Orient Place

Orient Place

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.


15 comments:

  1. If you dont mind, you may pm me (my IG: skin_diver_lover) for more information about vintage Orient diver, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article. The final watch AAA DEluxe 1000 is so up-to-date looking. Thanks for all your hard work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I really appreciate the feedback.

      Delete
  3. Cal 13xx is a handwind date only movement spun off Seiko 76xx movements. 15xx is handwind day date, 17xx is auto day date. 1942 is the most common day date auto seen outside Japan (with a balance bridge) instead of a cock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thanks for the info. I know where the 13xx and 1942 are in this context; do you know if any of the watches discussed here uses 17xx?

      Delete
  4. The thing with Orient is they didn't specify whether it's a 17x or 19x or a Seiko 7625, only by opening the caseback you can be sure. I sure would like to know how if anyone does!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess this was their way of keeping future collectors entertained... Now, I do occasionally find correlation between the reference numbers on the case and the movement, but they're not even consistent at that: sometime there will be 3 common digits, sometime 4, sometime none.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for great review! I gave a question - you mentioned that there are only two dials for Olympia Weekly Diver - Two dial versions were made: silver, and black. Is it 100% only two? I have seen a few with yellow/golden. Is it aftermarket then? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi.. Thank you! Yes I did mention two dials were made, but I did not say "only"... I know of these two versions, in the model's first release. It is definitely possible more dial versions were offered later.

      Delete
    2. OK. Thanks for clarification! :)

      Delete
  7. Do you know of any parts available for the calendar auto orient divers that you have pictured in this awesome blog? Bezels specifically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really... Very difficult to source such items and I haven't encountered any online stockist of such parts. Maybe there are such physical shops in Japan.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply

      Delete