Orient Place

Orient Place

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The History of Orient's Semi-Skeleton Design

The concept of skeleton watches as a way of boasting the mechanical movement inside a wristwatch has probably always been around, and especially so once the Swiss watch industry began to fight back against the new Quartz watches. However, there has always been a conflict between the desire to show the movement, and the equally strong desire to present an impressive, well finished dial, that's also arguably more legible than most skeleton watches.

While one solution was the exhibition case-back, a different design solution was presented in 1994 by the then-young Swiss brand, Frederique Constant. Dubbed "Heartbeat" by the designers, they produced a classic dial and then put a hole in it, at the position of the balance wheel, allowing the owner to enjoy the beating heart of the movement.

Over time, numerous brands picked up the concept and implemented it in their watches, and in October 2003 Orient presented their first semi-skeleton piece, the Orient Star ref. WZ0011FH.

The watch used Caliber No. 46S50, especially designed between 2002-2003 by Orient to serve as a semi-skeleton movement. Priced at 70,000 JPY (less than 700 USD, at the time) it was a great commercial success, which sparked Orient's continued focus on Semi-Skeleton watches – that continues to this day.

As the range of Orient semi-skeleton models grew exponentially (well, not really… but it did grow very much!) it is nearly impossible, as well as futile, to try and list all variations. But let's take a look at a few interesting examples.

In 2007, Orient introduced open-heart Royal Orients running a unique movement, 40Z60. This was very similar to the 46S50, but had an extra jewel (24 instead of 23) and was more finely regulated to +10/-5 seconds per day. Offered in three dial variants, these models were also presented with smaller, ladies' versions, which used the simpler caliber 50A40. The range of these models is presented below, along with their prices in JPY.

Another interesting range of semi-skeleton watches was introduced by Orient as the "retro-future" collections. Below you can see three such retro-future models from 2008, representing – from left to right -  the "motorcycle", "camera", and "car" collections. Despite the different looks, and exposing a little more than just the round aperture, all three used the same cal. 46S50 as the first Orient semi-skeleton.

Over time, Orient's use of semi-skeleton architecture expanded in a number of directions.

As the popularity of the design grew, the open-heart look was adopted to lower-cost, "non-star/royal" models. These were given simpler movements, such as cal. 46A40/41. Some examples include the 2008 WV0101DB, the 2010 WV0261DB, and the 2012 WV0341DB, below.

Another direction for expansion, was the extension of the design from the simple "open heart" aperture to more elaborate semi-skeletonized designs. Take for example these interesting pieces: the 2009 WV0061FT, the 2013 nearly-full-skeletonized WZ0081DK and the "speedtech" WV0011DA, and the 2016 WZ0281DK.

Orient's use, and evolution, of semi-skeleton movements continues. In 2017, the brand launched the Orient Star semi-skeleton moon-phase, which we reviewed earlier this year.  In 2018, caliber F6T22 was introduced, offering a nicer view through the open-heart aperture. Open heart variants were added to such popular models as the Bambino.

As already stated, these were only a few examples of Orient's vast range of semi-skeleton movements – and we barely touched on the brand's current open heart range. Don't worry – you may see this as merely an introduction to the subject. The blog will return to cover Semi-Skeletons in the future.

In fact… a review of one very special open-heart Orient is coming up soon!

All photos in this story were taken from Orient catalogs.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

New Versions of Orient Sun & Moon and "Defender" Field Watch

A couple of new models, each with a number of variants, are announced today by Orient. The announcement comes as no surprise to avid blog readers, as these were very much anticipated based on the hints we exclusively received from Orient, and reported here.

First up – a new version of Orient's much loved Sun and Moon watch. All Sun and Moon models feature a nice illustration of the Sun and Moon rising and setting instead of a standard 24 hour display, and this does not change in the new edition.

What does change though – in a good way, we think – is a reduction in size compared to the previous version of the watch. The case is now 41.5mm wide (instead of 42.5, crown excluded, in the previous "V4") and 13mm thick (instead of 14mm). Lug width remains a convenient 22mm.

The lug shape is changed to a simpler shape compared to the previous version, which flows more naturally from the case. Orient claim that in doing so, they are placing the new model in their "contemporary" collection, as opposed to the "classic" collection where the previous model was.

On the dial, the elements have moved around slightly, with a normally-sized date window at 3 o'clock replacing the previous elongated window at 8. Also, applied hour markers are now used instead of the numerals painted on most previous versions.

Below are the five variants of the new model, with reference and price (in JPY).

The blog's verdict: well done! The new case does look better and more modern, and the changes in the dial are small but positive. If you liked the Sun and Moon before, you'll like the new release even better.

Next, it is a new version of Orient's field watch, also known as the "Defender". The new model is immediately recognizable as a successor to the previous Defender, bearing the familiar 24 hour and weekday sub-dials.

The case of the new model is similar in size to the previous one, at slightly over 42mm in width and 12mm thickness. What has changed though, is the positioning of the crown, which moved from 4 to a more standard 3 o'clock. Some will like the new look better, some might have preferred the previous position for convenience.

On the dial, things are both familiar and slightly different. The date window is now at 3 (is Orient trying to align more of its models around a standard positioning of the date?). The 24 hour sub-dial is larger, which sort of makes sense in a "field watch", while the day sub-dial is smaller.

Inside the watch however a more significant improvement is introduced, as the old 21 Jewel, non-hacking and non-hand-winding caliber 46B40 is replaced with the new 22 jewel, hacking and hand-winding automatic cal. F6B22.

The blog's verdict: good job! The new movement is definitely a very positive step, and in the looks department, while impressions might be subjective, overall the watch retains its utilitarian appearance and tool-watch character.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The 36mm Bambino

When we received the Bambino Small Seconds for review earlier this month, we also got the 36mm Bambino. This is a model that got us honestly curious, as there are certainly many Bambino fans out there who insist the original's 40.5mm width is too large for them, and argue that a truly classic dress watch size is between 36 – 38mm.

The 36mm Bambino (36.4 to be precise) seems to be the perfect answer for these claims. Retaining the classic Bambino DNA – domed crystal, lovely dial and all – the smaller version lies right in the goldilocks zone for the more conservative of watch buyers. Or is it…?

The 36mm watch was originally introduced by most retailers as a "ladies version" of the Bambino. It's easy to see how its design really does speak to female customers, or at least bears a lot of resemblance to classic ladies watches: the smaller dial dictated by the case size has less open space and a more compact arrangement of details, like the applied logo, gold toned markers and hands, which against the sunburst effect of dial (more pearlescent here than in most other current Bambinos, it seems) create more of a jewel-like impression.

All this does not necessarily mean it cannot work as a unisex, or men's watch, as well. It's all in the details – and more than that, in the eyes of the beholder.

The version we received – ref. - RA-AC0010S – comes attached to a leather strap – and it must be said right away that this almost instantly puts it the wife's jewelry box. The strap is narrow (17mm at the lugs) and tapers to around 13-14mm at the buckle. We let a couple of guys at the office take a look at it and they immediately associated the strap as belonging on a woman's watch.

On the wrist – particularly one larger than 7" – it really did feel a little petite, although much of that came from the combined appearance of the strap and jewel-like impression, and not so much the case size itself.

Now, keep in mind Orient more recently introduced the 36mm Bambino on a bracelet. And that actually does make a difference in its appearance. Take for instance this piece, ref. RA-AC0009S. A little less gold, a little more steel, and it does look more like a unisex watch.

So, in conclusion, here's what we can say about the 36.4mm Bambino:

·         It is indeed a lovely watch for women.
·         It will not work for men with wrists over 6.5"
·         Even at under 6.5", consider replacing the strap with a non-tapering one.
·         Or, at under 6.5", consider the versions that come on bracelet – however that would render them a little less classically dressy.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this 36mm Bambino for review.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Orient Bambino Small Seconds Hands-On Review

Orient released the first generation of the Bambino in 2012. The watch, which combined classic elements used in Orient dress watches since the 1950's into a simple yet characterful design was an instant classic.

Since that time, Orient released many new versions and variations of the Bambino. In early 2018, they launched the Bambino Small Seconds. Interestingly, the small seconds feature isn't an "added complication", but rather can be seen as a simpler mechanism which harks back to the earliest wrist watches; Central Seconds was in fact the real complication, added to wrist watches later on, with the introduction of "direct central seconds" in the late 1940's.

The model we'll be looking at today, is the yellow-gold plated, white dial ref. RA-AP0004S. Like most Bambinos, the steel case is 40.5mm wide (excluding the crown), 45.5mm long, and 12 mm thick (owing much to the domed mineral crystal). It comes on a 21mm wide brown leather strap with a simple gold-plated buckle. Driving the watch is Orient's caliber F6222 automatic, which hand-winds and hacks, and features the date and obviously, small seconds. Like many dress watches, its water resistance is a mere 30 meter.

How It Looks

The Bambino Small Seconds is a handsome timepiece. The dial is not plain white but rather a warmer shade with creamy notes, which goes very well with the golden elements – the case of course, as well as the applied hour markers and hands. This set is nicely complemented by the brown leather strap. First impression, then, is pretty good.

The looks are further enhanced by a number of design and execution features common to most Bambino variations, such as the domed crystal that enhances the warm, vintage-like feel of the watch; the brushed sides of the case and lugs; and the signed crown.

Upon closer inspection, more nice touches appear, such as the circular texture of the slightly recessed small-seconds sub dial, and the smart look of the minute and hour hands – both faceted dauphine hands with a varying angle. The minute hand also bends slightly towards its edge, matching the subtle downward curve of the dial as it reaches the bezel.

How It Feels

Well, it's a dress watch, and as such – a certain delicacy is expected and appreciated. This is not a heavy-duty watch and it does not feel like one.

What the Bambino Small Seconds does however convey, when you hold it in your hand, is a certain sense of fineness which budget dress watches usually lack. Too often, budget dress watches resort to the convenience of minimalism, which is typically expressed in flat dials, simple hands, and plain finishing. This Orient, like previous (and later) Bambinos, feels exactly the opposite: it's as if a serious attempt was made to pack as much feeling of generosity, luxury even, to this fairly inexpensive, entry-level automatic watch.

How It Wears

At 40.5mm diameter, the Bambino is sometimes criticized for being too large for a classic dress watch. In truth, this is very subjective and depends on personal tastes and indeed, the size of your wrist. For medium-to-large wrists, like mine, the size feels just right, and this is aided by the relatively short lugs.

Thus, the watch wears very well on wrists of size 7" and upwards. I'd say, even for a 6.5" this should wear well, albeit not giving off as classic a dress-watch appearance as, say, a 38mm case would.

The leather strap that comes with the watch is fairly good – the faux croc pattern and dark brown color coupled with just the right amount of padding, make it soft enough and comfortable to wear. Indeed the 21 mm lug size might limit your choice of after-market replacement straps, but only so much; do a little research and you'll find plenty of off-the-shelf as well as custom strap options to fit any budget.

How It Functions

The Bambino Small Seconds is simple and functional, it hides no dark secrets. The cal. F6222, visible through the exhibition caseback, belongs to Orient's current family of movements, the F6. We expect it to be as reliable and low-maintenance as most Orient movements are (thanks to their simple, proven architecture).

We have measured a deviation of +6 seconds per day on our unit – well within the -15, +25 specs.

Winding and setting the watch is easy enough, as the crown is grippy, and not too small.

Legibility is as you would expect from a dress watch – i.e. one that offers no lume. In normal light conditions, the clean large dial makes it very quick and easy to read the time. As it gets darker though, legibility would soon fade away.

The Bottom Line

Orient's Bambino family of watches is justifiably popular, and the small-seconds variant makes no exception. It is elegant and well made, and driven by a capable automatic movement.

Officially priced at around 370 USD, the Bambino Small Seconds can be found under 200 dollars at a number of online retailers. At this price it definitely presents excellent value for the money – providing its buyer with a very wearable dress watch, sufficiently impressive on the wrist, and not heavy on the wallet.

We would have been happier still if the watch featured sapphire as its front crystal (as indeed some other Orients at this price point do, like the "Symphony"), as the added sturdiness would have made it even more of a long-term investment. And indeed, it would have been nice to have the same design available in a smaller size, in the range of 37-38mm, in addition to the current size.

Generally speaking, it is very hard to find any major flaws with this model. Subjectively, some may find the watch too large for their wrist, or claim the design lacks originality; Objectively though, this is a great watch for the price.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Bambino Small Seconds for review, and Ralph Hason, for the excellent product photography.