I first encountered Nick Harris of Watches By Nick on Instagram (@watches_by_nick), where he was posting pics of the modified Seikos he sells on his site. He sent me "The Traveler", a Seiko 5 modded with a magnifying crystal and military dial that was making its way around the Instagram watch nerd community. I encountered him again this past April at the Philadelphia Watch Get Together, and he told me about Project Orion. This was no mod project but an all new watch that he designed himself. Needless to say, I had to get my hands on one. He lent me a prototype for this review.
The Orion is a mid-sized dress diver rated for 100m water resistance. As you might expect from a Seiko modder, it houses the familiar Seiko NH35 movement, a reliable, hacking, hand winding, 24 jewel automatic with a 21.4k bph vibration rate and a power reserve of more than 40 hours.
It is is a stout little beast, only 38mm wide, but 49mm long, and nearly 13.6mm thick from its solid, screw down case back to its domed, blue anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. These proportions give the watch considerable presence while still maintaining a mid-sized appearance on all but the biggest wrists. I found it to be a perfect fit on my 6.5" wrist and easy to wear with a button cuff. The front and rear surfaces of the stainless steel case are brushed, while the bezel and everything else are mirror polished. When I say everything I mean everything, including the barrel between the lugs, which is a very nice touch.
The Orions's most striking feature is a broad, knurled crown with scalloped guards. The crown is almost 9mm wide but not particularly tall, so while it is surprisingly large, it does not overwhelm the case or poke out in an ungainly fashion. With so much surface area to grasp, operation is a breeze. An engraving of three circles in motion with comet-like tails decorates the head. I like the way Nick has incorporated the oversize crown and the almost pouty curve of the guards, but I am sure this will a polarizing feature.
The dial is black with applied markers and faceted lance-head hands. All are polished and filled with white luminescent material. Four darts linked with a crosshair mark 12, 3, 6, and 9. The rest are small rectangles. A printed minute track rings the outermost edge. At first glance, the markers seem tiny, but the length of the hands and crosshair design pull it all together. Nothing is undersized, merely discreet. At the top of the dial, The Orion brand name is printed in an attractive, serif typeface. The "100m/330ft" depth rating and "Automatic" are rendered in diminutive red or blue text over 6 o'clock. This spot of color is repeated in tiny spots behind the hour markers.
Because the markers are small, there is little surface area for the lume, but it is enough to do the trick. I liked the pinpoint look of those bright spots at night, and the thin line of white on the hands is just enough to maintain daylight visibility, thus avoiding the irritating tendency of polished hands to disappear against a dark dial.
The red model ships on a 20mm Bond stripe NATO and the blue model reviewed here comes on a two-piece black leather strap with white stitching on an 18mm deployant clasp. Both straps work well on the watch. The NATO plays up the tool aspect of the watch, while the leather highlights its dressier side. I'm not a great fan of deployants (am I the only one who finds them awkward?) and Nick had encouraged me to try different straps, so I swapped a Coach brown leather two-piece for the office and switched to an assortment of NATOs for the weekend. Although the Orion's lugs are long, I was pleased to discover that the spring bar perches are just close enough to the barrel prevent an unsightly gap between the strap and the body of the watch, but not so close that they preclude fitting heavier straps. They are also drilled through for easy removal.
Nick has done an excellent job on this watch, achieving a satisfying balance between tool watch heft and dress watch polish. His attention to detail resulted in a clean, balanced, but refreshingly different diver's watch. Personally, I am delighted that it is 38mm wide as small to mid-size watches are in short supply these days.
The Orion will sell for $500, but you can get in on a pre-order for just $400 through the end of June. Nick expects delivery late August or early September. Visit WatchesByNick.com for more information.
Pro: Modest size, unique case.
Con: Tuna can crown bound to stir strong opinions.