The Helm Vanuatu has a lot going for it. First and foremost, price. US $275, plus $30 world-wide shipping, makes it an attractive proposition. It is a dive watch, 300 metres water resistance. Helm describe the watch as compliant with ISO 6425, which means that they test all watches for water resistance, in water at a pressure of 37.5 bar, 375 metres, followed by the subsequent condensation test, while the other ISO 6425 tests are performed on a sample of watches, i.e. a small percentage of production. Its unidirectional rotating bezel has minute markings all the way around and so it can be used for approximate timings of any event, whether under water or on dry land. Its bezel projects half a millimetre from the case, which makes it practical to rotate. It’s large, but not so large as to be impractical. You get a stainless steel bracelet plus a nylon strap, with a choice of four colours. Inside, a self-winding mechanical movement. It’s pretty much the perfect general-purpose sports watch. You can read about user experience for the Helm Vanuatu here.
Helm is a fairly new company, based in North Carolina in the U.S., though the watches are made in China. The Vanuatu is their first watch, launched in October 2015. It sold out, and currently on the Helm website you can register to receive notification of when it will be available again, from November 2017.
Case and bracelet
The case is 42 mm across (the bezel is 43 mm in diameter), 14 mm in thickness, in brushed 316L stainless steel, with a simple, slab-side design. The crown is personalized with the Helm logo in relief on the top, and bevelled for greater comfort on the wrist. It is screw-down, and in its closed position it lies flush with the crown protectors. The screw-down caseback also has a large Helm logo in relief. The bracelet is fastened on a springbar with drilled-through lugs that make it easy to swap the bracelet for the nylon strap. The steel bracelet is bold and chunky, with a 5-link construction that makes it very flexible. It has a folding clasp without a dive extension. If you take it diving, you’ll probably use the nylon strap. With the bracelet, the watch weights 225 grams, with the nylon strap, 120 grams. Helm also sells leather straps that can be fitted to the watch.
The dial is as chunky as the case. Matt black, with block hour indices, longer at 3 and 9, with a triangular tip at 12 o’clock, and the 6 o’clock index replaced by the date window. This is available with white background and black date numerals, or vice versa. The white-background date window merges with the overall scheme of the hour indices, a very nice touch. The hour and minute hands are massive slabs of lume-coated metal; the orange seconds hand provides a touch of colour and coordinates with the orange dots outside the hour indices. Apart from the Helm logo, there is just the text in grey, Diver’s 300 m automatic. The word “Diver’s” is a reference to ISO 6425 compliancy.
The bezel is wide and flush with the flat sapphire watchglass. It has 120 clicks and the minute markings correspond fairly accurately to those on the dial. The bezel insert is in black PVD-coated steel, printed with white lines and numerals.
The movement is a Seiko NH35 automatic calibre running at 21,600 vibrations per hour, 3 Hertz, with a power reserve of 40 hours. It is rated at -20/+40 seconds per day. The photos provided by Helm show that its finish is purely industrial, but that’s no problem as you’re not going to see it. It can be wound using the crown, and it has the stop-second function for precision time-setting.
All in all, this is an exciting watch at an attractive price, US $275, plus $30 world-wide shipping. It is sold with a one-year international guarantee. Visit the Helm website to find out more. Click here to see a selection of the cheapest mechanical watches.