Introduction: Facing the Wind
2019 marked the tenth anniversary of Vancouver, Canada-based Halios Watches, one of the OGs among microbrand (or, as some prefer, boutique brand) watches. That spring, at Windup Watch Fair San Francisco, the brand debuted its newest models, the Fairwind and the Universa, which it had been previewing online for a few months prior. The watch is a sequel of sorts to the extremely popular Seaforth, which in many ways set the bar for microbrand divers since its introduction in 2017.
That Time Mike and Kaz Saw The Fairwind Prototype at Wind Up in 2019
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Eighteen months later, amidst redesigns, manufacturing changes, and a good old-fashioned global pandemic, the Fairwind is finally here. Well, mostly here: bracelets are still pending, and this review will be amended when they arrive to include info on the bracelet, which promises to sport a clasp with tool-free microadjustment and, if the prototypes from Windup SF were any indication, will be a nice addition to this piece. After a long and tough development cycle, the name Fairwind feels almost ironic — but whether you caught the pre-order or are a prospective buyer, the good news is that this watch was absolutely worth the wait.
Pre-Order Experience, Packaging, and the Unboxing Experience: Simple Luxuries
Pre-orders for the Fairwind opened in May and were paused sometime around July in light of bracelet manufacturing delays. Though clearly not a trivial amount of time, five months is far from unheard of for a pre-order, especially this year due to COVID-related delays, and Jason Lim, the owner of Halios, sent timely updates on roughly a monthly basis.
It’s worth noting that Halios offers a no-questions-asked cancellation policy, and also that Jason’s updates were super transparent and packed not only with detailed info but also with some nice preview photos and an invitation to customers to reach out if their situation or desired watch had changed.
This is a level of service and respect for customers’ time and hard-earned cash that is best in class not only among microbrands but among the watch industry in general; not every brand takes the time to treat its customers like human beings (thinking about a certain popular fashion brand right now) and, especially in these times, Jason’s consideration for customers is absolutely noteworthy.
Halios’ packaging has always been on point: conscientious of waste materials and fuel usage, the Seaforth did away with big shipping boxes and instead came in a high-quality leather watch pouch with fairly minimal packaging. With the Fairwind, Halios is including a stamped leather wallet that has room for a watch and a few accessories, and can even store a passport.
A separate card explains the movement (either an ETA 2824 or Sellita SW 200-1, both of which have had their date positions removed) and how to operate the crown, a nice little add-on especially for first-time buyers. Adding to the premium vibe is a nice postcard featuring a photo that Jason took himself in the Vancouver area and a personalized thank-you note.
The rigid wallet holds the watch very securely and the suede interior keeps all the finishes nicely undisturbed. The only plastic on the packaging is the little sticker that covers the caseback. Halios doesn’t include a warranty card; instead, all the warranty info is stored electronically at Halios HQ to reduce further plastic use. Small details for sure, but a nice reminder to be conscientious about packing materials.
All told, the Fairwind unboxing experience is in keeping with Halios’ general ethos: super thoughtful, design-forward, and while never opulent, feels luxurious simply through attention to detail. One day, when travel is back on, I can definitely see myself using the Halios wallet to house my passport, an extra watch, and a couple accessories for a short trip.
Case: Flat Lugs, Sharp Edges, Natural Comfort
As modern divers go, the Fairwind is on the smaller side with a 39mm case diameter. The watch is 12.5mm thick, but 2.5mm of that thickness comes from the double domed box sapphire crystal.. Lug-to-lug, the watch comes in at 48mm thanks to a distinctive long, flat lug design. The lugs angle down quite sharply, and actually leave around a millimeter of clearance beneath the caseback when the watch is placed on a level surface.
The net effect is a shape that should hug most wrists very well but also doesn’t cut into my larger 7.75-inch wrist. The whole thing looks and feels like a vintage skin diver in the best possible way; the flat, brushed surfaces all around the watch give a sense of simple, utilitarian design and makes the watch feel extremely sleek and a little bit aggressive, like a 1980s Lamborghini Countach in dive watch form.
The flatness and sharp angles of the lugs means that they can’t really be drilled, which is a shame, but at least the design makes it obvious why, unlike so many other divers with big slab-sided lugs that still omit such a useful feature. The length of the lugs and the placement of the spring bar holes means that a lot of two-piece straps will leave a bit of a “strap gap”. This didn’t bug me at all, but for those who hate the look, a NATO or other one-piece strap would handily resolve the issue.
The Fairwind comes with one of three bezel varieties: sapphire 12-hour or timing bezel inserts that are lumed and colour matched to the dials, or a steel timing bezel with a big lume triangle at 12 o’clock. All three bezels feature carefully beveled coin edges that represent a distinct refinement over the Seaforth.
The unit I purchased came with a steel bezel, which is fairly rare among watches at this price point in that it’s an insert-free one piece design, omitting the lines that come with steel bezel inserts and adding to the flat feel of the watch. In a change from the Windup prototype, the lume triangle isn’t outlined; it’s just sort of there, sitting seamlessly level with the rest of the bezel.
The 60-click bidirectional ball bearing actions turn smoothly with very little horizontal play and absolutely no “wobble”. Hardcore divers might balk at the idea of a bidirectional timing bezel, but for a desk diver like me, it makes the bezel far more convenient to time every day tasks. The turning action is quite a nice experience; it’s a little bit “springy” as the bezel rolls over the ball bearings, but feels at least as nice as other bidirectional bezels I’ve tried on watches at twice the price.
Zooming in on the case details, there’s an abundance of polished beveling, not only along the coin edge of the bezel as mentioned but also on the lug edges and at various points along the case sides. The unguarded screw-down crown is polished and signed, and the crown is nicely sized to make operation very straightforward without being so large that it digs into the wrist. The crown is really nicely shaped, and the threading is very smooth. All in all, the Fairwind case feels like a triumph in balancing toughness, refinement, and comfort.
Dial and Hands: It’s Hip to be Square
The first time I looked at the Fairwind, I was really unsure about what I was looking at. The hour hand seemed too short – or was it the minute hand that was too long? The cardinal indices seemed to come too far into the dial, and the arrow on the seconds hand too prominent. I take it all back – this dial is amazing.
The angles of the polished steel frames around the rectangular indices play with the light, the very different lengths of the hands allow for great legibility without needing different hand shapes, and the little accent of colour on the seconds hand adds a playful but subtle touch to an otherwise pretty utilitarian-looking diver. The matte dial has a very subtle texture to it and a recessed ring on the dial adds subtle visual interest.
There are two colourways available: a dark blue dial with an orange-tipped seconds hand, and a gray dial with a minty green seconds hand. Personally, I’m absolutely in love with the gray and mint look; with the steel bezel, the whole thing just looks like a classic skin diver that then hits you with a flash of what is very much an “it” colour right now.
The quality of finishing on the dial and hands is very, very good. The hands all feature brushed top surfaces, but the hour and minute hands are polished on the sides, again leading to all sorts of interesting tricks of the light. The C3 Superluminova is very bright and looks pretty uniform throughout. I sometimes worry with these baton-shaped hands that the lume won’t be bright enough, but so far the lume on the Fairwind has been very strong on both the hands and indices.
The watch also holds up pretty well under macro; the lume application looks nice, the printing is sharp, and the finishing, while obviously not super high end, looks really solid. There were very few imperfections that I could detect under macro, and certainly the quality greatly exceeded my expectations at this price point. After about a week owning this watch and wearing it basically exclusively, I still catch myself just staring at the watch and waving it around in the light to see how the dial, hands, indices, and case pick up the light as the watch slowly swirls around.
Conclusion: Late, but Great
It’s really hard to grow up in the shadow of a legend. The Fairwind not only had to follow the incredibly popular Seaforth but also had to contend with myriad challenges that ended up delaying its release by a whole year.
Although the Fairwind pre-orders have been paused to allow for bracelets to ship, orders are likely to reopen later this year until supplies run out – and given the excellent value proposition here, that likely won’t take long. The Seaforth kind of set a standard against which a lot of microbrand divers have been measured over the past three years, and with the Fairwind, Halios seems to have set the bar again — and set it high.
There’s a lot of competition out there in the sub-$1000 diver market, some of which do one thing or another better than this Fairwind, but of all the ones I’ve tried out (and it’s been a lot!) the Fairwind really does stand out. Although the Fairwind has come too late to cap off Halios’ first decade, as the first model of decade two it’s making a statement: that even when almost everything that can go wrong does go wrong, an uncompromising commitment to good design and quality, a little chutzpah, and a lot of patience can still pay off to create something truly special – and in a year like this, that’s just about the highest praise anyone could possibly give to a watch.
Ever since his first watch, a talking Dick Tracy thing won in a local chicken impersonation contest at age five, Aggressive Timing Habits has been fascinated by all watches from Amphibias to Zeniths and the people who create and collect them. His contributions to TBWS represent a new outlet to discuss the miracle of drilled lugs and debate the virtues of balance bridges vs balance cocks, much to the relief of friends and loved ones.