Orient Place

Orient Place

Wednesday 17 July 2019

The History of Orient's Semi-Skeleton Design

The concept of skeleton watches as a way of boasting the mechanical movement inside a wristwatch has probably always been around, and especially so once the Swiss watch industry began to fight back against the new Quartz watches. However, there has always been a conflict between the desire to show the movement, and the equally strong desire to present an impressive, well finished dial, that's also arguably more legible than most skeleton watches.

While one solution was the exhibition case-back, a different design solution was presented in 1994 by the then-young Swiss brand, Frederique Constant. Dubbed "Heartbeat" by the designers, they produced a classic dial and then put a hole in it, at the position of the balance wheel, allowing the owner to enjoy the beating heart of the movement.

Over time, numerous brands picked up the concept and implemented it in their watches, and in October 2003 Orient presented their first semi-skeleton piece, the Orient Star ref. WZ0011FH.

The watch used Caliber No. 46S50, especially designed between 2002-2003 by Orient to serve as a semi-skeleton movement. Priced at 70,000 JPY (less than 700 USD, at the time) it was a great commercial success, which sparked Orient's continued focus on Semi-Skeleton watches – that continues to this day.

As the range of Orient semi-skeleton models grew exponentially (well, not really… but it did grow very much!) it is nearly impossible, as well as futile, to try and list all variations. But let's take a look at a few interesting examples.

In 2007, Orient introduced open-heart Royal Orients running a unique movement, 40Z60. This was very similar to the 46S50, but had an extra jewel (24 instead of 23) and was more finely regulated to +10/-5 seconds per day. Offered in three dial variants, these models were also presented with smaller, ladies' versions, which used the simpler caliber 50A40. The range of these models is presented below, along with their prices in JPY.

Another interesting range of semi-skeleton watches was introduced by Orient as the "retro-future" collections. Below you can see three such retro-future models from 2008, representing – from left to right -  the "motorcycle", "camera", and "car" collections. Despite the different looks, and exposing a little more than just the round aperture, all three used the same cal. 46S50 as the first Orient semi-skeleton.

Over time, Orient's use of semi-skeleton architecture expanded in a number of directions.

As the popularity of the design grew, the open-heart look was adopted to lower-cost, "non-star/royal" models. These were given simpler movements, such as cal. 46A40/41. Some examples include the 2008 WV0101DB, the 2010 WV0261DB, and the 2012 WV0341DB, below.

Another direction for expansion, was the extension of the design from the simple "open heart" aperture to more elaborate semi-skeletonized designs. Take for example these interesting pieces: the 2009 WV0061FT, the 2013 nearly-full-skeletonized WZ0081DK and the "speedtech" WV0011DA, and the 2016 WZ0281DK.

Orient's use, and evolution, of semi-skeleton movements continues. In 2017, the brand launched the Orient Star semi-skeleton moon-phase, which we reviewed earlier this year.  In 2018, caliber F6T22 was introduced, offering a nicer view through the open-heart aperture. Open heart variants were added to such popular models as the Bambino.

As already stated, these were only a few examples of Orient's vast range of semi-skeleton movements – and we barely touched on the brand's current open heart range. Don't worry – you may see this as merely an introduction to the subject. The blog will return to cover Semi-Skeletons in the future.

In fact… a review of one very special open-heart Orient is coming up soon!

All photos in this story were taken from Orient catalogs.

Thursday 11 July 2019

New Versions of Orient Sun & Moon and "Defender" Field Watch

A couple of new models, each with a number of variants, are announced today by Orient. The announcement comes as no surprise to avid blog readers, as these were very much anticipated based on the hints we exclusively received from Orient, and reported here.

First up – a new version of Orient's much loved Sun and Moon watch. All Sun and Moon models feature a nice illustration of the Sun and Moon rising and setting instead of a standard 24 hour display, and this does not change in the new edition.

What does change though – in a good way, we think – is a reduction in size compared to the previous version of the watch. The case is now 41.5mm wide (instead of 42.5, crown excluded, in the previous "V4") and 13mm thick (instead of 14mm). Lug width remains a convenient 22mm.

The lug shape is changed to a simpler shape compared to the previous version, which flows more naturally from the case. Orient claim that in doing so, they are placing the new model in their "contemporary" collection, as opposed to the "classic" collection where the previous model was.

On the dial, the elements have moved around slightly, with a normally-sized date window at 3 o'clock replacing the previous elongated window at 8. Also, applied hour markers are now used instead of the numerals painted on most previous versions.

Below are the five variants of the new model, with reference and price (in JPY).

The blog's verdict: well done! The new case does look better and more modern, and the changes in the dial are small but positive. If you liked the Sun and Moon before, you'll like the new release even better.

Next, it is a new version of Orient's field watch, also known as the "Defender". The new model is immediately recognizable as a successor to the previous Defender, bearing the familiar 24 hour and weekday sub-dials.

The case of the new model is similar in size to the previous one, at slightly over 42mm in width and 12mm thickness. What has changed though, is the positioning of the crown, which moved from 4 to a more standard 3 o'clock. Some will like the new look better, some might have preferred the previous position for convenience.

On the dial, things are both familiar and slightly different. The date window is now at 3 (is Orient trying to align more of its models around a standard positioning of the date?). The 24 hour sub-dial is larger, which sort of makes sense in a "field watch", while the day sub-dial is smaller.

Inside the watch however a more significant improvement is introduced, as the old 21 Jewel, non-hacking and non-hand-winding caliber 46B40 is replaced with the new 22 jewel, hacking and hand-winding automatic cal. F6B22.

The blog's verdict: good job! The new movement is definitely a very positive step, and in the looks department, while impressions might be subjective, overall the watch retains its utilitarian appearance and tool-watch character.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

The 36mm Bambino

When we received the Bambino Small Seconds for review earlier this month, we also got the 36mm Bambino. This is a model that got us honestly curious, as there are certainly many Bambino fans out there who insist the original's 40.5mm width is too large for them, and argue that a truly classic dress watch size is between 36 – 38mm.

The 36mm Bambino (36.4 to be precise) seems to be the perfect answer for these claims. Retaining the classic Bambino DNA – domed crystal, lovely dial and all – the smaller version lies right in the goldilocks zone for the more conservative of watch buyers. Or is it…?

The 36mm watch was originally introduced by most retailers as a "ladies version" of the Bambino. It's easy to see how its design really does speak to female customers, or at least bears a lot of resemblance to classic ladies watches: the smaller dial dictated by the case size has less open space and a more compact arrangement of details, like the applied logo, gold toned markers and hands, which against the sunburst effect of dial (more pearlescent here than in most other current Bambinos, it seems) create more of a jewel-like impression.

All this does not necessarily mean it cannot work as a unisex, or men's watch, as well. It's all in the details – and more than that, in the eyes of the beholder.

The version we received – ref. - RA-AC0010S – comes attached to a leather strap – and it must be said right away that this almost instantly puts it the wife's jewelry box. The strap is narrow (17mm at the lugs) and tapers to around 13-14mm at the buckle. We let a couple of guys at the office take a look at it and they immediately associated the strap as belonging on a woman's watch.

On the wrist – particularly one larger than 7" – it really did feel a little petite, although much of that came from the combined appearance of the strap and jewel-like impression, and not so much the case size itself.

Now, keep in mind Orient more recently introduced the 36mm Bambino on a bracelet. And that actually does make a difference in its appearance. Take for instance this piece, ref. RA-AC0009S. A little less gold, a little more steel, and it does look more like a unisex watch.

So, in conclusion, here's what we can say about the 36.4mm Bambino:

·         It is indeed a lovely watch for women.
·         It will not work for men with wrists over 6.5"
·         Even at under 6.5", consider replacing the strap with a non-tapering one.
·         Or, at under 6.5", consider the versions that come on bracelet – however that would render them a little less classically dressy.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this 36mm Bambino for review.