British pilot watch enthusiasts have been spoiled for choice in recent years (decades?) with a plethora of options from the likes of Bremont, Farer, and Breitling. And that’s only scratching the surface. New York based microbrand, Hemel, is adding to the list with a considerably more wallet-friendly option called the Airfoil. Packed with the requisite design cues inspired by British military pilots of the ‘70s (stop me if you’ve heard this before), the Airfoil is familiar in many ways. That’s not a bad thing, of course. If watches from that era weren’t so apposite we wouldn’t see them resurrected so often.
Hemel got its start on Kickstarter back in 2016 and have steadily grown their collection of field, military, dive, and pilot watches ever since. The Airfoil builds on their chronograph line seen in the HF series, and brings a more delicate touch to the design more befitting of its inspiration. The Airfoil gets its name from the shape of the propeller or wing that produces lift (and drag), though you won’t find it scripted on the sparse dial. Rather, dual sub dials sit at 3 and 6 o’clock symmetrically, with only the branding at 12 o’clock, and a broad arrow design at 6 o’clock.
The layout is as classic as they come with the only deviation coming in the form of the Arabic numerals running the perimeter of the dial. While 12 and 6 o’clock are labeled with emphasis, the remaining numerals are rendered quite small, creating an abundance of negative space. The result is a dial that feels relatively quiet while managing to provide plenty of detail. The dial is offered in black, light brown, and navy. Only the light brown option offers contrasting black sub dials while the others are matched to the dial with light brown lume accents and hands. A thin black ceramic 12 hour bezel frames the dial with each hour marked out.
The steel case measures 42mm in diameter and gets a full polishing all around. Lug to lug the watch measures in at 49mm which should keep the watch more than wearable. Inside sits a hand wound Seagull ST1901 movement, which is visible through the exhibition caseback. It also keeps the price just under $500.
The Hemel Airfoil is available this month directly from Hemel, keep an eye on their site for more information coming soon.