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It’s been over a year since I first reviewed the Helm Vanuatu. Back then, I made the point that whilst it was a great watch at a competitive price, it needed refining to make it a great watch. The machining needed tidying up primarily and for a watch that was $350 it should have been a little bit neater.

Moving forward over a year, Helm have now released their second generation Vanuatu. Not only does it have a number of improvements, it also boasts a more impressive $275 / ~£225 price tag.

This won’t be a full in-depth review, but rather a look at these refinements to see if the watch really has been improved.

A reminder of the specs:

The improvements

Firstly, there’s a new bezel mechanism with firmer ratcheting. This means much less wiggle and backwards play. It’s a lovely smooth action, which is secure and sticks to each of its points with no problem at all. The bezel teething itself has also been reworked and the insert is a lot more refined.

Helm has switched to Super-LumiNova for the lume on the Vanuatu. And it shows – it’s bright, charges quickly and last a while. They have also opted for filled rather than solid hands, which holds the lume better. The visual difference is that the hands now have a black border around them.

The second generation Vanuatu has a reworked caseback – the Helm logo is deep stamped in the centre, and is surrounded by various specifics deeply engraved. A distinct upgrade from the first version.

The crown is also reworked, with raised grip teeth which is very well machined indeed. If you compare it to the first gen, you can tell it has a lot more definition.

The final tweaks are associated with the straps. Firstly on the bracelet, the pins have been changed to screw type. A much better experience to be had when adjusting it. Thicker spring bars have also been used, but I personally think that’s a bit of a stretch in saying it’s an “improvement”. The bracelet links are better machined.

Final comments

I can whole-heartedly confirm that this is a step up from the first version of the Helm Vanuatu. The fact that it’s even cheaper too makes it all the most impressive.

A chunky, well-made and highly finished tool watch for $275 is a great price in my book. The impressive specs are all still there from the original: Seiko NH35 movement, 300m water resistance, clear sapphire crystal with good AR coating, and now top notch machining and finishing to make it admirable. Really, there’s nothing that can be said against it.


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View comments 4


  1. John C

    I purchased a second generation Vanuatu immediately upon release. To call it an impressive piece of goods would be an understatement – at $275, it’s an insane deal. Every aspect of this watch is impressively executed, and it shows like a watch costing thousands. I’ve worn mine hard for the past 7 months, and it looks and feels like it just came yesterday. It’s a total no-brainer at this price point. Buy it, laugh at your friends wearing overpriced Euro brands, then laugh some more.

  2. Mark

    Looks impressive and affordable. But still awaiting release of units for sale.

  3. Brian

    Not too expensive for a NH35?
    You can get an Invicta with NH35 for 200$ less.

  4. John C

    But it’s still an Invicta, regardless of price…

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