Orient Place

Orient Place

Monday 30 April 2018

Catch Of The Day: Orients For Sale

I thought it would be interesting to post some links to cool and unusual Orient watches that are currently available to buy online. I'll be posting updates every few weeks, so you better follow closely :)

Here are three current offers that I find quite attractive - but first let clarify I have no affiliation whatsoever with the sellers - and I have not personally checked these offers, so buyer's caution is advised, as always!

First up is this cool looking Orient Star "Retro Future" ref. WZ0291FH. Watch looks clean, seller has 100% rating. This watch used to sell at around $500 (USD), so the suggested price there seems fair.

Another watch that I believe is not so easy to find and, well, is simply a lot of fun to wear, is this 1st Generation M-Force. It is smaller and lighter than current M-Force models, with its 40mm Titanium case, and the dial is super cool. I have bought a similar model (different color dial) from this seller, as well as a couple other watches - he is trustable.

Last one for today, is this Orient Star WZ0281FD with a blue dial - but not your typical shade of blue. It is currently on auction, which ends in 6 days. Again, this is typical Orient - and would be totally atypical by any other watch brand!

Good luck, and if you succeed in acquiring any of these lovely Orients, please let me know!

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Royal Orient, Rest In Peace

Orient was established in 1950 (although it only got the Orient name a year later). Seven years later, the moniker Orient Star came to be, representing the manufacturer's finer watches, and in 1958 Royal Orient was presented, the next in a line of upscale models.

Over the following years, the Royal Orient name was being used rather inconsistently, as was the case with many Japanese manufacturers (Seiko were often just as vague in their use of sub-brands and model lines). At some point, Orient Star took center stage and "Orient Star Royal" was some kind of a sub-sub-brand, denoting the more expensive Stars. In 2003, towards the end of that chapter in the life of Royal Orient, regular OS were priced below 100,000 Yen (at a rate of about 115 Yen, give or take, to the US dollar), whereas Royals were priced above the 100K mark.

The following year, in 2004, the last reincarnation of the Royal came to life – the name now being, once again, "Royal Orient" – and the cause for celebration was a brand new high-end movement, the 28,800 BPH, COSC-rated caliber 88700.

Some fine changes in the logo took place later on – well, you can't be too consistent with your branding, can you? – and "Orient Star Royal" were still to be found on the shelves well into 2007 – but still, the positioning of Royal Orient was more or less stable, as the top-of-the-line Orient, Until it came to a sudden, unannounced death in 2017.

Why did Royal Orient go away? Should Orient fans mourn its demise? Well, here are my thoughts – all are based on my personal opinion, so I'm more than happy to read your perspective in the comments below!

From a marketing perspective, it makes sense for manufacturers that are not luxury-brands per se, to maintain a certain presence at higher price-point than their main products. Like the R8 you'd see in the Audi showroom when you go buy your A4, these higher-end products make the mainstream consumer feel just a little bit more special. They can also prove very profitable, if the premium in pricing exceeds the additional cost of production.

Was the Royal Orient the R8 to Orient's A4s? Unfortunately, it most likely was not. Primarily because 99% of the people who'd buy a standard Orient Mako or Bambino, have never even heard of the Royal – let alone see one.

Was the Royal Orient a money maker for the brand? Again I believe chances are it was not, and not because of premium asked – but because of sale volumes required to produce the profits. See for example these two retrograde models, Orient Star and Royal. Would you pay 4 times more for the Royal version?

List price for the Star – around 80,000 Yen; The Royal ticket was more than 300,000. Yes, the Royal Orient does look more nicely finished, and rumor has it that the famous Zaratsu polishing was used in its production. But – and it's a big but – was that ever advertised anywhere? Seiko never misses an opportunity to brag about the techniques used in the making of Grand Seiko. Bragging makes marketing. No bragging, no selling.

And then, Orient Stars were getting closer to what seemed to be the top prices consumers were willing to pay for Orient. Behold the following Skeleton models:

This Orient Star retailed at close to 200,000 Yen. It looks fantastic (in real life much more than in these official photos) – almost as good as the more expensive Royal Orient, despite using a more common movement that probably cost much less to produce. Many Orient fans did find the Star attractive enough to purchase. Probably not that many would have paid more for the Royal.

And, the Royal Orient was quite difficult to find, even by those who may have been seeking it. Grand Seiko, for instance, achieved cult status way before it became officially available in the US, and many people had their GS shipped from Japan. How many would have bothered to pay and have a Royal Orient shipped over from Japan? Again, probably not enough.

So in conclusion, it seems that without a major investment in re-branding, advertising and logistics, it made no sense to keep the Royal Orient line alive. We are lucky, however, that the Orient Star is very much alive and keeps producing wonderful new models!

(and, I'd be posting some articles about my Orient Stars, in the near future J)

Wednesday 18 April 2018

The Orient GM

The GM is a little-known line of models from Orient, which I believe any Orient collector should know. Today I would like to tell you about my GM, A unique piece with a story…

In the late 60s Orient wanted to join the "arms race" to high beat movements. It first developed the "tenbeat" (presented in 1970), an ultra-rare piece sold in minute numbers which I can only assume did not cover the cost of development. Not that there are any available articles discussing what happened back then, but being an industrial engineer and business manager, I think that is a pretty safe assumption.

Looking for a commercially viable endeavor, Orient chose a more sensible approach, an 8 beat movement for an affordable watch. So they went to Seiko and sourced their brand new 5216A movement. This was a member of the 5200 family, acknowledged as one of the best 8 beaters at the time, that was driving some of Seiko's finest models like King Seiko and Lord Matic. Orient dubbed it the caliber 26960 and placed it inside a new model line - the GM.

That was the only Orient produced with a Seiko movement prior to the latter's acquisition of Orient; and to the best of knowledge one of only two such cases ever, the other being a more recent attempt by Orient at mechanical chronographs, powered by a Seiko chronograph movement.

The GM line too did not last for long. Only a few variations were made around 1970-71. Not as rare as the tenbeat but still difficult to find in good condition, I somehow stumbled upon this one NOS. With the tag and stickers still on!

This particular GM has a lovely blue textured dial with just the right amount of shine, a finely brushed case with a polished bezel, and an overall slim and elegant look. An absolute joy to wear and behold.

The 5216A was relaunched by Seiko in the 90s as the 4s15, part of the 4s family, positioned very high up the scale of Seiko models of that era. Watches containing either the 4s15 or the older 5216 nowadays fetch anywhere from 600 dollars to well above 1000, if in decent condition. This piece cost less than 300. Another reason to love Orient!

Welcome to Orient Place

Welcome! You've arrived at Orient Place, a blog dedicated to Orient watches - new and old, divers and land-bound, fancy and plain - although, Orients never truly are plain.

I'm not a professional watchmaker or journalist, nor do I consider myself a collector - at least, not a hoarder or one to fill up display boxes and winders with "museum pieces" never meant to be worn. Nope, I do own quite a few watches, many of which are Orients (as well as other Japanese pieces) - all are intended to be used on a regular basis. Just like watches need to be.

In this blog, I will be reviewing some of my Orients (and possibly some Orients that are not mine but would "happen" to fall into my hands) as well as discussing different aspects of the Orient brand, its history, models, characteristics, and so on. Don't expect timegrapher measurements and mechanical analysis of the merits of this mainspring or that balance; these would all be 100% subjective opinions of an amateur, although seasoned, aficionado.

So if you love watches and Orient in particular, or wish to learn more about why other people have such a fondness for Orient - please follow my Blog!