We talk about Helson quite a bit on w&w, and for good reason. The brand focuses on high quality manufacturing, using great components, based on great designs that maintain a very approachable price point. The Skindiver I bought second hand has maintained a place in my daily rotation since I got it, as it perfectly blends historic looks with modern build quality.
The Blackbeard James took a look at plays off of the vintage styling of the Skindiver, mixing it with the whimsical iconography of pirates in the form of a glowing Jolly Roger. But the watch I am going to look at starting with this “initial impressions” isn’t just a spot on homage to an iconic 70’s diver, it is a true beast of dive watch, with a monobloc steel case, 1000m water resistance and remarkably affordable price tag of $899. That watch, is the Sharkmaster 1000.
I was quite ecstatic when Peter Helson agreed to send me a sample for review of the Sharkmaster 1000. I had looked at it repeatedly on Helson’s site, just kind of wondering what that thing would be like. The hooded lugs, plongeur hands, blue dial, black bezel and bizarre case design intrigued me. I mean, in some ways the watch is a weird collage of disparate parts that magically come together to make something quite beautiful and unique. I was also intrigued by the branding message the watch sends. The Skindiver is a logical homage to make. It is recognizable, easy to wear, and a style of watch that many other brands attempt to achieve. The Sharkmaster 1000, however, is the only Seamaster 1000 homage on the market that I am aware of. It’s also not a vintage Omega that gets mentioned as often as the Speedmaster, PloProf or Seamaster 300. This leads me to think that it was made really to emphasize Helson’s knowledge and dedication to vintage divers, and as such, serves as a great figurehead for the brand.
Like the other Helsons I have encountered, the Sharkmaster comes in a watertight capsule with a dense foam insert that protects the watch. It’s not the most glamorous packaging, nor does it aid in telling the story of the watch, but it functionally protects it and can be used for storage. The Sharkmaster comes on an IsoFrane style rubber strap, but with a metal mesh bracelet as well. There is also a mesh extension, a bunch of spring bars and a strap-changing tool tucked away in the foam insert. All in all, a very nice package that adds value to this already fairly priced watch.
Putting this watch on for the first time, I was stunned by the sheer massiveness of it. It’s not just big, measuring 44mm in diameter, and tall, standing proud at 15mm, it’s dense and very heavy, coming in at 201g on the mesh bracelet. While there are plenty of divers out there that weigh this much, what makes it feel so heavy is that its tapering case design makes it top heavy, giving it some inertia on your wrist. This is somewhat tempered by the curving monobloc case, which allows it to fit your wrist nicely. And it’s also this monobloc case that creates the density.
Though 1000m divers are somewhat common now, in the 70’s they were less so, and the engineering to achieve that depth used different methods than todays’ watches. In the case of the Seamaster 1000, they went with a solid steel case machined out of a single block. The movement is top loaded and sealed in under the dial and 4.5mm sapphire crystal. By getting rid of the case-back, they got rid of potentially leaky seams and increased the structural integrity of the watch tremendously, and the weight along with it. I have to commend Helson for staying true to this design. Though it might not be the most comfortable, it is unique and speaks to a different generation of diver.
Apart from the weight, I also immediately noticed the exceptional detailing and build quality of the watch. From the dial to the bezel insert to the grooves on the back of the monobloc case, everything is crisp and as it should be. And the look of the watch is really breathtaking. Though it might resemble a sci-fi prop by today’s design standards, the 70’s case, contrasting dial and bezel and that shock of orange on the minute hand come together to create a beautiful chimera of a watch. One that certainly draws attention and is unlike any other watch I’ve worn.
Look out in a few weeks for the full review, where I’ll get into the original watch it’s based on, all of those fine details that make this design so interesting and what it’s like to wear this watch around.
By Zach Weiss
Review unit supplied by Helson