a minor gripe, and one that likely wouldn’t bother most. Oh, and speaking of things that bother, note the lack of a date complication! It was a good call on Hemel’s part.
Accompanying the watch is a black, two piece nylon strap with an orange keeper (to match the color of the second hand) and rounded ends. The buckle hardware offers a familiar military look, which is further emphasized by the metal grommets reinforcing the holes. The strap is of a sturdy weave and feels durable and strong, yet it’s not too stiff. It’s immediately comfortable on the wrist and compliments the watch nicely. The thick lugs on the HM series are 20mm to provide plenty of other strap options. For my money, I love the way it looks on a leather mil-strap.
All in all, Hemel Watches has a good first collection under their belt. Military style watches remain popular and the four current HM pieces offer a reasonable number of options to cater to different tastes. The watches are available for purchase now from Hemel for $399.99 with free shipping in the United States. And for those interested in what Hemel’s doing, they’ve teased that a military-inspired chronograph isn’t too far out. Stay tuned.
Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.