Ronin Rotomatic Hands-On

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Ronin Watches  appeared on the  scene a year ago with their first model, the Ronin Pilot. Owner Phil started the brand after lusting after more expensive pilot watches. Finding them to be too pricey, he founded Ronin Watches with the motto “quality watches at prices that make sense.” His goal was to make watches people wanted out of quality materials yet keep the cost down so that they were affordable. So far the brand has offered two models that fit into that mission statement.

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The Ronin Pilot fit that philosophy very well: priced at $265 the watch had a hand-wind Asian movement, sapphire crystal, a well built case offered in 44m or 47mm, and good luminescence as well. Their follow-up model, also in the pilot’s watch style, was the Rotomatic. A smaller watch at 42mm with a simpler, cleaner design, the Rotomatic was limited to 60 pieces, each one hand inspected before delivery. Although now sold out, the Rotomatic is a solid enough piece to garner a further look.

Ronin Rotomatic Hands-On

Ronin_09_faceCase: Steel
Movement: Miyota 8215 21 jewel automatic movement
Dial: Black
Lume: Yes
Lens: Domed Sapphire
Strap: Leather NATO; Black textured leather
Water Res: 30M
Dimensions: 42mm x 49mm
Thickness: 13mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Price: Sold-Out ($315 when new)

Case

When designing the case of the Rotomatic, Ronin specifically wanted to create a smaller watch than their previous release, the Pilot. They chose a case size of 42mm for the Rotomatic, with a very reasonable lug-to-lug distance of 49mm. This puts the watch in a size category that will fit a multitude of wrist sizes. The bezel of the case has a polished finish and the rest is brushed. The overall finishing on the case is excellent throughout and has the look and feel of that of a much more expensive piece. The lack of crown guards gives the watch a very clean look and is of course reminiscent of other watches in this pilot style. The crown is easy to grip and set the time without any issue. The crown does not screw down which on a pilot watch, from a historical perspective, makes sense.

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Flipping the watch over reveals the screw down case back which is simply adorned. Rather than list out the watches various features the dial is simply engraved with the 浪 glyph. As stated in the introduction post for the Rotomatic, it is meant as a “direct nod to the masterless samurai of old.”

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Dial

The clear choice for the Rotomatic was simplicity, which is seen clearly in the dial. The dial style is still in the B-Uhr vein with the dual dot flanked triangle at 12 with stick markers on the minutes. The markers at the hour are still stick, but thicker and longer to denote their dual function. The dial text is nearly non-existent: only “ROTOMATIC” adorns the dial right above six o’clock. There is no brand name listed on the dial under 12 o’clock as is traditional (in fact, there is no brand name anywhere on the watch, just the logo glyph). This provides for a very sterile look, which some have called unbalanced with the lack of text at 12 balancing out the text at 6.

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The hands on the watch compliment the style with a set of sword hands. The hands are luminescent filled and outlined in black nearly matching the dial color. The seconds hand is a solid white. The lume on the hands is a blueish color and could be stronger, but still works. It does not appear it would be viewable throughout the night, however, but is enough to see within the first hour or two. Protecting the dial and hands is a slightly domed sapphire crystal, which is a great option at this price point.

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Straps and Wearability

The Ronin Rotomatic shipped with two straps, a textured black leather and a soft, leather NATO. Each strap lends to a very different look and feel for the watch. The black leather has a soft padding on the back and a very nice texture on the front of the strap. The strap really dresses up the watch and gives it the feel of costing much more than $315. The strap has black stitching to match the strap and a silver brushed buckle. It is a very comfortable strap and has enough holes to fit a wrist span of about 6.25″ to 7.5″.

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The NATO strap is soft and thick leather with brushed stainless steel hardware. The length of the strap will fit even the beefiest of wrists. The 42mm diameter and 49mm length of the Rotomatic case make it a very comfortable wear. The thin bezel gives the illusion of the watch wearing larger than it really is; ignoring that trick of the eye the Rotomatic is a joy to wear. NATO straps (whether nylon or leather) give it a more sporty look and a clean leather strap can dress it right up. The height is not restrictive to fitting under a shirt cuff either, making it a good choice for more formal dress choices as well.

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Movement

Inside the Rotomatic is the Miyota 8215 automatic movement. The 8215 is a well known movement that has been in production since 1977. It is a 21 jewel movement with a beat rate of 21,600 vph. The movement is an automatic and can also be hand wound. It does not “hack” however, which many consider to be the biggest flaw of the movement. The power reserve of the movement is approximately 42 hours. Presumably Ronin chose the 8215 over the more favorable 9015 to keep the cost of the watch down. The 8215 is a robust movement having been described as “bomb proof” by some and “built like a tank” by others. With the Rotomatic being in the pilot watch style the lack of a hacking seconds hand is disappointing, however also not a deal breaker.

Conclusion

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The Ronin Rotomatic is the second offering by the young brand and is an impressive piece. The fit and finish are excellent and on par with far more expensive watches. It has a legible dial, clean and simple look and a great pair of straps. While the luminescence could be better and some might not like the movement choice it is still a very solid and well done piece. While no longer available they have been popping up on the secondary market at sill reasonable prices. Ronin is working on their next release and while there has not been any information yet we here at worn&wound are very excited about what this upstart brand has to offer.

Images from this post:
Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.
jamesenloe jamesenloe

8 responses to “Ronin Rotomatic Hands-On”

  1. wow says:

    The design is pretty bland and for an Asian made watch this is pretty overpriced at $315 for a pedestrian Miyota 8215.

    Looks like any of hundreds of pilot designs I’ve seen in the past. Basically it looks like they didn’t bring anything new to the table.

    • Froggo says:

      I agree 100%. Though i have to admit that it does look absolutely gorgeous on the nato..

  2. Elijs Dima says:

    Huh. The dial feels somewhat… empty.
    Also – not entirely a fan of the stripped-down aesthetic here; a single painted dial with no applications or texturing or layering, basic handset and an extremely basic case, and all those parts designed after already-existing watch features, this kinda leaves me cold. I guess I just don’t see where the value is with this watch.

  3. Miles says:

    I love the sterile look, the dial is perfect for my taste. The price is high considering the components but with a limited run of 60 and, from what I’ve seen in forums, the enthusiasm of the people behind the brand, I think it’s worth more than its parts alone.

  4. Ozzy says:

    I managed to get my hands on one of the 60! I must say that it suits my aesthetics wonderfully. The people behind Ronin were a joy to deal with too, passionate, enthusiastic and friendly…that in itself swayed me, to know that genuine people are standing behind the product rocks. I’m a graphic designer by trade, so I really appreciate the clean lines and stripped down aesthetics. Sometimes.. less is more, and if you know about the brand, it’s in line with their philosophy. For me, it makes sense. If I wanted a busy dial and ‘look at me’ watch of the shouty variety, there’re already plenty of other options. Not everybody will take to this look, which is great as it sets me apart, albeit in a quiet, unassuming way. Just my 2cents.

  5. mike says:

    nothing esthetically new..basically paying for a sapphire crystal

  6. Никита says:

    Default, boring, pedestrian – I just can’t overcome this words in my head. However, I appreciate their efforts.

  7. Li Wang says:

    Ouch on these comments, but I can understand because this price point has become so great in recent years with lots of excellent options packing solid movements. I guess I’d spend a little more for a Laco or Steinhart for an affordable pilot’s watch.