Even the best photos betray some watches, and the Hemel HFT20 didn’t work its charms on me until I had it in my hands. Once I did, its impeccable balance of elements and eye-catching legibility caught me off guard, but it was the HFT20’s commanding presence that knocked me out flat. An illusory quality, presence is a watch’s X-factor—its mojo, its vibe, its ability to seize our attention and draw us in—and the Hemel HFT20 has heaps of it. This isn’t to say the watch is flawless, of course. However, the few persnickety grievances I tender below seem to have had no impact on the HFT20’s ability to captivate me.
Vintage pilot chronographs from Stowa, Hanhart, Zenith, and many more could be said to have informed the HFT20’s design, but it was the 50s-era Type 20s that provided the overt inspiration. The diamond crown, the pump chronograph pushers, the black face with white markings, the lack of date complication, and the three bezel options (plain steel, engraved steel with 12-hour counter, or a black with 60-minute counter) are all derived from various Type 20 chronographs.