When I saw the announcement for this watch I knew I had to review it. A cool indie diver from Helson with an embossed Jolly Roger on the dial? Awesome.

Done in the style of the vintage Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (the bezel especially), the Blackbeard is thoroughly modern in execution: ETA 2824 movement, water resistant to 500m, domed sapphire crystal with double inner anti-reflective coating, lumed acrylic bezel, and the piece de resistance, a SuperLuminova BGW9 dial with hands-down coolest lume dial ever:

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If that doesn’t make your inner child squeal with delight, than you probably won’t be as enamored as I am. Personally, what I like most about the watch is that the pirate theme is almost invisible. The embossed (or maybe printed) lume on the dial is invisible at normal distances:

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The matching 6.8mm crown:

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and caseback:

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but none of them are noticeable. The dial is super clean; it and the bezel have only hour markings, for a relaxed, casual feel. It makes for a versatile watch with a secret for the wearer. As I’ll show below, the result is amazingly versatile in appearance.

On the Isofrane-style rubber strap (included) it looks sporty:

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Switch to the 4mm mesh, and it looks bulletproof and masculine:

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By the way, the mesh is superb, with a unique seatbelt-style buckle:

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It also comes with a conventional flip-lock pushbutton buckle you can use instead. Very thoughtful.

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Helson also includes a very nice Zulu strap that’s quite comfortable:

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Also very unusual are the lugs. Instead of a threaded bar or standard spring bars, Helson uses a 1.75mm bar that threads into one of the lugs:

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Looks like this:

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Easy and fast to swap straps, and unusually strong.

Given the ease of changing straps and the 22mm lugs, I dug into my box of straps and found a couple that really change up the style. First off, a curved-end black calfskin from my Yes Inca. The ends don’t quite fit, but I think with calfskin you could effortlessly wear the Blackbeard with a suit and no one would notice.

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It’s a bit tall for cuffs at 16mm, but do-able.

The watch is medium size and weight, 110g bare, 155 with the mesh bracelet, about 130g on leather or rubber. 42.4mm by 16.5mm, 50.5mm lug-to-lug. Very wearable.

I also had an orange-red from my Prometheus Ocean Diver that really makes the watch pop. A bold, summer-y look that I quite like. Heck, it’s a pirate watch, right?

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The watch lists for $750, and Helson is famous for turnaround — I got this review loaner in 3 days flat. It arrives in a waterproof hard plastic cylinder:

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Inside is open-cell foam:

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Nice attention to detail. Even the most aggressive delivery won’t be a problem here.

Overall I really like this watch. It’s very well made, and the simple black/white/tan color scheme is adaptable to a wide range of circumstances. Legibility is first-rate, if a bit busy at night, and the hidden pirate theme is a delight.

Mine kept chronometer-grade time, with smooth winding, precise hand movement and overall feel of high quality. As you can see from the macro shots, the case finishing is quite good, and overall I’d rate the value as excellent. All Helson watches have a one year international warranty, and their reputation is excellent.

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It’s been swimming, down to the bottom of the local pool, cycling and even played volleyball. My four-year-old daughter calls it ‘the skull watch’ and thinks its super cool. What more could you ask?

My thanks to Peter Helson for the review loaner. Learn more or order yours at their product page.

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