What watch would a watch-modder make if a watch-modder could make watches? It’s an age old question that… well, not really, but it’s always exciting to see how and where new brands develop. A little over a year ago, we brought you the tale of the Standard Field Seiko by Watches by Nick for the now defunct Go and Behold store. This was our first time hearing about Nick Harris, a watch modder who focused on Seiko mods, many with elaborate case work and unique dial materials. Now Nick is launching his own brand: Orion. Currently in pre-sale for $400, going up to $500, the Seiko NH35 powered time piece is sport watch with modest dimensions and a dial that brings vintage to mind. Nick lent us a prototype to take for a spin, so let’s take a closer look.
Hands-On with the Orion 1 by Nick Harris
It’s great to see more watches coming out that are under 40mm. Soon, we wont be wishing for more, rather we’ll have a nice selection to choose from. Measuring 38 x 49 x 13.65mm, the modest diameter is complimented with long lugs and a some height. Together, the dimensions make for a watch that isn’t small at all. It’s quite substantial feeling and looking actually. The long lugs are thick with a subtle contour, and squared ends. They give the watch an aggressive stance and some additional mass that grants the watch a strong presence on the wrist. Similarly, the bezel is wide, giving you a lot of metal to look at.
With that said, it’s amazing how a little detail that is outside of the norm can make all the difference. For the Orion 1, it’s the crown. Measuring a whopping 9mm in diameter, it shouldn’t work on a 38mm case, but it does. It does really well. It’s wide, but flat with knurling that lines up with some equally enthusiastic crown guards. These are details that would look at home on a 44mm dive watch, yet somehow make sense here. They don’t come across as oversized, actually, just robust, playing off of the exaggerated lugs, and thick bezel. These details come together to make a really attractive and robust design.
The Orion 1 has a mix of brushed and polished finishing. On the tops of the lugs and crown guards there is radial brushing, which looks nice as it brings the eye around the case. The bezel is then polished for contrast. I might be a bit concerned with that being a scratch magnet, as this watch beckons to be worn aggressively. The case sides are also polished. I personally think the brushing could have continued on the sides as there is a bit too much shine for me as is. The lugs are drilled through, which I love to see, making changing straps easy. Please note that the hole location pictured here will change on the production model.
For the dial, Nick went with something sporty, but vintage, speaking to the likes of vintage Seamasters. It’s matte black with a primary index of applied markers. At 12, 3, 6 and 9 you have triangles pointing inwards, with the one at 12 being substantially larger. The other hours are then small rectangles. All of the markers have polished steel surrounds and lume filling. Around the outer edge of the dial is a minute/second index with white lines alternating in length per unit and a half.
Additionally, running from 12 to 6 and 3 to 9 are a set of white crosshairs. I’m a sucker for crosshair dials, so this worked for me immediately. They use the space well, making the entire dial feel active and considered, while not making things busy. They also reinforce the directional aspect of the arrow markers, pulling the eye in to the hands. Just below twelve, there is an Orion logo, which is inoffensive. Above 6 you then have to lines of text “Automatic” in white and “100m/330ft” in red. These are both very very small as to not be distracting. There are actually two version of the dial, red and blue, with the only difference (as far as I can tell) being the color of that tiny line of flavor text.
I like the hybrid dress/sport approach that is reminiscent of the gentleman’s sport watches of the mid 20th century, but I find myself wanting some numerals and perhaps a bit less bling from the markers. Perhaps outer index could have had small digits every 5 or 10 units, and the rectangular markers could have been printed. I’d also love to see a version of this watch that was a bit more of a classic field design, as the case would take very well to that concept.
Wearing the Orion 1 is a pleasure. It’s compact, looks appropriate on my wrist and is comfortable. The 38mm diameter is well balanced by the 49mm lug-to-lug, making it look modest, but not small. On my 7” wrist, it took up a proper amount of real estate, feeling proportional to my arm and hand. The bulkiness of the lugs, bezel and crown then give it a very solid and strong appearance. Aesthetically, it’s very nice as well. It uses common elements to make something that still manages to feel unique. Sporty, but not overly aggressive, with enough class to get by in the office as well. The watch will ship with a black faux-croc strap with white stitching, not pictured.
All in all, the Orion 1 is a cool watch and a great start for the new brand. I love the case design, especially the crown, as it wears well, looks cool and shows that under 40mm watches can still be tough and masculine. The dial is pleasantly different for a modern sport watch, making the Orion 1 versatile for day to day wear. I might have liked a little less mirror on the case and in the markers, but when actually wearing the watch outside, walking around, it looked and worked well. So, if you’re looking for a modestly sized sport watch that isn’t another pilot or diver, definitely check this out, especially while you can get it for the very fair price of $400.