Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 29 August 2019

Orient Watch Reissues

The recent release of the Orient SK reissue seems good excuse to look back at some of Orient's other reissues.

A reissue is generally when a (watch) company either brings back to production, or – more often and more likely – produces a new version which is based on, an old model. The extent of the similarity between the old and new versions is up to the manufacturer. Many watch brands have in recent years launched new models that were very closely based on vintage models, typically adjusted to current market expectations such as larger dimensions, improved water resistance, etc. Seiko's recent series of reissues of their classic divers is one well known example.

Watch brands often resort to old designs when they run out of fresh ideas, or simply when the old designs seem to have retained a loyal fan base that is likely to find a modern version appealing. While Orient does not seem to be out of new ideas, they certainly have plenty of old likeable models to resort to as basis for new editions.

Let's look at some examples of such reissues.

Between 2009 and 2010, Orient re-issued a number of models of historical importance, in respect of its 60th anniversary. For instance, there was the multi-year calendar ref. wv0061fx, a very faithful reiteration of an original 1976 model.

Roundabout the same time they also did a reissue of its famous King Master model of the mid 60s. Curiously, that did not prevent Orient from also reissuing a fairly similar model, the King Diver 21, 5 years later, as the ref. wv0011aa (however they did add one jewel to it, making it a "king diver 22"…)

Another very faithful reproduction was of the 1970 Chrono Ace. These were in fact so similar, that to this day I see sale ads presenting pre-owned re-issue models as "vintage chrono ace". Just remember, a quick tell-tale of the newer model are the lume dots, placed below each hour marker. These did not exist in the original.

Going back even further in time, the 1950's Orient Star Dynamic received a double dose – a proper reissue in 2005 with "Dynamic" on the dial, ref. wz0011eh, and then in 2011 a whole line of "new vintage" watches that hark back to 1950s designs – most notably, and unmistakably, this ref. wz0051dg, that closely resembled the "tuxedo" version of the old Dynamic.

Those were only a handful of examples, many more can be found if one digs deeper into Orient's past models.

Now tell us (in comments below, or on our Facebook page) – what other old models would you like to see Orient go back to and re-issue?

The photos in this post were taken from old Orient catalogs and advertisements.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Orient's Clubman Models

Like many watchmaking brands, Orient too have the occasional fling with car and racing inspired themes. Someday we'll do a proper write-up about Orient's motorsports-related watches. Today, we'll just look at one particular example, where racing was little more than an abstract influence.

Orient's Clubman models were a bunch of sports watches, produced by Orient in small numbers in the mid- and late- 2000s. There were basically two batches of Clubman models: the "Model 1" and the "Flagship Model", both under the "Orient Star" badge.

Model 1 was a pretty typical Orient watch, released in 2005. Utilizing caliber 46G, the movement driving the then-current generation of M-Force watches, and encased in a tough-looking 41mm stainless steel case. What appears like the winding crown at 3 o'clock is actually the date quick-set pusher; the real crown is at 4.

The sporty look of these Clubman watches stood out among most Orients, where non-diver models did not have timed bezels like here. The water resistance of these models was a fairly standard 100m.

While not specified in Orient's press releases of the time, it was later mentioned that the motorsport theme here was embodied in the colors of the different versions, which could be attributed to different famous national racing color schemes:

The black dial, black bezel version, ref. WZ0301EX, uses a color never associated with a particular nationality, but it does emphasize the metal, or silver color, associated with German racing. The red dial, red bezel version, ref. WZ0311EX, represented Italy. The white dial, black bezel ref. WZ0321EX would have represented Japan itself, and WZ0331EX with its green dial and bezel were of course, the racing colors of Britain.

These models sold for under 600 USD, and are fairly hard to find nowadays.

The Clubman chronograph models, which Orient referred to as the "Flagship Model" of its Clubman watches, were released a couple of years later, in 2007. We did cover those here on the blog, in our article referring to Orient's automatic chronographs.

Indeed these were much more expensive than Model 1 Clubman models, five times as much in fact, at around 3000 USD. They did not share much really with the first Clubman release, except for the  very general motorsports influences (even the bezel here isn't a real divers' bezel and does not rotate).

This time Orient's press release was clearer in explaining their inspiration: the dial layout, they said, was made to remind the wearer of the view from the driver's seat, looking over the dashboard with the power-reserve supposedly referring to the fuel gauge; the curved sapphire glass would be reminiscent of the windshield. They even referred to the light blue color of ref. WZ0031DS, as being "classical" blue – perhaps associated with French racing, overlooked in the previous "Model 1".

And after that, there were no more Clubman models. However these rare models produced over a decade ago, occasionally pop up for sale, and as well made and quite attractive as they were they make for an interesting proposition.

Thursday 1 August 2019

New Orient Star Divers Announced

Now that is some big news! It's been quite a few years since we've seen diver-style watches in the Orient Star line. And considering Orient's ability to produce really good divers on a budget, combined with the familiar quality of Orient Stars – there's much to look forward to with these new models!

In fact, Orient announced two new diver lines today, one being a classic full dial, and the other – a semi skeleton.

The semi-skeleton line-up looks more attractive and unique, based on the catalog photos. Six versions are introduced, two of which are Prestige Shop limited, and the rest should be widely available.

The different versions are in the 800-900 USD range. All of them are stainless steel 43.2mm wide, 49.2mm long lug-to-lug, feature sapphire crystal up front and mineral glass back, and are rated to 200m depth. Some are equipped with a steel bracelet, some – a leather strap, all fitting that Orient-favorite 21mm lug width.

The bezel is steel, and uni-directional. Orient did not mention whether the crown is a screw-down, but most likely it is (like most Orient diver watches). Inside, is the semi-skeletonized caliber F6R42, latest generation movement, with hacking and hand-winding, and as usual – specs are +25/-15 seconds day difference.

The blog's verdict: very well done! At least on paper, that is, until we get to see one in the flesh… the watch seems well proportioned, and specs are decent. Our favorites are those beautiful teal dial models – particularly ref. RK-AT0106E (the one on a bracelet, alas being the limited prestige shop model). The non-limited brown dial RK-AT0102Y is great looking too! 

The other model range announced consists of more traditional looking, full-dial watches. These are slightly cheaper than the semi-skeletons, and also a tad larger at 43.6mm wide and 51.1mm long. They do feature the more popular lug width of 22mm.

The movement here is F6N47, with very similar specs to the aforementioned semi-skeleton counterpart. Here the case-back is solid, so you won't be able to view it from either the front or the back…

The best deal here is probably (again) the Prestige Shop model, which while costing a little extra does come with both a steel bracelet and a silicon strap – hopefully it is of good quality, as it does have a very bland appearance.

The blog's verdict: hmm… we'd have to see some more real life photos of these divers, but they seem a lot more generic and less, well, Orient-ish than the semi-skeleton ones. These are probably addressing more mainstream buyers.

Orient Star Semi Skeleton Limited Edition Review

A couple of weeks ago the blog featured a brief retrospective look at Orient's semi-skeleton watches. Today we are going to take a deeper look at one specific model, the beautiful Orient Star ref. WZ0241DA – a limited "Prestige Shop" edition of the open heart design, characterized by its deep red dial.

The watch has a classically sized steel case that's 39mm wide (excluding the crown) and 46mm lug to lug. Lug width is a standard 20mm, and not any odd number – which surely makes many readers happy. Inside is caliber 40R54 – not the latest generation F6 movement – presenting the time with central seconds and a power-reserve display. No date wheel here.

It's worth noting that this is one of the older models still featured on Orient's current line up, and Orient have it positioned in their "classic" segment. Currently you can also find F6-driven Semi-Skeletons Orient Stars, positioned in the brand's "contemporary" segment. The main visual difference would be in the shape of the case: the classic case has lugs that stick out, while in the contemporary design the lugs flow more organically from the case sides.

How It Looks

Well, just look at the photos! This is one seriously gorgeous watch, primarily thanks to its dial. We already know Orient makes some fine red dials, and this is no exception. The color is the deep burgundy of a full-bodied wine, with a sunburst effect that lets brighter shades of red shine when light rests on the watch at the right angle.

The applied markers – a mix of roman numerals and sticks - are also well made, and appear crisp from afar as well as upon closer inspection.

The case is brushed on the sides and polished on top. The lugs have a unique shape, typical of many of Orient's "classic" models. I have noticed, on this as well as some of the other models having this design, that these lugs seem a bit off on official photos; in real life however, they look good, and the mix of polished and light brushing they feature has a nice effect.

The other highly noticeable element of this watch is, as its name implies, the semi-skeletonized section of the movement with the balance wheel visible through the aperture in the dial. While not always the most welcome feature in watches that boast such a nice dial as this, it actually works: the shiny metal parts therein match the markers and case, the round frame of the aperture mirrors the bezel, and the red synthetic ruby at its center (one of 22 stones in this movement) just goes so well with the dial.

How It Wears

The size of its watch makes it high versatile, and it should match most wrist sizes. While not particularly slim at 12mm, it comes off as fairly low-profile on the wrist, and definitely works as a dress watch. At the same time, the red dial and open heart add a bit of sporty nature to the watch, and it would work just as well with a jeans and T-shirt.

The black strap that comes with this watch is one of the "stiff now, softer later" breed. As such, it is not brilliant – but okay. I don't think it's better than straps that I've seen on recent Bambinos that I have reviewed (and those are considerably cheaper watches).

Note that some members of the family (references WZ0xxxDA) do come with a steel bracelet. Orient Star bracelets are generally of very good quality, so if you come across one of those models – it should make for a very attractive offering! That said, I think a black strap does match this dial better.

How It Functions

The movement inside, as mentioned, belongs to an older generation than Orient's current F6 family of calibers. The upside it that its long-term reliability is well proven; the downside, is 40 hours of power reserve, compared with 50 hours generally provided by F6. Also, the F6 semi-skeleton movement (F6R42 is the equivalent of the 40R54) is further skeletonized compared to its older counterpart, with certain supporting elements removed from the top bridge holding the balance wheel, so the view of the movement beneath is clearer.

In itself, it's a very good movement. It hacks and hand-winds; and while specs are officially +25 / -15 seconds a day,  the watch reviewed does minus 4 seconds a day, which is within specs. That said, if this watch was intended for regular daily wear, it'd be better off regulated to speed up slightly.

One thing noticeable about this movement (and we've encountered this on other pieces that use this or a similar movement) is a certain roughness while winding it, as if there is a little too much friction. This is normal, but takes some getting used to.

Legibility on the watch is excellent – the hands and markers contrast well against the darker dial. And while the lume is not abundant at dive-watch levels, it is quite sufficient for a dress watch, with lume dots at each hour as well as on the hands. The greenish hue of its luminescence does however clash with the red dial, so in conditions where it's dark enough for the lume to become visible but the redness of the background still shows, the result is a little strange.

Front crystal is sapphire, and the watch is rated to a very practical 100 meters. The exhibition case back is covered with mineral glass – which is a sensible choice.

The Bottom Line

This is a proper Orient Star, as we have come to expect: a beautiful watch that does not look like anything other than an Orient, very well finished, comfortable to wear, fairly versatile, and with only a few small quirks.

Price for the WZ0241DA, like its non-limited siblings, is 700 JPY – currently around 650 USD. While officially only available to buy at Orient's Prestige Shops in Japan, it can occasionally be found online. Note that due to its rarity, you are not likely to find it at better prices – in fact, online sellers sometime ask a higher price for this watch – new in the box, of course.

If you are in the market for an open-heart watch – or in fact, any kind of sporty-dressy watch – at this price level, and looking for something more interesting than the standard black/white/silver color schemes – this Orient Star is an option that you should definitely consider – and if you cannot get hold of this limited edition, perhaps another member of the family might suit you, such as the blue dial WZ0231DA, or the newer, teal dial RK-AT0003E.