- Movement – Sellita 510M BH b. Hand winding mechanical caliber.
- Case – 316L Stainless Steel, polished
- 38.5 mm x 14.6 mm x 45 mm
- Water Resistance -50 meters
- Bi-directional, 12 hour, friction bezel
- Year of release – 2022
- Limited to 50 pieces
- $1795 upon release
A Collaboration of Genuine Spirit
Since around 2015, collaboration watches have gone from the occasional one-off to an industry constant. For many brands, the collaboration watch is a pretense under which an iteration can feed the ever-hungry news cycle. More savvy watch connoisseur will sense the spuriousness of such collaborations. But sometimes a collaboration watch celebrates a common sensibility, passion, or set of ideas. Savvy connoisseur will sense the genuineness of these collaborations. I personally have little patience for the former, and great interest in the latter.
When I learned of Hemel Watches collaborating with Mathey-Tissot to produce a small run of TypeXX chronographs, I was greatly interested. This collaboration felt genuine to me because Hemel had long based much of its catalog on the historically significant Type20 and TypeXX chronographs, which were originally French mil-spec units for pilots.
A Quick Refresher on the TypeXX & Type20 Chronographs
Breguet took the original Type20 contract from the French military, which called for a flyback chronograph, but Breguet subcontracted it out to Switzerland’s Mathey-Tissot. As we fill in our watchmaking history, subcontracting is revealing itself to be rather common, and interest in the original manufacturers has been on the up in the past decade or so.
Apparently Mathey-Tissot’s relationship with Breguet dates back at least as far as 1934, but I’ve yet to see exactly what it was Mathey-Tissot made for Breguet in the 1930s. The Type20 chronographs, however, clearly date back to the years just after World War Two, and they remained in production well into the 1960s (perhaps even the 1970s, though such a claim is difficult to substantiate).
Type20 refers to military issue watches, and TypeXX refers to civilian issues. Breguet, Mathey-Tissot and a number of other brands saw the rising civilian interest in tool watches, and by the 1950s the TypeXX had become a somewhat popular commercial watch. Today (2022), vintage Mathey-Tissot TypeXX chronographs hover somewhere around $20,000 in good condition.
Those skyrocketing prices for vintage Mathey-Tissot branded Type20s and TypeXXs is why it was so exciting when Mathey-Tissot reissued it.
Now, it gets a little confusing because Mathey-Tissot has offered a number of TypeXX-like watches, such as those with date apertures and Mecaquartz movements and so on, but it is the 38.5mm dual-register manually wound non-flyback model that has caught the attention of those seeking a somewhat accurate reproduction of the TypeXXs of yesteryear. Mathey-Tissot offers a much larger flyback model, but many tend to favor the form factor over the complication when forced to make a choice. There’s nothing wrong with the other models, but the 38.5mm TypeXX is the one to get for authenticity and, in my experience, a wonderful wearing experience.
And that’s the one Hemel decided to recreate with Mathey-Tissot, and it comes in at a great price.
In a somewhat confusing strategy, if we can call it that, Mathey-Tissot has priced its own version of this mechanical, hand-would 38.5mm TypeXX at $3500, while Hemel’s version will cost you only $1799 (and Massena LAB offers their tropical version for $1999). This is the same watch, mind you, only with two differences: the dial and the caseback engraving. It’s a great price for a rather special watch.
Marvin Knows What He’s Doing
It took me years to understand why I was so drawn to Hemel watches, especially their TypeXX and Type20 inspired models, but I’ve finally come to realize (having designed a few watches myself) that it’s Hemel’s Marvin Menke’s adept dial layouts that set Hemel apart. I spoke with Marvin about this recently, and he confirmed that once he gets the dial laid out mathematically he then takes weeks making small free-hand tweaks to the layout until he feels it is just right.
One might think a watch dial is laid out as if on graph paper, but a good watch dial is composed of subtle asymmetries, kerning of individual letters, and other tiny tweaks that make it sing. It’s difficult to make out the little differences that make the difference on Marvin’s dials, but that only goes to prove the point that tiny adjustments add up to a wonderfully balanced and organic dial – one that’s just easy on the eyes.
With that said, however, I’ll point your eye to the kerning of the HEMEL logo, which is kind of a masterpiece of minimalism, to the natural placement of that logo on the dial, and to the decision on Marvin’s part to include the round logo below the Mathey-Tissot logo, which was used on the civilian TypeXX models to distinguish them from mil-spec Type20s.
This dial spells out why I think this collaboration works so well: it is a natural fit between two brands obsessed with the TypeXX chronograph, and Marvin from Hemel has the design chops to make such a collaboration work beautifully.
I quite like the added features on the TypeXX dial. Without the third sub-dial at 6-o-clock, the Type20s can look a little blank. There’s a balance to this collaborative dial. But you may wonder why the word HEMEL belongs on a TypeXX, so let me tell you why.
At age one, Marvin moved from Holland to America with his parents, and he grew up in a bi-lingual household, speaking a great deal of Dutch. Hemel is the Dutch word for sky or heaven, and it was the name of Marvin’s design firm. When Marvin began making watches for his clients as gifts, he put HEMEL on the dial, and before long this became the main gig.
What a fitting brand name for a company that primarily makes aviation watches.
I’ve already mentioned that this watch offers almost everything of an original TypeXX, but not the flyback function. Understandably, that’s an expensive complication compared to a standard chronograph, and Mathey-Tissot (for whatever reason, though I assume due to the larger size of third-party flyback movements) only offers the flyback in a much larger watch.
For those who want to know more about the movement inside, you can read up about the Sellita 510M BH b hand winding mechanical caliber around the internet. It’s a compelling offering, in my opinion, because it offers a nice hand-winding feel, 64-hours of power reserve, and crisp chronograph action. It’s cam actuated, which feels quite snappy here, and there’s nothing like a brand new chronograph for a snappy feel.
There are only 50 of these Hemel x Massey-Tissot TyleXXs on offer, and I think that a savvy collector might snag one and set it aside, while a savvy enthusiast might snag one and enjoy wearing it. With the savings over a standard Massey-Tissot TypeXX in this size with this movement, it makes sense to me to embrace all the positives the Hemel collaboration adds, and it’ll always be a unique watch with a genuine spirit behind the collaboration that fostered it.