Field Report: The Hesili Original Series One
Estimated reading time: 18 minutes
Let me start by saying that I really like dress watches. Most of my watches, however, fall more squarely into the field or dive category, so my collection isn't really deep on the dress side. That's because dress watches aren't as readily available in the indie/micro world - at least, not on the low-to-mid range price tier. Sure, you might be able to find some independent houses working with local dealers like Topper Jewelers here in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are an AD for Moser, Parmigiani Fleurier, and Nomos Glashütte, but that's usually on the high-end. Microbrands making dress watches are rare enough that I can only think of maybe five off the top of my head and none of them would be available in a local store.
So, when I came across Hesili at the Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco back in April of this year, after a couple of days of walking back and forth in front of the Hesili booth, I finally succumbed and bought one.
The Hesili booth at the Windup Watch Fair was a simple, understated affair, much like the watches themselves. I gave it a quick glance, then walked right by.
Five minutes later, I walked by the booth again, this time a bit slowly.
On the third pass, I finally stopped and took some pictures.
As I was doing so, another gentleman stopped by the booth to talk to the nice fella there. He told the guy there that he had an OSO (Original Series One) and that he'd put it on his timegrapher and come up with a reading of just +1 s/d.
I had to raise my eyebrows. "No way," I told the visitor.
He nodded furiously, a big grin on his face.
"I thought it was an error too!" he said. "So I did the reading three times. Each time, right at about a second."
It's just a fluke, I told myself. No way is every unit that accurate. Plus, that's only in one position, probably.
Looking at the watch, though, I had to admit: it was a fine-looking timepiece. Slim and well-built by all indications, the Hesili had a vintage charm melded with excellent contemporary fit-and-finish. The combinations of brushed and polished surfaces gave it just enough bling to stand out, but not so much that it looked like it was trying too hard.
I listened in on another conversation where the gent behind the booth went on to talk to another visitor about the relationship the founders of Hesili have with Dan Carpenter of Carpenter Watches. Apparently, Dan Carpenter assisted with the creation of the Original Series One. While I can see some elements of Carpenter's Brooklyn Gent series in the OSO, the Hesili reminds me more of the Tissot Gentleman I owned for a while more than anything else – and that's a compliment, since I loved that Tissot.
I took some more pictures, but didn't try one on just then. There were other booths to go visit, more watches to go see.
The next day at the fair (yes, I went all three days — didn't you?), I somehow found myself back at the Hesili booth, and this time, I tried one on. I put a blue vegetable-tanned leather strap onto the Champagne dial and immediately thought, Well damnit. Now I've gone and done it.
Oh the wrist, the OSO felt like I'd been wearing it regularly for ages. It wasn't the least bit uncomfortable or awkward, looked perfectly sized for my 7-inch wrist, and had the kind of wrist presence a well-chosen dress watch should have: quiet, simple, understated, and yet with lots of depth.
I was hooked. I ordered one on the spot.
It took a couple of weeks after the fair for the Hesili to arrive. While I wasn't pining for it, it did often pop into my head and make me go see if I'd had an update or tracking info in my inbox. Fedex dropped the package off at my door on a Tuesday afternoon and I wasted no time opening it up.
Side note: This is why I'll likely never do an unboxing. I'm doo dang impatient.
The box it comes in is a cube about 5-6 inches on the side and is protected by a cardboard sleeve. Nice presentation, nothing to write home about, but that's okay; not every watch needs to come in distinctive packaging. I pulled it out, swapped the gray pebbled leather strap for the blue vegetable-tanned one I'd ordered along with the watch, set the time, and was off to the office.
All day long, I kept glancing at my wrist, rotating it so the light could catch those PVD-blued hands or the polished indices just right. That, or I'd bring it closer to my aging eyes so I could appreciate the typography on the dial. Not every watchmaker delivers on typography, but I think the choice of this serif font for the word mark is perfect. It truly evokes the feel of New York.
Look and Feel of the OSO
One of three things can happen to me once the first week or two of owning a new watch has gone by.
The honeymoon is over and I put the watch into my box, pulling it out when I wear something it will match.
The honeymoon is NOT over and I'm still obsessing over the details or the look or the feel of the piece.
It goes into the winder and becomes a "regular" on my wrist.
In the case of the OSO, it took a while before the honeymoon phase was over. Once it was, it went into the winder and is still on rotation constantly, bumping more expensive and complicated watches regularly. Some of this is probably due to the fact that the OSO is my only "true" dress watch, but a lot of times, I have nothing dressy going on but want it on my wrist anyway. As a result, the OSO gets a lot of wrist time, whether it's with jeans and my cowboy boots or slacks, a button-down, and a blazer.
That said, let's take a look at how the OSO looks and feels in the metal.
Size and Shape
At a hair over 40 mm, the OSO wears true to its size on my 7-inch wrist. if anything, it perhaps wears a millimeter or so smaller thanks to the 3 mm-thick polished stainless steel bezel around the cream-colored dial that Hesili calls "Champagne".
The lug-to-lug distance is a healthy 48.8 mm according to my calipers, which is still pretty good for my 7-inch wrist. If you have a wrist smaller than 5.5 inches, you may see some overhang due to the lugs, which do curve down a bit to reduce that distance, but still add the aforementioned 8.8 mm to the case width.
The caseback is a screwed in metal caseback, which is a pity. I'm of the opinion that even a simple NH35 movement is worth looking at, so I would have preferred an exhibition caseback. Still, it's not the end of the world as the screw-in caseback is nicely engraved with the Hesili wordmark surrounded by an ornate pattern reminiscent of fine filigree work. It's nice and flat and sits well on my wrist. Again, if you're sporting a wrist smaller than, say, 5.5 inches, you may find this watch slightly large for your taste.
As is befitting a dress watch, the OSO comes in right at 10.5mm thickness, which includes the slightly domed sapphire crystal. This has proven to be a joy to have on. I don't mind chonky watches from time to time, but I have to be in the mood to rock my 15mm+ thick Spinnaker, for example. The OSO, however, slips on no matter my mood. It's very easy to wear with even fitted sleeves and, unlike some of my dive watches, doesn't catch on the inside of my puffer jacket when I pull back the sleeve for a glance at the hands.
Handset and Dial
Speaking of the hands, those are a real delight. PVD-blued and leaf-shaped in an angular fashion, they change colors and shades depending on how you position them. In the shot above, they are a dark navy.
Change that a bit, and they give off the color of a deep blue twilight sky. The hour and minute hands are faceted, so they can sometimes even given off totally different shades in a heavy side-light.
Other details behave similarly. The polished and faceted indices applied at the cardinal points reflect light at different angles too. They aren't garish by any measure of the word; rather, they are — and I may overuse these words — quite understated and subtle.
The same goes for the polished applied Arabic numerals at the non-cardinal points. In fact, I had a bit of a hard time getting the indices to play nice with me during a recent photo session. It was like trying to photograph a model who'd just about had enough of my nonsense.
I did manage to capture how they can reflect the light softly, but don't be fooled. Get them in the right light and they will sparkle plenty.
The cream dial also sports a railroad track along the circumference of the dial, with painted Arabic numerals at the cardinal points to denote the 15, 30, 45, and 60-minute marks. They appear to have stayed consistent in terms of typeface (perhaps a different font, but it appears to be from the same family as the word mark) and are a clean touch that do not clutter the dial.
Other nice touches abound. Date complications are one of my favorites on any watch and I'd prefer all watches to have them. I know, this is a bit controversial since there are a lot of purists out there
Date windows are often left unadorned, an afterthought in the design of a watch. In many cases, it's like the watchmakers just thought "Oh hey, we need to make room for the date wheel. Here, let's just punch a hole in the dial."
So it's nice to see when there's a bit of consideration to this tiny complication - which is one of my favorites. The date window at the six o'clock position is a clean and elegant implementation. Ringed with a circlet of polished metal, it matches the indices (completely with the little dot markers) really well. There's no custom coloring to the wheel itself, but it honestly doesn't matter; it looks just fine against the champagne dial.
Playing the Strap Game
As I mentioned earlier, I took the gray strap off the Hesili almost as soon as it arrived, putting it on the blue leather strap I'd ordered with it. In fact, it wasn't until I was writing up this report that I thought to check dig up the original strap.
That was a mistake. The original strap makes the OSO even more adaptable and matches well with a wider variety of colors. It's also a significantly thinner strap and got broken in in just about an hour or two on my wrist, something that impressed me since it was a bit stiff out of the box.
The OSO also works well with black and brown leather straps. Putting it on a NATO strap didn't play as well, which is what I'd expect from a dress watch.
The movement in the Hesili Original Series One is an STP1-11, made by Swiss Technology Production. Swiss made like the watch itself, the STP1-11 just about blew me away. In fact, if you were paying attention, I alluded to that at the beginning of this article when I related he anecdote about my encounter with the visitor at the Hesili booth at the Windup Watch Fair.
How I Test
I use a Weishi Multifunction Timegrapher No. 1900. The watch is placed, with the strap attached, onto the clamp and tested in four different positions: dial up, crown up, crown down, and the 12H index pointing down.
Each position is tested for 1 minute, with the results averaged to give me the final score. If you clicked over to the "Movement" tab in the spec table above, you'll see that the OSO is, after more than two months of regular use, one drop down to a wood floor, and a few splashes of water, still going strong. In fact, it's registering at an astonishing +2 seconds per day.
Table of results
I mean, I don't have the ability to perform the full set of COSC certifications, but that's in-line with the time requirements of a certified chronometer (which, if I recall, is 0to +5 seconds per day). I know - there's a lot more to COSC certification than that, but still, +2 seconds is pretty awesome. Since I don't own a COSC-certified chronometer (yet!), that makes the OSO my most accurate mechanical watch.
No watch is perfect. Some have negatives that you can quantify (movements that are out of spec, for example), while others fail to meet the subjective ideal of perfection you have in your mind. From that perspective, there are a few things I think Hesili could have done to take this watch up to the next level.
I would have liked a display caseback. The STP1-11 movement can be made to order with some solid decorations - just look at the Stella Felix, for example. I'd have loved to see that.
A bracelet option would have been ideal.
Color-match the date wheel.
That's really it. I mean, it's one of the shortest nitpick lists I'm likely to be able to generate.
Conclusion and Final Score
The OSO is, without question, one of the best watches I've bought recently. It's also the best dress watch I own and, while it's not my GADA (Go Anywhere, Do Anything) watch, it certainly can be worn in a variety situations outside of just formal dress-up occasions.
For a debut watch from a completely new company, the Original Series One delivers on almost every front (see the Nitpicks section above). Hesili have made an absolutely killer dress timepiece and for the price they are charging (less than $600!!!), the value you're getting for the money is absolutely outstanding. Damn fine work, Hesili. Well done!
Final Score: 8/10