Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 24 May 2018

The Business-Casual Orient Star

It's not quite a dress watch though it is undeniably elegant; it is sporty, but it's definitely not a sport watch. I call it a business-casual watch. This is the Orient Star reference WZ0041FR, one of Orient's collaborations with famed leather goods manufacturer, Somès.

Now, you'll notice in my photos the watch is not attached to a Somès strap. I have indeed acquired it second hand (had not found any new ones at the time) and the price was just attractive enough: the original strap, I'm sure, is fabulous, but I'm quite happy with the strap I got it with. Anyway let's focus on the watch, not the strap, shall we…?

This one is not a small watch by any means – 43mm wide, 14mm thick, 47mm tip to toe. However, the unique shape of the case makes it very comfortable – it really curves so as to hug the wrist, and is quite honestly one of the best looking watch cases I have seen. Not just at this price point but even compared to watches priced way, way higher. You'll notice how the top is brushed while the sides and the bezel are finely polished – so not just a nice geometry but also superb execution.

The technical specifications are what you'd expect from an Orient Star, which is to say: more than adequate for the price point. The uniquely laid out dial is very well made, as macro shots reveal. You get lume points next to the hour markers and on the hands, all covered by nicely domed and AR coated sapphire crystal. Contrast and legibility are quite good.

The movement inside is an Orient 46X "FR", a time only caliber. It's a pretty basic machine really, featuring about 40 hours of power reserve, 21,600 beats per hour, and automatic winding only – no hand-winding and no hacking. That is indeed a downside. Mine does about minus 2-3 seconds a day, so runs a little behind but still within chronometer standards and frankly, if you cannot hack it, you probably wouldn't be able to set it to within greater accuracy anyway…

What really makes this one a winner to me, is simply how full of charm it is. The small details combine so well to create a look that, while not classic, simply works. As is often the case with Orient designs, the sum is greater than its parts; even the funny looking small seconds sub-dial, which would probably seem very out of place on any other watch, somehow looks good in here.

This model is long discontinued. And once again I apologize for reviewing a dated model… still, used pieces can still be found online. It used to sell for around $400-500 USD as new, and used pieces in good condition surface nowadays at anywhere from $200 to $300.

That line of Orient Somès releases included a number of variations in different dial colors – reddish-brown, green, and yellow – as well as a yellow-gold toned case with a white dial. They're all nice, really. The green and brown are attractive, and the yellow one, ref. WZ0051FR, is really bold and stands out like an Orient should. The black dial remains my favorite, though, being the most versatile.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Orient's "Prestige Shops"

It's no secret every watch brand would love to have its own branded stores, where it could boast its timepieces in a manner most suitable to them, providing the right atmosphere, and having sellers that are more knowledgeable and better representatives of the brand. Of course, not every brand eventually runs such stores – either because their existing retailers do a good job at selling, or because of other constraints.

Orient, too, recently began expanding their own branded "Prestige Shops". How recent? I have not seen any specific documentation of this, but looking at dated mentions of these shops they seem to have popped up in 2015. There are currently quite a lot of Prestige Shop locations in Japan (it is a JDM thing – you won't find them elsewhere), some are probably just shops-within-shops, located inside larger retailer stores.

The Prestige Shops are primarily intended to showcase Orient Star, the brand's premium product line. What's nice about this is that, as is often the case with branded stores, Orient also occasionally introduce special "prestige shop editions" of their familiar models. What's even nicer is that these models are in fact fairly easy to find online – used and new.

Here are a few such special editions I happen to like – though I do not own these, the pictures are from online catalogs.

WZ0171DK – a golden variation of the familiar open heart dress watch.

WZ0241DA – open heart with a fantastic maroon dial.

WZ0221DK – semi skeleton with a gorgeous blue dial and rosy hands and markers.

WZ0051AC – a nice variation of the classic time-and-date design.

WZ0051DX – perhaps the crown jewel of the Prestige Shop models – Orient Star's great looking full skeleton, with some key elements of the dial normally in bright silver here presented in a sort of warm golden brown.

So, when shopping for an Orient Star – if you're looking for something a little different, keep these Prestige Shop models in mind!

Monday 7 May 2018

Another Fine Cookie: The Orient "Oreo"

Orient is well known for its classic, bang-for-your-buck dress watches, like the Bambino and the more upscale Orient Star Classic. However as is often the case, the real gems of Orient lay in the farther corners of the upper shelves.

So it was in those hidden corners, among quirky dials and funky color choices, that I went looking for a new dress watch, about a year ago. And there it was! Browsing old websites and sale ads that were long sold out, I came across the Orient Star reference WZ0071DG – AKA "Oreo".

It quickly became clear that was no easy catch. There were no Oreos currently on sales – anywhere. But, where there's a will there's a way. I have found an eBay listing for the watch that was recently completed, but not sold. I messaged the seller, advising him I would buy the watch for the price last advertised if he posts the watch again. Soon enough, the seller re-posted the watch, and I snatched it. One WZ0071DG is in the mail!

So what's it like in real life? First, as a seasoned Orient collector would by now have expected, it looks fantastic, and better than the pictures. The black and cream dial is a winner, a true classic. It is a combination that was not so rare in the sixties but is nowadays fairly uncommon, and even when being used (as in the Omega Seamaster Olympic Games 2018, for example) it does not come close to the neatly harmonic arrangement of the Oreo dial.

The harmonious look is greatly supported by the symmetry of the time-only display. No power-reserve, not even a date window, and not a lot of text either – just the Orient Star logo at 12, and "Automatic, 22 Jewels" at 6. All are nicely packed inside the 38 mm wide (without the crown), 12 mm thick (with the box crystal) case.

Now, this is Orient Star, so it is not just about looks – this is very much about execution as well. The thing is loaded with quality, as some macro shots very clearly reveal.

First of all, it's the warmth of the dial. Some watches really benefit from a bit of glare, a sunburst effect or some sparkle, but the understated design of the Oreo really does not need such effects. What does elevate the beauty of the dial is the eggshell texture, which turns the otherwise cold monochromatic geometry into a much friendlier affair.

Everything else is just as well made – hands, markers and all other dial elements are crisp; the case is well made, with some nice angles making the lugs not as trivial as may seem at first glance. The leather strap that the Oreo comes with is not amazing but is nice enough, quite comfortable and definitely not as stiff as its shiny color seems to imply, and the Orient Star buckle attached to it is really lovely.

Inside the watch is an Orient automatic, hand-winding and hacking movement. Movement spec is officially -15 to +25 seconds a day; Mine does about +8 seconds a day, which is good enough. The movement is moderately decorated – nothing fancy, but it still makes a nice view through the case-back mineral crystal.

Winding is easy – the crown is small but easy to grasp. On the wrist, it's a joy to wear – and why wouldn't it be? The small, slim case is lightweight, and slips easily under a shirt cuff.

Bottom line, this is one seriously cool watch. It has vintage looks and proportions, but is equipped with a reliable modern movement, and is very well built for what it costs. Originally priced at around $500 USD, this model did not depreciate, on the contrary – mint exemplars don't go out on sale very often and when they do the asking price is typically around $700.

Nobody likes to pay more for an old watch than what the ticket says, but then again – if you're looking for a classic looking black and white dress watch, it's not like you have too many alternatives. Even at $700 the WZ0071DG feels almost like a bargain.