Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 30 June 2019

Orient Bambino Small Seconds Hands-On Review

Orient released the first generation of the Bambino in 2012. The watch, which combined classic elements used in Orient dress watches since the 1950's into a simple yet characterful design was an instant classic.

Since that time, Orient released many new versions and variations of the Bambino. In early 2018, they launched the Bambino Small Seconds. Interestingly, the small seconds feature isn't an "added complication", but rather can be seen as a simpler mechanism which harks back to the earliest wrist watches; Central Seconds was in fact the real complication, added to wrist watches later on, with the introduction of "direct central seconds" in the late 1940's.

The model we'll be looking at today, is the yellow-gold plated, white dial ref. RA-AP0004S. Like most Bambinos, the steel case is 40.5mm wide (excluding the crown), 45.5mm long, and 12 mm thick (owing much to the domed mineral crystal). It comes on a 21mm wide brown leather strap with a simple gold-plated buckle. Driving the watch is Orient's caliber F6222 automatic, which hand-winds and hacks, and features the date and obviously, small seconds. Like many dress watches, its water resistance is a mere 30 meter.

How It Looks

The Bambino Small Seconds is a handsome timepiece. The dial is not plain white but rather a warmer shade with creamy notes, which goes very well with the golden elements – the case of course, as well as the applied hour markers and hands. This set is nicely complemented by the brown leather strap. First impression, then, is pretty good.

The looks are further enhanced by a number of design and execution features common to most Bambino variations, such as the domed crystal that enhances the warm, vintage-like feel of the watch; the brushed sides of the case and lugs; and the signed crown.

Upon closer inspection, more nice touches appear, such as the circular texture of the slightly recessed small-seconds sub dial, and the smart look of the minute and hour hands – both faceted dauphine hands with a varying angle. The minute hand also bends slightly towards its edge, matching the subtle downward curve of the dial as it reaches the bezel.

How It Feels

Well, it's a dress watch, and as such – a certain delicacy is expected and appreciated. This is not a heavy-duty watch and it does not feel like one.

What the Bambino Small Seconds does however convey, when you hold it in your hand, is a certain sense of fineness which budget dress watches usually lack. Too often, budget dress watches resort to the convenience of minimalism, which is typically expressed in flat dials, simple hands, and plain finishing. This Orient, like previous (and later) Bambinos, feels exactly the opposite: it's as if a serious attempt was made to pack as much feeling of generosity, luxury even, to this fairly inexpensive, entry-level automatic watch.

How It Wears

At 40.5mm diameter, the Bambino is sometimes criticized for being too large for a classic dress watch. In truth, this is very subjective and depends on personal tastes and indeed, the size of your wrist. For medium-to-large wrists, like mine, the size feels just right, and this is aided by the relatively short lugs.

Thus, the watch wears very well on wrists of size 7" and upwards. I'd say, even for a 6.5" this should wear well, albeit not giving off as classic a dress-watch appearance as, say, a 38mm case would.

The leather strap that comes with the watch is fairly good – the faux croc pattern and dark brown color coupled with just the right amount of padding, make it soft enough and comfortable to wear. Indeed the 21 mm lug size might limit your choice of after-market replacement straps, but only so much; do a little research and you'll find plenty of off-the-shelf as well as custom strap options to fit any budget.

How It Functions

The Bambino Small Seconds is simple and functional, it hides no dark secrets. The cal. F6222, visible through the exhibition caseback, belongs to Orient's current family of movements, the F6. We expect it to be as reliable and low-maintenance as most Orient movements are (thanks to their simple, proven architecture).

We have measured a deviation of +6 seconds per day on our unit – well within the -15, +25 specs.

Winding and setting the watch is easy enough, as the crown is grippy, and not too small.

Legibility is as you would expect from a dress watch – i.e. one that offers no lume. In normal light conditions, the clean large dial makes it very quick and easy to read the time. As it gets darker though, legibility would soon fade away.

The Bottom Line

Orient's Bambino family of watches is justifiably popular, and the small-seconds variant makes no exception. It is elegant and well made, and driven by a capable automatic movement.

Officially priced at around 370 USD, the Bambino Small Seconds can be found under 200 dollars at a number of online retailers. At this price it definitely presents excellent value for the money – providing its buyer with a very wearable dress watch, sufficiently impressive on the wrist, and not heavy on the wallet.

We would have been happier still if the watch featured sapphire as its front crystal (as indeed some other Orients at this price point do, like the "Symphony"), as the added sturdiness would have made it even more of a long-term investment. And indeed, it would have been nice to have the same design available in a smaller size, in the range of 37-38mm, in addition to the current size.

Generally speaking, it is very hard to find any major flaws with this model. Subjectively, some may find the watch too large for their wrist, or claim the design lacks originality; Objectively though, this is a great watch for the price.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Bambino Small Seconds for review, and Ralph Hason, for the excellent product photography.

Sunday 16 June 2019

Orient's Automatic Chronographs

Orient are well known for their automatic watches, and they also offer a nice range of quartz and solar chronographs. However, they are not the first manufacturer that comes to mind when one thinks of automatic chronographs.

Yet on a few rare occasions, Orient did engage in production of automatic chronographs, under the Orient Star badge – and those weren't half bad. In fact, they were pretty good! Not least because of the beating heart inside of them: Seiko's caliber 6S.

Seiko's caliber 6S

Seiko had been producing chronographs since the 1960s. When they introduced the caliber 6S chronograph movement in 1998, they had a lot of experience which was put to good use in the design; they also had very high aspirations as far as aiming for top quality, as 6S shared much of its engineering with the Grand Seiko 9S family of calibers, developed at the same time.

To make a long story short, that was a great success. The 6S proved to be a fantastic movement, so much so that Seiko ended up selling its design to Tag Heuer who used it as the basis for their caliber 1887. Until Seiko retired the caliber 6S from its own production lines it was used to drive some very fancy watches, like the Flightmaster (SBDS001) and a number of high-end Credor chronographs.

And it was this superb movement that Orient chose to build their auto chronographs with.

Orient DS Chronographs

The DS line of chronographs was released in 2007, as the "Clubman Chronograph" – following up on a previously released line of "Clubman" orients (don't worry, we will post an article covering the whole "Clubman" line, in the not-so-distant future…). It made use of the caliber 6S37 – a variant of the 6S that featured a power reserve gauge.

Three models were introduced: the black dialed ref. WZ0011DS, white dialed ref. WZ0021DS, and the properly funky baby-blue WZ0031DS. The WZ0031DS, by the way, is amazing (!!!) and we will honor it with a full review, one day.

The Clubman chronographs were fairly expensive as far as Orients go (close to 3,000 USD), and their production was probably limited – while they are not officially a limited (numbered) series, their current scarcity alone indicates the low volume of production.

Orient DY Chronographs

A few years passed and in 2012 – shortly before production of the 6S ceased altogether – Orient introduced another line of chronographs. This time, another variant was utilized, caliber 6S28, which did not feature a power reserve indicator (however it boasted the same roughly 50 hours of running time as the 6S37).

This time round, only two versions were introduced - the black dialed ref. WZ0011DY, and the white dialed ref. WZ0021DY.

Interestingly, while the price of these was considerably lower in Japanese Yen compared to the DS line, for most of the world this was not felt: that's because the Yen was much stronger in 2012. Possibly, Orient used the simpler variant of the 6S to keep the price down, at least in their local currency.

And then what…?

Then, there were no more. The short-lived DS and DY lines were the only automatic chronographs produced by Orient to date. Which is a shame, as they were truly excellent watches: made to Orient Star's very demanding standards, and driven by one of the best chronograph movements. In fact, most experts would agree these were superior to the current Seiko chronograph caliber 8R.

finding a pre-owned Orient auto chrono today is challenging. They pop up once in a while, and sellers ask for considerable prices – a mint DY can cost more than 2,000 USD, while a mint DS could get higher, and even close to their price when new.

Still, if you like Orient and are into chronographs, these make a fairly interesting proposition: costing about the same as similar spec and age Tag Heuers and Credors, with the DS / DY chronographs you're getting something rarer and, a proper conversation piece.

Photos taken from original Orient catalogs and press releases.

Sunday 2 June 2019

Orient Kamasu Hands-On Review

This blog often likes to look at some of Orient's more unusual watches: rare JDM releases, Orient Star limited editions, vintage unicorns. This time however, we will do what many of our readers might actually very much appreciate, and review one of the brand's current mainstream offerings: The Kamasu.

Orient "Kamasu" (Japanese for Barracuda) is one of the brand's latest iterations of the iconic dive watch configuration, alongside the slightly larger "Kano". These replace the highly popular Ray and Mako.

In this review we will take the liberty of ignoring the previous generations of Orient divers, and simply judge the Kamasu for its own merits. In addition we are going to look the truth in the eyes and make a small confession: we are not divers. And we are not judging this as a diver's watch. We see the Kamasu the same way most of its owners would: as a daily, sporty, versatile watch that can take a splash.

The watch we received for review is the blue dial / blue bezel model, officially Orient Sports Diver Style ref. RA-AA002L. Its steel case is 41.8mm wide (without the crown), 46.5mm long (lug to lug) and 12.8mm thick. It comes on a 22mm wide steel bracelet that locks with a push-button deployant clasp. Inside is Orient's caliber F6922 automatic, which hand-winds and hacks, and features a central second hand, date and day. Its "dive watch" features include 200 meter water resistance, a screw-in crown, and a 120-click unidirectional bezel.

How It Looks

The Kamasu looks good. The dial is deep sunburst blue, and tends to play on the range between navy and almost black, depending on the light – however, this effect is fairly subtle and does not detract from legibility. The large hour markers are clear against the dark background and nicely proportioned, as are the hour, minute and second hands. The red tip of the second hand would be the only different color most days of the week, except on Sunday – that's when the weekday is also printed in red.

The case is simple and nice, polished on the sides and lightly brushed on the upper side of the lugs. This blends well with the bracelet which is likewise, polished on the sides and lightly brushed on top. The bezel looks good, with an insert in the same blue shade as the dial, and dotted all around. The case back is solid, and engraved with a picture of two dolphins. While the dolphins are a classic case-back image, I'd have expected a barracuda…

All in all, no complaints in the looks department. It's a classic dive watch design, wearing a handsome color scheme.

How It Feels

The Kamasu feels, for the most parts, a solid piece of metal. It's got nice heft and presents itself rather convincingly as a robust watch that does not ask to be handled too gently. It's not too shiny or glitzy, and coupled with a sapphire crystal and Orient's reputation for making reliable watches at this price range, it definitely passes as a proper tool watch.

Some loose ends remain though, in the form of hollow end links (although as such they too seem fairly solid), and a slightly wobbly crown – a known feature in some of Orient's dive watches (as well as some other brands). The crown wobble is rather restrained in this model though, and limited by the crown guards, so it is largely unfelt.

Other than the end links, the steel bracelet feels solid, and so does the clasp. None of those is particularly sophisticated or aiming to imitate a luxury product, instead they are made to be simple, functional, and apparently – long lived.

How It Wears

The Kamasu wears well. The case dimensions are just right – not too small, not too big, and should fit the majority of wrists (and the people connected to these wrists). On my 7.25" wrist, it seems perfect.

The underside of the watch, including the clasp and crown guards, is very smooth throughout – and comfortable. I've had experience with cheap clasps that felt very irritating on the skin, but here it's all good. The crown too, is not too big and should not bother even people who like to wear the watch very close to the edge of the wrist.

How It Functions

The first thing most people would play with when getting a new watch is the bezel. Bezel action on the Kamasu is excellent. It presents just the right amount of resistance to turning, with almost zero play and a good healthy click.

Next is the crown action. Unlocking is easy enough, however screwing the crown back in does occasionally take a little playing around to engage. Winding feels somewhat rougher than I expected, and pulling the crown to the second position (to set the date) was a little tricky and usually had me pull the crown all the way to the third position (time setting) before pushing it a little back in. If working the crown had been something a person does more than once a day (at most) it would be a weak point for the watch, however as it stands being an infrequent operation – it is no big deal.

Once wound and set, the watch works well. As mentioned it is highly legible, and boasts decent amount of lume paint on the hands and markers, so reading the time in low (or no) light is easy.

We have measured a deviation of +5 seconds per day on our unit – well within the -15, +25 specs. Also it's worth noting that while hand winding via the crown felt a little rough, the auto winding is smooth and quiet, with no unwanted rotor noises.

The Bottom Line

The Orient Kamasu is officially around 400 USD on bracelet (and around 360 on rubber). Most stores currently offer it online at around 280 USD. For this price you get quite a lot of watch, considering the 200m rating, sapphire crystal, ample lume, decent automatic movement and overall specs and quality.

While looks are subjective, everyone who saw the watch we reviewed seemed to like it. It is classic, mostly mainstream one-size-fit-all type of design, with some features that elevate it even higher, primarily that cool blue dial and good looking hour markers.

The only noticeable drawback we noted was the crown action; other elements that could be improved upon, such as the hollow end-links, are all understandable and expected given the price point.

The blog's verdict: another excellent dive watch from Orient that should satisfy anyone looking for an everyday wear that's nice enough for the office, and tough enough for most other daily activities. There are alternatives at this price point (from Seiko, and several micro-brands, for example), but the combination of looks, specs, and well proven reliability of the brand's offerings, rank the Kamasu fairly high among them.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this blue Kamasu for review, and Ralph Hason, for the excellent product photography.