The Sharkmaster 300 stands out from the rest of the Seamaster 300 homages with it’s terrific build quality, value and tool-watch inspired wrist presence. This watch is an affordable opportunity to experience one of Omega’s best watch designs.
Disclaimer: I purchased this watch and was not externally incentivized in any way to make this review. This review is in no way endorsed or sponsored by anybody. All opinions here are my own.
For a quick history lesson and glimpse into the beautiful world of the vintage Seamaster, please visit this website – it is one of the best resources to feed the vintage Seamaster 300 obsession.
In my opinion, the Omega Seamaster 300 (Ref: 165.024, and it’s close relatives the 166.034, 166.024) is one of Omega’s best dive watch designs. These watches were incredibly easy to read, had a military aesthetic and were beautifully symmetric. Over the last few months I’ve been obsessed with these watches and spent countless hours planning and scheming ways to acquire a watch close to the original. I say ‘close to the original’ because I’m not in a position to spend over $7000.00 for the real deal (a vintage watch) at this moment (Hodinkee’s shop: $7400.00). After many hours of hunting at the usual watering holes (OmegaForums, RolexForums, Watchuseek, Facebook, Instagram, etc) it was clear to me that the following watches were my only options if I wanted something that looked like the Seamaster 300 165.024 but didn’t cost an arm or a leg:
- WatchCo’s Omega Seamaster 300 Build ($2500+): This is probably the closest any of us will come to getting a new 165.024 today. These watches were (are?) being assembled using service parts, and WatchCo claim to produce identical watches to the good old SM300s, even pressure testing them to the 300m of water resistance. While I love the idea of rebuilding a new SM300 from scratch, I wasn’t about to pay over $3000.00 for a watch that was an Omega, but not really… an Omega.
- MKII Watches Project 300 ($1500+): Billy Yao has been known to make some terrific watches and his re-creation of the Seamaster 300 with his P300 watch is by far my favorite. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude towards watch building is commendable and I will likely get one of his watches one day, but the cost of perfection is usually a significant wait period with highly varying delivery periods. These watches will set you back about $2000.00 but are possibly the next best alternative to the WatchCo builds. He has spent the last 10 years working on this particular design and given his eye for design and manufacturing, I will safely assume that this watch is true to it’s design roots.
- Helson Sharkmaster 300 ($600+): The next option in terms of price and quality is the Helson Sharkmaster 300. If you spend enough time on the Diver’s Watch Facebook Group, you will hear plenty of great things about Helson. I’ve heard plenty of good things about their Sharkdiver lineup, but I didn’t really have a reason to buy a Helson… until now! I was, however, warned by multiple Helson owners about their incredibly rugged (and hefty) bracelet and clasp designs, but I’m all for watches that feel like blocks of metal. The last thing I want to worry about is damaging my watch during my daily activities.
- Borealis Estoril ($400+): The last option was the Borealis Estoril, which has a similar sized fanbase as the Helson. To be fully transparent, the main reason I avoided the Estoril is because of the font at 6 o’clock. The rest of the watch looked to be an accurate enough recreation of the SM300 but the font ruined it for me. I also searched for the DW special edition (with a different logo at 6 o’clock) of this watch but couldn’t find any when I was looking for it. If you can get past the awful choice of fonts, the Estoril is a great option as well.
Options From Omega
Unfortunately, Omega has diluted this design language over the last 5 decades and the current SM300 lineup looks nothing like the 165.024 family. However there are a few watches in recent Omega history that I believe still have some of this DNA in their design. The Seamaster 300 2264.50.00 on the left and the Planet Ocean 2200.50.00 on the right. On the 2264.50 the similarity is subtle and mostly in the dial and hands (hour & minute). The 2200.50 bears a stronger resemblance with the case shape, twisted lugs and the dial. Both of these watches can be found on the pre-owned market for under $2000.
After deciding that this was the watch I had to have, I scoured the internet to find one and the Helson website had none left. I looked at the usual suspects (WatchPatrol, WatchUSeek, r/WatchExchange, etc) but couldn’t find any available at the time. Disappointed, but not defeated, I took to Instagram and reached out to Helson asking them when the next batch of Sharkmaster watches would be available. They informed me that exactly one piece was still available from last year’s run and it was the model that I wanted – the 12 o’clock without a date. I immediately bought it, anticipating a long delay in getting it from Hong Kong to USA during this unfortunate COVID-19 situation. To my surprise, the watch shipped out the next morning and reached me in less than 36 hours. Hats off to the Helson team for working through this crisis and still delivering great customer service. I got this watch on April 4th.
- Design Accuracy: Helson has managed to nail the SM300 design. From the twisted and slightly curved lugs, to the dial markers and numerals – this watch is a great homage to the vintage SM300. Even the fonts are quite similar. The hands seem a bit more hefty than the original, which was more delicate looking. I won’t comment more about design elements that I love about this watch, because those complements should go to Omega instead.
- Build Quality & QC: The build quality on this watch is particularly impressive. Helson seems to be running with pretty tight tolerances in their manufacturing and assembly. There are some small flaws I’ve noticed on the watch, but I won’t hold this against them considering this is a $700 watch. However, I will discuss them in the next section.
- Rugged Case: It’s no secret that I love a good tool watch. I don’t want a watch on my wrist that I need to be worried about at any point of my day. Rolex is able to deliver a perfect tool watch with a sleek and lightweight Explorer-I. Helson, however, has decided to go for a hefty and bulky kind of ruggedness. I don’t have a problem with this one bit and this watch feels a lot like a (heavier) G-Shock and that’s awesome!
- Bracelet: While a lot of smaller brands are able to bring amazing design ideas to their sub-$1000 watches, almost all of them fail when it comes to bracelet design and manufacturing. Even well established brands like Seiko are a constant source of bracelet disappointment. My Yema Navygraf was also a let-down in terms of bracelet and clasp design. I will state that I may be somewhat spoiled (and biased) after getting my Rolex Submariner. The Oyster bracelet has made me very critical of all other metal bracelets. But from the moment you pick the Helson out of it’s box, it is clear that this bracelet means business. The links are very well made, and have plenty of articulation (hey Yema, I’m looking at you). The best part of this is the monster that is the clasp. This clasp is built like a tank and delivers plenty of features – a quick adjustment at the push of a button, pin-based micro-adjustments and a few half links on either side. All this has allowed me to get a perfect fit on my wrist and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying wearing this bracelet, even if it means having to deal with a few extra grams of weight. Helson also provides a Tropic-style strap along with the watch, but I don’t expect I’ll be taking this bracelet off anytime soon.
- Lume: The lume is great. Not much more else to say, really. I have absolutely no complaints about this.
- Brand and Packaging: Helson was great to deal with during the purchase of this watch and were very responsive. The watch also ships in a very nice Italian leather watch roll that can support up-to 4 watches. And as mentioned above, an additional rubber strap is also provided.
Let’s talk about some of the things that could bother some people about this watch:
- Bracelet: I think this is the biggest point of contention. If you’re looking for a sleek and lightweight wrist experience, the bracelet is not for you. You could put this watch on a different bracelet or put it on a NATO strap. I’ve seen this watch on a NATO strap and it does look nice, but you must completely forget about the bracelet that comes with it.
- Bezel: This is a very small issue I have with the design, but the minute markers on the bezel are a little too close to the outer edge of the bezel. MKII’s Project 300 does a better job at this by moving the minute markers closer to the center of the bezel.
- Crown: The crown is unpolished, but sits right between two of the heavily polished surfaces leading to the lugs. This doesn’t bother me but this could bother some purists.
- Pricing: If you are just looking for a dive watch for around $750, this might not be my first recommendation to you. There’s plenty of other great value for money watches in this price range that might meet your requirements better (Baltic Aquascaphe, Yema Navygraf, etc). This watch, however, is a terrific buy for someone looking for a Seamaster 300 homage. This is arguably the best option available under $1500. If it’s any re-assurance, I did put my money where my mouth is and purchased this watch instead of the other options.
Please don’t treat the following measurements as absolute indications of this watch’s performance. I used an iPhone app to track the watch’s performance and this can introduce plenty of error into the measurements. Let this merely serve as an approximation of the watch’s performance. From the 9 day graph below it is clear that this watch is keeping great time, even if these measurements are off by +/- 1spd (app error). I’m very impressed with how well tuned this ETA 2824-2 movement is. Another point to the Helson team for making sure it is well regulated straight out of the box.
The Helson Sharkmaster 300 is a beautiful recreation of the iconic SM300 design from Omega. Helson manages to bring their own build characteristics into this watch by delivering a hefty and rugged case and bracelet, while maintaining all the important aesthetic details of the original SM300. If you have an unlimited amount of money, I recommend you ignore this entire review and proceed to purchase either a vintage Seamaster 300, or if you’re looking for something newer, a WatchCo build. The MKII Project 300 is a good option if you’re after perfectionism and want a more artisanal purchase experience.
But (a) if you love the Seamaster 300 and don’t want to spend a lot of money, and (b) want something that can add to your collection, not as a fancy piece of tribute art but as a solid working watch, this is the watch to buy.
Buy it, wear it and experience it.