Zelos Swordfish v2 v Helm Vanuatu
Swordfish: Zelos Watches | Price: $299 USD (€270 EUR, £240 GBP approx)
Vanuatu: Helm Watches | Price: $275 USD (€250 EUR, £215 GBP approx)
I have recently reviewed both the Zelos Swordfish v2 and the Helm Vanuatu. Both dive watches at around the $300 price point. As I own both of these watches, I was recently asked, if I were to only pick one, which one would it be and why? Fast forward a few weeks and I thought I’d take the time and go ahead and do this head to head style comparison to see which one comes out on top. In my reviews both watches scored 10 out 10 and were highly recommended so it’ll be close!
There are a lot of brand snobs out there in the watch community. I’ve met a few in my time who will say, “That’s not a proper watch, you need a watch like my Rolex blah, blah, blah…” I basically tell them the same thing each and every time, “Get yer head out of yer arse and go take a double f**k to yourself, DICK!” I’ve had watches here that have cost thousands and in my opinion, I’d still rather have a quality microbrand on wrist. I love quality like everyone else, but as I’m Scottish, I’m also a fan of value for money. When it comes to microbrand brand names though, Zelos & Helm are nothing more than royalty and up amongst the very best of them. To try and score these two watches just on brand name alone, I can’t put one above the other, so this category, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear it’s nothing more than a complete draw.
Case & Crown
Both cases of the Zelos & Helm have a diameter of around 42mm. The lug to lug of the Zelos is 47.7mm and 49.4mm for the Helm. The finishing of the Zelos is quite different to the Helm, having much more of a refinished finish with polished accents and the occassional chamfered edge. The Helm however, is all about precision and its tool watch aesthetic. The Helm I could easily describe as over-engineered yet built to do its job, and do its job it does extremely well. Regarding the crowns for each watch, there is nothing to separate them apart, both of them are easy to grip and very well made. We’re basically only at the start of this head to head and I’m struggling to pick one over the other, but that’s why we’re here I suppose. I can’t just say it’s a draw for every category! Well, I’m going to give an extra half point to the Zelos just because I love the attention to detail that’s been incorporated into the design, as well as the slightly more comfort while on wrist.
Depending on which model of Zelos Swordfish v2 you decide on getting, you’ll either get a stainless steel insert or a matte ceramic insert, both of which are fully lumed. The insert of the Helm Vanuatu is also fully lumed and is made from stainless steel with a black PVD coating. I prefer the looks of the bezel on the Swordfish, but the action of the bezel is quite stiff. The bezel action of the Vanuatu though is nothing short of perfection. Function over aesthetics? It’s a draw.
The crystals on both watches are flat sapphire that appear to be of the same quality, both have multiple underside AR coatings. Both are pretty much identical and it’s pretty much impossible to choose between the two. It’s a draw.
Dial & Hands
The dial on both watches is where the real difference lies. The only option you have with the Helm Vanuatu is the colour of the date wheel, where as with the Zelos Swordfish v2 you have a total of 8 different dial colour options to choose from. The Swordfish has a sandwich dial and the effect on the dial of this helical blue version is nothing short of sexual, it’s absolutely gorgeous and no matter how much I try, the pictures just don’t do it any justice. There are aspects of the dial on the Vanuatu that I perfer over the Swordfish though, mainly the colour matched date wheel at the correct position of 6 o’clock as well as the hands which make it far more easy to accurately set the time. If the Zelos had a colour matched date at 6, it would win this category hands down, but it doesn’t hence why the scores are quite evenly matched.
The movement selected for both watches is the NH35 by Seiko. A fantastic super-reliable workhorse that is a 21,600vph, 3Hz, 24 jewel automatic movement with a 41hr power reserve, self winding and of course hacking. Both the Zelos and the Helm were very accurate when tested however, the Helm Vanuatu did show a better average at just +0.8spd, whilst the Zelos came in at +5.7spd. Both movements aren’t regulated by either company, so it would just come down to the “accuracy lottery“. Either way, both are great, but the Helm gains half a point for it’s superb out of the box accuracy.
The bracelets are fantastic on both watches with the Zelos having really smooth links with chamfered edges everywhere, where as the Helm looks like it’s been carved out by the gods of stainless steel. The Zelos is more comfortable on wrist in my opinion, however the Helm bracelet on close inspection, I prefer it’s fit to the case and seems slightly better made.
The lume on the Helm Vanuatu is fantastic and I have zero complaints. However, Zelos are famous for their lume across all of their range of watches and the Swordfish v2 is no different. To put it into comparison, it’s even better than Seiko LumiBright and Rolex Chromalight and it’s the main reason why Zelos score the only perfect 10 in this head to head.
Zelos Swordfish v2
Before I started writing this head to head, I didn’t have a clue which, if any watch would clearly win over the other. They are so close in every single category, I’m basically splitting hairs between the two. Both companies really are at the top of their game and it is so hard to choose between the two. In reality, I think it basically just comes down to aesthetics and which sub-category of dive watch you prefer, the more refined Zelos or the tool watch aesthetics of the Helm. No matter which watch you choose, you’re most definitely getting an absolutely outstanding watch at one hell of a bargain price!!