Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 25 June 2020

The 1965 Weekly Auto Orient King Diver

A couple of weeks back I've posted a short review of Orient's early dive watches. Today, I will focus on my own favorite Weekly Auto Orient King Diver. A model that apparently also became a favorite with Orient's current management, as it was selected to one of a few models to have a modern re-issue version, released in celebration of the brand's 70th anniversary.

Let's go from the inside out, shall we? The movement driving this Orient was caliber 660, one of Orient's first automatic movements. It was quite unique for a number of reasons.

First, it was based on an earlier Orient hand-winding movement, used for the Royal Orient, already an indication of high quality. On top of that base movement, Orient placed an automatic winding system in which they rather cleverly adopted the Pellaton design, developed in 1950 and used by IWC. That was considered to be the most efficient winding mechanism at the time.

Secondly, it was a large movement, 30 mm in size, which together with the King Diver's inner rotating ring design dictated a substantial watch by those days' standards, quite larger than Seiko's and Citizen's divers. As a result, the watch looks super modern even today, and its re-issue hardly needed to be any bigger than the original.

And then there was that large Kanji day-wheel, which gave the watch its "weekly" moniker. It definitely added charm to the watch and made it more all the more interesting.

The watch built around the movement was equally attractive and unique. Orient adopted the dual crown "super compressor" style for it, even though it was not actually constructed as a super compressor. The case was sealed like most Orient cases, and its depth rating was a then-standard (for divers) 40m.

Dimensions, as mentioned, were on par with modern sports watches: 43mm wide, 50mm long from lug to lug end, and just under 14mm thick.

The dial is a lovely variation on classic dive watch esthetics, with that inner bezel, sharp markers, and arrow hands. Everything stands out nicely against the slate sunburst dial. Note that Orient had kept this watch in production for four years (between 1965-1969) and during that time it was sold with three different dial versions. There was mine (pointy hour markers, no lume dots), and there were two versions with squared-off markers and lume points next to each marker – one with the dots on the minute track, and one with dots on the inside of the hour markers.

Most importantly, at least on my personal King Diver, everything seems to have stood the test of time really well. The movement runs smooth, winds well manually and automatically, and is accurate enough (under a minute a day) for a 55-year-old. I consider that accuracy "not worth servicing at this point".

The markers and hands are pretty with very subtle signs of age, as is the dial. Other than the faded dial text and naturally degraded lume paint on the hands, it is really is mint.

Today, asking price for original Weekly Auto Orient King Divers is usually well above 1,000 USD. A watch in decent condition could fetch as high as 1,500 USD, or more. However, you could occasionally find good ones at better prices if you happen to find an auction that's overlooked by other collectors. I bought mine at an excellent price, way below the above figures – I know I say this quite often, but shopping is an art! – despite it being in excellent condition and only missing the original bracelet.

While far from being a common watch, it is not as rare or as difficult to find online as one might think. What to look for when buying: an original inner bezel (I've seen some that were a complete mismatch); a good movement in working condition (finding parts for this caliber could be tricky); and preferably, a clean crystal, as it too can be hard to replace I hear.

And if you can't find one, well, the re-issue seems a very acceptable substitute, true to its origins and well made.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Weekly Auto Orient King Diver Reissue, English Version

Earlier this year, Orient presented the lovely, and very faithful, reissue of its classic Weekly Auto Orient King Diver. The models were initially made available with a Kanji day-wheel.

Pictures of the same model with an English day-wheel were already available, and today the English versions are officially added to the product line-up. The new versions should be available to purchase starting July 2, 2020.

King Diver references now available are: black dial reference RN-AA0D01B (limited to 1,500 units), red dial ref. RN-AA0D02R (500 units), and green dial ref. RN-AA0D03E (500 units). Other than the language of the day-wheel, these are identical to the Kanji versions RN-AA0D11B, RN-AA0D12R, and RN-AA0D13E, respectively.

No English version would be produced for the "Jaguar Focus" version, which will remain available with a Kanji day-wheel only.

Take note of these differences, and when ordering online, be sure to examine the photo and reference number so that you will be getting your preferred version. The English and Kanji variants are all priced the same, at around 400 USD.

That's it for this short update... More King Diver content is coming up soon... tomorrow!

Edit [July 22, 2020]:

We've noted that the international release of the King Diver does, in fact, include an English version of the Jaguar focus as well. So, you can get the black, red and green, as references RA-AA0D01B, RA-AA0D02R, and RA-AA0D03E, respectively; and, the Jaguar Focus version, as ref. RA-AA0D04G. Good news then!

Sunday 14 June 2020

Orient's Early Dive Watches

Like every respectable watch brand, Orient too has a rich history of dive watches. And as the company continues to see divers as being very central to its current offering, Orient fans are well-advised to get acquainted with these early divers. Below we will look at the Orient divers of the 1960s.

Up until 1963, Orient had settled for referring to some of its models as "swimmer" and "showerproof", indicating that the watch case was waterproof to some extent. But then, as the demand for watches that can be actually worn in the wet grew both in Japan and overseas, Orient had no option but to dip its feet in the water (not too deep though, as back then 40m was about the benchmark depth rating for a dive watch).

Calendar Auto Orient Diver

Orient's first automatic diver was produced in a number of different versions between 1963-1968. It was driven by a robust movement, caliber 670, in either its 19 or 21 jewel version.

Calendar Auto's came in different dial colors (generally silver or black, and possibly a gold-toned version too), hour-hand shapes (arrow or pomme), and bezel (black or steel rotating, or fixed). They were generally around 38-39mm in diameter, and if in good condition should look great and be perfectly wearable today.

A fair asking price for one these Calendar Autos today would be around 1,200-1,500 USD for a watch in decent condition, depending on the specific version, not New Old Stock but not too shabby either.

Olympia Weekly Diver

Another model that arrived roundabout the same time as the Calendar Auto, was the Olympia Weekly Diver. This watch used caliber LCY, the latest version of the hand-winding movement introduced a few years earlier and used in non-diver Olympia models, to which Orient added a weekday wheel.

Slightly smaller than the Auto at 37mm, the Olympia was sized like a normal 60's watch. Two dial versions were made: silver, and black.

Being slightly smaller in diameter, these would usually sell for a little less than the Calendar Auto. Anywhere between 1,000-1,200 USD would make sense.

Weekly Auto Orient King Diver

This was perhaps the most classically yet uniquely designed diver of the '60s, which is why Orient chose to present a perfectly faithful reissue of it for its 70th anniversary.

While not having a true compressor construction, the Weekly Auto King Diver was styled like a super-compressor with the winding and time-setting crown at 4, and the crown for turning the inner bezel at 2. It was a big watch, 43mm wide and 50mm long, which makes for a substantial wrist presence even by today's standards.

The Weekly Auto was being produced between 1965-1968. Inside was the very interesting automatic caliber 660. In the near future, I'll be posting a new article dedicated to this watch and movement!

Today, Weekly Auto Orient King Divers in good condition would sell for around 1,500 USD.

World Diver

Orient introduced the World Diver in 1967. This watch was intended for travelers, and so while it was made as water-resistant as some other Orient divers of that period, instead of a divers bezel it had an internal 24-hour bezel. This enabled the owner to tell the time in different time-zones. You can read more about this watch, and particularly the rare Map Dial version, here.

Versions of the World Diver were produced well into the '70s. There were different dial variations, and even the movement was updated, ranging from the older cal. 1942 to calibers from the 46xxx family with 21 jewels.

The older, black dial versions would normally sell at 100-200 USD. Newer or rarer variants could go higher, reaching 400 USD or more; and then there's that map dial. One of these sold for 3,000 USD earlier this year.

Orient Matic Skin Diver

This is one of the more mysterious Orient divers of the 1960s. It was quite an impressive piece, capable of withstanding 30 bars or 300m depth – way above other Japanese divers at the time. And yet it has no mention in Orient's historical records. It's not even clear when exactly it was produced, but the use of the lion logo indicates it was the late sixties – possibly 1967 or later.

One guess I can make is that this model was intended for export, with a 21 jewel version for Europe and a 17 jewel version for the US (where more jewels equaled high duties paid). The case might have been sourced from a Swiss case builder as it appears similar to Swiss Skin-Divers of that time (Titus is often mentioned in this context). It was around 37mm wide (38 with the bezel).

Lack of information leaves much room for guessing and this affects pricing as well – I have seen sellers asking for anything between 500 – 2,500 USD for decent looking Skin Divers.

Surfin Diver

As the new breed of Orient divers grew larger in diameter, the company understood it still needed to take care of customers with thinner wrists. So, in 1968 they presented the Surfin' Diver, a cool dual-crown diver, which was only 36mm wide and 42.5mm lug to lug.

What movement exactly laid inside of the Surfin' diver is hard to tell, so scarce is the information. It appears to have been a 25-jewel variant of an older movement, cal. 1323. That was a small, hand-winding only caliber, previously used for some Orient dress watches – where it settled for only 17 jewels.

The case back was decorated with an image of a surfing woman (which was an indication of the designated target market), and the reference started with 323 – usually indicating the movement family, but I'm not aware of any caliber 323…

Whatever movement was used, the Surfin' was a nice little diver. If you find one, be prepared to pay something in the range of 800-1,000 USD.

Full Auto King Diver

The full auto was presented around 1968 (the exact time is difficult to tell today… as are many other details on this watch), probably intending to serve as a simpler replacement to the Weekly Auto, while retaining its overall style. Personally I feel the Weekly, with the crowns located precisely at 2 and 4, looks better than the Full Auto with its crowns at roughly 2:30 and 3:30.

Interestingly, the Full Auto had what seems to be a twin brother, a watch named the Freshman Auto King Diver. Both appear to have used the same 17 jewel movement and the same 42mm wide case. However, the difference, other than the model name on the dial, is that the Full Auto's internal bezel has marks every 15 minutes while the Freshman's bezel is marked every 5 minutes.

Both versions of this diver configuration would probably cost today between 1,000-1,200 USD.

AAA Deluxe King Diver

Around 1969, Orient began fading out its dual-crown configurations and adopting a style more commonly associated with the brand: one where a crown at 3 would set the time, a crown at 4 would rotate the inner bezel, and a pusher at 2 provide a quick-set for the date.

One of the first models using this configuration was the AAA "Deluxe" King Diver. It was 42mm wide, again a perfectly modern size that was very substantial back then. The movement at first was automatic caliber 4951 with 23 jewels. Later a 30 jewel version emerged.

The AAA Deluxe would continue to sell in the early '70s when it would be accompanied by an ever more sizable brother, the 45mm Chrono Ace King Diver.

Today, early AAA King Divers in good original condition would fetch 800-900 USD. You might encounter a higher asking price for the rare 30 jewel version; the Chrono Ace King Diver would typically sell for less, around 500-700 USD.

AAA 1000 King Diver

While possibly skipping a few more minor variations on the above themes and models, we'll wrap up this post with one of the crown jewels of the 1960s line-up of Orient, the AAA Deluxe 1000 King Diver, a little beast built to withstand the 100 bar pressure at a depth of 1,000 meters.

For this watch, Orient used a 37.5mm case sourced from CRS, a Swiss manufacturer who back in the sixties had provided such cases for numerous brands, as very few had the capability of offering such a deep-diving construction. Inside, Orient had installed its caliber 4973 automatic.

Due to their rarity (and I suspect their Panerai-ish looks) this model can fetch quite high prices nowadays, exceeding 1,500 USD.

Photos in this review were taken from multiple sources, as no single source today can provide a complete gallery of vintage Orients… pictures were taken from the blogs of Watch Moichi Ichidai, Yeoman's Watch Review, La Relojeria Vintage (who has added a very nice Orient section), old Orient publications, and various old sales ads. Weekly Auto Orient King Diver and Map Dial World Diver photos, though, are mine.