What comes to mind when you hear the words, Helm Khuraburi? If you’re like me, probably very little. However, if you’re an avid diver who travels the globe looking for the best dive spots on the planet, you may immediately think of a small coastal town in Southern Thailand called, you guessed it, Khuraburi. A quick boat ride from Khuraburi are the Surin Islands – an archipelago of five small islands offering some of the best diving in the Andaman Sea.
In keeping with the tradition of naming their offerings after diving-inspired locales, Helm released the Khuraburi in July of 2017, following on from their first release in October of 2015, the Vanuatu. While the Vanuatu was more traditional in terms of the dive watch aesthetic, the Khuraburi takes Helm’s design in a bolder direction.
Before I dive into the watch (no pun intended), I wanted to give the reader some context around Helm as a brand. After fifteen years spent in product development and sourcing in the bicycle industry, Helm Founder Matt Cross was looking for a change. He packed his bags in North Carolina and moved himself to China in search of new opportunities. Several months (and many interviews) into his new life, but with nothing peaking his interest, it suddenly dawned on him that he was now living in the heart of the largest watchmaking industry on the planet. As a long-time watch enthusiast and collector with a preference for affordable divers, his new opportunity was found. Enter Helm Watches. Taking a watch design that had been floating around in his head for some time, he started reaching out to various manufacturers until he found one willing to bring his vision to life. Matt’s idea of a cool, affordable, high quality diver was about to become a reality, and the Vanuatu was born.
The first suppliers that Helm contracted with weren’t up to delivering on the quality that Matt was looking for in his pieces, so he went in search of new suppliers, and landed on a manufacturer who shared his own passion for quality. The second run of the Vanuatu was at a quality level that Matt was proud to stake his reputation on. With each subsequent run of product, the QC process is tweaked and modified to ensure his standards of excellence are continually met. In addition to developing the QC process in close partnership with his suppliers, Matt was also insistent on ISO 6425 certification for his watches from Day One. That testing is performed in-house by Helm, ensuring that each piece they sell meets the rigorous standard. Believing in the traditional route to product development, Matt has avoided the various crowd-funding methods, preferring to take on the risk himself in developing a product worthy of building its own loyal customer base.
And that brings us to the topic at hand, the Helm Khuraburi. Let’s get this out of the way right now: This is a big, burly, rugged dive watch. It’s certainly not in the gigantic class, but if your tastes gravitate towards sub-40mm watches, or if you just won’t wear anything larger than that, this may not be the watch for you. However, if you understand and embrace the modern dive watch aesthetic, read on.
At 42mm wide (43mm including the bezel) and 16mm thick, this is a sizeable watch that offers significant wrist presence. But, with a lug-to-lug measurement of 49mm, and stubby, steeply curved lugs, the case hugs the wrist nicely, especially on the metal bracelet (more on that later). The brushed center case has a slight bulge to it, and tapers to a smaller diameter at the base, which also helps the watch to wear smaller than it actually is. My 7 1/2” wrists have no trouble pulling off the Helm Khuraburi, and even those with smaller wrists will find that the lugs do not extend past the edges of their arm, as evidenced by the fit on my wife’s six-and-a-half inchers.
The solid, screw-on case back concealing the Seiko NH38 movement, which averaged -6 seconds per day with normal wear, has a deeply engraved Helm logo, and at 22mm, the common lug measurement makes fitting alternative straps a breeze. The lugs themselves have a matching brushed finish on all surfaces (this ain’t no shiny party queen), and are drilled to assist with quick and easy strap swaps. The aggressively knurled 8mm screw-down crown with engraved Helm logo is easy to grip, and can be had at the buyer’s choice of either the 4 o’clock or 10 o’clock position.
The uni-directional bezel, with the same knurled pattern as the crown, operates at 120 clicks with little to no back play, and is…wait for it…sapphire! Sapphire is not exactly a common bezel insert at this price point. One look at the lume shots clearly demonstrates why it was chosen over steel, or even ceramic. The Helm is a veritable light show at night, and the glossy sapphire bezel insert just adds to the spectacle. This particular version sports two lume colors. The first is a nice aqua-hued BGW9 that covers the dial’s indices, as well as the bezel numbers, hour hand, and arrowhead shaped pip about halfway up the seconds hand. The second is a bright orange lume that lights up the first 16 1/2 minutes on the bezel, as well as the minute hand, the stick extension on the seconds hand, and the minute markers on the chapter ring. Topping everything off is a double-domed sapphire crystal with an internal anti-reflective coating. It really is a spectacular display at night, and owners will undoubtedly find themselves frequently charging the lume with an artificial light source just to admire the show. The second version of the Khuraburi is a bit more subdued, with a standard green C3 Super-Luminova covering everything.
On the matte black dial we find pentagon-shaped applied indices, with double markers at 3, 6, 9, and 12. The raised chapter ring contains the aforementioned minute markers in orange, with small square pips every five minutes above the main indices. Other dial markings are minimal. Below the 12 o’clock index is a slightly raised, dark grey-colored Helm logo, while at six, “Diver’s 300m Automatic”, again in a dark grey color, is found in a simple and easy-to-read font. Per the aforementioned ISO 6425 certification, the use of the word “Diver” is permitted on the dial. The entire effect is very nicely understated given the propensity for many manufacturers to “over brand” their dials these days. Completing the cohesive look are thick, sword hour and minute hands that perfectly complement the big burly indices.
The Helm Khuraburi ships with a robust, 22mm brushed three-link bracelet, tapering to 20mm at the clasp. The clasp itself has six micro-adjustment holes and a safety fold-over containing an engraved “HELM”. The links have nicely beveled edges, and the end-links are solid and perfectly contoured to the lugs. The adjustable links are held by solid tubular pin screws, just as you’d find on a Rolex bracelet costing more than this entire watch! No cheap split pins or collar-and-pin style links here folks. If I had to find a negative in this package, for such a robust tool watch I’d like to see a diver extension on the bracelet, but that’s a minor gripe considering the overall quality of the bracelet.
Included in the quite affordable price is a choice of one of five 3-ring Zulu-style nylon straps, including solid black, solid orange, solid black extra long (17 vs. 11 inches), black with orange center stripe, and a five-stripe Bond-style grey and black. I also popped for the five-link jubilee-style bracelet that comes standard on the Vanuatu. The end-links are different between the two watches, so make sure and order the Khuraburi-specific end-links. The jubilee bracelet is of the same quality as the three-link, with identical solid screw-in adjustment pins and beveled links.
The Helm Khuraburi is available for $300 in the two varieties mentioned above, including the three-link bracelet and your choice of Nylon strap. Both variants are currently out of stock, but Helm expects to replenish inventory by mid-February of 2018. And for all you blue dial lovers (we’re looking at you, Patrick), this next run will include stunning blue and blue/orange models in addition to the two original variants. Overall, you get a tremendous amount of value in Helm’s pieces. Elements like the high quality bracelets and sapphire bezel inserts just aren’t seen at this price point. These guys clearly sweat the details and it shows. If you’re a serious diver, or just go for the occasional desk dive, I highly recommend giving Helm a look before they start charging what these pieces are really worth! As Matt subscribes to, “Buy what you like, keep what you love.” This one’s certainly a keeper in my book. helmwatches.com
Late breaking news:
With the Vanuatu and the Khuraburi under his belt, Matt is setting his sights on a third model release for the summer of 2018. The Komodo will be a 200m diver with a slightly smaller case diameter for those that prefer a more vintage-sized watch. Following on from that release, he’s targeting a dress diver that can hit the reef in the morning, and then slip under the cuff of a dinner jacket for a night on the town. At their current rate of design and production, Helm is targeting a new model release every year. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what Helm has in store for dive watch aficionados in the years to come.
Reader Review submitted by Eric Boucher
- Brand & Model: Helm Khuraburi
- Price: $300 (as tested, plus $30 shipping worldwide)
- Who we think it might be for: Serious divers, or anyone who appreciates a big, bold diver aesthetic
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen? I already have!
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: The addition of a diver extension on the two steel bracelets
- What spoke to me the most about this watch: The crazy lume light show, subtle dial markings, overall quality and fit and finish
Technical Specifications from Helm
- Material: Brushed 316L stainless steel
- Size: 42mm x 16mm (43mm w/bezel)
- Weight: 225 grams w/bracelet (at full length), 125 grams with nylon strap
- Crystal: Sapphire, double-domed, anti-reflective coating inside
- Case Back: Stainless steel, screwed, special engravings
- Water Resistance: 30 atm/300 m/990 ft (Tested in accordance with ISO 6425:1996)
- Interlug Width: 22mm
- MOVEMENT: Seiko NH38 Automatic Mechanical, 24 jewels
- Functions: Hacking and Manual Winding
- Accuracy: -20/+40 sec/day
- Beats Per Hour: 21,600
- Power Reserve: 40 Hours
- Color: Matte black
- Luminous Material: BGW9 + Orange or Super-Luminova C3
- Material: 316L Stainless steel
- Insert: Flat sapphire with luminous markings
- Diameter: 43mm
- Removable/Replaceable: Yes
- Rotation: Diver compliant Unidirectional, 120-Click