A couple of months ago, we reported here the, 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.