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.
Thanks for the extensive review! I wish it was a 40mm watch.. :)ReplyDelete
You're welcome :) ... and, I know some who'd want it 45mm... it's good mid-size. And yes it would be great if Orient did "sizes", which they currently very rarely do.Delete
Hi you mentioned reference RK ... it is the same of ref RE ?Delete
Yes indeed, RK / RE etc. are the market prefix, they differ between distribution regions. But it is the same watch as long as the rest of the reference number is the same (AU0301B here)Delete
Excellent review. As shared previously i have the two limited editions in steel bracelet. Indeed they are more mainstream in design but it wears really nicely. Great review and keep it coming sir. .ReplyDelete
Thanks so much!Delete
Would you say this watch is worth $130 more than the orient Neptune/Trident?ReplyDelete
I would say it is worth it if you want a more elegant watch, or one that *looks* more expensive (which the OS certainly does). If you need something that can take a beating, I'd stick with the Neptune.Delete