The following thoughtful review and images are contributed by fellow watch lover and writer Paul Hubbard. Thanks for the nice review Paul!
A few months ago, my colleague James Stacey on WatchReport reviewed a new dive watch by a Canadian company, the Halios Holotype. I read the review and was intrigued, but then again I already have the fancier Seiko Marinemaster, which seemed to preclude another diver in the collection. However, as I did my research around the net, (1, 2, 3, 4) I couldn't believe the amount of positive reviews and instant fans that I was seeing. Everyone seemed to like the Holotype, and that's unprecedented. I had to see this for myself! I sent an email to Halios, who graciously agreed to send me a previously-loaned review watch, with the option to buy it if I liked it. They'll be getting my money...
Watch overview and background
The $325 Halotype is the first watch from Halios, and is a Chinese-made unit with Japanese movement, designed in Vancouver BC. The Chinese sourcing is quite common among the new wave of startup brands, as the case, crystal, bracelet, hands and dial makers in China have ever-improving quality and unbeatable prices. For a movement, Halios sensibly went with the Miyota 8215, an absolute tank of a ticker with an impeccable reputation since its debut in 1977.
The Holotype also shares with other boutique brands the idea of small production runs. (The initial Holotype run is already sold out.) There were six variations: Yellow or black dial and brushed, bead-blasted or PVD black finish. James reviewed the yellow dial/PVD version, but that was sold out and Jason Lim of Halios sent me the yellow dial/brushed finish combo at my request. Ever since my regrettably-sold Seiko SKXA35 I've had a weakness for yellow dials, so I was quite excited to get another.
Dimensions, specifications and initial notes
- All of those are expanded and detailed below, but here's a quick listing: The 316L stainless steel case is 44mm wide by 16mm thick. 45mm lug-to-lug, 24mm straps. Hooded and drilled lug design.
- Supplied with bracelet, silicone strap, travel case and bracelet/strap tool.
- Water resistant to 300m.
- Miyota 8215 automatic mechanical movement.
- 120-click unidirectional ratcheting bezel. From the sound and feel, this is an actual ratchet/pawl as opposed to the Seiko click-ball design.
- Signed screwdown crown at four o'clock, inset into the case via a vertical cutout approximately 2mm in depth.
- Seiko Lumibrite lume on hands, indices and big bezel arrow.
- Black hour and second hands, orange minute hand.
- Ultra-understated logo and branding on the dial, simply "HOLOTYPE" at six o'clock and "HALIOS" at the very edge of the dial.
- Thick (I'd estimate 3mm) uncoated flat sapphire crystal.
- The bracelet has its own section below, and is quite spectacular. 24mm wide, non-tapering, easily 5 or 6mm thick, screwed links, solid with solid end pieces, fliplock with signed clasp and a fixed-length wetsuit extension. The hexagonal 3-piece links are faceted, brushed finish with all links fastened via screws.
(I've not opened the Holotype, so this picture is borrowed from this page)
The Miyota 8215 movement is a 21 jewel automatic with handwind, H/M/S with quick set date, unidirectional automatic winding (note the arrow on the rotor to indicate winding direction), undecorated and unadjusted, non-hacking, rated to -20 to +40 seconds per day. 11.5 ligne in size (26mm) by 5.67mm thick, hand sizes are 100/165/17. 21,600 vph, 45 hour power reserve, Parashock jewel protection. It's available from Otto Frei for $31 in single-piece quantities. The spec sheet (PDF) from Miyota is available here.
As noted, the movement is rated to -20/+40, and most Holotype reviews claim it does considerably better than that. After wearing it continuously for a couple of weeks, mine seems to be running fast, but I need to actually measure it to be sure. I'm also working on making a watch timer to measure performance, so I'll update this section when I have data.
I suspect that the choice of the 8215 is one of the keys to making the Holotype affordable. It's not as prestigious or as accurate as, say, an ETA 2824-2, but it's bulletproof, built to run for decades with no maintenance, easy to repair and very widely used. Another testament to the design is from China, where Sea-Gull used the 8200 series as the base for their successful line of movements. (Though they upgraded the winding to bidirectional by copying the Seiko Magic Lever system. Interestingly, the Miyota PDF claims that the unidirectional winding is more efficient given the energy distribution from wrist movements.) This review of another dive watch says that the Miyota 821A is "the new, nicely decorated version of the very dependable 8215" though I've not found any corroboration of this elsewhere.
In use, the movement winds fairly smoothly, but the 6mm crown feels too large for the thin winding stem. You can feel it flex as you use it, and caution is definitely warranted to avoid damage. Owners of Swiss watches may be at first surprised that the 8200 series lack a disengage position, so winding continues as you screw down the crown, which has a different feel than the ETA-style movements. The crown threads are easy to engage, with about three turns for full lock.
I am missing the hack seconds function, as determining accuracy and accurate setting are both more difficult without it.
The case of the Holotype is machined from a block of stainless steel, in a vertical-sided design that defies shirt cuffs and understatement. The squared-off hooded lugs shown above reduce the length of the watch, which makes it wearable to people with smaller wrists. You can also see the crown recess, drilled lugs, screwed links and springbars as well. Note the triple-crescent Halios logo on the crown, quite nice.
The screwdown caseback has an etched center section, serial number and basic information:
Here, you can see that the sides are a tiny bit concave; I'm not sure if that's on purpose or a milling imperfection:
That picture also shows the arched case above the hooded lugs, an unusual design touch.
Bezel, face and crystal
The bezel is slightly tapered and sits perhaps 0.2mm above the flat sapphire crystal. Minute markers are etched or engraved and nicely filled with black paint. A close-up shows the construction and a few rough edges:
Here's a shot of the dial and bezel for perspective. Note the double reflection from the uncoated sapphire crystal:
The dial itself is an orangeish yellow, flat finish, with painted Seiko Lumibrite on the markers. A close-up shows some minor alignment issues with lume and ink:
As noted above, the brand name and model name are quite understated.
The bezel is quite wonderful to use - the bezel triangle is a solid block of lume, which is very bright at night. The 120-click bezel action feels like that of a bank vault, solid and precise. The rough edges of the etched numerals are only visible at close inspection, while the black-on-steel color is quite readable at a glance. As with all deep-dial watches, parallax between the bezel and dial makes accurate elapsed time readings tricky to get right if you want to read at one-minute or better accuracy. The bezel notches are pretty grippy, though I have to apply a bit more force when it's wet; still quite usable with bare fingers or gloves.
The black-on-yellow hand/dial combination provides good contrast and readability in almost all lighting, though the orange minute hand is a bit less contrasty and thus less visible than I'd like. Personally, I'd prefer black for it as well, but even so it's very readable once you get used to it. Visibility at night is excellent, with lume brightness and longevity a close second to Seiko divers.
Bracelet and strap
This picture shows the six-sided link shape, unusually thick links and compact clasp, as well as the screwed links and bars. The clasp is signed and has one micro adjustment along with a wetsuit extension:
Clasp with pushbutton release and fliplock:
From the outside, the faceting and oyster-style proportions remind me of tank treads. It's a cool look.
This massive and solid bracelet is an excellent match for the weight of the watch itself, and is well-matched in build quality and visual design. The screwed links are unheard of at this price, and with the included tool make sizing the bracelet something you can easily do yourself at home; bravo! I find it to be comfortable enough that I've had no desire to fit the included silicone strap yet, even in 90 degree weather.
On the minor-negative side, the link profile between links is triangular, so combined with the close spacing it can sometimes pull a hair. Rare but worth noting. Generally extremely comfortable.
Build quality on the bracelet is first rate; no rattles, squeaks or ill-fitting bits to be found. It may well be the most impressive part of the whole watch.
Travel case and included extras
Halios made the smart decision to ship the Holotype in a reusable travel case instead of the usual presentation box that you immediately stick on a shelf:
In the hinged section, a screw/pin tool and deployment-clasp silicone band:
I immediately used the case when packing for my vacation, and am very pleased with it. A very thoughtful touch, as was the inclusion of silicone strap and required tool. They also have included (not pictured) two spare links and linkages for the bracelet.
Impressions and opinions overall
I've tried to separate objective facts from opinions, so this section is the latter.
I love this watch!
It's hard to explain the appeal rationally, given the objective facts, but somehow the gestalt of design and build is compelling as hell. This is just an awesome watch, and even though I've others with me it's been my sole wearer for weeks now. The cheerful yellow face, hefty weight on the wrist and gorgeous bracelet add up to a unique watch that's superb to wear. As you can see from the first picture, it even works with a dress shirt if you're willing to be bold.
It's eminently practical as a dive watch or daily wearer, built as it is of first-rate materials. Sapphire is what I prefer to see, as even my watches several years old are flawless with it. The brushed finish will ding up a bit, but to me that shows honest use and adds character. (You should see my Marinemaster after three years!)
The Halios blog is already starting to talk about the successor "BlueRing" and I can't wait to see one in person.
Many thanks to Jason Lim of Halios for the opportunity to review and purchase this watch. At $325 it's a superb value, period.
It's a keeper for sure. Highly recommended.