Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Orient Star Chronograph Ref. WZ0031DS

Orient's automatic chronographs starred in a dedicated post here on the blog, about three months ago. The timing was not accidental, as while my interest in these unique models was sparked years ago, there was this one special chronograph that had arrived at my post office not long before. That was the baby-blue reference WZ0031DS.

It all began one day when a friend who knew what sort of watches I was hunting for sent me a link via messenger. The link was for a Yahoo Auctions sale where one lovely sample of the aforementioned reference was being offered. As the item description did not include a single word of English and the model reference was actually not listed, it's no wonder it did not show up on my periodic searches (and it's not clear how that friend came across it, but that's a whole different story…)

The asking price, as expected, was fairly high, in fact it was about the same as the watch when it was new. But I went for it, of course, because the value of the time wasted repenting a lost opportunity is usually greater than the cost of just going ahead and buying it. Bid won!

Fast forward through ordering, shipping and collecting at the post office, the amazing piece arrived safely. Let's run through the basic facts first: this belongs in the Clubman Chronograph series produced in 2007, driven by a Seiko cal. 6S37 auto chrono movement, dressed up as Orient cal. 32A00.

The stainless steel case is around 41mm wide and 49mm lug to lug. The fixed bezel is 40mm wide, and the chubby case can be seen extending beyond it. The case is close to 15mm thick, including nearly 2mm of spherical sapphire over the dial. The exhibition case-back is also covered by sapphire crystal.

My WZ0031DS arrived attached to a very solid steel bracelet, taken from either WZ0011DS or WZ0021DS (the white / black dial versions; the blue actually came with a leather strap). This pushes the overall weight of the piece from 105g to nearly 180g. It's fairly hefty for its modest size then.

First impressions are, well, that this watch is very impressive! Its color scheme is uncommon, and its overall looks are quite un-Orient-like. There is something very Chopard-Mille-Miglia about it. It definitely gets everyone's attention – or at least, everyone who is into watches.

It's not just in the design – there's very substantial quality here. It is clear that Orient worked hard to ensure this timepiece is worthy of the superb movement inside it. All the elements on the dial are just so crisp and finely made.

Speaking of the movement – this specimen works well. Winding is easy, chrono pusher operation is smooth, and accuracy is satisfactory: the watch gained on average 5 seconds per day. Movement specs are +15/-10.

On the wrist, the watch feels hefty and very robust. I wonder what it would be like on a strap – it definitely needs to be on thick, quality leather if one is to complement the case properly. On this bracelet however it works well. Like most Orient Star bracelets I've tried, this one is super solid, chunky and comfortable. And I was glad to see that the watch definitely had an easier life than the bracelet prior to being acquired by me: the bracelet is well scratched but the case is very clean.

So – in summary – what can be said about this watch? This is not meant to be a real "buyers' advice" sort of review because, let's face it, finding one of these is going to be very challenging. But if you do find one – you're going to get yourself one seriously good watch. Solid, reliable, beautiful and well made, this is one of Orient's best ever pieces.

The blog would like to thank Ralph Hason, for the excellent photography (where his name is stamped; some of the less professional photos were taken by the author)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The New Orient "Defender" Field Watch Hands-On Review

A couple of months ago, we reported here the announcement of a new generation of Orient field watches, replacing the older ET0N series of models (widely known as the "Defender"). Since the announcement, we have seen plenty of interest and questions rising in various forums concerning the new models. Well, good news everyone – we had the chance to spend some time and review the new watch, and you can now read all about it!

The version we received for review is the all-black model, ref. RN-AK0403N. Its steel case is 42.4mm wide (without the crown), 49.4mm long (lug to lug) and 12.2mm thick. It comes on a 22mm wide nylon, NATO-style strap. Inside is Orient's caliber F6B22 automatic, which hand-winds and hacks, and features a central second hand, date wheel, and sub-dials for the day and 24-hour display.

How It Looks

The watch (we'll just call it "Defender", as many Orient fans might do) has a very utilitarian, even military appearance, particularly in this version with its stealthy black plated case and green NATO strap. The case is lightly brushed all around, thus avoiding any flashy elements and adding to the stealthy appearance.

The Defender's dial is its foremost characteristic. Not identical, but similarly styled to the previous generation field-watch, you get the 24 hours display at 5 o'clock, and the weekday at 10. There's absolutely no symmetry on the dial but somehow it works, with the Orient logo at "1:30" balancing the dial.

In this version, the dial is not completely black, but rather a very dark shade of matte grey. This provides good contrast to the crème colored hour markers and white minute track. The minute and hour hands are matching, painted white with crème lume. A touch of red is provided by the tip of the second hand as well as the 24 hour hand.

Asymmetrical dials are very much a matter of personal taste and one's sense of "what a watch dial should look like". While not everyone might like the dial arrangement, it is what it is – this is what the Defender's all about. I actually like it: the colors work, and I find that it is well balanced. Plus – it makes the watch more interesting, which to me is important and is what I generally look for in Orient's watches.

How It Feels

The Defender feels solid and well built. While "field watch" is very much a stylistic statement, many people would likely think of it as implying tool-watch robustness and durability.

Now, while we had no intention of running our loan-unit through rigorous field tests, it does seem to possess at least some basic tool-watch characteristics: water resistance to 100m is useful, and being mostly devoid of high-polished surfaces, it does not look like a watch that cannot take a few bumps and scratches here and there. However if your future activity outlook includes more than the average share of scratches, you might well want to consider one of the other, non-black-plated versions. Black plating will not look good when the bare metal begins to show through the deeper scratches.

The main down-side as far as durability is concerned is the mineral glass, which I'm sure many field-watch enthusiasts would rather see replaced by a sapphire crystal (the case-back is solid anyway). While this type of mineral glass is generally quite hard, it is not as scratch-resistant as sapphire. It's likely that some owners would wish to upgrade it to sapphire at some point (or once it gets scratched).

How It Wears

Many purists would argue that true field-watches are lightweight and come in small sizes, 38mm or less, like the old Seiko SUS or the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical.  

Clearly the Orient Defender does not follow this school of thought, and takes on more modern sport watch dimensions. As such, it is very wearable and comfortable: the lugs, not too long, curve nicely to ensure a snug fit on most wrists average-sized and above, and the heft of the watch too feels just right, not too light and not too heavy.

While the standard nylon strap is quite comfortable and of decent quality, we also tried the watch on a two-part cordura & leather strap. There's something about military-themed watches that makes them real strap monsters, and the Defender is no exception. The version we got here looks great on the crème strap that matches the markers; it seems it would go just as well with black, darker brown, natural leather, vintage/distressed leather, and so on.

How It Functions

First up in field-watch functional requirements is its legibility. As the pictures show, legibility on the Defender is as good as it gets. Hands and markers are broad and contrasting against the dial, the sub-dials are very subtle and do not interfere with reading the time, and lume is ample.

The signed crown is screw-down, and works well. It is fairly large and grippy, making winding and setting the time (and date, and day…) quick and easy.

We have measured a deviation of +6 seconds per day on our unit – as usual with Orient this is well within the -15, +25 specs, and it's worth noting that most new Orients we've played with recently seem to be very consistently within a range of +4 to +6 seconds. That's not exceptional, but still pretty good for a mechanical watch at this price range.

The Bottom Line

This Defender, and other members of this new family of Orient field-watches, is officially around 300 USD on bracelet or black coating, and a little less for the no-coating / no-bracelet versions. It's currently available on some online stores at around 220-240 USD, which is fair enough (and as discounts off ticket price go, is quite minimal, indicating high demand).

The blog's verdict: For the price you get a well-made, sporty watch with field / military inspiration and a design that is not derivative but rather very much Orient. If you're looking for a tool-watch and have had enough of divers, and if you like your dial a little more interesting than just plain time and date, and mineral glass is not a deal breaker for you, then you should definitely check out the Orient Defender.

The blog would to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Orient ref. RN-AK0403N for review.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The New Automatic Pilot Watch from Orient is Here!

This has to be one of the most sought after types of watches: an inexpensive, automatic, pilot-style watch. A classic timepiece design that offers legibility and sporty looks. Orient has had such watches on its line-up for years, and when these models went out of production they left a void many customers asked to have filled again.

And – voila – new Automatic pilot models have just been announced by Orient!

The new models feature a 42.4mm wide, 49.4mm long, and 11.6mm thick stainless steel cases, are water resistant to 100m, and driven by the now standard time-and-date, hand-winding and hacking, caliber F6722. The dial is covered by mineral glass – which is okay, given the modest price point – and the case-back is solid.

The versions presented by Orient offer a nice choice of styles: you get the ref. RN-AC0H04Y, with the handsome sand-colored, military looking dial on brown leather (22mm wide) strap; RN-AC0H01L featuring a navy blue dial and a steel bracelet; RN-AC0H02N with a black PVD case and black (or almost black) dial, which in the photos appear to have a certain grainy texture, on NATO-style nylon; and RN-AC0H03B, with black dial and black leather strap.

The watches are priced at around 250 USD on leather, and 270 USD on bracelet and for the black PVD version. They are due to be available in Japan starting September 26, and whether these will be officially distributed worldwide or not, they will certainly find their way to Orient fans everywhere, pretty soon.