Marvin Menke Of Hemel Watches


Earlier this year, we wrote about a US based brand called Hemel. We loved the rugged aesthetics of the timepieces and their exceptional quality, as well as the inspiration behind the brand. We’ve been keeping an eye on the brand’s activity and have been meaning to tell you more about the man behind the company. Without further ado, read on for our Q&A with Marvin Menke, founder of Hemel.

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I was born in Surinam and came to New York when I was very young. I grew up in Brooklyn so culturally, I consider myself more of an American. I still live in New York. Growing up, my dad worked in the airline industry so we traveled a lot and I’ve also had the opportunity to live overseas so I always feel like there’s a little bit of all my travels in me.

My soul is that of a New Yorker though, without question. No matter where I go or for how long, I need to come back. But feeling like a world citizen, I think that fits into the whole New York vibe. The diversity here is just incredible. Growing up in New York, you’re kind of groomed to think a bit more than who you and your immediate family are. You go to school and have friends and date and live and eat with people from all over. It’s in your DNA.

What do you do and how did you get there?

I’m technically a designer, specializing in both branding and package design. I spent many years in apparel working for companies like Nautica, Donna Karan and The Gap but I’ve also worked in consumer products areas with companies like Remy Martin, Burt’s Bees, Anheuser Busch and Colgate Palmolive. I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and have just always been a compulsive creative.

When I’m not designing watches, my biggest obsession has to be photography. I’m actually doing a lot of volunteer work with it right now.

Where do you seek inspiration and what motivates you?

Inspiration never ends. You literally can find it anywhere. And when you feed your hobbies, you feed your inspiration. It’s like feeding your soul. I think that’s what it’s all about, really. Being happy. For me, it’s all about the music. I just get lost and found in it over and over again…it’s like a spiritual thing. Everybody needs that one thing that they can truly call their ecstasy. That one place where they can be totally vulnerable and without inhibition. That’s when you’re the most open to newness. And it’s that pursuit of creative purity that motivates me.

Another wildly invigorating about growing up in New York is the confluence of music that was happening in the late 70s and the early 80s when I started to become aware. Punk, New Wave, Disco, Hip-Hop, House. All the things they turned into, all the ways they borrowed from each other. It’s not unlike design, really. You take a little bit from here, a little bit from there, make something new, something different. You turn everything into a remix.

Plus whenever I travel, I just can’t wait to get back to my studio and do something creative. I’m always energized by what I see in other cities, other countries. Travel gives you the chance to be completely out of your comfort zone and I love it. You don’t know anyone and you’ll never see them again. New people, new language, new food, new outlook, new everything. It shakes everything up for you and then adds in a whole lot of new. And that’s what design should do. Who wants to buy the same field watch over and over again? Or pair of khakis? Or iPhone?

Try drinking your coffee black. You don’t need all that stuff mucking it up.

What is your go-to outfit and how would you describe your style in three words?

My go to outfit is jeans, button shirt, blazer, suede shoes although I have to say I’ve really been into these Roshes for a while now. Depends where I’m going… The brown suede wing tips or the black Roshes.

My style in three words? Metropolitan, easy and stylish.

What is your big project at the moment?

Without giving too much away, I can say that I’m working on an incredible watch right now. It’s an homage to a very specific kind of mid-century pilot’s watch but it’s never been presented in this way before. Vintage examples that exist are seen in a few different variants and which one to buy is always a point of discussion for watch guys. This new Hemel pilot’s watch allows the user to retool the instrument as necessary per mission parameters. In essence, they’ll be able to get all the variants.

Finding the right manufacturing partner was a bit of a challenge and we went through a few of them because no one could get it quite right. In the end though, I think that people will find that the wait was well worth it because we came up with a very elegant solution with clean, unique and subtle design details. The specs will be top notch just like the HM Series. Surgical grade steel, sapphire, Italian leather.

Last words?

Try drinking your coffee black. You don’t need all that stuff mucking it up.