Orient Place

Orient Place

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Orient Watches and Motorsports

Many watch brands attempt to be associated with the fast-paced world of motorsports. This association makes perfect sense, as many enthusiasts are fans of both cars and watches; I personally often experience going to a car meet and come across a familiar face from watch collector groups, or vice versa.

Over the years, Orient too has dipped its toes in this world, particularly (but not exclusively) in cooperation with Subaru, releasing many motorsport-themed models. There is no way to cover all of these watches in one story, but today we'll be looking at quite a few of them and get a taste of the action.

It seems that Orient's initial interest in motorsports was not focused on Subaru cars. In the 2000's there were a few Orient models inspired by cars and drivers that had little to do with the Japanese car manufacturer.

There were, for instance, the Clubman models; we've already given these unique models plenty of coverage on the blog.

Later that decade, Orient began toying around with the concept of retro-future watch designs. These watches were produced in series inspired by different types of items – and those included cars and motorcycles (alongside cameras, and later - guitars and record players).

And there was also the Gronholm limited edition. Marcus Gronholm was a famed World Rally Championship driver (and quite a character). Orient released a special piece, ref. WV0111DB, to commemorate Marcus and BP Ford World Rally Team winning the 2007 WRC Manufacturers Championship. The dial was of course blue, like the BP Ford Team color, and the overall design was meant to reflect the design of the car. Not surprisingly, it was limited to 2007 units… The watch itself was released in 2008.


Orient and Subaru

After Gronholm's retirement from WRC Orient switched its interest from Ford to the Japanese domestic car manufacturer, Subaru (which, a little like Orient, produces in much smaller quantities than most local brands – but has very loyal supporters).

In 2009, Orient announced it has become a supporter and sponsor of Subaru STI (Subaru Technica International), a team that was participating in the "Nurburgring 24 Hours Race". Subaru finished 5th in class that year. Later in 2009, Orient released for the first time a watch, one of the models in its sporty "World Stage" collection, in association with Subaru STI – although, this was purely a marketing thing and the watch did not actually carry any visible reference to Subaru.

Between 2010 – 2012, Orient continued to expand its World Stage line-up with more models, this time including some references that were properly Subaru-branded, for instance the elegant and cleanly designed WV0521ER, or sporty quartz chronographs, such as WV0201TT.

Orient also continued to use its ties to Subaru to promote its sporty models, even ones that did not bear the Subaru or STI logos, such as can be seen below in the front page of a 2012 catalog adorned with the then-new Subaru BRZ (in its hard-core GT300 guise).

In 2013, Orient launched a new motorsport-inspired collection: "Speedtech". The initial line-up included a couple of automatic semi-skeleton options (ref. WV0011DA / WV0021DA); a couple of standard quartz chronographs (WV0011TZ and WV0021TZ); and most interestingly, the ERS model.

ERS or Energy Recovery System, is a term used in the automotive industry to describe a system which stores a vehicle's kinetic energy as it is braking, and makes the energy available to boost acceleration later on – a technology which obviously has many uses in motorsports, and is indeed employed by F1 cars and some other types of race-cars. Orient, rather cleverly, had adopted the term ERS to name the kinetic member of the Speedtech collection, ref. WV0011KT / WV0021KT.

Orient did not often employ kinetic mechanisms (i.e. quartz movements where power is generated by an oscillating rotor like in an automatic movement). In the case of the ERS, the movement was borrowed from Seiko, and the result is indeed very similar to the rather cool Seiko Arctura Chronograph. Orient again highlighted the link between this model and the Subaru GT300 – and it really did not matter so much that Subaru never actually used ERS in that model (nor did any Subaru model, AFAIK)…

It was not all sports and burning rubber though, and in 2013 Orient also released a couple of watches as far removed from the Speedtech models as can be: the super-elegant, manual winding Orient Star references WZ0031DD and WZ0041DD, commemorating Subaru's 55th anniversary.

Orient continued to release more Speedtech and Subaru STI-themed watches from time to time, and we cannot cover all of those in one blog post. So we'll conclude by focusing on one particular esteemed Orient moniker that received the "STI treatment": the M-Force.

In 2013, having claimed class win at the Nurburgring 24 hour race in 2011-2012, Orient released a special edition of its lefty M-Force, with an STI-branded dial aptly clad in Carbon, as ref. WV0131EL.

Orient continued in this path, releasing the M-Force ref. WV0171EL with an STI team-blue dial in 2014, and again with a carbon dial ref. WV0211EL in 2015. Curiously enough, in 2016 it did not release an Orient branded STI model; instead it built an M-Force variant that was branded as Subaru – not mentioning Orient on the outside at all – and which was actually being sold as Subaru merchandize.

Then, the Orient-Subaru relationship faded away and all Subaru-branded Orients went out of production. Currently Orient does not sponsor motorsport activities, and it seems the brand feels more at home associating with diving, outdoors and other personal sports activities. Still – this important chapter in its history, with a rich legacy full of cool and interesting models, is not forgotten!

Watch photos were taken from Orient official catalogs and press releases. The photo of Marcus Gronholm is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0Unported license. The photo of the Orient-branded Subaru is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Sunday, 5 January 2020

How It Started

A new year, in fact a new decade has just begun. Outside it's raining cats and dogs (maybe even cows, by the looks of it). This gets me in the mood for reminiscing, how it all started… my interest in Orient watches, that is.

Collecting watches is usually a hobby one picks up as a grown up, when fascination with mechanics (or history, or design, whatever it is that drives one into watches) is met with sufficient income. For me this hobby did not start with Orients… I must have had at least a dozen other watches before getting my first Orient, a vintage Chrono-ace.

It was actually much later that my renewed interest in the brand brought up distant childhood memories of my first real watch, even before the ubiquitous Casio calculator… yep, that was an Orient, given to me by my dad when I was around 10 years old or a little later – and if memory serves me right, it was his watch that he gave me once my wrist was large enough to accept.

Large wrist or not, it was a massive piece for a kid. I remember the heft of its steel case very well. While watches were quite small back then, compared to today's case sizes, to me it seemed big enough.

One other thing I remember well, is the lume. The thing had some serious lume on it. I'd stay up well after lights-out just to watch that Orient shine in the dark in blue and green (markers and hands were different shades). That image, in fact, must have burned deep into my mind, as it kept coming in dreams years after. Yes, it's true: I'd dream of watches. Weird, wonderful complicated ones with plenty of buttons and functions.

So it came to be that memories of my old Orient crossed paths with this new hobby. I like many other watch brands of course, but keep a special place for Orient.

And now, that it's not just a new year that is starting, but it's actually Orient's 70th anniversary, I wonder: what new models will 2020 bring? I guess we'll have to wait and see! Stick around and keep following the blog, it will surely be interesting!

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Orient Saturation Diver

I'm no expert in diving, let alone the highly professional craft of saturation diving – and for those of you interested in this underwater activity, there are plenty of articles out there. As far as I am concerned, what we will be discussing here is a super-robust, ISO-6425 certified, 300M rated, professional dive watch. Made by Orient. And, which has acquired a cult of followers over the years.

The Orient Saturation Diver (OSD for short) is 45.7mm wide, 55mm long, and 16.6mm thick – including the 5mm-thick(!) sapphire and bezel. It's been through a few generations, keeping its external dimensions and pro-diver specs:

Generation 1, launched 2006, used the non-hacking caliber 46N4A, and featured a 60-click rotating bezel. It included references CFD0C001M (Orange dial), and CFD0C001B (Black dial).

Almost identical Orient Star variants were released as JDM models: ref. WZ0251FD (Black dial), WZ0261FD (Black dial with gold elements), and WZ0271FD (Yellow).

Generation 2, released in 2010, adopted the improved cal. 40N5A that hacks and hand-winds, and switched to a 120-clicks bezel. It featured references WV0041EL / EL02001B (Black dial) and WV0051EL / EL02001M (Orange dial).

Gen. 2 Orient Stars were also presented – references WZ0181EL (Black) and WZ0191EL (Yellow).

And finally, the 3rd generation (released around 2015) included references WV0101EL (black dial), WV0111EL (red dial), and WV0121EL (white dial, as seen here). It appears very much identical to gen. 2, except for the shape of the hands, which changed from syringe to a kind of sword and broad arrow hands – which I think are really more suitable for this kind of dive watch.

A good friend recently let me borrow his OSD for a few days, so I had a chance to get more personal with this legendary beast. This watch arrived in very clean condition, however missing its original bracelet.

So, how outrageously huge and awkwardly hulking is it really on the wrist? Well – not as much as some might have you think. Yes it's big and heavy, and needs to be worn fairly tightly to avoid becoming a wrecking-ball-like pendulum on your hand, but when strapped firmly to my 7.25" wrist it was noticeable yet perfectly comfortable.

And what about the quality, so raved about by owners? Yep, it's definitely there. Crown operation is buttery smooth, and locking and unlocking it is one of the slickest I've encountered in any watch - quite different from the more basic Orient divers.

The bezel is thick and grippy. Turning it feels weighty and reassuring, like turning the latch of a submarine door (at least that's how I imagine it. Never actually opened a submarine door).

Needless to say, as photos make it very clear, the watch is as legible as can be – and as a professional diver should be. Hands are properly wide are stand out thanks to black framing against the white dial. Markers are big and bold. And then there's the lume, of course, which is very potent and remains effective for a long duration.

Accuracy is more than acceptable. I've measured a +11 seconds deviation in 24 hours at rest, but hardly one second gained after about 10 hours being worn on the wrist. Meaning, it'll probably do about +6~7 seconds per day in mixed use, which is quite good and similar to what most Orients are regulated to offer.

To summarize, the Orient Saturation Diver is definitely a special timepiece, full of character and very capable. It will probably be less comfortable for wrists 7" and under, but for people who like and want a bigger watch that's got heft and good looks, it makes a very appealing offering.

I think the black-dial variant is probably the most solid-looking version, but personally I prefer the white one (as reviewed here) – which to me seems more elegant. And then there is that super-cool yellow dial, and the all-eyes-on-me red and orange ones.

Enough to choose from. And while the OSD has been out of production for more than a year, one may still come across new ones offered by dealers online for around 1,500 USD. Used OSD in very good condition are actually hard to come by, and will typically cost more than 1,000 dollars, but you can find sample in acceptable condition (for this type of watch) at reasonable prices.

And maybe, just maybe, Orient will prepare a surprise for us in 2020, in the shape of a new Saturation Diver containing a new F6 movement?...

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Review Contest Winner

Orient Place Blog's Review Contest, which was launched on November 17, today concluded as the final showdown between our two finalists was decided: by popular vote, it was David's review of his Orient Star Titanium that ended up in second place, while Stefan was declared winner with the review of his Orient Ray II.

Stefan won with 2 named voters (and a bunch more who voted anonymously), while David got 1 vote. A modest victory then, but the reward is also modest so not a problem. As promised, Stefan gets a 50 USD coupon to buy a strap at Martu Leather, one of our favorite strap-makers, and a small business (that's always more rewarding than a big brand!)

And now that the contest is over, it's back to Business As Usual, and we have to continue to write our own reviews for the blog J ... So, later this month we'll entertain you with a review of one of Orient's most legendary watches of recent decades – the Saturation Diver!

The blog thanks all who participated in our watch review contest. If you enjoyed this and our other stories and posts, please follow this blog – you'll be getting the best Orient-related news, stories and reviews. You can also follow by liking the blog page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OrientPlaceBlog