Company: Helm Watches
About the company:
HELM Watches, and the company behind the brand―The Helm Group Limited―are American owned and operated, with roots in North Carolina. Conceived in the summer of 2014, HELM Watches was founded in September of the same year and our first watch, the Vanuatu 300m Automatic, was introduced in October, 2015.
Our mission is simple: To produce durable, affordable, dependable timepieces inspired by adventure and exploration, and designed to survive a lifetime of both.
The same spirit of adventure and exploration that inspires our brand and our watches (the kind of spirit, incidentally, that sometimes gets the better of common sense) is what inspired us to move half way around the world in the first place to launch a new company and a new brand among a sea of other brands. Undoubtedly, it will be one of our greatest adventures in this life. We would be honored if our watches can become a part of yours.
To ensure every watch is up to the task, we committed to quality from day one. And that’s a commitment that involves more than just words and good intentions. Regardless of the product in question or the country of origin, if multiple parts and multiple suppliers are involved, consistent quality is tough to maintain―especially from the far side of an ocean. So we packed up and switched sides, relocating to Hong Kong and southern China to keep a close eye on our suppliers and monitor every step of the production process.
So our commitment remains. Because it’s the only way we’ll fulfill our mission―to produce watches you’ll want to wear for life, and make them tough enough that you can. An unrealistic goal in today’s throwaway society? Perhaps. But we’d rather aim high and miss the mark than aim low and hit it. And we love a challenge. It’s kind of what we live for. So HELM Watches was born. And behind the brand is the challenge we set for ourselves, which inspires us, inspires our products and we hope will inspire anyone who straps on a HELM watch: It’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. It’s time to chart a course, grab what you need and get moving. It’s time for life.
Named for the South Pacific island nation famous for its coral reefs and a WWII shipwreck, the HELM Vanuatu epitomizes rugged functionality. Featuring a 316L stainless steel case and bracelet, automatic movement, screw-down caseback and crown, sapphire crystal, unidirectional bezel and 300 meter depth rating, the ISO 6425 compliant Vanuatu will go as long and as far as you do―above or below the waves. Also included with the watch is a durable NS1 Nylon Strap, a perfect option if you’ll be in the water or just want a lighter weight alternative to the stainless bracelet.
The packaging on the Vanuatu is stealthy, simple and effective. The outter cardboard sleeve is black with the Helm H bullseye logo. Pulling the outter sleeve off unveils the inner box which is harder, more dense cardboard box. The lid is signed with Helm and the logo. Inside the box contains the watch attached to a watch pillow, bracelet, nylon strap, polishing cloth, water condensation testing card, warranty card and instructions manual. The cards are in a nice envelope with the H bullseye logo which is attached to the inside lid by Velcro. It’s a nice tight little package. Not overdone.
From Helm “This same commitment to quality was behind the decision to test our dive watches in accordance with the ISO 6425 standard, which requires submerging every complete watch for 2 hours at a pressure equal to 125% of the watch’s water resistance rating. It’s a time consuming process that most brands don’t bother with. But our feeling is, if a dive watch doesn’t keep water out, it’s not much use, and we think we should be the ones to discover that―not you. It’s certainly not the easiest way. But then, most things done well usually aren’t done the easy way.”
Water resistant to: 300 m / 30 atm / 990 ft
Tested in accordance with ISO 6425:1996
With Stainless Bracelet (full length): 225 grams
With NS1 Nylon Strap: 120 grams
The 45mm(with crown, 42mm without) X 14mm H, 50mm lug to lug case is constructed from traditional 316L stainless steel and is brushed throughout the entirety of the case. Brushed SS is the perfect choice for dive/tool watches because these style watches are meant to be used and abused, not babied. High polished cases not so much.
The Bezel is 316L Stainless Steel and is 43 mm in diameter. It has a stainless steel insert with black PVD coating. The bezel markings are white oil with luminescent coating and are spaced in 5 minute marks. The bezel rotates 120-clicks, in an unidirectional rotation. At first I did not like how the bezel felt on this watch as it rotated. It was grinding and skippy, not a bit of fun rotating as bezels are to spin. I was pleasantly surprised after a month on the wrist, it became smooth and consistent and the clicks sounded perfect.
That’s why I spend much more time with a watch, you can’t possibly get an accurate feel and experience from a watch after spending only a few hours with it. I don’t care how much experience a person has under their belt with watches, it still doesn’t give a fair understanding/experience when you don’t spend adequate time with a watch.
The bezel is easy to grip and operate. The bezel also sits tight against the case with no extra play when pressure is applied down on the bezel. I get irritated when a bezel has play in it regardless, but more so when it doesn’t sit tight around the case, or one side of it has some space between the case/bezel and the rest of the bezel is tight on the case.
The 8mm screw down crown is very easy to grip and operate and it well protected by the integrated crown guards. It’s signed with the Helm bullseye H logo, it’s a really nice focal point and immediately caught my attention. The first pull of the unscrewed crown sets the date and the second pull of the crown allows you to set the time. The immediate unscrewed crown with no pulling allows you to manually wind the watch. The non crown side of the case is void of anything such as He release valve,etc..
The lugs are curved nicely and have a unique angle cut to the ends. I actually like the flat cut ends instead of the traditional tapered cut. The lugs has holes for the strap pins which does make changing straps/bracelets easier, but I think this takes away from the smooth lines of a watch. I prefer solid lugs without holes, but this just comes down to personal preference.
The screw down caseback features a large engraved Helm bullseye H logo, it’s very well down. The caseback also features the Helm name, model name, serial number, and Diver’s 300m.
The crystal on the Vanuatu is flat Sapphire with internal Anti-Reflective coating which allows viewing the dial very easily.
Dial: Matte Black with Luminescent Hour Markers (off-white body color with blue afterglow)
Hands: Luminescent Hour, Minute & Second Hands (off-white body color with blue afterglow)
Date Window: 6 o’clock
The dial on the Vanuatu brings together elements from some of my favorite dive watches of all time. So I am immediately biased when laying eyes upon this dial. Matte black is a perfect choice for diver/tool watches. I do not typically like glossy dials, it creates glare and also looks too blingy my personal tastes. I like that Helm used a dark grey to print the logo and the text on the dial, it’s a welcome change to the usual white printed text on a matte black dial. Don’t get me wrong I do like the white and black combo on watches, but I also like this variation. The Helm bullseye H logo is directly below the 12 o’clock hour marker. The logo is a pretty kick ass logo at that. Just above the date window at the 6 o’clock hour marker is printed Diver’s 300m Automatic, all printed in that cool stealthy grey. The date wheel is black with white printed numbers, a nice choice adding to the stealthy cool style of this dial.
One thing that I am becoming a huge fan of lately is squared hands on watches. It just adds a cool, rugged look to the dial, making it a true tool looking watch. Both the hour and minute hands are white and in the dark they have a blue glow to them thanks to the lume coating. The long seconds hand is orange with a black trimmed circle towards the tip that encircles a white lume circle. I think it’s crucial that on a dive/tool watch that the seconds hand has some sort of lume on it. The square white hour markers are also coated with lume and have that same cool blue glow that the hour hands have. At 12 o’clock the marker is square that comes down to a point, and at 3 & 6 the hour markers are rectangles. The seconds/minute markers are uniform lines that almost have an off white almost light grey appearance. In addition to the white square hour markers and little orange circles that lay above each square.
I really like the orange accents on the dial and they nicely match the orange on the nylon strap. The dial is definitley a hit on the Vanuatu. It’s not over complicated or overcrowded and telling the time on the Vanuatu is easy in any lighting and pretty much every angle.
The Bracelet and Strap:
Stainless Steel Bracelet and Folding Clasp with Brushed Finish (22 mm Bracelet Tapers to 20 mm at Clasp)
NS1 Nylon Strap with Stainless Steel Buckle and Keeper Rings
The nylon NATO style strap comes in 4 different color choices that you can chose from. I like usin the nylon strap to dress down the watch from the stainless steel bracelet. The stainless steel bracelet is perfect for my work setting since I have to constantly wash my hands. It’s a sturdy and heavy bracelet that can certainly put up with some abuse. The bracelet has a signed HELM folding clasp that is very easy to operate both opening and closing. The clasp does feature a micro adjustment of 6 hole slots to perfect the fit if your wrist size is an inbetween size after removing links when sizing it. Removing links is done by using a small flathead screw driver, the screws are not hard to unscrew so you don’t have to worry about scratching the bracelet. If you are worried though, place a piece of tape over the bracelet and poke a small hole over the screw in the tape, then proceed to unscrew. This will protect the bracelet in case the screwdriver slips off the screw. The end links of the bracelet fit tight up against the watch case with no gaps.
The one complaint I have about the bracelet, which I have with all bracelets that links are held inplace by screw pins is that they come unscrewed very easily during regular wear. Locktight can be used to correct this if one so desires. This problem isn’t anything that Helm did wrong, it happens with all bracelets that I have experienced with this style of screw pins.
It is nice to have the two options that come with the Vanuatu, I found myself switching back and forth quite a bit. It’s always nice to have options and especially when they are included with the package.
Wrist Shots on 7 1/2″ wrist:
The movement inside the Vanuatu is a Seiko Instruments NH35 Automatic. It is a hacking movement and has manual winding functions. This particular movement has an accuracy rate of-25 ~ +35 seconds/day. When I timed the model I had for review, it was well within that accuracy. It was much more accurate accuracy than what is average for the NH35.
This movement beats 21,600 times per hour and has 24 Jewels. The Vanuatu has a power reserve of 40 Hours when fully wound. For the price of the Vanuatu I couldn’t be more satisfied with the movement inside. It’s comparable to an untouched/unadjusted standard 2824 ETA movement.
There are a lot of really nice details on the Vanuatu that makes this watch a real value for your money. You get a nice brushed stainless steel bracelet and a nylon NATO style strap. The watch has a solid stainless steel case, with a automatic movement ticking inside ticking away all for $300 plus $30 shipping world wide. The watch is extremely comfortable on the wrist on both the nylon strap and on the bracelet. So comfortable in fact that I wore this watch to bed every night during my review process. The only time that it was off my wrist was to change between the strap and the bracelet. I wore this watch during various activities, at the gym, hiking, running, swimming, climbing, and more, the Vanuatu never faltered.
I am excited to see what comes out next from Helm. I want to personally thank Matt from watches. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this watch. It’s a great watch at an even greater value.
I would 100% recommend this watch to anyone looking for an affordable diver that is well designed and constructed.
Thanks for reading!