Orion Watches Field Standard Review
By: Michael Penate
Good watch friends are hard to come by—we’ve discussed this in detail on the podcast. But when I had a chance to sit down with Nick Harris, the sole proprietor of Orion Watches, it was an opportunity to connect with a genuine individual set on creating some of the best watches you probably haven’t heard of yet. Hunched over a table at a crowded coffee shop in north Seattle, it was immediately apparent just how passionate Nick was when he revealed his latest creation. It was the Orion Watches Field Standard—a piece that I had been excited about for some time and I was dying to get my hands on it. Needless to say, I was totally caught off guard from the moment I strapped it onto my wrist.
Since its earliest iteration back in the “Watches by Nick” days, the Field Standard has presented itself as the field watch that addresses many of the problems that plague similar watches on the market. From thin crystals to skimpy crowns, Nick Harris aimed to correct these deficiencies while creating a timepiece that also represents his journey as a growing watchmaker. And since his move out to the Pacific Northwest less than a year ago, that’s exactly what he has been focusing on as he makes his way through watchmaking school in the hopes of bringing horology back to the United States.
The case is perhaps the first element you’d find surprising as it is one of the largest wearing 38 mm designs you’ll ever experience. A real point of pride for the Field Standard, it’s machined out of 316L stainless steel and also measures 49 mm from lug to lug. That’s very wearable in my book and when combined with the integrated strap design (we’ll get into that later) it results in a very fluid look that isn’t typically found in other field watches. It’s my greatest fear when seeing prominent lugs like this but Nick designed the Field Standard so that it comfortably fits the contour of your wrist. As a result, I also found that the watch fit in perfectly when paired with a dress shirt at the office.
Aside from the array of brushed and polished surfaces, which contributes to the watch’s versatility, Nick also incorporated drilled lugs for easy strap changes. As someone that hates fiddling with tools, it’s a real plus. The 9 mm knurled and signed screw-down crown is another standout feature even if it appears slightly over-engineered. That’s fine with me and it delivered smooth, comfortable control over winding and setting. Furthermore, the Orion Field Standard provides 100 meters of water resistance and I’d be totally confident in testing that claim considering how serious Nick is about standing behind that feature.
Beating inside the Orion Field Standard is the NH35 automatic, handwinding, and hacking movement. It’s an unbranded SII variant of Seiko’s 4R series and offers reliable 21,600 bph operation, 41 hours of power reserve, Diashock protection, and bi-directional winding. This was my first time putting a watch with the NH35 through its paces and I have to say, it operated beautifully. I found the performance comparable with the 4R36 in my Seiko SRP777 and that’s exactly what I want out of a watch that might follow me out of the office and into the trails out here in Washington. Additionally, the movement supports a simple, easy-to-set date function that’s seamlessly integrated into the well-proportioned dial.
And the dial is where this watch really shines. Drawing a fair bit of inspiration from the Benrus Mil-W-3818B watches of the 1960s, the Field Standard provides a legible, high-contrast look that contributes to its overall utility. It is however, considerably more refined than its Vietnam Era inspirational predecessors. Shimmering, wave cut applied indices line the dial and reflect light playfully together with the thick (and I mean really thick) anti-reflective domed sapphire crystal. As “dressy” as that may sound however, the dial is still undeniably sporty.
Additionally, the dial has internal 12 and 24 hour scales and a set of bold cathedral hands. There are generous applications of C3 SuperLuminova found throughout the hands as well as the Arabics and I found it to be adequate in most low-light situations. The date window at 3 o’clock also features a white border and I found it unobtrusive enough that it didn’t throw the dial off balance. Granted, I think I may have preferred the absence of a date window but I understand that it’s a feature many people actually utilize.
The Orion Field Standard is available with either a black or brown croc patterned leather strap. It’s fully integrated with the lugs and something I’ve never really experienced as far as leather straps go. As mentioned previously, this really contributes to the wearability even if I’m not usually a fan of leather straps in general. The pattern was clean enough that it looked fine in a business casual setting and worked just as well with a t-shirt and jeans. As nice as it is, I can’t help but wonder how cool it would look on a sailcloth strap. I feel like it would be the perfect match for the Field Standard’s sporty character.
I think Nick Harris accomplished exactly what he set out to do here. The Field Standard is what I’d consider a hot rodded field watch and refinements like the thick crystal, beefy crown, and integrated strap design elevate the watch above the usual suspects in the same price range. While there are certainly a ton of “field” watches from more recognizable brands dotting the Amazon pages, I think the Orion offers more of a highly-engineered approach and better value overall. I think it goes without saying—I was slightly bummed when I had to give it back.
After we parted ways when we met up initially, Nick said something that stuck with me and really cemented the idea that his brand represents. “We can change the world with watches,” he said. Sure, it’s a bold statement but it’s the kind of passion that’s built right into the Field Standard and it really shows. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for Nick and the Orion brand. We need more passionate individuals like him producing and sharing this kind of quality in the watchmaking world. Currently, the Field Standard can be purchased for $450 and you can learn more by visiting orionwatches.org.
Michael Peñate is an American writer, photographer, and podcaster based in Seattle, Washington. His work typically focuses on the passage of time and the tools we use to connect with that very journey. From aviation to music and travel, his interests span a multitude of disciplines that often intersect with the world of watches – and the obsessive culture behind collecting them.