On a recent episode of the Worn & Wound podcast, we answered a listener question about our dream watch movements. This is fertile ground for a bunch of watch nerds, and there are certainly a number of features the team here prizes in a movement, and given an unlimited budget for R&D and the technical know-how, I dare say we could come up with some pretty incredible hypothetical creations. But within the realm of the possible, something that we all enjoy and appreciate in a movement is thinness, and we opined specifically on micro-rotor movements, and how much of a game-changer such a movement would be for the microbrand scene if it were also affordable and reliable. Well, as if on cue, about a month after discussing this very topic on air, we became aware of a Kickstarter project to fund a new watch that includes not just a micro-rotor movement with a thin profile, but an aventurine dial. Let’s dig into the Sólás Starlight.
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Dial: Aventurine
- Dimensions: 38 x 9.8mm
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Water Resistance: 50 meters
- Crown: Push/pull
- Movement: Hangzhou 5000A
- Strap/bracelet: Leather
- Price: ~ $ 390 – $ 450 via Kickstarter
- Reference Number: n/a
- Expected Release: Kickstarter to launch in September/October
Micro-rotor movements have some clear advantages over traditional automatic movements with a full-sized rotor. First, because the smaller rotor can be placed in line with the gear train, these movements are often thinner than a caliber with a full rotor, which spins atop a movement across its entire surface area. A thinner movement, in theory, corresponds to a thinner and more comfortable watch. Secondly, there’s an aesthetic upside to a micro-rotor movement, as it puts the entire caliber on display. Full rotors are sometimes skeletonized to avoid this problem, but that can add considerable cost and presents an engineering challenge, as you lose precious weight from the rotor when you remove material from it. (The inverse of this problem presents itself on a micro-rotor movement, which is why many of these small rotors are cast in gold or another heavier metal.) A solid micro-rotor can potentially solve critical engineering issues, and the less important but still pressing aesthetic ones.
The Sólás Starlight seeks to bring features of watches that are typically prohibitively expensive for many into an affordable package. The headline here is definitely the Hangzhou 5000A movement. This caliber is made in China at scale, providing an affordable option for a brand like Sólás that is willing to experiment and has a very focused goal of bringing a particular feature set to market at a competitive price point.
The 5000A is thinner than a comparable full rotor movement from ETA or Sellita, which not only allows the Starlight to come in at just 9.8mm thick, but enables the use of an aventurine dial, which is thicker than a dial made from brass. Aventurine is a type of artisanal glass that is infused with copper, cobalt, and other metals to create a unique, shimmering finish that can sometimes resemble a starlit night sky. In person, an aventurine dial has an iridescent quality to it that is tough to capture in photographs. In watchmaking, aventurine dials, like those made of porcelain and enamel, are rare due to the high failure rate in their production and inherent fragility.
The Starlight project, launching soon on Kickstarter, is very much a labor of love for brand founder Diyu Wu, a watch lover based in Dublin, Ireland who simply set out to produce a watch with the features and aesthetics of the timepieces he most admires. That’s not unusual at all in the microbrand world, but Sólás stands apart because of the specific choices Diyu made to incorporate an unusual movement and niche dial material into his watch. The dial and movement combination here is certainly worthy of consideration and discussion, and the other elements of the Starlight’s design (faceted hands and applied hour markers, and a classic, compact size), seem likely to appeal to dress watch fans. At an expected retail price starting under $ 400, the Starlight could turn out to be a surprising and unique value, should the Kickstarter be fully funded. If nothing else, it’s a curiosity that ticks at least a few boxes that enthusiasts are typically forced to leave empty in their search for affordable, interesting new watches.