Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 24 June 2018

Are Orient and Seiko Truly Independent?

We all know Orient is owned by the Seiko Group. But what does this actually mean? Are the two brands independent, or does "Seiko tell Orient what to do"? Let's explore this a little bit.

First of all, it is important to understand that technically Orient is not "owned by Seiko" as in "owned by the Seiko Watch Corporation". Seiko Watch (alongside SII that make the movement parts) and Orient are both subsidiary companies within two branches of the Seiko Group, each branch forming a holdings corporation in its own right. So in this sense Seiko and Orient are both equivalent brands in the group hierarchy. The difference being that Seiko, the larger brand, spans a number of companies that take part in the making and marketing of their watches, while Orient is very much an integrated manufacturer.

Seiko Group have in the past claimed that both branches are managed independently. Considering also the pride Japanese employees at all levels take in their belonging to an established company, and the significance of hierarchy in this business culture, it makes sense that indeed there is a great deal of independence and possibly even a healthy dose of competition between the brands (just think of how two teams within Seiko itself were competing back in the old days of "Grand Seiko" vs. "King Seiko").

Now, dependence or links between watch manufacturers can manifest in different ways: it could be shared components or designs; avoiding competition or some form of splitting the market between them; shared marketing channels, and so on.

As far as shared components, these seem to be negligible. Orient has indeed used Seiko movements on a few occasions (for instance with its GM movement years ago, and more recently in its mechanical chronographs). However these were fairly insignificant offerings, produced in far smaller numbers compared to the brand's main product lines. It wouldn't make sense for Orient to produce in-house movements for these products, and taking them from Seiko was a sensible business move regardless of corporate relations. Anyway, it seems that between the 1960's until present times, Orient's use of technical knowledge and designs originating in Seiko, has gradually diminished.

Design-wise, Orient and Seiko are quite distinct. Yes they each have their basic three-handers that can sometime appear similar, but as soon as you start looking at more elaborate offerings – the different approaches to the relationship between form and function become obvious. There are some very broad common lines that could be attributed to a Japanese design philosophy, but those could be just as evident in Citizen watches as well – in general, I don't think Orient's classic designs are closer to Seiko's than they are to Citizen, the local competitor.

The only incident that comes to mind where Orient dropped a product line that could have at some point competed with Seiko, was the termination of the Royal Orient. But as I have argued on a previous post, this decision seems to have been justified in its own right.

So – it really appears as though the two brands have almost complete freedom as far as design and production. There does indeed seem to be many shared distribution channels – western retailers that sell both Orient and Seiko – but this seems to be more the result of sensible logistics (importing from the same part of the world) and attracting similar customers (looking for affordable mechanical watches, dive watches etc.)

What do you think?

Monday 11 June 2018

The Most Colorful Watch Ever?

This review is going to be quite different, because it discusses a very unusual watch. The most colorful watch I had seen, so much so it goes beyond absurd, and reaches utter coolness.

Behold, the Orient Three Star multi-year calendar reference WV0131EU. I'll just call it "Rainbow".

The Rainbow is a member of Orient's famed multi-year calendar family. The multi-year calendar as a concept deserves an article of its own (on my to-do list, don't worry). This feature, where by rotating a wheel to place the current year under the current month you get a monthly calendar matching the date to a weekday, is sometime also referred to as a perpetual calendar.

As such, Orient definitely breaks the record for the world's cheapest Perpetual Calendar (Just kidding of course, I know what a proper Perpetual Calendar means)!

One record this piece is a true contender for, is "Most Colorful Watch Ever". At least as far as men's watches go. The Rainbow definitely features all colors of the rainbow – and a few extra colors too, I think.

Legibility, of course, is quite poor. The hands are thin and bland, and the watch needs to be tilted at the right angle for them to reflect light and stand out against the cheerful background. But of course, don't hold the watch at too acute an angle, else the sharp edges of the faceted, mineral glass would get in the way.

But then again all that does not really matter. Just enjoy the colors and the way the light plays with them and with the glass!

Accuracy? Well, the Rainbow uses the Orient EU movement, which does not hack. Considering the fact you cannot really set the exact time and that once set, you would not really see where the hands are pointing most of the time – accuracy doesn't really matter. Don't worry, like any fairly new and properly maintained Orient, it should be good enough and not lose or gain more than around 15-20 seconds a day, and often it would be much better than specs.

The Rainbow's case is well made for the price, nicely polished and comfortable. The crown is used for setting the time and date, while the pusher at 2 is used for rotating the year wheel. Now, the whole calendar thing, years, months and days, is also printed in rather tiny letters so you'd need to focus hard in order to make them out; but again, don't let this discourage you: think of it not as a hardcore time measurement device, but rather as a nice little toy to carry around on your wrist. You click the button, something moves, it's all good fun. Right?

Here it is pictured, on its original bracelet, with the "most colorful watch" runner-up – my old Tressa. I think they make good friends.

So there you have it, a completely illogical, illegible, ill-designed offering from Orient that is impossible not to love (unless you're a mean, dark soul). I don't think Orient is producing this specific design at the moment, although they might come back at some point. 

The Rainbow, and some similar colorful variations of the multi-year calendar, can occasionally be found in mint condition for anywhere between 150 – 200 US dollars. This model's year wheel only reaches 2024, so hurry up and make the most of the 6 years left for you to enjoy it!

Sunday 3 June 2018

Catch Of The Day (June '18)

Following up on my previous "catch of the day" piece, here again are links to more unusual or rare Orient watches that are currently available to buy online. I have no affiliation with the sellers, and do not vouch for authenticity or quality, so buyer's caution is advised

First up is this very lovely "Prestige Shop Limited Edition" 
Orient Star Semi Skeleton ref. WZ0241DA. It's new – one of a few now available for sale – but this seller is presenting the actual watch, not catalog photos, which I like.

What's great about this watch is the warm crimson dial, which very much makes it a unisex design. And that's good, because if your significant other asks "what's that, did you just buy yourself another watch?" you can convincingly say "no, it's meant to be a surprise for you! Here, let me just wear it for a while, I'm breaking in the strap for you".

Now, if you're into Vintage, here's a really nice catch – a good old Orient Fineness "Ultra Matic" I wouldn't call this a unicorn but there are definitely not too many out there for sales at any given moment. This piece seems in good shape, the movement looks clean, and the price is sensible.

Last for today is this very nice "Duke", available from Orient Watch USA (so you'll need a shipping address in the US). The Duke is a little larger and sportier than the more popular Bambino, but definitely has a charm and the dial really looks great in reality.

What's even nicer about this White Dial Duke ref. FER2J003W0 is that it's not only on sale, at what seems a pretty good price upon quick comparison, but it is currently also viable for Orient Watch USA's Father's Day 45% discount, if you use the coupon code THANKSDAD.

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Oh, and one more thing… I opened a YouTube channel with some videos of watches I review here. Nothing fancy – but I do believe videos are a nice complementary to still photos, as they can show the watch from different angles.

The channel is here, and once I get 100 subscribers – according to YouTube's rules – I'd be able to claim a custom URL, making the channel address easier to remember.