Sólás Starlight

Review by @watchmakersdaughter

To say that I’ve been hyped about the Sólás Starlight since March is an understatement. A micro-rotor movement in a watch under $1000? When I was asked to review the Starlight, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Upon receiving the watch, the first thing I did was flip it over to admire the business end. The Starlight does not disappoint. Instead of going with a typical Sellita, Seiko, or Miyota automatic, Sólás uses the Hangzhou 5000a, a 3.9mm thick micro-rotor movement with sub-seconds and date, running at 28,800bph, 42-hour power reserve, and a specified accuracy of +/- 20 seconds per day. The movement itself is fantastic to look at and the Genève stripe finishing is well done for the sub $500 Kickstarter price. The Sólás logo on the rotor is a nice, delicate touch. If you think a Seagull ST19 is a lovely movement to look at, you’re going to fall in love with the Sólás Starlight.

The attraction of using a micro-rotor movement over a traditional automatic is that it allows the watch to be thinner, as the rotor is contained within the thickness of the rest of the movement, rather than a piece that’s added to the exterior. Micro-rotors were first used by Universal Geneve in 1955 and notably used in the Buren-Hamilton-Heuer collaboration Caliber 11 movement in the 1960s and 70s, which powered the Heuer Monaco, Hamilton Intramatic, Hamilton Fontainebleau, among others. The use of a micro-rotor allowed those watches to be millimeters thinner than their contemporaries.

One of the major challenges of a micro-rotor is making sure that the friction around the rotor is low enough that the mainspring can still be wound, even with the lower mass. The Sólás Starlight definitely rose to that challenge. During the week I wore the watch, I rarely wound it but the watch was still ticking each morning when I went to put it on. While you will never be able to set this watch 100% accurately (the movement does not hack and there are no minute markers), the watch did not lose time in a noticeable way. Looking forward, I do have concerns about how well this watch can be serviced five or 10 years from now. The Hangzhou 5000a is not a common movement and parts are not readily available. While Sólás does have plans to set up a brand service center in Ireland, getting the Starlight serviced locally may present a significant challenge when it comes time to replace wear parts like the mainspring.

The case is a very wearable 38mm, 44mm lug to lug, and 9.8mm thick - almost thin enough that you’d think it was a manual movement. The case is extremely well finished with mirror polished surfaces throughout and curved lugs. The crown is well proportioned for easy winding and is capped with an engraved Sólás logo. Both the crystal and the display back are flat sapphire and show the dial and movement with perfect clarity. The thin bezel ensures that the Starlight has maximum wrist presence for its size on my 6.5” wrist. I did find the crystal to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but what flat sapphire crystal isn’t? The dial sparkles through the crystal regardless and catches your eye from any angle.

In choosing to use an aventurine dial to cap off the Starlight, Sólás chose to pursue not one, but two very difficult challenges within one watch. Adventurine is a very brittle material to work with and requires a backing plate, adding to the thickness of a watch. I found it readable in most lighting, but no lume means you’ll need to provide your own light source to read this watch in the dark. The markers and hands are well proportioned for the dial, and I like the touch of asymmetry the placement of the sub-seconds dial at 7 brings. The date window is my only quibble with the dial: the unpainted edge of the backing plate can reflect the date wheel printing, giving the date window an unfinished appearance.

When deliberating whether to back the Sólás Starlight (the Kickstarter launches October 15th), I don’t think the stock strap should influence the decision. The Horween leather is very pliable and wrapped around my wrist nicely, but the two-stitch style, unfinished edges, and unlined underside gave the strap a very rustic appearance. This is a sharp and unwelcome contrast with the extremely refined watch head. The strap was difficult to adjust within the included flip deployant clasp and the clasp damaged the leather while wearing the watch normally.

I gave the stock strap a day and a half before I switched it out for a Milanese mesh bracelet (19mm, as I didn’t have a 20mm mesh strap to hand). The shine of the mesh was a much better match for the polished case. The traditionally stitched black strap I tried later in the week (rules against pairing black with navy be damned) also looked fantastic. I think with the very dressy styling of the watch head, a traditionally styled strap is the best bet.

Sólás set out to do what hasn’t been done since about 1975: bring a micro-rotor to market at a sub-luxury price and they have 100% succeeded. Not only that, they did it with an aventurine dial. The Starlight is well constructed, great to wear, and absolutely unique in the crowded microbrand market place. This is a lot of watch for the money and those who chose to back the Kickstarter are unlikely to be disappointed with their choice. ⬩

Sólás Starlight

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