The Helmsman by Zelos Watches

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Keeping up with new watches released on Kickstarter or Indiegogo is becoming quite the task. We have recently looked at a batch of current campaigns as well as conducted a follow up to several funding projects we have featured in the past. Since then more hopefuls have gotten things under way, hoping to get their project off the ground. Among them is The Helmsman by Zelos Watches.

Zelos, Greek for zeal, is founded by Elshan Tang, who has long had a passion for watches. From childhood to adult age, Elshan has been drawn to watches via the mechanical aspect of the movements and the details of their design. After collecting for a decade he felt there was a space for a quality made watch that held a price not inflated by a brand name. Putting his Mechanical Engineering degree to work he set out to design his first watch which resulted in The Helmsman.


The goal was to design The Helmsman as a modern sports watch with a functional design and a versatile look. Given the name, which means “a person who steers a ship or boat” one would expect there to be elements familiar to dive watches. The 43mm case will be available in two CuSn8 bronze models, one with, and one without, a black DLC coated bezel, or 316L stainless steel case. Each case has areas that are sand blasted, brushed and polished to add highlights and depth to the design. That seems to be a fair bit of contrast to add to the case at once so it will be interesting to see how well it is pulled off, especially how the different areas patina on the bronze model.

The bezel itself is unadorned opting instead for an internal rotating bezel. It is designed like many diving bezels with hashmarks every minute from 1 to 15 and then markers every 5 minutes from there. There is no mention of which crown operates the internal bezel, but given expectations the 2 o’clock crown is the most likely suspect. The crown for setting the time screws down, aiding in the 100M water resistance rating, while the bezel for the inner crown does not.


To ensure legibility the dial markers and hands will have C3 Superluminova coating, which should give it enough lume to satisfy most owners. The dial has a tiered design giving it three layers of depth. The markings are minimal with just a logo at 12 and “Automatic” above 6. The dial color can be chosen by the purchaser from black, brown, grey and green. Between the three case types and four dial colors there are a lot of design options that will provide a total of 500 watches made available to potential backers. The Helmsman will use a sapphire crystal for both the dial and the display back of the watch, which will show off the ever popular Citizen Miyota 9015 movement Elshan chose to power the watch. The watch will come in its own leather travel pouch along with three straps: vintage brown leather, a smooth black leatehr and a NATO. Participants will be able to chose their dial color and serial number at the Zelos Watches website.

The Zelos Helmsman Kickstarter campaign runs until March 30, 2014 and will cost backers from $380 CAD (approximately $341 USD) to $590 CAD (approximately $529) depending on which package is chosen. Does the Helmsman float your boat? Does it do enough to set it apart from other crownfunding projects? Let us know in the comments.

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Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.
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  • Pat

    This reminds me of the Swatch “Irony” line.

  • I guess I can see that…In that they are both watches. lol Seriously, I don’t see the resemblance.

    I like that there is plenty of detail. It definitely looks finished and thought out. The bronze version is different than any other bronze watch I can think of, or its photographed in a way that makes it appears different.

    I like the crowns (which incidentally do look like the ones on a Swatch Irony. lol) but I can’t say I’m a fan of the horizontal patterns on the dial inset. However, the date window in relation to that inset? Awesome execution. I like seconds hands that stand out, so that’s all win.

    I’m also not a fan of the logo. It seems generic and I suspect that friends would see it and think its a department store watch because of it. Considering we’re talking ancient Greece and diving, I would have enjoyed a more distinguished and classy logo design. Which as I’ve mentioned in other posts seems to be where a number of new watch companies drop the ball. Branding is everything. How do you tie models together over time? How do you elicit an emotion or sense of style even before someone sees your actual product? When they see your branding. Better logos, kickstarter companies, better logos! Or at least choose a distinct font and something creative but tasteful with the name.

  • One thing I love about watches is the history and heritage of the brands. It’s akin to the story behind say a classic car marque. Some new brands get it right e.g. Helios. But unfortunately this plethora of kickstarter watches feel about as legit as a fiberglass kit car for a VW bug. Not to be a snob but getting a bit tired of them.

    • I have to agree to an extent. Over the last decade or so, it seemed that anybody with a business accumen and a few million to spend would decide to start up a watch brand. Or, as we’ve seen over the past year or two, Kickstarter ventures such as this.
      Don’t get me wrong. I admire what some of these brands are doing and I wish them luck, but I just wonder if they’ll still be around in fifteen years when my watch needs a replacement dial.
      I have to say that some of these newbies have designed some nice watches. But it’s a pretty flooded market, made up of brands that have been around for over a hundred and fifty years.

  • Big thanks to W&W for the feature! Do appreciate the comments as well, its a big help in getting things right when starting out.

    @Namebjs314 I actually chose something a bit more versatile to allow the brand the freedom of launching various styles. I’ll love to redesign the logo to better suit the brand but it might be a bit hard at this point :p

    @David I agree that history is an important part of a watch brand but its gotta start somewhere 🙂 Plenty of germasian brands nowadays touting inaccurate histories and I just wanted to be upfront about the brand without trying to be more than it is. I am curious about the story of Helios(Halios?) though as their site doesn’t say much at all. It’ll be a great example to learn from as they’re a micro that did well!

    Apologies for the KS watch onslaught too! Always open to constructive criticism so just let me know 🙂


  • Looks like new IWC diver

  • @eishan
    Nice attempt, wishing you all success. My two cents for this watch are:
    1. The colour palate doesn’t match up very well. Unless your brown dial is something special, perhaps move away from that colour?
    2. The hour, minute and second hands are too generic and boring, perhaps a touch of colour or an interesting design (perhaps sea-related like an anchor or trident or something might be better suited) might make the watch a touch more interesting.
    3. Perhaps 100m resistance isn’t good enough for a sailor-type watch?
    4. Last bit is, if it’s going to be a sports/sailing type watch, perhaps include a rubber strap that the buyer can change into rather than just a leather strap which effectively renders it useless for any sort of getting wet-type activity?


  • Just to clarify, brown is a colour that looks a bit plasticky and cheap unless you get it right (if you know what I mean).

    Also, this isn’t a dress watch, selling it with a leather strap (for me), makes me wonder where this watch stands..because I won’t wear it with a suit, if I want to take this out on a day to the beach, perhaps a rubber strap or a NATO might suit it better? Or perhaps if you do want a bit of leather, a nice leather NATO will actually fit the bill perfectly.

  • Thanks Julian for the pointers! Certainly valid stuff to take note of.

    Here’s some of my thoughts regarding them though
    1) Brown actually works pretty well with the bronze as it patinas to a similar color. To be honest the bronze/brown is my fave out of the bunch! Colors are pretty subjective though so I might be totally wrong about this :p

    2) I did redesign a new set of hands that aren’t commonly found. I think its the photos which can’t really bring out the detail. Here’s a cropped shot to better show the part skeleton hands

    3) Yeah you’re right on this point, I did want to go for more but my manufacturer wasn’t too keen with the bronze case. Not too sure why!

    4) I have included a nato strap just for that purpose 🙂 The bronze case gives it a casual rustic vibe hence the distressed strap. I might consider a rubber as a stretch goal though!

    Appreciate your thoughts about this and always glad to hear more!

  • Elshan, I happen to like your watch quite a lot. The redesigned hands look awesome, very unique! Question: what’s the lug-to-lug size of the watch? Couldn’t find a mention of it anywhere…. Thx.

  • Hi Gene, glad you like the hands! Its something which could be appreciated better in person. The lug to lug length is 52mm. Hope that helps! Cheers!

  • I am sorry to say that, but the dial looks cheap. Suppose it is because of the tone of brown color (its not rich brown) and because of logo and “Automatic” execution.

    However, I see that some other watch details like bezel shape, buckle and case sides are very well thought.

  • Rj

    Bronze with Brown Dial #13

  • Hi Nikita, thank you for your comments! I could work on the dial for the next iteration to improve the color tones and text 🙂

    Thank you also Rj for the support! Really appreciate it!

  • Zac

    This is one of the better attempts I’ve seen. I really like the Seiko Alpinist, but don’t like the compass bezel and wish it came in bronze. This comes really close to capturing that and in a larger size than the Seiko which I think is good for a casual watch. I like the brown dial. It reminds me of the 60’s. I would like to see a “no date” hand wound valjoux version. I’m in the market for bronze so this caught my eye. I’m going to “Pin” it for sure.

  • Btw, having the date at the 4:30 position I find gives the watch a much nicer and cleaner look. Perhaps consider that during the next dial iteration?

  • Thank you Zac for your kind words! 🙂

    @Julian I did consider that during the design phase, but it looked slightly strange due to the lack of symmetry between the 2 crowns. Might work if there was only one crown though!

  • just curious, but how would a lume shot look like?
    the 12 and 6 markers looks like they have no lume?

  • Hello kevin! Here’s a lume shot without the hands installed, you’re right about the 12 and 6 markers!

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