A brand’s story: HELM By Extropian

Brand’s Story
Dive watches
Titanium watches
A brand’s story: HELM By Extropian

In our latest Brand Focus we’re diving deep into the world of HELM, a company which has carved a strong niche in the market with its line of rugged, but surprisingly affordable, Dive watches.


After 15 years working in the Bicycle industry, Matt Cross was ready for a new kind of challenge. A lifelong watch enthusiast, he decided to put his business experience to good use and founded his own company, HELM, in the summer of 2014. The brand launched its flagship model, the Vanuatu 300m automatic in 2015, and has gone on to create a range of Dive watches inspired by the spirit of adventure and exploration.

That spirit of adventure is best exemplified by the brand itself. Unhappy with the difficulties involved in keeping track of quality control when the components and suppliers he relied upon were located on the other side of the globe, Cross decided the only solution was to move closer to their source. And so, in a brave move, he relocated his company from North Carolina to Hong Kong and southern China so he could monitor every stage of the production process first hand. Now that’s what we call dedication!

The HELM Ethos

Cross is emphatic about HELM’s raison d’être, which revolves around clean, functional design, durability, and affordability. And so far the brand seems to be succeeding on every level. While freely admitting that there were some quality control issues with early versions of the Vanuatu, Cross continued to modify and improve the production process until he was satisfied with the results - even if it meant moving the company halfway round the world to do so! 

Now, in partnership with a new manufacturer and suppliers, the brand is able to enforce exacting levels of quality control. All their watches are tested to ISO 6425 standards of water resistance, which involves submerging every complete watch in water for two hours at a pressure equal to 125% of its water resistance rating. Needless to say, this is a time consuming process (and one that most brands don't even bother with), but to Cross it’s simply part of his ongoing commitment to quality.

And, in case you’re wondering about how this impacts the “affordability” part of the equation, it’s worth noting that all HELM’s watches come in at under $400 - even the Titanium models!


The product

HELM’s watches all have their own distinct personality, with a bold, clear, modernist design that sets them apart from a lot of the retro/homage watches on the market today.

And, of course, they have everything you’d expect from a quality Diver. All models feature 316L Stainless-steel (or grade 2 Titanium) cases and bracelets, screw-down crowns and casebacks, sapphire crystals, 300m water resistance, and are powered by reliable Seiko automatic movements with a 40-hour power reserve. Let’s be honest, these are great specs for something in this price range!

All their watches can be easily customized, and the brand has its own range of accessories, from titanium and stainless-steel bracelets, to canvas, nylon, leather, and rubber straps. And, as all their models feature removable/interchangeable bezels, they also sell replacements for each model in a variety of different colors.

HELM produces watches in small batches, sold via a waiting list. This allows them to constantly tweak minor design details and make other improvements, so their product will continue to evolve over time. You can check your place on the list at any time and they have regular “lottery sales” in which they draw names from the list from random, so who knows - you could get lucky!

Each of their models is named after an exotic location famed for the quality of its diving. From Indonesia to the South Pacific, the sense of travel and exploration conjured by these legendary, far-flung corners of the globe seems entirely appropriate. So let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.


The Khuraburi 

 In many ways the Khuraburi is a classic Diver, but HELM brings some original design features to the package, such as a very distinctive dial with bold, chunky indices and thick sword hands (all fully-lumed for maximum legibility at any depth). And, if you want options, there are plenty on offer!  It comes in a variety of lume colors, the crown can be placed at either 4 or 10 o’clock, depending on your preference, and it also includes a nylon strap if you want a casual, lightweight alternative to the metal bracelet


The Khuraburi Titanium

If you want a super-lightweight version which packs all the great looks and durability of the standard version, the Khuraburi is also available with a brushed grade 2 Titanium case and bracelet. It also comes with a choice of dials - matte black with C3 lume or matte white with BGW9 lume.


The Komodo

Another superb Dive watch, the Komodo has very similar specs to the Khuraburi, but plays with the design in some interesting ways. It has a more compact case and bezel and the crown, switched to 3 o’clock, nestles comfortably in an integrated guard along the edge. The bezel insert is stainless-steel with black PVD coating (instead of sapphire), and the dial adds a crosshair design, circular indices, and a date complication at 6 o’clock. It also comes in a variety of cool dial colors (black, orange, or white) with contrasting lumes.

Helm White 2 (1)

The Miyako

An intriguing take on the Dive watch, the Miyako has an elegant and versatile design which makes it a superb choice for dressier occasions. Let’s call it a Dress-diver!

Whereas most dive watches are defined by their simplicity and bold, functional dials, the Miyako opts for a more complex approach, featuring a textured design at the center, surrounded by a raised exterior section with arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and a date window between the 4 and 5. 

In a nice touch, the blunted sword shape of the hour and minute hands matches the remaining hour markers, while the second hand has a lumed arrow at the tip, extended by a bright red pointer for maximum visibility both day and night. The bezel has a domed sapphire insert which gives the whole package a great sense of depth and three-dimensionality.



The Vanuatu is perhaps the most rugged-looking of HELM’s watches, with its chunky bracelet, robust crown guard, and no-nonsense square-toothed bezel with stainless-steel insert and plain black PVD coating and white markings. The blocky baton hands are fully lumed and match the shape of the hour markers, while the narrow second hand is a contrasting bright orange with a small lumed circle near the tip. With all the usual specs you’d expect from HELM, this is a perfect marriage of functionality and great modern style.


The Vanuatu Titanium

Like the Khuraburi, the Vanuatu is also available with a lightweight grade 2 Titanium case, bracelet, and bezel. The whole package weighs in at just 145 grams, compared to 235 for the standard version. And, if you opt for the nylon strap, that’ll drop to a mere 90 grams!

Vanatu Titanium


Whether you’re a serious diver or only ever go as far as jumping in the deep end of the pool we think HELM is a brand you’re going to want to keep an eye on! To explore more of what they have to offer, take a detour through Extropian’s database!

Created the 2023-07-05

Modified the 2024-03-29

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