Hands-on with the Orion from Watches by Nick
Today, I’m writing about a very interesting watch, interesting not just because of its design or specs that we will discuss in more details later, but because of the guy who made it. Nick Harris, the founder of Watches by Nick is not just another watch enthusiast who started a new microbrand, he went a lot further, and not just metaphorically speaking, he moved from Philadelphia to Seattle to become a full-time student at the SAWTA watchmaking school. His journey started with an old Omega Constellation that he inherited from his great-grandfather that was not running properly. He started researching how to fix it and he ended up going all the way, jumping head-first into watchmaking.
Before the Orion, he was mainly doing Seiko mods that started as a hobby and with time, it turned into a business.
The overhead was pretty high, as the costs of watches and parts were retail (for the most part). I had some of my own parts manufactured, then I began looking into having more parts made for myself and it kinda got to the point where it was like “hey, why don’t I just go all out and design my own watch and have that manufactured.”
With the Orion, he is assembling parts that are manufactured for him, and as he learns new techniques at the school, he is trying to incorporate them in his watches, so I’m expecting to see more and more exciting decorations and finishings making their way into upcoming models of Watches by Nick. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the Orion: 1, his debut model.
The Orion: 1 is a limited edition of 300 pieces, 150 blue and 150 red, and for this review, he lent a red model, meaning that the 100m/330ft inscription is printed with red on the black dial at 6 o’clock. It was only after I received the watch that I noticed something that I never spotted before in the pictures of the Orion — the lugs are unusually long, giving a watch that has a diameter of only 38 mm a lug-to-tug length of 49 mm. Initially, it was strange but once I had it on my wrist, it all became clear — these lugs play an important role in the personality of the watch. They are also super practical when it comes to changing the strap, their length reduces the chance of scratching the watch. The top surface of the lugs is decorated with a circular brushed finish that creates a nice contrast with the polished side of the case and thick bezel which is also polished.
The dial is covered by a thick domed sapphire crystal that comes with a blue AR coating that depending on the angle will create a blue shine on the crystal. I’m very fond of the way Nick chose the indexes, a large arrowhead at 12 dominating the dial and it is completed by three smaller ones at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Between them, small baton indexes are placed to mark the hours, everything surrounded by a half-minute scale printed in white. The polished stainless steel indexes are all filled with lume, just as the dauphine hands — what a clever choice to combine the arrow shaped indexes with these hands! The contrast with the black dial is excellent, almost like a tool watch. I think the Orion:1 is, after all, a tool watch that was dressed up for a special event.
Another great feature of this watch is the crown. Many watches that have this style of crown protectors are actually quite hard to wind, well, not the Orion:1. This crown is huge and its knurled surface offers an excellent grip.
When it comes to the back of the and the buckle, they are rather spartan. There is no branding, engraving or any sort of special decoration that would add some eye-candy for the owner. Hopefully, in the future, Nick will consider doing something with this real-estate begging for attention.
I was wearing all the time the Orion in the past few weeks. It grew on me, because it’s so comfortable, because I fell in love with its dial and because it’s such a versatile timepiece! There are only a few left, and they are on sale for $450, and since you are on Nick’s website, check out his upcoming model, the Orion Field Standard that you can pre-order here, or take a look at his blog where he shares his knowledge about watches and watchmaking.
38mm case diameter not including crown, 41mm including crown
20mm lug width, 49mm lug tip to tip
9mm knurled and screw down crown
100-meter water resistance
Domed sapphire crystal with blue AR coating
316L steel case
NH35 automatic, hand winding, and hacking movement
Luminous dial indices and hands
1 Year warranty against manufacturing defects