Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 9 June 2024

Traveling With… An Orient

We often talk about watches being rugged and capable of surviving the rough outdoors, beyond the office doors and the neon lights under which they look so nice and clean. In my reviews, too, I often take note of features such as water and shock resistance, as well as suitable appearances (I think a little gold dress watch would look very much out of place, getting beaten up and soaked in some river, even if technically it would not be damaged).

To make this a little less theoretical, today's blog post is about my experiences with Orients in the wild. Once again, it's the M-Force models that take up center stage, but whereas my recent post about them was a bit academic, this time, we'll be taking a deep dive into the real world.

The first Orient to accompany me on my journeys was the EX00. I was about to go on a two-week trip in the Pacific Northwest and was looking for a watch that would be sporty, tough, yet comfortable. An ad by a familiar seller caught my eye. This first-generation M-Force, with its titanium lightweight case, seemed right for the job.

And it was! The EX00 was almost 20 years old at the time, which is not old at all for this type of watch. The convenience of titanium made it a perfect companion for this relatively long journey. And while the region – particularly in the mountains – generally has a cool climate, it was still summer (Seattle in particular was scorching on the day I visited there!) so the cool feel of this metal was also appreciated.

In the pictures above, by the way, are Mount Rainier and Smith Rock State Park. These are just two of many spots making the PNW trip memorable.

Jumping a few years forward, when planning a trip to Iceland in 2021 I already had bought the then-new 3rd generation M-Force, and had gotten used to (and even grown fond of) its bulky crown guard. Being perfectly comfortable on the rubber band and seemingly more robust than the old 1st generation model, I chose it as my wrist partner for the trip.

To be honest, by that time I was already thinking of the older M-Force as "vintage". With its non-sapphire crystal (and particularly the easy-to-scratch cyclops), I wanted to keep it safe. I was planning some hikes in Iceland, and not knowing exactly what to expect on the remote island, going for sapphire and a newer case construction seemed to make sense.

Plus, to be honest, despite getting used to its design – I still felt I'd rather get the newer watch scratched than the old one (or any of my other dive/tool watches)…

The pictures above are of Vestdalsfossar waterfall and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. It is honestly impossible to pick photos from a trip around Iceland. The picture with the watch, of course, was taken at the famous Reynisfjara beach.               

The newer M-Force was also my watch of choice for a shorter trip to Spain. More driving was planned than hiking this time; however, I always find the time for a short (or not so short) walk in the outdoors, so a watch that's ready for anything that might come its way is always a good thing.

The photo shows the lovely view of Málaga as seen from the Mirador de Pocopán. It is an easy 5 km hike with a surprisingly steep and slippery slope to the viewpoint…

Meanwhile, the 2nd generation "Beast" arrived. Possibly the toughest and boldest of the lot, this one also has two critical features: it's the heaviest of the lot, and – my favorite, design-wise. The combination of heft and not wanting to get it scratched or banged, means I don't usually take it on long journeys.

I do still take it, occasionally, on short trips close to home…

For the next trips, I went back to the 3rd gen M-Force. In Norway, this choice made sense. I arrived in October, intentionally aiming for the end of the tourist season. The timing earned me beautiful views of trees in fall, and much less crowded viewpoints over the fjords.

It's a risky affair, of course, as I did had to cancel one planned trip due to road closure (granting me instead a trip through the 25 km of the longest road tunnel in the world, Lærdalstunnelen, also a kind of experience). And I did find myself on a road that began to freeze with snow, forcing me to stop and wait for a little sunshine.

This also became my rainiest trip – though I was preparing for it. As I drove further away from Bergen, things got better, but I still found myself on some very slippery trails – one of which I just had to abort two-thirds of the way to the top, as things got too muddy. That was definitely a time when having a waterproof watch with decent case protection proved to be effective, as on some parts of the path I had to use my hands to climb safely.

Pictured below, a small stream just off the amazingly scenic road to Geiranger, and a place near Fjærlandsfjorden where I'd honestly be happy to retire to, one day... I must admit that among all the beautiful countries I have visited, I found Norway to be the true beauty queen.

A good place to wrap up this story would be the Faroe Islands. Going to this usually cloudy, often foggy location, with plenty of hikes and the memory of skiddy Norwegian paths in mind, I again went for the newer M-Force, now becoming sort of a habit – my go-to watch for remote trips.

The islands proved to be less rainy than I feared; indeed, I arrived in late May (yes, just a couple of weeks ago) relying on statistics showing this was actually the least rainy time of year, despite July – September being warmer. I really don't mind the cold.

Throughout the week I spent on these beautiful, calm – almost dreamy – islands, I encountered one really rainy day, five days that were cloudy but mostly dry during the day, and surprisingly – one day of sunshine and blue sky. As you can see above, in these two pictures taken near Norðradalur. 

Wednesday 5 June 2024

38 mm Small Seconds Bambino, Now in Japan

A couple of months ago we reported the announcement of Orient's new small-seconds Bambino in the smaller 38mm case. It was one of those rare occasions where a new model is presented as a world-wide release before it is announced in Japan.

Now finally, we're getting the Japan versions release, and as often is the case – with a few differences in the range of variations.

First off, three identical models are:

·         RN-AP0101B (same as RA-AP0101B) with a black and silver "tuxedo" dial and black leather strap;

·         RN-AP0104S (same as RA-AP0104S) with an all-silver dial and black strap;

·         RN-AP0105Y (same as RA-AP0105Y) with an ivory dial, and a brown leather strap.

The gold plated model (RA-AP0106S) was dropped from this release.

Perhaps more interesting are the two new models, and – anyone following Orient's announcements closely could have guessed that if the first batch had a gap in a reference numbers, it would be filled on the next batch. And indeed, it is:

·         RN-AP0102E with a dark green dial and gold-toned markers, on a brown leather strap;

·         RN-AP0103L with a light greyish-blue dial and black strap.

The new green and blue models are not limited in numbers, but are exclusive to Orient's online store. Other than that, all models are technically identical to the global versions.

Now that all models are on the Orient Japan website, we can compare prices too – and see that these small-second models are officially about 5% higher than the regular (center seconds) Bambino.


Sunday 26 May 2024

Cyclopes, and Where to Find Them

The "cyclops" is a magnifying lens, typically placed over the date window of a watch, intended to make the date more legible. The concept was invented by Rolex and was used for the first time with the 1953 Datejust. In the years that followed it was gradually adopted by other brands.

Orient started using cyclopes (which is the proper plural form of cyclops) in 1961, which makes sense as that is when the brand's first watches that featured a date wheel were introduced.

The first two models equipped with a cyclops where the "Lucky Calendar", and the Grand Prix Calendar. Later, in 1963, Orient also added a cyclops to some of its Olympia Orient Weekly models.

Over the years, Orient would occasionally add cyclops to certain models. While the brand never seemed to maintain a consistent, long-term approach to the use of this contraption, it did implement it regularly throughout the production of its "Rolex President" homages, both the day-date and the datejust variants. That too makes sense, considering these watches were the origin of the cyclops.

On a few rare occasions, Orient even placed a cyclops over both the date and the day, in cases where the two shared an aperture, or were placed adjacently. Such were the Orient Fineness, as well as certain models of the Chronoace, including a few "College" and "Racer" versions. A few of the 1970s

Note that the vast majority of Chronoace watches did not feature a cyclops, so a flat crystal is what you're likely to find when shopping for these.

A few "AAA" King Divers also featured the combined day and date magnification. You can see a few examples here.

Here are a few examples of how effective the magnification is; as you can see in the close-up photos of the Fineness above, and the Weekly Auto Orient AAA and M-Force below.

Note that only the early 1997-8 M-Force models featured a cyclops; later models did not. Keep in mind the first generation of this watch did not use sapphire crystal, and the lens protruding from the mineral glass was prone to scratches, particularly with a watch that's intended for rough use. So perhaps that's why Orient dropped the cyclops.

On one particular occasion, Orient started making a line of watches with the Cyclops, and then – removed it… this was the 2010 "Star Seeker" GMT line.

The first references of this model (WZ0011DJ, WZ0021DJ, WZ0031DJ) were introduced with a cyclops; after one year of production, Orient replaced them with new references (WZ0041DJ and WZ0051DJ) that did not feature a cyclops. Both early and later versions had a sapphire crystal. Why did Orient do that? Was it to simplify production? Was it a design decision? Who knows.

However, the change definitely helps to observe just how effective the magnification is. See how much clearer the date appears in the earlier model (on the right-hand side of the image).

These are, of course, just a few examples. You will be able to find other Orients equipped with a date magnifier, particularly among older watches.

But, despite the usefulness of the cyclops, especially in watches intended for older customers (such as the president homages were, indeed), Orient's current line up does not include a single watch featuring this lens.

Personally, I would have loved to see a cyclops on the 38mm Bambino, for instance, or the Orient Star Classic. What do you think?


The picture of the M-Force, AAA, and Fineness that appear in this post are copyright of the blog. Other pictures that appear in this post were taken from various Orient catalogs and sale ads. 

Sunday 5 May 2024

Orients with Stone Cases

If you go looking for vintage Orients, particularly Chronoace models, you would occasionally come across unique pieces where the case appears to be made of stone or marble. What are these? And why would anyone manufacture a watch case out of stone?

First of all, a stone case actually has its advantages. An obvious one would be aesthetics. Check out the pictures, and you'll see some of these are truly beautiful. Stone (or marble, or other similar materials) has a very different appearance from metal, of course. You get different textures and colors, and these provide a perfect match to some Chronoace versions like the Mexican and Jaguar Focus dials.

Some of these watches likely made use of reconstituted rock, where the raw material is ground to fine grains and then glued back together using resin. This allows for the addition of colors and a more consistent look, while still maintaining much of the character of stone.

Stone is generally also lighter than steel, though not by much. If you examine how these cases are constructed, you'll see the back of the case is made of steel – only the top material is different. Of course the movement itself also stays the same. So the difference in weight here is probably quite negligible.

While some stones are softer than steel, using marble or reconstituted stone can actually provide better scratch resistance. And where a more natural finish is left, the stone would also camouflage any scratches more effectively.

There are more reasons for not producing watch cases out of stone. The material itself is less durable and more fragile than steel. And then the manufacturing process isn’t just more expensive than working with metal, it is also quite different. A production line that is built around casting and finishing steel isn’t easily transformed into working with rocks.

Now, these kinds of watches were clearly not made in large quantities, and very likely not even produced in Orient’s main manufacturing facilities. It is not clear whether they were marketed as original Orients at all, or whether they were some kind of an aftermarket product.

I could find any original Orient catalogs featuring stone-case Chronoaces. I did, however, note such watches that were sold as new, i.e., these weren’t mods added on top of a used watch. Therefore, the rocky Chronoace watches were either some special editions by Orient, or custom made by Orient dealers or local Jewelers.

So, while verifying the authenticity of such items nowadays is hard, I can say that at least most of the ones that I saw that had the specialty Chronoace dials (again, Mexican, Focus etc.) seem to have all the right parts – case backs, movement, dial etc. Others, particularly ones where the dial is not a typical Chronoace one, would warrant caution.


The pictures that appear in this post were taken from various sale ads.