Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Orient's 2020 M-Force Watch Review

Orient introduced the first M-Force in 1997 (and you can read about that piece of history here). The name was intended to indicate its "Mechanical Force" – being driven by an automatic movement – as well as its being "Massive" and boasting a "Maverick" design.

The latest generation of M-Force watches was introduced in September 2020, and while initial responses to the advertised images were mixed, there was no denying the three "M's" have been met in full: Mechanical, of course, it is; Massive it is as well, measuring 47mm in diameter (well almost… but we'll get to that later); and its design can undoubtedly be described as Maverick.


To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to the design. As better photographs of the watch began to surface in social media, I actually started to like it. Eventually I decided to treat myself to a brand new M-Force. Choosing one model to go for could have a tough task, as each of the five versions available has a certain unique appeal, but the task was made easier thanks to my local AD – who offered a single choice. Very well then – a stealthy reference RA-AC0L03B it is!

 

How It Looks

It was the Cartier brand who, many decades ago, coined the term "tank case" to describe a certain type of square watch design, usually attributed to rather delicate, elegant dress watches. Well, I am sorry Cartier but that was no tank. THIS is a tank:


This watch looks tough, like an armored vehicle. And armored it is, with its most prominent feature being that bulk of a crown guard. However what seems like an overgrown piece of metal that throws the case off balance in photos, makes more sense in real life, and on the wrist. It even adds a certain sense of directional edge, and hence speed, to the otherwise very rounded design.

Other unique elements that stand out include the bezel-guard opposite the crown, the unusual "technical" font on the bezel, and the nicely cut out hands. Together, they give the M-Force a very technical, tool-watch appearance, which is quite different from the brand's other diver-style models like the Kamasu.


The particular version being reviewed also stands out with its stealthy appearance created the matte-finished black plating on the case and bezel, black silicon strap, and greyed-out hands, dial (and bezel) text, and even the Orient logo.

A few elements in red stick out against this dark background: the tips of the minute and second hands; the "Diver's 200m" writing and the "O" in the Orient logo, on the dial; and the red ring adorning the crown. This is just enough color for the watch not to look too boring or austere, and certainly not in excess.



Upon closer examination, one can appreciate the decent quality and cohesiveness of the execution. The case, bezel, dial and hands all feature a very particular grainy texture that bonds them visually. The case feels very smooth though, like a pebble. The only bright spots seem to be those flashes of red paint.


Note that unlike most dive watches, there is no bezel insert here. The bezel is a single piece of metal with the minute markers engraved into it. This too is characteristic of most M-Force models since the very first 1997 release, and definitely adds to the perceived robustness of the watch. Naturally this also means you cannot just replace a scratched insert, and if needed – the entire bezel will need replacing.


Overall, I like how this M-Force looks. It is bold, very confidently designed, and manages to make use of just a few standout elements to achieve an immediately recognizable identity.

This aligns well with the DNA of M-Force watches of previous generations: most of them (with the possible exception of the 2016 "Bravo" model) weren't really streamlined designs, but rather unusual creations always having some oddball feature or other, be it a strangely shaped case, an irregular bezel, or something else.

 

How It Wears

It's an M-Force so it has got to wear big and imposing, right? Well, to some extent it does. But as I hinted at the beginning of this review, it's not the huge paperweight of a watch that the specs might make you think.


In fact, it weighs almost exactly the same as the elegant and most un-tank-like Orient Star Diver! On the silicon strap, the M-Force weighs only 5 grams more, at 132g vs the OS's 127. On a steel bracelet, the Orient Star's 2mm wider lug width makes the broader bracelet even things out, and both weigh about the same (205 / 206g).

Part of this is because official dimensions are a bit misleading. The 47mm figure is inclusive of the crown guards; take those away, and you get a 45mm wide case. However the bezel is only about 42mm wide. Thickness is a very reasonable 13.2mm (compared with the OS diver's 14mm) and lug to lug is 52mm.

Not a small watch by any means, then, but not a hulking beast either. On the wrist, it feels surprisingly light, very comfortable, and just like a well-proportioned diver or sports watch.



The standard silicon strap is soft and supple, and adds to the comfort. Inside it is not smooth but has a kind of grainy texture. The 20mm lug width which might have seemed too small for a 47mm wide watch, makes more sense given the actual dimensions and the thickness of the lugs.

That said, I think the strap supplied is about 10-15mm too long. This watch wears perfectly on my 7.25" wrist, but I'm fairly certain it would be just as perfect for 7" and very wearable for people with a 6.5"+ wrist who love big watches, and they would certainly feel the strap length make it hang a bit funny. So maybe, if you're a smaller wrist person, get ready to replace or cut the strap short – or just go for one of the bracelet models.

 

How It Functions

Now let us put the watch to work, and first thing is crown action. Screwing and un-screwing is easy enough. The crown is large and grippy, and its threading seems to have been well executed. When pulled out, it is obvious the crown stem is thick and robust, and while the crown does wobble ever so slightly, it is hardly noticeable.

Winding is easy, with a very slight feeling of grinding or roughness (less so than on the Kamasu). Setting the time and date is effortless, and the crown guards leave enough space for the crown to be held and turned at ease.


Operating the bezel is similarly easy, with just the right amount of resistance. The bezel turns with a very satisfying clicking sound, and with very little back-play that would be virtually unnoticeable unless you pay special attention to it.

Legibility is excellent. The markers, which are embossed rather than applied, are large and filled with lume, and contrast well and clearly against the darker dial. The hands are dark grey on this version, but their tips are clearly painted, lumed, and make reading the time as easy as can be.

In the dark, you get a fairly strong and long lasting visibility of the luminous parts, including the bezel pip. I've seen stronger luminosity in various hardcore dive watches, but the size of the markers and hands here make them easy to discern in low light, nonetheless.


The movement here is Orient's in-house caliber F6727. This movement is currently unique to the M-Force, and it seems to be based on the more widely used F6722, having the same functionality, layout, jewel count etc. Possibly, it is the same caliber only with some added shock protection, as has been hinted by M-Force marketing presentations.

Performance is satisfactory: I have measured its accuracy over 72 hours of normal usage, on and off the wrist, resulting in the watch gaining 10 seconds per day on average. As stated accuracy is +25/-15 seconds per day, this is just fine, although not exceptional.

What the movement, and thus the watch, lacks, in comparison to most other M-Force models of the past, is the power reserve indicator. Nowadays it is only Orient Stars that get this feature. Is that a great loss? Sentimentally speaking, a PR gauge would make it more of a classic-looking M-Force. Practically speaking, it would be unnecessary, perhaps even a distraction. The watch design seems coherent and sensible without it, and legibility is definitely best just the way it is.


The M-Force is proud of being a very capable watch outside the comfort zone of office wear. Front crystal is sapphire, and is further protected by the being slightly recessed below the bezel, which in itself is protected by the crown guard and the opposing bezel guard. Apparently, there is further protection inside the watch, by a system of rings that absorb shocks between the dial, movement and case.

Water resistance is an ISO-standard air-divers' 200 meters. I did not take the watch for a deep dive, but it feels perfectly safe to bathe, swim, and snorkel, which is what most of owners might ask of it.


 

The Bottom Line

Yes! Despite initial concerns I had prior to getting my hands on this watch in person, the new M-Force is a great addition to the Orient line-up. It might not fit exactly into the niche prescribed by M-Forces of old, but it does offer a welcome upgrade to the brand's existing range of sports watches, providing better specs and quality than Kamasu and Kanno, and sliding into the price gap just below the Orient Star 200m diver.

Different M-Force models all currently seem to be selling at around 500-600 USD online, and from what I'm hearing – they're selling well. And this makes sense, as you're getting a highly capable watch for the price.

As wearable as the M-Force is, its dimensions should still be taken into consideration before buying. I'd say, this is probably less suitable for people of wrists under 6.5" unless they really are fond of overhanging watches. Between 6.5-7" it would feel big but not ridiculous and more down to personal taste – it really doesn't wear larger than most rounded smartwatches. If you are 7"+ then it's a no-brainer.

Other than that, if you like how this watch looks in my photos, you won't be disappointed seeing it in person. The new M-Force is an excellent watch, and very much worth considering if you're looking for a tough sporty watch that can go anywhere.


 

We'd be very happy to learn about your experience with the M-Force. Have you a different dial version, or one of the bracelet models? Please share your thoughts about it in comments below!

 

Friday, 1 January 2021

The Orient Logo

One of the controversial elements of the Orient brand is, undoubtedly, the logo. Some people seem to like it, some are just “okay” with it – and then there are those who simply cannot get over how much it annoys them…


People who like this logo refer to it as classic and royal (though, in fact Royal Orient does not use it) while those who hate the logo say it looks old and outdated, and often say it looks like the Philip Morris logo. Truth be told there are many similarities between the two, but then both just borrow from the styling of old coat-of-arms symbols.

Orient did not actually use this logo in its early years, and I am not 100% certain when it was designed. The brand’s first watches, introduced in the 1950s and early 60s, usually simply had the “Orient” name printed on, in various fonts and styles.


Often, there was no clear branding as such, and the Orient name was simply used as part of the model name (e.g. “Weekly Auto Orient”)


It was the Orient Star sub-brand that received a dedicated logo first, as early as its launch in 1951. The “S” symbol that decorated this more upscale line of watches was refined, and while it underwent some changes over the years it remains largely recognizable throughout its evolution – till this very day.



The familiar logo began appearing on Orient watches around the mid 1960s, although logo-less models continued to show up long after. During the 80s, for instance, most quartz Orients did not have the logo on them. More recently however the logo became an inseparable part of the brand’s dial design.


Interestingly, Orient provided a rational explanation to the design: In a letter published a few years ago by Jun Watanabe, president of Orient Watch Company, he stated that the lion on the left symbolizes the company, while the second lion symbolizes their dealers and partners. The crown above the shield symbolizes the customer. The entire emblem therefore represents Orient’s respect for its customers and the desire to provide them with quality products.

Last but not least, comes Royal Orient. This line of higher-end watches was introduced in 1958, and at first – did not bear any unique logo. In its modern iteration, it briefly adopted the crown logo, then – the “R” logo, similar to the classic Orient Star symbol. Finally, in its latest production runs prior to being discontinued, it returned to a clean text-only logo.


Back to the main argument though… where do you stand on the question of the Orient logo? Like it? Hate it? Share your thoughts with us!

 

Photos taken in part from Orient Place blog own photography, and in part – from official Orient catalogs and old sale ads.


UPDATE:

After this article was published, an avid reader (thank you, omegaforest!) pointed out an additional, rare variation of the logo that seemed to be used with only a few old models - apparently "AAA" models from the later 1960s. This version used only the stylized "O", which appears on the shield in the full logo.


Monday, 21 December 2020

So long, 2020!

Exactly one year ago, we were looking forward to 2020. Orient's 70th year in business was supposed to be fantastic, a time to celebrate this respectable event marking our favorite brand's anniversary with cool watch releases, both new designs and reissues.

Well – we know what happened next… 2020 was a bit of a letdown, wasn't it. But since this blog voices the optimist view of hopeful hobbyists, we'll keep it positive.


 

Orient did manage to stick to its release plans, as many other watch brands have – indeed, it is an industry that sells grown-ups' toys to sentimental consumers looking to add some joy to their wrists. So, regardless of actual sales figures (which we're yet to see annual summaries of), this industry kept ticking.

Most of Orient's 70th-anniversary releases were indeed covered in depth on this blog. While most of the new models we're fine, some were more impressive than others. The blog's favorites – a completely subjective list of course – includes the unmistakenly-Orient reissues of the Retro Future Camera and King Diver, and that very sharp-looking "Contemporary" Moonphase Orient Star.

So what's next? We're all hoping that 2021 would be a year of returning to normal. Not that "new normal", thank you very much – just plain old normal. A year when we can all go to our local AD and shop for watches, mask-free; when we can go out to dinner, sans the distancing, with our favorite dress watch on the wrist, or just travel freely with our GMT piece.


 

One last thing – we'd like to introduce a new Instagram hashtag for the blog… We'll be following #OrientPlace (yes there's a few unrelated posts with this tag, but we'll soon outnumber those). So if you wish to draw our attention to your new watch purchase, review, or just a cool photo, feel free to use #OrientPlace and we'll take note.

So, till we return in January, we wish you all a happy holiday and a very happy new year!

 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Orient Watch Pairs – His and Hers

Holiday season is here, and it's gifting time. And what better gift can we watch fans think of than a pair of watches for him (or you) and her? Luckily Orient has that healthy habit of producing some of its models in pairs, and today we'll be looking at some examples.

 

Current Models

The first obvious example is the always-in-fashion Bambino. This is one of Orient's most successful watches, and commonly recognized as one of the best options on the market for a low-cost automatic dress watch that delivers fine quality and lots of charm and elegance.

The Bambino comes in many versions – currently, there's the classic configuration, as well as a small seconds versions and an open heart – all of which share a case diameter of 40.5mm. While some consider this too large for a classic dress watch, it is still a very wearable size for most wrists. Each version of course has a variety of references with different dial colors, case finishes etc.

The perfect match for this model is the 36mm Bambino. We reviewed this model in 2019, and it is a really pretty thing!


Another decent option for pairing watches is the Sun and Moon. Orient has been producing variations on this theme for years now – you can read a little about the history of this concept here.

Recently, Orient introduced some new versions of both the men's automatic Sun and Moon and the women's quartz version, with cases sized 41.5mm and 34.3mm respectively. The green pair featured here stands out but might be more difficult to acquire, both being limited editions. However, other versions with black, silver, blue, or creme dials, are just as nice.


If you're into open-heart watches, here is one more couple of models that could make a nice pair – this time, both belong in the Classic Semi-Skeleton line of the Orient Star sub-brand. The men's version is 40mm wide, while the women's model is a mere 30.5mm. These are available in a variety of other colors as well.


 

Discontinued Models

These are gift options that are more difficult to find, and are intended for true die-hard fans of the brand (or of vintage watches).

A good example is this classic pair of Orient Stars that date back to the mid 2000s. while appearing nearly identical, reference WZ0291PF is the larger one at 34mm (which would generally be considered small, and possibly better suited for boys), and WZ0161NR is only 29mm wide. If you can't find these, you might have better luck with other variants of the NR/PF line, which occasionally pop up on eBay and other auction sites.


Some other examples for nicely paired quartz models were presented by OrientWatch USA in 2012. Watches of this sort were fairly cheap back then and should be quite inexpensive now, even in NOS or mint condition – that is, if you can source any.


Throughout the 2010s, Orient introduced numerous pair models as part of its "Stylish and Smart" line. Orient would often refer to these as "Duo" models. Here is one such example…


Duo models were also included in the "Disk" family of models, which was introduced in 2011. It should be fairly simple to find pairable models of this family, still.


Orient even released such a Duo, a pair of solar-powered quartz watches, under its Daks co-branded product line.


And, in 2015, a few watch-pairs were included in the World Stage collection – this time, powered by automatic movements.


All the above are but a few examples out of many pairing options that you can find in Orient's current and historical range of watches… You're welcome to let us know about more cool pairs you find, here in comments, or on our Facebook page!

 

The top photo (Bambinos) is copyright of OrientPlace blog. Images of the NR/PF models were taken from Watch Tanaka website. Other images were taken from Orient USA (where noted) and Orient's official press releases and catalogs.