I was hunting for a Diver to round out my collection and set myself a budget of around the $600-$800 mark. I especially liked the Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military which was a little cheaper but became a regular visitor to the Helson Website. I considered the Skindiver and the Sharkdiver and liked them both. To be honest I was just about to pull the trigger on a Skindiver when they ran out of stock, but then I saw the Blackbeard Black Dial. I was very much drawn to it immediately, unlike the white dialed version, it does not have the Skull and Crossbones integrated into the dial and gives off a slightly more conservative persona.
This watch undoubtedly takes design cues from the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Rotomatic from the 1950s but has enough differences to be its own watch. Original versions of the Rotomatic fetch very high prices and I’ve seen a couple go for around $30,000. At the end of the day, I was looking for a retro styled diver and the Blackbeard called my name.
The case is 42mm wide with a lug to lug length of 50mm (slightly shorter than the Helson Skindiver. Lug width is 22mm. The most striking thing I noticed when I put it on is that the case is thick! At 16mm, it is thicker than a 42mm 8500 Omega Planet Ocean. It’s also got a fair bit of weight to it, although I have not weighed it yet. The combination of case height and weight mean that the strap must be worn firmly or you get that dead weight feel on your wrist. I have to say that I have become very used to the case dimensions in a very short time.
The case back has the skull and crossbones and is individually numbered, mine is number 35 but I have no idea how many will be made.
The crystal is 3.5mm thick with an ever so gently domed surface. A double coat or AR all leads to excellent visibility. This model comes with sapphire crystal.
No doubt, this is my favorite part of the watch. The bezel is also sapphire and has a very minimalist design taken directly from the Blancpain shown above. The bezel gives off a rich sheen and looks so elegant. The bezel action is firm and could be used underwater with confidence. The indices on the bezel are also lumed.
The Blackbeard comes with a Miyota 9015 automatic movement with 24 Jewels. This movement has a power reserve of 40 hours. The non ETA movement was an initial concern, but I did some research and read that this movement has been developed to take on the base model ETA movements and seems to be very well endorsed. I am very happy with the fact that the watch is running at +3 secs a day straight out of the box.
The Blackbeard comes with a shark mesh bracelet and an Isofrane style rubber strap. I am happy with both but I have my doubts whether the mesh would be long enough to be worn by a guy with bigger wrist on the outside of a wet suit. The clasp on the mesh is a little flimsy but all in all, the fact that you get both rubber and mesh is fantastic. Strap changes are easy with screw in spring bars and Helson provide you with a tool do the job.
In a word, the lume is brilliant and it out lumes my Omega Speedmaster by a mile. I went into an underground car park out of direct sunlight today and was shocked at the intensity. You will not be disappointed with the Lume.
The Dial is simple and very nicely finished. Some have commented on the size of the Hour hand in particular photos-do not be alarmed by this, the hand has a stainless steel border that disappears into the dial in certain pictures. The bottom line is it’s bigger than it looks in some pictures.
Service From Helson
First class, the watch arrived from Hong Kong to Australia in 3 days and when I emailed with a question, Peter Helson replied in person very promptly. I had a great buying experience with Helson.
Well, I am very impressed, I have more expensive watches but I have to say that the Helson Blackbeard offers fantastic value for money at $750. If you are looking for a classically styled diver with significant wrist presence, you could do worse than to get a Helson Blackbeard. From what I have seen, Helson is a fairly small company and runs on models are limited, so if you like, don’t dwell on it!!