I was introduced to this site based on a watch I purchased through Kickstarter, and started writing reviews on watches on that site, and then branched out a bit, finally becoming official and covering anything watch related then comes my way. But I still have a soft spot for Kickstarter, and consider it part of my beat. When Zelos was designing their first watch, which they were offering on the site, they reached out to us and offered us an early peek at the project page. Frankly, it hit just the right number of buttons for me, so I jumped in an bought a Zelos Helmsman, in bronze, serial number 01/50, and was actually the first backer on the project.
Why did I jump in? First off, I was intrigued by the bronze case. I am not an avid sailor, but I enjoy it, and I like how this metal interacts with the environment, developing a unique patina over time. I liked the fact it had an internal rotating bezel, though I did not realize at the time it was bidirectional and it does not have click stops. It is an automatic, which the only type of watch I have been buying of late. I thought the price was fair, $440 as an early bird. And, most important, I thought it was an attractive watch.
As with most crowd-funded projects, there were hiccups. But to his credit, Elshan Tang did a good job in keep his backers informed about the delays, which were not too bad. The bronze watches were delivered about a month late, while the steel watches went out about 2 weeks late. I think this was probably more due to over promising on the front end rather than real issues with production. If he had built in more time on the back end for delays, he probably would not have lost any pledges and it would have given him the flexibility he needed. Along the way, he also put together some nice stretch goals, which are always great to see when you have already pledged.
Opening the package was not a disappointment when it arrived. The outer box is a non-traditional wood box, much larger than a typical watch box. Inside was the leather travel pouch that rolls up and closes with a buckle, housing the watch, a second leather strap, a nylon NATO strap, and a strap removal tool. The pouch is well made, attractive, really complements the watch, and is something I will actually use in the future. I reminds me of the material used for my old bomber jacket.
The Zelos Helmsman in bronze (I have not tried on the steel) is substantial. It is not as heavy as some of the bigger and beefier divers I have worn, but it is not light. At 43mm, it is mid sized by modern standards, and it sits about 13mm tall, which is part of the reason for the heft. Sapphire crystals are provided up front and for the exhibition caseback, showing off the Miyota 9015 automatic movement. As a stretch goal, the watch came with a rose gold PVD plated rotor with the Z logo, a very nice touch. With the screw down crown, the watch is rated to 100 meters, though I don’t think mine is going to go diving with me. Since the bezel is not unidirectional, you can’t use it to time a dive (I use a dive computer anyway), and I am personally a little leery of the seals between the internal rotating bezel and the crown used to adjust it, but I would use it for sailing or other on-the water activities, fitting nicely with the Helmsman name.
There is a nice bit of detailing on the watch, giving it the look of a machine part almost. The exterior bezel is slightly notched, like stubby gear teeth or something to grip to unscrew the bezel. Each side is machined with a groove, and bronze buckle on the strap has small cut-outs on either side. The finishing is a mix of brushed for the majority of the case and polished for the bezel. Under the crystal, the interior bezel is set at a sharp angle, making it readable from an angle, stepping down to the chapter ring with raised indexes and numbers for 12 and 16, and then that steps down a bit for the central disk of the face, s a recessed striping. The handset is color coordinated to the case, with a red tipped second hand and super-lume on the hour and minute hands, as well as the chapter markings.
The watch is shipped with two straps, leather and a nylon NATO trap. I tend not to wear NATO straps very often, so I have not tried it, but the leather is very nice. Fitting the beefier stance of the watch, the leather is robust. The brown strap has stitching in a matching color, while the black strap has contrasting stitching in white . I expect that the brown suede finish is supposed to wear over time along with the development of the bronze patina (though the same strap is shipped with the steel, which will not age), giving both the watch and the strap a vintage look. The original project offered 10 options, black, brown, green and grey faces in either the stainless steel or bronze case, and the black or brown dial in a bronze case with a DLC coating on the external bezel. The bronze/brown (my version) and the bronze/black combinations are sold out, but there are still 8 other color/case combinations available on the Zelos website for sale at $420 for the steel, $490 for the bronze and $590 for the bronze/DLC. The site also has some interesting leather straps for sale. zeloswatches.com
- Brand & Model: Zelos Helmsmann
- Price: $420 – 590
- Who’s it for?: Me.
- Would I wear it?: Wear it, I ordered #01 of 50.
- What I’d change: Make the bezel unidirectional and 120 click.
- The best thing about it: Bronze is so pretty when it ages.