Nick Harris Blends Luxe & Legibility in This Outstanding Pilot’s Watch
Orion Watches is a rare brand in today’s world. Unlike many microbrand watches, Orion’s are special in that they are a product of their maker and, as such, they carry their own personality.
The Hellcat is the fifth unique model to come from Nick Harris, an American watchmaker and outspoken evangelist for the elevation of authenticity in the watchmaking industry. Like its siblings – the Calamity and Slyph – the Hellcat is a thoughtful take on the intent and purpose behind its chosen style. A pilot’s watch needs to be legible first and foremost, and the Hellcat delivers here.
The Hellcat has a 39mm diameter and is 47mm lug to lug. The brushed and polished steel case, which is curved and contoured to maximize on-wrist comfort, is just 10.5mm thick, and features a screw-down crown and 100m of water resistance.
For someone like me, with 6.75″ wrists, the Hellcat is ideally sized and well specc’d. And, at $600, it’s very well priced.
Orion Watches Hellcat Specifications
- Model Number: Hellcat
- MSRP: $600
- Case Dimensions: 39 mm
- Alternate Models: Two models
- Movement: Automatic, Miyota 9015
- Complications: Date display
- Power Reserve: Est. 42 hours
- Water Resistance: 100 m / 330 ft
- Crystal Material: Sapphire
Beautiful in Burgundy
There are so many things about the Hellcat that look familiar, but upon closer inspection, there’s something novel about each of them. A twist or a touch has been given to everywhere your eye may wander, and even in places where it won’t.
Let’s start with the dial. The Hellcat comes with two choices: a rich sunburst burgundy, shown throughout this review, or a textured deep matte black.
While both are good looking, the burgundy is much more eye-catching and engaging to behold. The excellent color choices are paired with attractive (and bespoke for this watch) Arabic numerals and aptly-sized and lume-filled hands. The combination works well and results in a great-looking timepiece that is easy to read.
You must be a little… particular… to be a watchmaker, and that trait is on display in all ways. The font used for the Arabic numerals was created specifically for the watch, for example. The hour markers are easy to read in all light settings, in part because they are perfectly sized and because they are filled with BGW9 lume.
The hands, too, are given a fair treatment of lume. The minute hand is broken into two sections midway through, and like the second’s hand, it finishes with its tip precisely flush with the edge of the inner accent ring.
Notice the quality of the finishing on the hands. The edges are free of blemishes, both in their shape and fill. The same is true for the hour markers and the fill on the printing and inner ring, the latter of which has been through several iterations in order to ensure the perfect thickness so that it catch just the right amount of light.
The Case Has Been Thoughtfully Designed, Too
While hard to properly show in photos, the two-tone brushed and polished case has been given careful consideration and I’m not just speaking to its finishing.
The Hellcat, like the Calamity before it, has had special attention paid to the ergonomics of the case. While it’s true that all good designers carefully design their case, few focus on how the case curves and tend to focus on its shape. These two things aren’t the same thing.
As you can see from the photo above, the case and lugs are ergonomically contoured, as Orion says it, to maximize comfort on the wrist. The case tapers slightly, and the caseback is curved to gently cup your wrist.
The case back shows Orion Watches’ namesake constellation but is otherwise devoid of life – kind of like space. Honestly, whether or not the slight curve makes a tangible difference in long-term comfort is something that is hard to measure and is subjective anyway, but the contouring certainly doesn’t detract.
The case, along with the Hellcat’s plush handmade strap, contributes to the Hellcat’s excellent overall comfort on the wrist. I am more than happy to wear it for hours at a time.
Three strap sizes available
Your Hellcat’s strap is handmade and can be had in your choice of three sizes, providing an ideal fit for different wrists. This means that, as a card-carrying member of the wimpy wristed society, I am finally able to get a watch that isn’t oversized and has a strap that doesn’t also come with a bunch of excess material that just gets in the way. Booya.
The strap itself is very comfortable and darn good looking. It isn’t quick release, though, so you’ll want to make sure you have your springbar tool handy if you ever want to switch it out.
Powered by a Miyota 9015 Automatic
The Miyota 9015 is a common and capable Japanese-manufactured automatic movement. It has a 42-hour power reserve, beats at 28,800 bph, hacks, hand-winds, and is accurate to -10/+30 seconds per day. It is very common among microbrand watches and is often seen as a stretch goal in crowdfunding campaigns, as while the 9015 may be considered a workhorse movement, it isn’t bottom rung and is generally a step-above the entry-level autos found in most microbrand watches at this price point.
Its use in the Hellcat is price appropriate and is another positive for the watch. It’s a good movement.
Oh hell yes!
As I mentioned when I reviewed the Orion 1 in 2017, Nick Harris is keen on bringing watchmaking back to America.
While many brands make such claims, you can read Nick’s journey on the Orion watches blog and see the shift from watches as an interest, to watch modding as a hobby, to a calling that then became a career.
It’s almost romantic, in a way.
The outcome of that calling is an excellent watch. One that is perfectly styled and meets its goal of being an easy to read pilot’s watch that offers its owner something special, and gorgeous, to wear. The Hellcat is all that, and more.
I love that watches like this still exist, and that people like Nick are continuing to bring them to market. In an era of fake news, fake reviews, fake views, and fake everything else… it’s darn refreshing to wear something so authentic.
This is a helluva good watch.
Orion Hellcat Photo Gallery
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