Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 20 February 2020

Use of Orient Movements by Other Brands?

Note: some editing and added information following a clarification Email we received today (Feb. 20) from Orient!

Orient's movements have, for many years, been very much exclusive to Orient's own watches. That is, except of course for movements originating outside of Orient (like the Seiko 6S chronograph movements, or the old Peseux 7001 once used in Royal Orient).

Recently it appeared as though Orient has started to sell movements to other watchmaking companies. We're looking today at two such examples, Vostok Europe and Master Works, where very similar movements were put to use.

Vostok Europe is a Lithuanian manufacturer with distant historical link to the Russian Vostok manufacture. Their current line-up which includes many mechanical pieces at generally affordable prices spans various movement sources, including Swiss and Russian; lately, they began boasting Seiko Epson movements in a number of their models.

These immediately drew attention as they were not any of the familiar Seiko Instruments (SII) movements, and show a great similarity to Orient movements.

The movement listed as "Seiko Epson Y85" looks very much like the Orient F6N44, 22 Jewel, 40 hour reserve, central seconds and date-wheel movement. Interestingly, the Vostok specs indicate accuracy of -10 / +30 seconds a day, versus the -15 / +25 typically stated by Orient. Being the same 40 seconds range, it seems to be a preference for off-the-shelf regulation geared more towards running fast than slow.

The movement listed as "Seiko Epson Y84" seems to be a bit of a mixed bag, as it carries both features of Orient F6 movements, and a 24-hour display on the dial – a combination I've not seen in current Orients. Could it be a SII (Seiko) movement? Doesn't look like it, as the visible bridge in the open-heart version of it looks just like the F6 bridge (SII open-hearts show a bridge just like the old 46 movements).

Interestingly the exact same movement seems to be driving some models from a lesser known Japanese brand name, "Master Works", although their website does not mention the "Y84" caliber name. It does however mention "Seiko Epson" (not SII or Seiko), just like the VE website, and as neither Seiko (the watches) nor SII / TMI (the movements) are produced under "Seiko Epson" – whereas – it seems these calibers are originating much closer to Orient.

Now, why would Seiko-Epson suddenly start selling these movements? Well, why not. If the manufacturer can get a stable external demand for its movements and thus increase its production volume and get lower per-unit cost, it makes good business sense. And from the point of view of independent brands like Vostok Europe and Master Works, it makes sense as they can obtain good reliable movements which are fairly unique, allowing them to offer more "interesting" designs with power reserve indicators and semi-skeleton dials.

So are these Orient movements, or just close relatives? Well, we got the clarification from Orient earlier today...

First of all, Orient emphasizes that the brand's automatic movements are still exclusive to ORIENT watches.

While the architectural and functional similarities between the movements noted above are real, there are significant differences between the Seiko-Epson Corporation's F6-based movements, and the actual F6 calibers used in Orient watches:

  • Rotor shape and its finishing
  • Finishing of some parts including a semi-skeleton bridge
  • Better accuracy in the Orient movements 

Watch photos taken from the respective brands' websites. The blog thanks Orient - Epson Europe for their contribution and clarification.

Friday 14 February 2020

New Model Announced: Orient Star "Basic Date"

Orient today announces a new line of Orient Star watches, dubbed "Basic Date". The OS Basic Date features a nice mix of sporty and dressy / elegant characteristics, making it kind of an "everyday wear to the office". Read below for all the details!

The line-up includes five references, and we'll start with the common details: The steel case is 42mm wide (so larger than most dressy, "classic" Orient Stars) and 11.5mm thick, and its 21mm-wide lugs are attached to a solid link steel bracelet. Front crystal is Sapphire, while the back is mineral glass.

The Basic date is driven by automatic, hacking and hand-winding caliber F6N43. Other than time and (as the model name implies) date, it also features an indication of its 50 hour power reserve. As usual, Orient declares -15/+25 seconds per day accuracy.

The specific references introduced today include (EU references) RE-AU0401S with a white dial and gold toned bezel and markers; RE-AU0402B with a black dial; RE-AU0403L with a navy blue dial; RE-AU0404N with a grey dial; and perhaps the most uniquely colored RE-AU0405E, featuring a two-tone case and bracelet and a green dial.

As usual, the official catalog pictures are mostly unflattering, but we can expect the product to look very good in person. The cases appear complex and multi-faceted, and it seems that the date wheels are not all the same color, instead they match the dial colors nicely

No information on pricing yet, but this would probably be known shortly as the Orient Star Basic Date is due to hit stores in May this year. 

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Shopping For Orient Watches? Check This Out

Amazing couple of Royal Orients, aren't they? In coming months we'll be covering both of these, and much more. But now that we've got your attention, here is some cool stuff if you are looking to buy some more down-to-earth Orients.

Special Coupon for Blog Readers at TUS Watches

TUS Watches are UK-based distributors who deal solely with Orient, which is already a good thing... They have a nice selection of models, including some current Orient Star references.

TUS are now kindly offering Orient Place blog readers an additional 10% discount on prices shown, for all models, valid until February 29, 2020. Use coupon code OrientPlace2020 to receive your discount, at https://www.tuswatches.com/

If you take advantage of this offer, you're most welcome to share your shopping experience at TUS with us!

Valentines's Day Sale at Orient Watch USA

Orient Watch USA need no introduction. They are now offering a special 10% discount on all watches, for Valentine's Day, valid now and until February 14, 2020.

To take advantage of this offer, use coupon code VAL2020 at https://www.orientwatchusa.com/

Again, you're welcome to share your experiences shopping with Orient Watch USA with us.

Meanwhile in Singapore...

Antique Watch Bar are an old favorite of ours. They are based out of Singapore and ship worldwide at really great prices. If you are looking for affordable vintage and pre-owned Orients, you should check them out, once in a while.

Currently on their Vintage Orient page are some nice watches, including a couple of Fineness models, very cool Olympia Weekly examples, and a good looking Deluxe Swimmer. And more...

For new models, Big Time are the local distributors of Orient in Singapore. They recently shared our review of the new Orient Star 200m Diver with their Facebook followers. Check them out!

These couple of divers, too, have nothing to do with today's post, but they are cool aren't they... We'll be covering more of the history of Orient's divers, and particularly this King Diver, later in 2020!

Monday 3 February 2020

Orient Star Presenting New References & Fresh Colors

More good stuff from Orient Star today, as the brand announces fresh color schemes in three of its product lines: the 200m diver (recently reviewed on the blog), the semi-skeleton sport watch, and the moon phase.

First let's look at the 200m diver. Five new references are introduced, a clear indication of the high expectations Orient has for this model's commercial success – and with good reason, as our review suggests.

Immediately standing out are the two models equipped with a trendy "Pepsi" bezel (RK-AU0306L with a blue gradient dial, and RK-AU0308N with a grey dial and a bezel that's actually blue and orange). Limited Prestige Shop model ref. RK-AU0307E also stands out with its green gradient dial, and as far as we can tell from the image – a matching deep green bezel.

The two other references introduced are RK-AU0309B and RK-AU0310L, featuring black and navy blue dials, respectively. All new models come with both steel bracelet and rubber band, and will be priced at roughly 760 USD (83,000 Yen).

Next is the semi-skeleton model. Three new references are introduced, and they really look great.

Reference RK-AT0107S features a silver dial, black bezel and steel bracelet, black paint where lume would usually be, and is priced at around 830 USD. Reference RK-AT0108L features blue dial and bezel, and a leather strap, costing around 780 USD. These are also available as European models, references RE-AT01017S and RE-AT0108L respectively.

The limited Prestige Shop model Ref. RK-AT0109B has black dial and bezel, however featuring a uniquely colored red power-reserve gauge. It comes with both bracelet and strap, and costs roughly 920 USD.

Last but not least, is the mechanical moon-phase model ref. RK-AM0011L, limited to 200 units, and featuring blue dial, golden hands, and both steel bracelet and leather strap. Price is around 1,600 USD.

While not radically different from other variants, and simply offering another dial / hands combination, this is still a beautiful watch that offers great value and combining fine details and a complication rarely seen at this price range.

Sunday 2 February 2020

Orient Star 200m Diver Hands-On Review

About six months ago Orient made a big announcement introducing two new lines of Orient Star divers. It seems the timing was just right, as fans of the brand were eager to get new high-end divers, and in fact our story covering the announcement became the blog's most read ever post – and by some margin.

Adding to the excitement was news that one of these new diver line-ups, the "air diver" (as it was sometime referred to) had won the prestigious Japanese Good Design Award. Now, to put things in proportion, many products in different categories win this award every year, and even in 2019 there were a bunch of other watches getting awards (although mostly smart watches). However this was still quite an unusual event, as most Orient watches – as much loved as they are! – are acquired taste, sometime quirky, and far from the sort of mainstream designs that usually win awards.

So after all this build-up, what's this diver actually like? Well, today we'll be examining this issue closely as we have in our hands the lovely Orient Star 200m diver reference RK-AU0303B.

Some quick specs: watch case is 43.6mm wide and 51.1mm long lug-to-lug. Add 14mm of thickness for overall dimensions that are not huge but clearly make for noticeable wrist presence. Inside is the new caliber F6N47 – very similar to the F6N43 found in the Outdoor models for example, but apparently constructed and tested to dive-watch ISO and JIS B standards.

How It Looks

"Looks" seems to be a very pivotal aspect of this watch. This one is a pretty boy. This is the Cristiano Ronaldo of watches. If you gonna hit it – not in the face!!! Please.

Seriously though, it seems that someone was doing some overtime at the design department. The watch is very, very elegant. Almost the exact opposite of the rugged, hard-core looks of the 300m pro saturation diver we covered last month.

Everything about the watch is rounded. The hands, markers, and lugs in particular stand out in this respect, all bearing this very soft form. Adding to the soft impression is the absence of crown guards, and it becomes clear this Orient has no tool-watch aspirations. This is an office watch. A desk diver. It's got nothing to do with its water resistance, depth rating or other functional aspects – it's just the character of the thing. Dammit it's a diver you can wear with a suit. It's pretty. Did we already mention Ronaldo?

The case and lugs are mostly brushed in parts that are visible when worn, and polished underneath. The case is not brushed, however, between the lugs, that being the only visibly bright patch. I'm not sure I like it – although this will be hidden in versions where a steel bracelet is provided. The back side of the case bears only the Orient Star logo. No marine creatures engraved here. And no exhibition case-back either.

Closer examination of the dial reveals the quality of the matte finish, the applied markers and hands. Everything here has fine texture, but everything is also very subtle. The applied markers are flat enough to be mistaken for paint from a distance. The dial texture, grainy on most parts but circular at the power reserve display, can easily be mistaken for being just flat (although in reality a simple flat dial could not produce the visual depth of one with texture). It's all very much "Understated elegance".

The watch looks like it is trying hard not to overwhelm. Yes, Orient can do dials and cases that are very impressive and full of surprises, but there's a whole lot of people out there who prefer something more mainstream – some might call it more sophisticated – and here Orient are presenting a more mature side of their range. I think entering the brand's 70th year in existence, there is a lot of sense in doing something that appeals to wider market segments like this. Hopefully while not neglecting the slightly more leftfield portion of their fans.

Most importantly, and this is good news for Orient – it seems this mature approach works. The majority of people who saw the watch seemed to like it a lot, including some who are generally not fans of the brand and dislike much of Orient's typical design DNA.

How It Wears

The reference being reviewed comes on a silicon rubber band. While I would have loved to try on the steel bracelet that is offered on some other references in the family, silicon has its advantages particularly for a watch that still goes by the name of "Diver".

That said, the band supplied with the watch seems to be of good quality, is soft and smooth, and feels good on the wrist. The watch generally wears quite comfortably, despite its size. It doesn't feel small – but not too heavy either. The curved lugs keep the watch close to the wrist, helping to reduce the perceived heft.

On my 7.25" wrist the lug-to-lug dimension was just right, with no overhang. In fact still having a few mm to spare, the watch should be a perfect fit for wrists 7" or larger, and I believe would still work – albeit appearing chunkier and therefore losing some of its dress-watch appeal – for 6.5" wrists as well. Any smaller than that, it would be recommended to try before buying.

One thing that should be noted though, is that the somewhat dressy appearance might be misleading when trying to fit the watch under tight cuffs. 14mm are normal thickness for a dive watch, and the smooth bezel helps if you don't button your sleeves too tightly, but don't expect it to just disappear under the cuff like a true dress piece.

How It Functions

First thing to operate on a dive watch is the bezel (yes even before adjusting the time. We're childish and watches are toys). Bezel action here is, above anything else, pleasant. It is clearly easier to turn than in professional divers, with very little force required. It's kind of like the difference between hard-core sports cars which normally feature heavy steering, and the sort of mass-market-sports-like cars where the manufacturer doesn't really want the driver to work too hard at the wheel. Again – this here is not a hard-core dive watch, but rather an elegant diver-styled timepiece for the office.

With that said, the unidirectional bezel really is highly usable: very grippy, its clicking sound is satisfying, and back-play is minimal. Note that the bezel insert is aluminum, meaning it could probably scratch fairly easy compared to modern ceramic bezels or even steel. The matte finish might add some durability, but it's too pretty to test… (and please don't mention Ronaldo again).

Crown action is excellent, possibly providing the most tangible difference between this Orient Star and mere non-Star Orient divers. It screws and un-screws easily with just the right amount of force needed, and easy to grip and use for winding and setting the time and date.

Once set, legibility is superb. The hands and markers are clear and stand out boldly against the black dial. The power-reserve is presented very subtly and does not obstruct time-telling in any way. Lume too is excellent, potent and lasts for quite a while.

Despite its perceived tenderness, the watch seems to be built to withstand inadvertent bumps and hazards that might come its way. Front crystal is sapphire, and is further protected being slightly recessed below the edge of the bezel. The watch is waterproof to 200m and complies with ISO standard for dive watches. So it can definitely take a splash.

Accuracy here is the best I got in an Orient Star out of the box: plus 3 seconds in 48 hours of normal use, so about 1.5 seconds a day. That's proper chronometer performance, and I think by now it is safe to say that the stated +25/-15 accuracy of most Orient Star models can be seen as no more than extremely cautious safety margins by the Japanese manufacturer.

The Bottom Line

The Orient Star 200m air diving watch is quite an unusual offering from Orient. It is an elegant creation that manages to pack a lot of originality while keeping it easy enough to digest by consumers who are not typical fans of the brand. The result is a properly trendy desk-diver with stylish, almost dressy looks, excellent finish for the most part, and first-rate performance.

If we need to find some downsides to the watch it would be some minor imperfections like that polished spot between the lugs, and the unbranded clasp attached to the silicon band. These are fairly minor issues, and not relevant if you're getting one of the models on bracelet (like the beautiful blue ref. RK-AU0304L or the more understated ref. RK-AU0301B).

Other concerns are more philosophical than actual issues. One would be the soft elegance of this watch, which would probably prevent most owners from taking advantage of its sportier capabilities. The other, as an avid Orient fan, reminds me of how I felt as an Alfa Romeo fan when too many people around me started to like the modern Giulietta model – is it too mainstream? Has the brand decided to let go some of its identity in favor of commercial success? Well, there's nothing wrong with commercial success, and Alfa then did go on to release the outrageous 4C… so hopefully Orient will be able to strike a good balance between mainstream and edgier offerings (like the Orient Star semi-skeleton sport watch released alongside the air diver).

Official prices for the 200m air diver vary from around 680 USD on rubber to around 800 for the limited blue edition with both steel bracelet and rubber. The model reviewed can be found in stores at around 600 USD.

While providing good value for money, this segment of the market is not devoid of competition. For instance, Mido's Ocean Star Captain, a similarly minded "dressy diver" is found at similar prices, and while offering less character and originality of design, features an 80 hour power reserve and slightly slimmer profile. Bottom line, this is very much down to personal tastes.

The blog's verdict: The Orient Star 200m Air Diver is a well made watch, which cleverly combines dressy elegance with dive-watch characteristics, and its design succeeds in being both original and easily digestible at the same time. As such it should appeal to many consumers, including (and possibly, mainly) those who are not particularly fond of the brand's other designs.

The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us the Orient Star 200m Diver for review.