These days, there are many companies that are funding their watch projects through Kickstarter. This is how Zelos Watches received their funding, and was extremely successful as they were able to produce their first model, the Helmsman.
I have been following Zelos’ progress for some time, as the Helmsman looked intriguing to me as it’s not like every other diver or micro brand out there. I don’t exactly remember what the Kickstarter prices were to get in on the watch, but this stainless steel version sells for $420 on their website.
They also produced a bronze version for $490, and one that is bronze with a black DLC bezel for $590.
What initially piqued my interest the most was the milled out part of the case, and the different finishes used. The outer part of the Helmsman is all brushed, the milled section and crowns are sand blasted, and on the top and sides of the fixed bezel are polished. It gives the watch extra dimension and some contrast. And lets be honest, not many companies or micro brands are doing multiple finishes with more complex cases these days, especially in the $400 price range.
The Zelos Helmsman overall is a very nice first model from a new company. The Helsman has a lot to offer for its price point, but there are some things that stood out to me that I think could have been done a touch better, but also many things were right on target as well. Lets take a look the full specifications and discuss.
Zelos Helmsman Specifications:
- 43mm Diameter Case
- Three different finishing used on each watch: Sandblasted, brushed and polished to bring out the highlights
- 24 Jewel Automatic Movement Miyota(owned by Citizen) 9015: Japan made and holds comparable reliability with Swiss movements.
- Sapphire crystal: scratched only by diamond
- Water Resistance of 100m
- Internal divers bezel: compute the duration of the dive. Operated by crown at 2 o’clock
- Exhibition caseback with sapphire crystal to showcase the movement and laser engraved/PVD rose gold rotor
- Engraved logo as well on crown, buckle
- C3 Superluminova on hands and markers
- Wooden gift box, leather watch roll and 3 straps included along with strap changing tool
- 1 Year international warranty
Price $420 USD
There are many things about the Zelos Helmsman to make the watch stand out and avoid being classified as a “cookie cutter” brand. Multi level and engraved dial, internal dive bezel, milled out case, a buckle to match the design of the case and more.
The case of the Zelos Helmsman measures a total of 43mm and has a lug width of 22mm. With a trend towards more normal, or average size watches these days, the size is really great. It’s not too large to be cumbersome, but not too small for my 7.5 inch wrist. Sitting at just about 14mm thick, with a lug to lug of 52mm and weighing 117 grams, it is right at or in between the sweet spot for most. The milled section of the case, or cut outs, are attractive and make what is otherwise a round diver case look and feel industrial. You will notice design was important here, as they machined the buckle with cutouts as well, (though it is a flow through design) to match the case.
The brushed finish is done very well, but the sandblasted sections of the case look a little sloppy. You can see imperfections in the case, almost like the inner part of the case was not sanded properly first. The screw-down crown is solid and functions well, but is a little hard to grasp and screw back down due to the angle and cutouts of the case, especially if you have bigger fingers. The internal dive bezel crown is of course a non screw-down crown, and operates in both directions. One thing I felt was an odd choice was the geared bezel. Since the Zelos Helmsman has a fixed bezel, the edges could have been smooth and given it a cleaner look.
The movement is the Miyota 9015 automatic movement. At this point, this is becoming standard for the majority of startups and micro brand companies, especially with dive watches. But, I do not say that negatively. The Miyota 9015 it is a good movement and I have reviewed, and own, many watches with it. One thing that Zelos did that I appreciate is a custom rotor which can be seen through the exhibition case back, which is covered by a sapphire crystal. That is another thing of note. Sapphire crystals front and back, which you do not normally see for under $500. A lot of the time it would be mineral on the back. With that said, the rotor is done in rose-gold plating and has the Zelos logo engraved onto it. I have stated many times, I am not the biggest fan of exhibition case backs with the Miyota 9015 because I feel the movement is very plain, but I like the look of this one, and applaud them for doing “some” decoration to it.
Zelos states on the website that the Helmsman comes with 3 straps. I am not sure what the third strap is, but my review example came with the tobacco brown leather and a black Zulu style strap. The zulu is pretty straight forward, and what you would expect for a strap that is thrown in with a watch package. The tobacco leather is well done, with a slight distressed finish, and a suede texture. The buckle as discussed before, was custom made and is one of those touches I really appreciate, opposed to using just a standard or off the shelf buckle.
The dial shown here is the green. It is somewhat an odd green dial with a metallic finish to it, making a different shade than your standard matte dials. The numerals and markers are all applied, and are three dimensional. The center section is textured with horizontal mill lines, which also sits lower than the rest of the dial, which creates the multi level dial. Beyond that, the dial is not over done with text and branding, just the simple Zelos logo, and the word automatic.
On the wrist the Zelos Helmsman sits comfortably. Because of the hole placements on the strap, it is a perfect for me, which is somewhat rare with stock straps. I also really like how the buckle looks and feels when the watch is strapped on.
The lume I will qualify as decent. It appears to be stronger on the markers than it is on the hands, and starts to fade significantly about an hour after an initial charge. Something I realized when I was griping about the lume to myself is while this does have an internal dive bezel, the Zelos Helmsman is only rated at 100m water resistant. So I do not believe this was intended at all to be a true divers watch, and maybe that is why the lume is not applied heavily.
In the end, would I purchase one for myself? Yes. And I say that because I like the look, the size is more in my sweet spot these days (my favorite is 44mm), the movement, while becoming a standard is accurate and reliable, and the price is right. Oh, and I almost forgot, you get a beautiful watch box and travel watch roll that can hold up to 4 watches and a strap changing tool – and the travel watch roll pretty much matches the tobacco leather strap perfectly. The roll even looks good enough to take with you on the run, or for business trips, etc.
Thank you to Zelos watches for providing the Helmsman for review. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for the future.
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