Boutique watch brands are becoming very popular of late, offering high quality and impressive quality control at affordable prices. One of those brands that have stood out for me recently is Helson, based in Hong Kong.
The Helson Shark Diver started its life at 45mm, then a 42mm model was released, and now a 40mm (this watch) has been released to accommodate those who prefer a smaller size. Let’s take a closer look at this watch to see if it really is worth the $600 asking price.
Helson Shark Diver 40 Watch Review
I don’t usually mention the boxes or packaging much in my reviews, mainly because they are often plain and boring boxes. Same ol’ same ol’. I was pleasantly surprised when the Helson arrived and I frantically opened up the parcel. Rather than the usual box, I was presented with a tube-like case, with a screw top lid. Once the lid was unscrewed, (there is even a rubber gasket to keep it air tight) you are presented with a complete foam interior with two indentations for your fore finger and thumb to pull it out. With a gentle twist and pull, the whole foam package slides out, and splits in two, where you will find the watch itself, a spare rubber strap, and a special tool for the custom end link screws. This little bit of extra thought made the initial unpacking process an actual joy, something that is usually pretty dull and straightforward. When I was sliding out the foam insert, I felt like I was disarming a volatile weapon of mass destruction by removing some sort of thermo-nuclear power device from it. Off to a good start.
Usually I start the review with the thing that takes my attention first. On the Helson, it is the impeccable and stunning 20mm wide bracelet. I love it. Everything about it is unique and great to look at and wear. There are so many little things that show the amount of time and effort that has gone into the Helson Shark Diver’s bracelet. It looks fantastic on, is super comfortable and feels very high quality in the hand. The fit and finish is indeed as good as so many people have commented positively on. The end links fit very very well with the case.
A little thing first – rather than using simple and common link pins, the Helson’s links are joined together using very well made screw links. Not your normal ones either. One side is a small screw, and the other side is the long shaft that is inserted through the whole links, which the small screw then screws into the end of to secure the link. This may sound fiddly, and the small screws can be a fit awkward to work with, but it did make resizing this bracelet much easier than a standard bracelet.
There are two types of links on the completely brushed stainless steel bracelet. The larger “H” shaped link, and a smaller joining link which sits in-between. They all have a flat top and angled ends. When the light hits the bracelet, all these different angled surfaces reflect differently. The bottoms of the links are all completely flat, but the shape of them mean that they wrap around the wrist in a very fluid way, resulting in a comfortable wear. The machining of the links are perfect, no sharp edges whatsoever and they are all very well finished – no tool or machine marks to be seen anywhere.
The bracelet has solid end links with tabs on the underside protruding out and under the case to aid in fitting and to keep it extra secure. This results in a perfect join with the case. Either side of the end links are special allen key screws on the outside of the lugs to secure the bracelet in place. You get a free tool for these screws to make changing the straps quick and easy. A nice touch.
The clasp on the Helson Shark Diver is completely brushed, as is the entire watch. It is double locking, so you firstly push it together and then have a flap to flip over to lock it in place. It is all very sturdy and clicks together satisfyingly, reassuring you that it is well made and that the watch is secure ban your wrist – it’s not going to pop open by itself! In some respects though, it is almost too secure – at times it is quite difficult to open up the clasp, and a few times I have hurt my fingers trying to open it up. There is a large embossed “H” on the top of the clasp, which breaks up the large surface area nicely and makes it more visually appealing. The large sweep of the top locking flap is also nice to look at, it’s a welcome design cue that breaks away from the very angular theme of the rest of the watch.
The Helson also comes with a black rubber strap, which is nice of them to include. The rubber is very soft indeed, and it wears very well – it doesn’t rub the skin or catch your arm hairs at all. It has wide holes the whole length of it, which looks great and means that the strap is likely to fit everybody. The buckle is hefty and well made, with the brushed stainless still contrasting well with the black of the strap. It has the “H” lightly etched on the top. The strap can be quite difficult to undo due to how well the buckle secures it.
The 40mm case is completely brushed stainless steel, and is impeccably machined. The side profile of the case is very much a “slab” – a huge piece of flat stainless steel, with the exception of the downturn of the lugs. It is 12mm tall, and measures 49mm lug to lug. Coupled with the weight of the bracelet, you certainly know you’re wearing a watch with the Shark Diver – a turn off for some, but a plus for many. Rather surprisingly, it still managed to slip under a cuff easily. The shape of the lugs let it hug the wrist well, keeping a low profile. I have been wearing this watch non-stop for a couple of weeks, and every time I’ve had to don a suit (3 times a week) it has fitted right in.
The crown has great grip, a very hefty thread and a reassuringly thick gasket too. The grip is well machined like the rest of the watch, with no sharp bits resulting in a painful handle.
The crown guards are styled in a typical fashion reflecting the rest of the watch, that being very angular and chunky. Looking at the watch from the side, they surround the crown well, and from above, they protrude quite far – almost to the edge of the crown. I’m fairly confident they will do their job of protecting the crown very well as time goes by.
The screw-in case back is also completely brushed, with a nice engraving of a diver and 3 sharks, as well as details of the watch circling this graphic. This drawing is well designed and a nice touch. It is all properly engraved, rather than merely laser etched, which is a good plus – it reassures you that your money is going into these little extra things.
Sitting atop the case is a 3mm thick sapphire crystal. It is ever so slightly raised and completely flat. It has a very effective single layer of anti reflective coating on the underside.
The first thing you notice about the dial is the insane lume. It is the best lume I personally have seen on a watch by far. The lume used is Swiss SuperLuminova, which is apparently also used on all the major watch brands, such as Omega, Breitling, IWC, Tag Heuer and Longines etc. It is very quick to charge, and my goodness does it glow well.
The dial is a deep, matt black, with lovely texture to it. Coupled with the lumed hands with frosted silver edging mean great visibility.
It is nice that Helson made sure that the Shark Diver had a matching black date wheel. This keeps the date reasonably hidden and out of the way. It doesn’t demand your attention, it just sits patiently in the corner, waiting to be viewed.
The hour markers are printed lume, and again – the lume is brilliant. It is applied equally and plentifully. The hour markers consist of triangles at 12, 3, 6 and 9, with the others being circular.
There is a minimal amount of print on the dial, ensuring that you don’t get distracted by any other nonsense. In the top half of the dial is the Helson logo, with nice letter spacing, with “Shark Diver” below. A sensible font has been chosen – it is very masculine and simple. In the lower half there is “Automatic” and “500M”. The only other printing is a simple and subtle minute track around the outer edge of the dial, with an ever-so-slighly thicker line at 5 minute intervals.
The hands are quite unusual, not only in their shape but also in their appearance. I love the frosted look they have, it something a bit different to the normal steel hands you see so often. This frosted look keeps the overall “matt” appearance of the watch going throughout, and the finish is very antireflective, resulting in good visibility, as previously mentioned.
The bezel, like the rest of the watch is very well made and machined. It has a rather stiff action, but it is very precise – it lines up perfectly with the minute markers. This is something that many manufacturers rather surprisingly dont get quite right. When you are turning it you get a good feel of quality.
The inserts in the bezel use the same great lume as is on the dial. There is a large triangle at 12, and minute markers up to 20, and then every 10 minutes after. There is also numbers in 10 minute intervals. There is a surprising amount of lumed areas, and the fact that it is all evenly and flawlessly applied makes viewing the Shark Diver in the dark a real joy.
The bezel has a nice hefty grip around the outer edge, and the insert has a slightly more reflective and shiny black about it than the dial. The bezel is a shiny, lumed circular bit of excellence.
The Helson Shark Diver houses the Miyota 9015 within, which is a direct budget competitor to the ETA 2824. It has kept brilliant spot-on time during the time that I have had the watch, well within COSC specs. It also feels high quality and reassuring in the hand when you are adjusting the time and date. The movement runs at 28.8k bph (8 ticks per second) and the second hand has a very smooth sweep, with no juddering. Other features of the movement include unidirectional winding, hacking, hand winding and quick date. This is my first watch with this movement and I am very impressed with it.
So is the Helson Shark Diver worth $600? In my mind, yes. Although it may be quite high to ask for a diver which which isn’t Swiss Made (at this price it’s up against the Steinhart Ocean for example), it is incredibly apparent that you yet what you pay for with this watch. Everything about it is perfectly machined with great fit and finish. It all send to be custom made for this watch too, no generic parts here. I love the little bits which make the difference – the great packaging, the link screws, the tags at the bottom of the end links, and the insane lume. I don’t say this often, but I have really become attached to the Shark Diver these past weeks of wearing it. It’s a shame I have to send it back (they were generous enough to send this to review), as I would happily wear this for my every day watch no questions asked.