When we talk about dive watches, we generally conjure a particular image. The watch is big, with a burly stainless steel case to withstand the pressures of the deep. It has a thick rubber strap or stout link bracelet with a locking clasp. It has bold markers that pierce the icy depths like the lantern of an Angler Fish. Generally, these notions are correct, but one of the problems with a popular image is that it tends to get exaggerated over time. I think this has happened to a certain extent in the watch world as larger watches have come into vogue. Most divers start at 42mm and balloon rapidly from there, but it was not always so.
Consider for a moment, the ubiquitous Rolex Submarnier. No watch better exemplifies the dive watch ideal, yet it is only 40mm across the bezel. Back in the day, this was a large, attention grabbing size, but it did not physically overwhelm a man’s wrist like some modern watches can do. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a huge, honking dive watch just as much as the next guy, just not every day. Enter, the Helson Shark Diver.
45mm, 42mm and 40mm
Helson is rather successful Hong Kong micro brand that specializes in dive watches. Their Shark Diver series offers a fresh take on the classic dive watch, in a range of sizes, colors, case materials, and movement options to suit just about everyone. True to its name, the Shark Diver 40 measures 40mm across, and only 49mm long. These are modest measurements by today’s standards, but the watch does not disappear on the wrist. It is 12mm thick and has a broad shouldered, slab sided case with angular crown guards. The case is composed of 316L stainless steel with a brushed finish. It looks like the case of a proper diving instrument, and carries off the size without appearing in any way diminutive. A screw down crown and case back, and 3mm thick sapphire crystal underscore its tool watch credentials. Water resistance is an impressive 500 meters. The only thing the 42 and 45mm models have over the 40 is a helium release valve. This is a nice (but not essential) feature for professional saturation divers, but completely unnecessary for recreational scuba.
Nestled inside this case is a Miyota 9015 automatic. This 24 jewel, hacking, hand winding movement has become a staple of micro brands, and for good reason. It has proven to be rugged and reliable with the silky smooth 28.8k bph sweep.
The watch is supplied with both a 20mm rubber strap and H-link bracelet with a signed flip lock clasp. They attach to case by means of a hex-head screw bar. I was skeptical at first, but the bar was easily removed and replaced using the supplied hex tool, the head of which fit securely into the bar’s socket, greatly reducing the risk of slipping or stripping. Like the case, the bracelet gave an impression of substance that belied its size. I found it to be quite comfortable, free of squeaks or rattles, and with a proper degree of heft. The strap is made of soft high quality rubber similar in style to the classic Isofrane.
The unidirectional dive bezel rotates in 120 clicks. It has a grippy coin edge and a firm, mechanical feel that is not overly stiff. Its most striking feature is the sapphire inlay with C3 Superluminova markers beneath its surface. The dial has printed markers, large triangles at the four points and circles for the remainder. All are on the large side and generously layered with C3, as are the sword hands. At night, the Shark Diver lights up with an impressive green glow. Two colors are currently available: bright blue with a matching bezel, or white with teal markers and a black bezel. Both have a color-matched date at the 4:30 position. Dial text is tastefully rendered in a fine lined, modern block font, just brand and model at the top, automatic and 500m at the bottom. The result is highly legible under the water, and extremely attractive on dry land.
The Shark Diver 40 proved to be a versatile companion through my week, transitioning easily from a day in the office with coat and tie, to weekend activities in jeans and a tee shirt. It is sized to fit under a shirt cuff, but its angular lines give it the right amount of presence. Helson makes a Shark Diver to suit every taste. If you are looking for a glorious beast of a watch, you can check out the 45mm bronze case with an ETA automatic for $1299. If 45mm is too large, try the 42mm range. Bored with stainless steel? Then look at their bronze cased models. For my taste, I’d choose the $599 Shark Diver 40 in blue. It is a tough, attractive piece that packs a ton of value into its modest frame. For more info, please visit helsonwatch.com
The Time Bum (L J. S) – Contributing Writer
The Time Bum is an avid watch enthusiast and unrepentant cheapskate. His blog, thetimebum.com, focuses on watches in the affordable end of the spectrum, particularly those that sell for under $1,000 — as far under as possible. When not playing with watches or writing about them, he is a lawyer, husband and father who enjoys good food and old cars. Read his articles here.