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TheTimeBum Orion Calamity


The Time Bum

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Nick Lessels of Orion Watches is not afraid to go his own way. Modifying Seikos whetted his appetite for horology, inspiring him to launch the Orion Project and to attend watchmaking school. Still a student, he has created the second Orion watch, the refined and decidedly upmarket Calamity. He sent me his blue prototype for review.

Now about that name... Most diving watches are named for seafarers (Submariner), heroic exploits (Sharkhunter), or even the briny depths themselves (Fifty Fathoms), but I am hard pressed to think of one named for disaster. Some would say it tempts fate to wear such a watch. I disagree. Like Nick, I scoff at superstition, but nonetheless, it takes a confident man to market a product called “Calamity.” I mean, there is a certain amount of self-deprecation in the name “The Time Bum” but it’s not like I called my blog “The Unreadable.” Lucky for Nick, the Calamity is anything but. Having worn the watch for a few days now, I can tell you that it is well thought, cleverly designed, and really a delight to wear.

I am always pleased to see a new watch in 40mm or smaller size. I have nothing against big, chunky divers, and I own several myself, but I am not a big guy, so anything over 42mm is oversized on my 6.5” wrist. As a result, my smaller watches tend to get more wrist time. Measuring 40mm wide and 48mm long, the Calamity is mid-sized by today’s standards. It has just the right footprint to sit neatly within the confines of my 6.5” wrist, but better still, Nick has made this watch remarkably thin, a mere 10.5mm thick, or 11.3mm if you measure from the exhibition window to the top of its doubled domed, anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal. Couple those dimensions with a gently curved caseback, turned down lugs, and top quality finishing that leaves no unpleasantly sharp edges, and you have one sleek, comfortable watch.

A thin case is a fairly easy trick with most quartz units, but mechanical movements tend to be thicker. Dive watches are typically on the fat side as well, partially for macho aesthetics but also because achieving a deep depth rating requires robust gaskets, and they have to go somewhere. It is possible to make a 200m diver that is less than 12mm thick, but it is not easy. NTH pulled it off in their Subs line using a 3.9mm thick Miyota 9015. Orion went with the even slimmer 3.6mm ETA 2892. A contemporary of the more common 2824, this 21 jewel, 28.8k bph movement features a 42-hour power reserve and Incabloc shock protection. In Elabore grade, it is regulated to within +/- 4 seconds per day.

While it worked on the original Orion 1, I was worried that the telltale oversized crown and pouty guards would be wildly out of place on the svelte Calamity. I was wrong. Nick managed to make it work. The knurled and signed crown is certainly noticeable, but still nicely integrated into the overall case design. Its broad, but not outrageously tall, and its polished head coordinates well with the elegant polished chamfers on the upper and lower edges that run the length of the case, bisecting the otherwise brushed surfaces, and making the slim profile appear even skinnier. I’m certain it will be a polarizing feature, but I appreciate its character.

Prototypes come to me in various stares of completion. Most are properly sorted and 99% representative of what will be in production. Often, they have all the right appearances but some of the functions are rough. This one is ready for primetime in every regard but the caseback (will be polished), movement decoration (will have Geneva stripes), and most notably, the bezel insert. Color, material, and layout are all there, but the insert's execution is still in the draft phase, so excuse the shallow engraving and thin paint. Nick tells me both will be remedied on the finished product.

That said, I like what I see. The bezel itself tapers to a narrow edge that is knurled like that of the crown. It does not afford much surface area for your fingertips, but with a little push from the top surface, I had no trouble moving it through its smooth, 120-click rotation. The insert is matte finished ceramic in a more muted blue tone than you might expect. Like the dial, it is a stately color with a bit of grey to it. Buyers may choose black or green models as well. All the markers are filled with lume, and they even in its prototype state, they cast a strong green glow.

The dial shares a layout similar to that of the Orion 1, with large polished and lume-filled markers that are dart shaped for the primaries and rectangular for the remainder. The post hands are long and are similarly finished. A needle-like second hand provides a pop of orange that is repeated in the hash marks behind each hour marker. I particularly like the way the second hand's lume extends far past the tip, which makes it far for legible than that of many other divers.

Dial text is clean and balanced, printed in a white, serif typeface except for the orange depth rating. It seems Nick decided to poke at superstition one more time with his choice of "666ft" instead of the more common 200m. (Hey, it worked for Bulova.) The blue Calamity has a handsome face.
My favorite touches? The orange drop-shadow under the white bezel triangle The Orion spinning stars logo at the top is attractive, although more than one person mistook it for Omega's.

The Calamity's 20mm brushed stainless steel bracelet fits snugly against the case with solid end links and terminates in a signed, push-button, flip-lock clasp. It seems Nick and I are nearly the same size so just a little fiddling at the micro adjustments provided a proper fit. Of course, there will be ample screwed links on hand for buyers with bigger wrists. I found the watch to be a joy to wear. It accompanied me to the office for several days then remained in service through the weekend as a sporty tool watch.

I think the Orion Calamity is a clear winner in all aspects save one, the price. The watch will retail for $1,495. Now, that is in no way out of line for a 200m watch with an ETA 2892, but it is quite a jump from the $450 Orion 1. Many microbrand buyers tend to be on the thrifty side and may balk at that figure. Those who are willing to take the plunge will be rewarded with a charming, top quality timepiece with a high-grade movement and a healthy dose of that distinctive Orion flair.

For more information or to register for pre-order alerts, visit OrionWatch.com. ⬩

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