BACKGROUND HELBERG is a label of H2O Watches of Germany, creators of the popular H2O Kalmar 3000m diver and ORCA Series models. The concept of the CH1 was a simple one; to resurrect a legend of the deep right off of the pages of history, a watch that made a name for itself back in1960, when it descended to the bottom of Marianas Trench
– that watch was the Rolex Deep Sea Special AKA DSS. Not only this, but the idea was to take what was essentially a museum piece, one that had never really been designed to be worn and make it modern in its build and wearable whilst preserving as much of its charm and character as possible, so that enthusiasts of today could enjoy it on their wrists.
PRESENTATION The CH1 came in a tough black plastic, water-tight case of type that Pelican make with Helberg branding on both top and bottom. Inside the high-density foam filled case was the HELBERG CH1 in steel, a leather strap with a HELBERG CNC Stainless steel buckle, a screwdriver and a warranty card. There was an inviting space for a 2nd CH1 in the case!
DIAL The CH1 has a glossy black dial that has been fitted with: gold sword hands and baton and circular hour markers with a triangular 12 hr marker- reflecting the look of the original DSS. The dial is incredibly clean with a simple gold ‘H’ where the Rolex crown would have been (just in-between the 12hr marker and the hands); below that, ‘HELBERG’, also in gold.
Right at the bottom of the dial ‘Swiss made’. Around the perimeter, a ring of fine minute markers just in reach of a long golden arrowhead sweep seconds hand. With the distortions caused by the 15mm spherical crystal the dial has a charming, dreamlike quality that gives the illusion of being pushed by thousands upon thousands of tons of seawater!
CASE The CH1 has a brushed 316L surgical grade Stainless steel; CuSn8 BRONZE is also available. The design closely follows the original’s with its elongated case that bulges out at the sides only to be swiftly flattened at its most central points. Then there’re the characteristic oversized shrouded lug plates; these are a little shorter than the original’s but still achieve its look. And finally the massive crown that juts out from the case side.
BEZEL Two 120- click bezel types are offered for the CH1: either a brushed divers style bezel or a highly polished minimalistic bezel with a single rounded luminous pip. Unfortunately there is no metal surround wrapping around the pip which makes the bezel look a little basic and unfinished. The luminous pip is of a good size though. The bezel is firmly secured to the case; it is a little ratchet-like in its movement but is nice and tight. The coin-edging is easy to get a grip of.
BACK The CH1’s closed case back is one of its most striking features. This extra thick solid steel case back was designed to accommodate a large removal tool. It is secured with triple o-rings. There is a large ‘H’ engraved in its center and its water-resistance and basic spec. around its perimeter. The bronze version has a Titanium case back, which is very comfortable on the wrist as it is a hypoallergenic material; I wish Ti had also been used for Ss version.
CROWN The CH1 has a larger oversized crown with a wide well pronounced fluting making it easy to grip and operate. It has been signed with the Helberg logo. The crown stem is rock solid and is sealed with double gaskets. Operation is flawless.
CRYSTAL The CH1 has an option for either a 15mm spherical Sapphire crystal or 7mm double domed Sapphire crystal. The spherical crystal creates a fair amount of distortion making the dial a little difficult to read from some angles. This was one of the characteristics of the DSS that I personally love. I would recommend choosing the double domed crystal if this is likely to bother you.
WR The CH1 uses the very latest gaskets made from Viton and Teflon. Its case back is sealed with triple o-rings allowing a water-resistance of 600 atmos. / 6000 meters / 19685 ft. if set up (as it is here) with the optional spherical Sapphire crystal and closed case back making it one of the deepest rated mechanical divers on the planet! This set up also allows for anti-magnetic resistance of 70.000A/m.
LUME The hands, dial and bezel pip of the CH1 have been applied with a good amount of Swiss BGW9 SuperLuminova. I would rate the lume at very good
MOVEMENT The CH1 is powered by a very well known workhorse, the Swiss made ETA 2824 self-winding mechanical movement with 25 jewels and a power reserve of 42hrs.
BRACELET The CH1 comes with an optional non tapering 22mm brushed Stainless steel bracelet with micro adjustments and a divers clasp with push-button sliding adjustment. I realize that plenty of folks favor a wide non-tapering bracelet as its more rugged looking. However a tapered bracelet helps to accentuate the size and shape of the case making it look a little more dramatic and quite a bit more elegant on the wrist.
BUILD From start to finish the HELBERG CH1 has been made use high-tech computer design tools and CNC machining for its components which are made using high quality materials such as surgical grade 316L Stainless steel, Sapphire crystal, Teflon and Viton gaskets and Swiss luminous material as well as its movement which is also Swiss made. The build quality is first class, no rough edges and everything fits together very nicely. The brushing on the case - in particular the case top is beautiful.
On the WRIST The CH1 measures 42mm in diameter with an overall length of 57mm. The thickness of the case with the spherical crystal and solid case back is a whopping 27.20mm – well what did you expect with 6000 meters of water-resistance?!
However, with the display case back and the double domed crystal this is reduced to 19.20mm or 16.80mm not taking into account the crystal’s height. This still allows for up to 3000 meters of water-resistance. There’s no denying it, the CH1 is a big bruiser of a watch; it sits high up on the wrist, but if worn loosely it can wear quite comfortably for a few hours.
VALUE The CH1 is priced 1290USD ex. VAT. If you opt for the spherical crystal it’s another 25USD and with the optional bracelet it’s another 180USD. The bracelet is quite expensive, but the cost of the watch is pretty fair considering its uniqueness and its incredible water-resistance.
CONSIDER Currently there isn’t anything quite like this on the market. Germano & Walter have a model called the 500m, which is also based on the DSS; it has a more artisan feel to it than this, but is priced at 2,800 euro for the basic model, which is three times the cost of the CH1. If you like deep divers, the undisputed king is still the CX 20,000feet which was tested to 7500m; it is also a chronograph so was even harder to seal. Also check out my reviews of the UTS 4000M, the Aquadive BS300 and the Ball DeepQUEST, all worthy contenders.
OVERAL / 5
This watch exudes charm and character. Yes, the design is a little polarizing (very) which is to be expected of such a special watch. The original DSS was designed as an engineering feat. It was never meant to be worn, but still it captured the hearts and minds of many a dive watch and deep sea enthusiast who dreamt of owning one.
It might sound a little fluffy, but HELBERG has realized that dream for many of us. They have taken the design and made it as workable and wearable as it can be. Additionally they have created a number of options that allow you to not only get the watch looking just how you want it, but also allowing it to be as practical or impractical as you like. It’s as about as close to the original DSS as you or I are ever going to get, a wonderful likeness that doesn’t disappoint!