Here on Orient Place blog, we sometimes get carried away by the more rare, expensive, and unusual Orient watches. Today, however, we'll turn our focus back to the brand's mainstream product line. Activate Autopilot: we got our hands on Orient's latest iteration of the classic automatic pilot watch.
Orient announced the current line of automatic pilot watches in September 2019, and it was a most welcome announcement, as the older generation of pilot-style Orients was discontinued, and had been absent from the market for a while already.
It was just as welcome an announcement when the courier arrived at our office a few days ago with a sample watch to review: the sand-color dial version ref. RA-AC0H04Y (or, RN-AC0H04Y as the Japanese reference goes).
How It Looks
The first thing we noticed was how identical this watch looks in real life compared to its photos. Usually, there's a big difference between the real thing and the pictures (even good ones, let alone the fairly simplistic pics often presented in Orient catalogs). Here there's none.
This can be largely attributed to the watch design being truly very simple: The case is the standard, streamlined Orient case shape, identical to the Defender we reviewed last year. The dial is mostly flat, and its design elements (hands, markers) are highly contrasting. At first sight, my colleague (who is generally quite fond of Orient) said he could see nothing of interest in the design.
The other side of the coin is, this simplicity translates to legibility, and that is one of the essential requirements of an aviator watch. Indeed Orient did not invent anything new here but has applied the classic "Type-B Flieger" formula that has worked well for countless watch manufacturers, enabling immediate and uncluttered reading of the time.
Taking this perspective, the dial is perfectly acceptable and, in fact, just as nice as seen on aviator watches that are considerably more expensive. The markers are not applied, but the paint is thick, giving the numerals a certain sense of depth. The dial has a warm and grainy texture, looking even more like sand when examined through the macro lens.
The Orient logo here is relatively unobtrusive and blends into the background along with the small "automatic" text, allowing for a very clean overall appearance. The one thing I'd change though is adding a millimeter to the hour hand, and perhaps 2 mm to the minute and seconds hands (and I'm guessing some would say, just make the watch a couple of millimeters smaller in diameter).
The case is simply but nicely finished – brushed all round, except for the space between the lugs, which is polished. The case back is flat and solid, offering no view of the movement. The large crown is stamped with the brand logo. All in all, the case design works, it's very straightforward, nothing too elaborate, but well made.
How It Wears
This Orient is not a small watch. The steel case is 42.4mm wide without the crown, 49.4mm long lug-to-lug, and 11.6mm thick. As such, it is what one might call "slightly above mid-size". On my roughly 7.3" wrist, it wears well, although visually larger than what its size suggests (and somehow looking more prominent than that equally sized Defender I tried on last year).
For wrists smaller than 7", or if you generally prefer smaller watches, trying the watch on before buying is recommended. That said, it does wear comfortably for its size, largely thanks to the moderately sized and nicely curved lugs.
Also worth noting is the leather strap that this reference comes with. I was a bit worried at first as it is fairly thick and initially stiff – and I know most low-cost straps that start stiff, stay stiff for quite a while. However, this one softened in a matter of hours, making for a positive surprise. It is by no means a premium band, but it is good, and very fitting for the shape and character of the watch.
If you do want to change it though, no problem, as lug width is the most standard of all at 22mm.
How It Functions
Starting with the crown operation, we've got no complaints here. The screw-down crown is grippy and very convenient to use. No problems at all screwing and unscrewing it. Winding feels a bit rough, like on the Kamasu, but works well (and unlike the Kamasu, the crown here is rock solid). Setting the time and date is easy, as one would expect.
Once running, caliber F6722 does its job well enough. It hacks, hand-winds as mentioned above, works very quietly and keeps an adequate time. We've measured a deviation of +7 seconds per day.
Legibility in daylight is excellent, as already mentioned, and at least on this reference, the contrasting dial, hands, and markers make telling the time easy even when the sun hits the glass hard. Reading the date is a little more tricky, as it is fairly small and blends in-between the numerals on the dial, but that is a very small issue.
Night-time visibility is not as good. While the hands are lumed and stand out clearly at low light, the lumed hour markers are tiny, and the room needs to be pitch dark to notice them at all (and even then they're not super clear). Well, unlike divers, night visibility is optional, not mandatory, on aviator watches – but you have to keep this in mind if strong lume is your thing. By the way, I believe the white numerals on the dark-dial variants are in fact luminant.
On top of telling the time, the watch should work well for most everyday purposes. It is water resistant to 100m, and feels very solid. The glass is mineral, not sapphire, though. Acceptable at this modest price level, but again something to keep in mind.
The Bottom Line
The Orient flight watch is officially about 250 USD, but can be found online at prices closer to 200 USD. As such, it is close to the lower end of Orient's range of automatic watches. One needs to keep this in mind when judging this model.
For this price, you're getting a very capable automatic watch. It is well made, uses a reliable movement, and just simple enough so that very little can go wrong with it. The design is simple and not very original, but then again – that is the intention of the watch: to offer classic aviator styling and usability.
I do think that a case a couple of millimeters smaller (while keeping everything else unchanged) would have made this perfect for more wrist sizes and offer a more balanced dial. Other than that, I think that the watch delivers good value for the money. If you're looking for an inexpensive yet trustworthy flieger watch, this Orient is worth checking out.
The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Orient ref. RA-AC0H04Y for review.