Hemel Watches Review: HM Swiss Hemel Justice

By: Baird Brown

Last weekend, while on an adventure through southern West Virginia coal country, I got an email on my phone with the single bar of “Extended” network it was able to reach. To my surprise, it wasn’t how I could take out another loan, or somehow mortgage my house to make a part of my body bigger, it was from Kaz at Two Broke Watch Snobs asking me if I would be interested in reviewing a watch for them. I stopped reading with excitement and replied, “YES!” without reading further. Luckily for him, my girlish scream could not be heard. When I got back to civilization, I read the email to completion.

First, it was a brand I’d never heard of. Second, it was a field watch. “That’s cool,” I thought. And lastly, I read it was quartz. The watch snob in me stuck out his pinky high in the air while sipping tea. I’ve never been a huge quartz person and looking at the Hemel website didn’t excite me as much as I was hoping. Nevertheless, I was still excited to get my hands on a watch I’d never seen. I didn’t really know which watch in the HM series I was getting so it was going to be a surprise; and a surprise it was from the second I opened the box. This is the review of the Hemel Justice from their Swiss HM Series!

The Case

The moment the watch is removed from its long orange box, you realize that whoever is taking pictures for Hemel’s website is doing the bare minimum. If those were the only pictures you ever saw, you would think you were getting no better than a flat, overpriced Timex. That, however, is not the case. Out came a sharp, bead-blasted case with perfect field watch dimensions and the feel of a throw back military watch from the mid-century era. Instead of thinking Timex, I was immediately thinking of the Hamilton Khaki mechanical, and that is a jump in the right direction. The case measures 40mm and 46mm lug-to-lug.

Being only 10mm thick, the watch fits perfectly under any shirt or jacket and the curved (and drilled) lugs let the watch hug your wrist like it was made for it. The screw down case back continues the bead-blasted theme and contains segments that give you all the info on the watch: sapphire crystal, 316L, 100m water resistance and so on and so forth.

The cool thing is, while not a direct reproduction, it instantly makes you think of the military part numbers and information that was printed on the back of military watches at the time and may still be. Sitting on top of the watch is a beautifully domed, AR coated sapphire crystal that flows into the bezel of the watch which in turn flows to the only part of the watch that is polished. If you’re not looking for it, you might miss it, but the edge of the bezel is polished and just big enough to break up the case ever so slightly. It’s really a nice touch when you catch it. And finally, there’s the screw down crown that turns smoothly, has good grip and isn’t so sharp that it cuts into your wrist. That’s right, it’s a screw down crown! There’s a little extra protection against the elements here, and that’s something the Khaki can’t give you.

The Dial

Continuing the field watch motif is a gloss black dial with large, legible numbers all the way around with a 24-hour scale inside of the main scale. While it’s exactly what you’re looking for in a field watch, only the Justice and the Chevron models within the HM Swiss Lineup feature this setup. If you check out the other dials in the Swiss HM Series, they’re okay, but nothing to write home about. They’re a flieger style dial with a lot of negative space, and that really doesn’t fit a “field watch” theme. That being said, my opinion is based on only seeing the internet photos and not actually holding one in my hand, so take that with a grain of salt. There’s another issue with the dial, and it’s that it can be deceiving. When you first look at the watch, you see that all the big numbers are seemingly painted on, and that would lead you believe that the large numbers are lumed like they would be on just about every other field watch you can find.

However, they are not. Sadly, the dial only has a lumed marker at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions with a small, almost unnoticeable dot at the other positions. This is a downer. The hands and the dial are painted with Superluminova C3, so while it lasts, it doesn’t last very brightly and for some reason, the lume on the dial is white while the lume on the hands is greener. There is definitely room for improvement there.

The hands were another part of the watch that I thought faltered a little bit, but it may just be personal preference. I really liked the pop of color that the orange second hand offered. It definitely gives the watch a “modern” look, which is what the company states they’re trying to do on their promotional information. The chromed sword hands for the hour and minutes, however, are where I feel an old school look would have served the watch better. They’re not cheap looking or anything like that, and they are big enough to be easily legible, but they’re chromed which means that, in certain light, the edges are lost on the dial. I would like to have seen a painted hand here either in white or silver. This may, however, just be my personal preference and we all know what opinions are like.


 
 

The Strap

Finishing out the watch is a really nice two-piece nylon strap. The Justice wears a khaki colored, 20mm strap with a strong buckle that looks like it would be on some kind of heavy duty or military equipment. Another plus is that the holes in the strap are also bead blasted metal rings. The strap is tough! It also becomes pliable and comfortable extremely fast out of the box and hugs the wrist like a good NATO would. According to the website, if you order the watch you get an additional black strap with a blue stripe. That didn’t come with mine but coming with two straps is always a plus.

The Movement

Inside the watch is ETA 803.112, a zero (0) jeweled movement that is incredibly small. This may be problematic for watch snobs who, no doubt, will know it’s from the more affordable fashion line of movements, but being a small movement does allow for the date window to be inside of the main scale and not cut into, or replace, the large 3 on the dial. For me, that was a nice touch, as sometimes I’m guilty of not liking a watch because of the date window placement over the numbers. Another advantage of a movement like this is that it’s robust and likely surrounded by a large plastic movement spacer which will protect it against the shock of your active lifestyle. Also, I think most people that the watch is marketed toward don’t care what’s inside as long as it tells time and takes the brunt of their everyday lives.

Final Thoughts

I wore this watch for a week, and in that time, despite some of the little details that didn’t wow me, it really won me over. It really is a well-done field watch that touches on classic design while also trying to be its own, modern watch, and while some may think that it strays a little into the more fashionable category, it hits some real high points that watch snobs will love. The price of the watch, according to their website, is $299.99, and I feel that it really isn’t a bad price when you realize, like I did, that this could be your everyday, go-to, do-anything-with watch. This watch wants to be you’re one and only, and for people out there that don’t want a watch collection but still want a good watch, it’s perfect.


 

If you wore this watch for 365 days, it comes out to less than a dollar a day, and I would assume that this watch is built to give much more than that. So, with all this said, if I had to say one thing about the Hemel Swiss HM Series, it would be not to judge the watch by its online presence, because if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this little watch, like I did, over the last week. And that would have been a shame.

Check out the Hemel Swiss HM Series directly on their site!


Check Out The TBWS Podcast

Wrist Watch Podcast