Orient's line of "Outdoor" watches was introduced earlier in 2019, and very quickly got fans of the brand intrigued. The seemingly simple design, largely devoid of many of Orient's common design features (like open hearts and other non-functional dial elements) made it very clear that this watch is all about the quality of execution. Therefore, I just had to get my hands on one of these, and check how good it was in person! Luckily – I did not get one, but two…
The versions sent for review included the black-plated reference RE-AU0202N (which we'll refer to as "the black" in the review, for simplicity), and the non-plated ref. RE-AU0204L (which we'll refer to as "the blue"). It is worth noting that Orient recently updated the line-up (or rather, released similar watches with new references, RK-AU0209N and RK-AU0211L respectively). Depending on the store / source, you may find either reference being offered, both legitimate – and of course, additional versions of the Outdoor.
The common features to all Outdoor references include a 41mm wide stainless steel case, 49mm lug-to-lug dimension, and thickness of 12.1mm. At the heart of the Outdoor is Orient's caliber F6N43, which hand-winds and hacks, and features a central second hand, date wheel, and power-reserve display.
How It Looks
The Outdoor has been designed by Orient as a "field watch", which implies a military appearance, ruggedness and usability. Some people have described its look as resembling a "pilot watch" which to me makes sense, as I've always felt that a field watch is often the same as a pilot watch, only smaller. Whereas classic pilot watches are often 43mm or larger (Orient's own pilot watch is 42.4) and true field watches were 38mm or less, the size of this model puts it in a very sensible sweet spot in the middle.
Titles and labels aside, it is quite a handsome time piece. The big markers and large crown help it achieve a more substantial wrist presence than the size alone would suggest. This is particularly true for the blue Outdoor, with its shiny metal and more contrasting dial.
The dial layout is very pleasing. Its symmetry is only disturbed by the small date window – which thankfully does not cut into the lovely marker at 3. The black Outdoor features a kind of greyish-brown dial while the markers and hands are mostly "vintage-crème" color – a very warm, pleasant kind of combination. The blue Outdoor's dial is deep dark blue with a very cool sunburst effect (and a certain texture that's hard to describe but has a sense of deep layer of paint) and white markers and hands – creating a different, yet equally attractive impression. Which version is nicer is very much down to personal tastes.
Yet, the Outdoor does not immediately smite you with the sharp, crisp visual impact that some Orient Star models produce. Rather than having an immediate effect, what the Outdoor does is grow on you, slowly. It takes some time to appreciate the subtleties of the design and notice the manufacturing quality.
One such area that reflects the quality is case finishing. It's interesting to compare it with Orient's lower end field watch, the "Defender", which was reviewed on the blog a few weeks ago. While the Defender is definitely a quality offering for its price, it is easy to see how the brushing on the Outdoor is finer; and, compared to the blocky lugs of the simpler watch, the Outdoor's lugs are nicely chamfered.
Another element of the Outdoor that stands out is the crown, which is simply beautiful – especially when examined closely.
How It Wears
The Outdoor wears very comfortably on the leather straps with which the models we received were provided (some Outdoor versions are provided with nylon bands). The straps are supple and of very good quality and their initial stiffness did not require a lot of wearing to soften and adjust to my wrist.
The strap is attached to a folding clasp which is, likewise, of decent quality and easy to use. Its outer side is nicely brushed, and adds to the overall look and feel of the watch.
The one thing that would probably annoy some owners is the 21mm lug width. This size, generally considered non-standard, limits the choice of replacement straps to an extent (although there are still many 21mm strap options).
On the wrist, the watch feels good, just like a 41 x 49mm watch should: it is the perfect size which most buyers should be able to enjoy. The lugs are well curved to keep close to the wrist and give it a good, warm hug.
How It Functions
Operation of the watch is easy enough; the large crown is super-grippy and easy to screw open or lock-down, and to wind and set the time and date.
Now we're getting to the heart of the watch; that is the movement. The two watches sent for review did not perform the same.
The black Outdoor gained 5 seconds per day, a good result which is on par with most Orients reviewed on the blog and of course, well within the -15, +25 specs. The blue piece however gained an exceptional 27 seconds per day; that is outside the specs, and is not typical of the brand. It might be a problem with the loan unit received; anyway, if one were to buy an Orient Star with this deviation, it would be wise to have it replaced (of course, if an older watch gradually speeded up to +27, it would probably be easy for a decent watchmaker to fix it).
Legibility on both versions of the Outdoor was excellent. The blue variant had the higher contrast, but honestly all Outdoor models would be good enough thanks to the large, clear markers and hands.
Lume is also very good, and remained clear and visible long after exposure to even the faint sunlight just before sunset. All in all, this is a core requirement from field watches, to be quickly and easily legible at all times, and the Outdoor performs this part of the job very well.
One last parameter of field watch functionality is its robustness and durability. The Outdoor's water resistance is rated to 100 meters, which is secured using the screw-in crown. That's not exceptional, but sufficient for most everyday uses that do not involve long immersion in water.
The straps, however good looking and matching the watch esthetically, will probably not be the best choice if one wishes to really engage in outdoor activity though. For that, we'd recommend either one of the versions that come with a nylon band, or simply to replace the strap with a nylon or rubber one (or any specialty leather strap that has increased resilience to water and sweat).
The case, too is a consideration, and like we mentioned on our review of the Defender – black PVD is cool, but loses its charm after some wear and tear, so if looking for tool watch usability one of the "bare metal" versions is preferable.
The front crystal is properly tough sapphire; the case-back is mineral crystal though, which is sensible choice but needs to be taken into consideration when taking the watch off "in the wild".
The Bottom line
The Outdoor is a very handsome, well made watch. By and large it does deliver on the promise of sporty, outdoor capabilities, offering good legibility and reasonable (while not entirely "tool-watch-like") durability. Above all, it offers some real nice touches that, while not immediately evident, do present themselves over time and reveal the "Orient Star" quality of the execution.
In comparison with the more basic field watch from Orient, the Defender, the Outdoor has more finely executed case and dial, sapphire crystal, higher quality straps and bands out of the box, and a movement with 50 hours power reserve (10 more than the Defender). It's also worth noting that like most of Orient's line-up, the Orient Star comes with 2 years manufacturer's warranty, versus one year for the non-Star models.
Outdoor versions are officially around 750 USD, and generally available online at around 550 USD. If this was a Swiss watch, it would present incredible value, considering the merits of the watch; yet even as Japanese watches go, it is a very decent offering.
The blog's verdict: The Outdoor is somewhat different from most Orient Star designs – many of which are either classically dressy, or (like the skeletonized models) quite extravagant. Instead it is subtle, very pleasant to look at, but takes time to appreciate its quality. Bottom line is, if you like the style of the Outdoor, its execution will not disappoint you. It is definitely worthy of the Orient Star moniker.
The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us these Orient Star Outdoor models for review.