Deartha in Éirinn: The stunning Sólás Starlight...
With microbrands cropping up left, right and centre nowadays, it is very difficult for a new kid on the block to do something to make themselves stand out. Whilst releasing anything other than a derivate dive-watch usually does the trick, the Irish team behind Sólás Watches decided to do something slightly different. What they have decided to do is utilise one of the most iconic movements of all time, the micro-rotor.
The micro-rotor was first introduced by Universal Geneve in 1950, and it is proved to be a design that changed the face of watchmaking. By means of an introduction lets first look at the rotor and its function in the timekeeping process. The 'traditional' rotor is what is called an oscillating rotor, which is a completely integral part of a self-winding movement. The rotor rotates by way of the movement of the wearer's wrist and provides the energy needed by the mainspring to make the movement tick. These rotors take up usually 50% of the diameter of the movement, and as a result, sit on top of the movement. This means that additional height is added to the movement and the overall case of the watch. This is where micro rotors come into their own.
A micro-rotor, as the name suggests, provides exactly the same function as a traditional rotor, but occupies significantly less space within the overall movement architecture. It sits flush with the other components of the movement, meaning that the watchmaker to design an overall much thinner movement and case. This allows micro rotors to offer the same functionality of a regular automatic, but with case thicknesses closer to manual wind pieces.
And this ingenious piece of movement design is exactly what Sólás have utilised in their first release, the Starlight. In the words of Diyu Wu, the brands' founder "I've tried to design the watch from the viewpoint of someone who understands watches, wears watches and knows why a particular feature is merely a "nice to have" or something important for an owners ergonomics."
The use of a micro-rotor certainly plays into this philosophy. Although most watch geeks will have heard of an automatic, some may not have heard of the micro-rotor system. Using a micro-rotor movement in this watch plays completely into the ethos of the brand. Designing watches for people who appreciate what has gone into the ergonomics of the watch is a brilliant way of coming up with a watch, and something that will certainly get the recognition from the people who know what the are talking about!
Whilst I appreciate I have taken A LOT of movement shots can you blame me?! Look at it...
The specific micro-rotor movement used here is the Hangzhou 5000A, which is a perfect clone of the ETA 2824. Whilst cost was the main driver for this choice of movement, the other benefit is the movement profile. The Seagull version is much thinner than the ETA, allowing for much more interesting dial materials to be used whilst still maintaining the proportions of a dress watch, and I think the movement choice is completely justified when you look at the dial that this watch uses.
The dial in question is made from a material called Aventurine. Just to start things off it is worth noting that Adventurine in watchmaking is a pretty rare occurrence. It really is a rarity compared to other dial materials. Some stand-outs that spring to mind who use Adventurine are Moser, Lange and Jacquet Droz, all of which are at the complete different end of the spectrum to Sólás. The main reason for this is that Adventurine is incredibly hard to machine, owing to its high fragility. The problem which exposes the fragility is that to fashion Adventurine into a watch dial it has to be cut incredibly thin, and then naturally needs holes drilling in it for hands, numerals etc. This makes it structurally weak and can lead to cracking. This means that it is an incredibly skilled and artisinal process, hence why we do not see it more often!
Very difficult to photograph... but god this dial is gorgeous!
However, and I hope you can all agree, the result when it is done well are stunning. I have been wearing this Sólás for a few weeks now and everytime I look at it I get lost in the dial, imagining myself looking out of a window of a spaceship. Yes I know I need to get out more... One thing that I love about micro-brands, and Sólás in particular, is the passion that shines through every facet of the watch.
"So it’s a beautiful material to work with, and a fragile one too – this is why I think aventurine is used in quite a few luxury Swiss watch brands (and why I am taking the risk to offer it to people at a price point where people generally have never seen heard of aventurine before and are in danger of thinking it looks like “cheap glitter”). It’s a true passion for me – so I’m trying to offer as much value as possible at a truly very low price so that people can afford to have something amazing"
Diyu 'Daniel' Wu, the man behind the brand...
The attention to detail and passion shines through to the strap and buckle. Whilst the watch ships on a standard suede/leather strap, there is also the option (if the stretch goal is reached) for the watch to come on a strap made of a material that I have never come across before in watches... Salmon skin! Whilst it is no doubt an unusual choice, as you will see from the photo below, the effect of the scales makes for a very cool finish!
Different, elegant and smart... what material is next for watch straps??
Where the buckle is concerned, whilst it would have been easy to supply the watch on a simple tang buckle. Whilst this would have been a perfectly acceptable, and affordable option, Diyu actually opted for something that further emphasises his passion and commitment to quality. What Diyu has implemented is a special type of deployant, which is based loosely on the buckles used by Omega on their straps. This form of deployant has been used as it reduces the wear on the leather strap as the buckle pin only needs to be set once, therefore it is not repeatedly inserted into the buckle hole which causes wear over time. Furthermore, using this type of strap maintains the comfort of a tang buckle as only a very small portion of the metal mechanism touches the wrist (see photo below) and instead, like the tang buckle your wrist will mostly be touching soft leather.
All in all, this watch is superb. The clear passion for watches shines through every facet of this watch. Even if the watch used a 'traditional' automatic or manual wind, this passion would still shine through from every other facet of the watch. The movement is stunning, the dial is mesmeric and the proportions mean that it is the perfect size for most wrist. Need I mention that this is also a sub £500 microbrand?? This thing bleeds value. Sólás, you have smashed this out of the park!
Editor & Co-Founder