The Monsieur Helm One is will be live on Kickstarter next week with an Early Bird pricing of just $250 USD, or about $330 SGD. Let’s see if it’s any good!
Monsieur – the Brand
Monsieur is a Singaporean watch microbrand that was founded in 2017. For those interested in learning more about the brand story of Monsieur, do check out my previous review of the Monsieur Ranomo here.
Monsieur Helm One – Video Review
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube review of the Monsieur Helm One below!
Monsieur Helm One – Build Quality
The Helm One has one of the best specifications that I’ve seen at the $250 USD price point.
Firstly, the Monsieur Helm One features a double-domed sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to its inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. In addition, it is notable that the crystal is double-domed, as compared to the usual flat crystals found on watches of this price point. There’s also AR (anti-reflective) coating applied to the crystal, minimalising the bulk of nasty reflections. Being a dive watch, the Helm One boasts 300m in WR rating and should withstand a trip in the pool or to the sea with ease.
The ubiquitous Seiko NH35A movement powers the Monsieur Helm One. Some quick specs: the movement beats at 21600 vibrations per hour, has 42 hours of power reserve, contains 24 jewels, and is hacking. I’m a fan of the Seiko NH35 movement, and greatly prefer it to the Miyota 8 series movement (which is the alternative movement commonly seen with microbrand watches). This is due to the fact that unlike the NH35, the Miyota 8 series movements are non-hacking, suffer from a stuttering second hand (some models), and in my own experience with the Miyota movements, are also more prone to accuracy problems. In contrast, the Seiko NH35 is a movement that is as reliable as they come. At this sub-$300 USD price point, the Seiko NH35 movement is definitely the best bet.
On most affordable dive watches (for example, the SKX), the bracelet is often rickety, even hollow. Not on the Monsieur Helm One. I’m glad to report that the bracelet of the Helm One is sturdy, with satin-brushed finishing present throughout. The clasp also features bevelled edges, push-buttons release, an engraved Monsieur logo, and even a diver extension just in case you’re planning on wearing the watch over your wet-suit. It’s a well-engineered bracelet that wouldn’t feel out of place on a $1000 USD watch.
As the cherry on the cake, the Helm One features two different type of Swiss Superluminova – blue BGW9 for the hour markers, and green C1 on the hands and bezel. That’s impressive, considering that most dive watches at this price point either use “Asian” lume, or Lumibrite (for Seiko dive watches).
All in all, the Monsieur Helm One has stellar specifications for the price. Double-domed sapphire crystal with AR coating, 300M of WR rating, a workhorse Seiko NH35A movement, a sturdy metal bracelet, and two kinds of Swiss Superlumiova – all that is available on the Helm One for just $250 USD. I genuinely don’t think you can find a dive watch with better specifications at this price point.
Monsieur Helm One – Design
While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the Monsieur Helm One has intriguing design elements that helps differentiate it from the tons of generic Submariner homages out there.
Interestingly, the Helm One has a sandwich dial, which is uncommon on dive watches (Panerai excluded). Unlike a Panerai however, the sandwich dial of the Helm One is more subtle – it isn’t immediately evident until upon closer inspection. Due to the dual-layered nature of the dial, the Helm One has depth, and I find it particularly intriguing how Monsieur opted against having traditional indices. The hollowed-out motif on the dial evokes the helm wheel of a ship, which both reinforces the nautical theme of the watch and also gives it its name. I appreciate the little details that went into the design of the dial, such as the blue-tipped lollipop seconds hand that matches the blue bezel of the watch.
Impressively, the Helm One has a 120-click unidirectional bezel that is made out of ceramic. Ceramic is incredibly scratch-resistant – the bezel will look like new even after years of use. It’s also a material that is more commonly seen on higher-priced watches – I personally don’t know another dive watch that features a ceramic bezel at $250 USD.
The case of the Helm One is satin-brushed, with polished bevelled edges running along its flank. The finishing reminds me of the case of the Tudor Black Bay – the cases are near identical.
The Helm One has a screw-down crown that is signed with the Monsieur logo – something that is not always a given at this price point. However, I did find the crown a tad too small, resulting in it being a tad difficult to unscrew. That being said, this is a prototype – I hope Monsieur makes the crown bigger on the production models.
On my 7-inch wrist, the Monsieur Helm One wears remarkably well. The Helm One has a diameter of 41mm, and a thickness of 14.5mm. While it’s not exactly Black Bay 58 svelte, it’s certainly still on the slimmer side of the dive watch spectrum, and I found it sleek enough in its dimensions to pair with a suit, though it was a tight squeeze under my shirt cuff.
Overall, I appreciated the design of the Monsieur Helm One. There’s quite a few interesting aesthetic touches – such as the subtle sandwich dial, the “helm” motif, the brushed ceramic bezel and a well-finished case and bracelet that separates the Helm One from most of the affordable dive watches at its price point. It has a classic dive watch look, but with enough unique aspects to make it different.
Shootout – Monsieur Helm One vs Aquatico Sea Star V2
There is no shortage of microbrands operating in the affordable dive watch sphere, especially Chinese “factory” brands that are able to offer well-specced watches at low prices due to economies of scale. One of those brands is Aquatico, which I’ve reviewed before on this website. If you’re looking for a contemporary sized, affordable dive watch with a ceramic bezel, the Sea Star V2 is a good consideration in the sub-$300 USD price point.
Both watches are near identical in terms of specifications. Both the Sea Star V2 and the Helm One feature domed sapphire crystals with AR coating, are powered by the Seiko NH35A movement, and boast a water-resistance rating of 300m. The only difference is that the Sea Star V2 only uses one type of lume, while the Helm One features two.
From an aesthetic standpoint, both watches share a similar case design. However, the Sea Star v2 is undoubtedly the more conservative styled watch, while the Helm One has a more unique design language. Personally, I lend more towards fresh designs, and I appreciate the thought that went into conceiving the subtle sandwich dial of the Helm One.
The Helm One is also substantially cheaper (20%) than the Sea Star v2, if you can snag the early bird pricing. As such, the Helm One will probably be my pick for an affordable dive watch between the two.
Conclusion – so the Monsieur Helm One “shiok” or not?
While definitely a crowded segment, I think the Monsieur Helm One has enough going for it to stand out in the affordable dive watch category. The specifications are great – there’s domed sapphire crystal, 300m of WR rating, a workhorse Seiko NH35A movement, two types of Swiss Superluminova, and a well-engineered bracelet. The design is appealing too, with a unique take on a sandwich dial. The watch also has one of the best finishing I’ve seen at this price point. If you’re looking for an affordable beater or desk diver, the Monsieur Helm One should be near the top of your wishlist.
The Monsieur Helm One will be available on Kickstarter for US$250, or S$330. In addition to the watch, Monsieur will be including a bottle of perfume from local fragrance label Scent by Six, which I’ve also reviewed before here and here. Monsieur stated to me that this is in line with their vision of being a true gentleman’s brand, and not just another watch microbrand. If nothing else, I must commend Monsieur for taking the road less taken – hopefully the Kickstarter project will reach its funding goal!
View the Monsieur Helm One here.
Case diameter: 41mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Case Material: 316L S.S case; original S.S brush
Bezel: 316L S.S bezel + Ceramic bezel insert (filled with Swiss SuperLuminova C1 together with hands); brushed; uni-directional turning bezel 120 clicks;
Dial: Sandwich sandblasted dial with Swiss Superluminova BGW9
Glass: Double domed sapphire crystal, 1.5mm domed; AR coating;
Lug to Lug: 48.50mm/ Lug Width: 20mm
Orders come with:
1x Helm One watch with oyster bracelet (with ratchet clasps)
1x Diver case
1x Tropical rubber strap band
Pre order price USD250 (up to USD350 RSP)
International shipping rates apply
Estimated delivery Q4 2021
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.