Today’s review is a bit unusual in that it’s a watch no one had heard of before. I bought it on a whim from a sale site for $58, and think you just might like it yourself. Say hello to the Helix Typhoon, model HX380-04L04S. It’s an analog-digital quartz with surprisingly good specs:

•Domed sapphire crystal.
•Unidirectional 120-click diver’s bezel with lumed pip and two-color markings.
•Water resistant to 100m (330ft).
•SuperLuminova on hands, hour markers, and bezel pip.
•Full EL backlight for the dial (also illuminates the hands).
•Second digital timezone (in addition to the analog for a total of three timezones).
•10-hour stopwatch/chronograph.
•Countdown timer.
•Conventional and “agenda” or programmable alarm meaning you can set it for a specific date and time in the future. (Wedding anniversary reminder, for example.)
•Available in various other color combinations.
•Optional display of week-of-year.
•Digital display can be completely blanked for a clean appearance.
•Stainless steel case.
•Integral polyurethane band with fin-shaped buckle.
•Water-resistant to 100 meters, or 330 feet.
Please read on for the full review, and see why I’m calling this “the poor man’s Omega X-33″.
As cool as the X-33 is, the two strikes against it of the high price and the fact that it’s discontinued are enough to remove it from the wish list of many watch geeks. I’ve been keeping my eye out for someone else to catch up, and I have to say that with some caveats, the Helix Typhoon is perhaps the closest yet:

•Clean, readable analog hands: check.
•Curved LCD to utilize the screen area: check.
•Domed sapphire crystal: check.
•Clean dial: check (mostly).
Of course, there are some negatives: integral band in a garish white and blue, and the crown-twisting operation of modes that’s harder to use with gloves on. The alarm volume is normal also — nowhere near the 80dB of the Omega.

On the plus side, the functions are easy to navigate, the dial and hands are superbly readable, the domed sapphire crystal is an excellent touch, and the EL backlight works great — just push the crown. The use of the crown as function selector reduces the number of buttons to two which cleans up the appearance a bit as well.

While garish, the strap works well, and the buckle is an impressively machined chunk of solid steel. A nice touch.

The lume is quite good; plenty applied to the hands and glowing for a solid 6 to 8 hours.

One nit: the manual arrives on a mini-cdrom which most Apple laptops and desktops can’t use. You have to dig around a bit on the Helix site to find a PDF.

And of course there’s the bottom line. I found mine on a blowout deal for $58, but a bit of searching shows them around the $110 mark with a list price of $285. For a hundred bucks, a nice analog-digital with usable illumination, SuperLuminova, and sapphire?! That’s a steal.

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