Starling pocket watch review

The Starling pocket watches are the result of a crowd funding campaign that saw the vision of a Silicon Valley Inventor and Disney Imagineer come fruition. There are six watches in creation and in this review, I’ll be taking a look at the Inception.

Priced at around $99 (approx £68) the Starling Watch is available from Etsy via the Starling Watch website.

Front of the box
Front of the box

It’s infrequent that something in masses of steampunk inventions that something catches my eye and makes me yearn it so much. Creations by the great makers such as Thomas Willeford, the late, great, Datamancer and images by Gary Nichols are a small selection.

When I first read about the Starling watches I was enthralled to find out more about them.

The Starling story is an interesting one. It’s not just the watches that make up the product, there’s also a book which features a full back story of how the watches came into being. Each watch comes in a presentation case that has been designed by Hardin. The boxes are hand crafted and sport illustrations of the story and the characters within. There are two protagonists called Jeff Standish, Allisandra Benli and one antagonist with the curious name of Hinky Tonk. The story begins with a young Jeff meeting Allisandra as an 85 year old woman. She hands him the Memories watch which throws him back in time to meet her and go on an adventure fighting Hinky Tonk who created the watches and now wants them back.

Side design
Side design

The Starling watches are the result of a collaboration between Frank Cohen and Terri Hardin-Jackson. The former being a Silicon Valley inventor while the latter is a Disney artist and a member of the Jim Henson Mupeteers. Terri is the designer of the box that each watch is presented in. All six boxes have individual designs that tell a little bit of the story. They’re shaped as a section of a hexagon and once each is collected, they will fit together to form a ring. The wide front of the box lifts up to reveal the interior and the watch sat on a small cradle. The inside of the box has been decorated and boasts Frank Cohen and Terri Hardin Jackson’s signatures.

I was sent the Inception watch which is a half hunter type in antique brass and joins the Rewind, Memories, Translate and What If as half hunter varieties. The only full hunter is the Snapshot which is made out of stainless steel.

Face open
Face open

The Inception has the numbers of the clock carved out of the cover as well as a small cross and Mickey Mouse ears in the centre. It’s likely that this is the Aviator Mickey reference that I alluded to in the video review. The cover is opened the traditional way by pressing down on the latch release which is situated in the typical place over the crown. The hands are small, black in colour and intricately designed.

Watch held in the dark
Watch held in the dark

Part of the magic of the Starling watches lies behind the face. The Inception is a white honeycomb style, though they’re all different. Each watch has been fitted with the Chillovean lights system – a series of LED lights behind the face that scroll through over 67 million meaning that each time you look at the watch, it’s essentially a unique experience.

The main body of the Inception watch is metal with an antique brass colouring. It comes with two brass chains; a long thin chain for hanging around the neck and a shorter, thicker Albert chain with a waistcoat hook. Being a steampunk bordering closely to Victoriana, this is where I feel the watch is let down. The hook at the end of the chain supplied with the Inception is generally found on cheaper watches. Watches that I’ve seen for sale for around £10-20. The T bar is the preferred choice as it offers a more discreet connection to the waistcoat and offers more security for the wearer as it can’t be pulled off as easily.

The watch is made in America and is quartz driven. That simply means that it’s battery operated instead of a wind up mechanism. It’s personal choice as to whether you prefer that. I like the idea of wind up watches but know I’d forget to do it so all of mine are battery operated. The Inception – and all the others – uses a typical CR2032 flat silver battery and can be changed yourself by prising off the back of the watch and removing the Chillovean light board. In the box you also get a letter of authenticity.

View of the back
View of the back

I was really excited to see the Starling watch and despite the downside of the chain hook, it’s a gorgeous watch to own. I’m not generally a big fan of half hunter cases, but this one is a delight thanks to the intricate carving. The hidden Mickey isn’t too obvious and I’m quite glad about that because Disney isn’t of the era that we take an interest in. Steampunks generally don’t inject that much popular culture into their work so I appreciate the subtlety of the design.

8_I_say_recommended_250pxThe idea of the story, merging the six watches into it and making them collectible so that – essentially – you can save the world from Hinky Tonk by keeping the watches from his clutches is a good one as it will encourage people to look at collecting them. However, many steampunks don’t fall for this kind of commercialised endeavour and will generally avoid such marketing ploys. It will be interesting to see if they manage to get people to buy into the investment because of that. Using a Disney Imagineer to create the designs and illustrations, the Chillovean light system, as well as the small touches such as Cohen and Hardin-Jackson’s signatures on the box will certainly help.

For the money, the watch is maybe a little on the higher side. While I can see where it’s justified thanks to the above evidence, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the sales come from people with an interest in steampunk over sales from actual steampunks.

The Starling watches are beautiful to look at and I really like the Inception that I got in as a review sample. If you’re looking for a new pocket watch and want something a little different then the Starling range are ideal.

Be sure to take a look at the video review here: Starling Video review

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