Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 23 July 2020

Orient's Automatic Flight Watch Hands-On Review

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.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Orient Netuno 500m Diver Hands-On Review

Netuno is one of the most iconic models of Orient Brazil, the unique branch of the Japanese brand discussed in a previous blog post. The watch not only goes deeper than any other current Orient with its 500-meter rating – it also went further to become possibly the most popular worldwide of the Brazilian sub-brand's designs. Popular in Google searches, that is, as getting your hands on one is not so easy unless you live in Brazil or visit there.

Luckily I was able to get hold of a Netuno, officially reference 469SS073, thanks to my friend Ron G. who is always on the hunt for big massive watches to fit his, well, big massive arms!

The dimensions are formidable: case width is 48mm, excluding the crown, while the bezel is 46.5mm across; the case is 54mm long from lug to lug, and 18mm thick; lug width is a somewhat unusual 23mm.

Inside ticks the good old caliber 469 – very old in fact, as it's been in production for almost 50 years. It doesn't hack and doesn't hand-wind, but it is known to be very reliable – and serviceable.

The presentation of the watch is quite impressive. Inside the box, you find the watch attached to a mesh bracelet; a second steel bracelet with solid end links; and a bracelet changing tool along with some spare screws.

I approached this watch initially with much apprehension and low expectations. I anticipated a watch that would be rough and unrefined, and considering its size – possibly not even wearable for my only slightly larger than average 7.3" wrist.

So let's get this out of the way: I was wrong, okay?... Okay. Now let's get to it.

How It Looks

It looks good! The sunburst-blue dial is charming, very similar to the Japanese brand's blue dials. However, there is an added three-dimensionality, created thanks to the raised and sloped chapter ring, into which the large hour markers are set.

The markers are big and bold, trapezoid at 12, 3, 6 and 9, and round elsewhere. At three you also get a thin, elongated window presenting the date and day of the week. These do not interfere with the overall aesthetics of the dial, which is expansive enough to afford to host these added elements, as well as the larger-than-usual Orient logo.

The hands, too, are large and easily discernible even at low light, contributing to the super-high legibility of the watch. Completing the overall looks is the divers' bezel, where the aluminum bezel has apparently been painted and finished to resemble ceramic as much as possible.

Turn the watch on its back and you'll find the big Orient "O" symbol in fine relief. The same symbol is also stamped on the crown.

The overall design of the watch is very masculine and pronounced, and in this sense it is quite different from the likes of Orient Kamasu and Kanno. Here you get plenty of sharp angles and no less than 8 hexagonal screws adorning the case, including the four used for keeping the bracelet in place. Not sure if all the other four are functional, or just provide the visual balance (and possibly one of them conceals the helium release valve that this watch is equipped with).

The case sides are polished while the top surface of the lugs is lightly brushed. There's no chamfering or any other fancy finishing here, and the lines where surfaces meet are generally just slightly rounded off.

No complaints on the visual side then. The Netuno looks as tough and bold as it was probably intended, but it is far from ugly – in fact, the big blue dial is just as nice as the Kamasu's.

How It Wears

Well, that's the BIG question, isn't it? The answer is, it wears better than expected, despite its substantial 240g heft (more than the 230g of the Orient 300m Saturation Diver).

The wearability owes much to the mesh bracelet. While I am generally not a fan of mesh, stylistically, there's no denying its benefits when attached to a big diver like this one. It is very easy to adjust to the right size, over skin or divers' suit, so a snug fit is always ensured.

Thus, as the watch does not dangle around, its weight is felt much less. In fact, I was able to completely ignore it as I spent a few hours of work, mostly at the keyboard, with the Netuno on my wrist. It's also worth noting that the bracelet did not pull any hair, a sign of good quality mesh.

The watch also comes with a standard steel bracelet. I did not size it to wear (because, as mentioned, I got it on loan from a friend) but like the mesh, it seems to be of good quality. Much in the spirit of the watch case, it is solid, got decent heft, and quite well made, despite having a very simple and uniform finishing. So, not as impressive as an Orient Star or the OSD bracelet, but should get the job done.

Note that the Netuno uses screw bars, not springbars, to attach the bracelets. While screws are generally thought of as a safer mechanism, they're not as convenient as springbars for owners who like to change straps often - and, they are not at all suitable for those who prefer Nato straps.

How It Functions

First thing to check with a new watch is crown operation. The screw-down crown of the Netuno is very easy to lock and unlock, and the threading feels precise. Caliber 469 does not hand-wind, so the first position of the crown is idle. The second position is used to set the date, and the third – to set the time. All these tasks are easy to accomplish, the crown is large and grippy, and does not wobble like the Mako / Kamasu crowns.

Note that while some cal. 469 variants include a quick-set button at 2:00 for setting the day; this one doesn't. So, you'd be setting the day first by moving the time forward, then get the time set, and then the date – assuming you're doing it at hours when date setting is allowed. Otherwise you'd probably want to get the watch set to the day before, set the hour to afternoon, then set the date of the day before – and finally, move the time forward to the current date and time.

Now let's examine the bezel, a classic 120-click unidirectional divers' design. It feels solid and turns with a healthy click. It does have some back-play though. Comparing it with the Japanese divers, it feels and looks more robust than the Kamasu's – yet having a little more play – and certainly does not come close to the Saturation Diver (but then, very few watches do).

Accuracy is decent for a 469-based watch, and the Netuno tested ran fast about 17 seconds per day. That's not glorious accuracy, and most Japan-made Orient I've tested are better – but it is within specs. As the movement is non-hacking, there is little point in trying to adjust it to much higher accuracy.

One thing that did not really meet my expectations was the lume. Considering the size of the markers and the nature of the watch, one would expect some seriously impressive and long-lasting light show. However lume is only average. It does benefit from the size of markers and hands, so at first telling the time in the dark is effortless, but lume intensity diminishes quickly and half an hour later was too faint to see unless the room was pitch black dark.

The Bottom Line

The Netuno is officially priced at around 1,300 Real, which is currently about 240 USD – thanks to the dive that the Brazilian currency took in 2020. It's rare to find it selling for global customers, and then the price would usually be closer to 400 USD, which would have been the right price about a year ago. That is more or less the price range for the Kamasu, where common colors would be close to the lower limit, and rarer ones – higher.

Considering what you're getting for this amount of money, the Netuno is an incredible deal: a real automatic divers' watch, rated to 500m, two good bracelets, helium release valve and all, for 240 or even 400 USD is very uncommon. Add shipping and taxes, depending on where you live, and it's still bound to make a very compelling proposition.

The build quality is more than satisfactory. At this price, you'd be comparing this watch to crowd-funded projects where quality is unlikely to be better overall, or to Chinese divers where you'd most likely be looking at very unoriginal designs. With the Netuno you're getting what looks like an Orient design on steroids, with a very reliable movement, solid build quality, and decent finishing.

One downside is the crystal, which is not Sapphire. A big watch like this is bound to get bumped against various obstacles now and then; the mineral glass is thick and unlikely to break easily, but it will most likely collect scratches over time.

The other drawback is the movement, being non hand-winding, non-hacking, and not the most accurate. Avid Orient fans would appreciate the 469 for its legacy, and it will likely keep working with minimum maintenance for decades, but objectively speaking, it is outdated.

The blog's verdict: Orient Brazil's 500m diver is, perhaps unexpectedly, a winner. It might not be the best choice for most watch buyers who are looking for a modern, modestly-sized, refined desk-diver. But if you're looking for a big, bold piece of metal, with lots of character and wrist presence that cannot be ignored, then the Netuno has some of the best value-for-money in both the southern and northern hemispheres.

The blog would like to thank, again, our friend Ron G. for lending us his watch for a few days. Enjoy your Netuno, Ron!

Thursday 2 July 2020

Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Orient Watches of Brazil

Most of us tend to think of Orient as a purely Japanese brand. While this is mostly true, there is an exception to the rule: Brazil.

Brazil was the first country to have an Orient Watch assembly line outside Japan. The local plant was established in Manaus in 1978, employing staff specially trained in Japan. Over the years, this operation became the largest manufacturer of automatic watches in Brazil, so much so that many locals started to believe Orient was actually a Brazilian brand.

Orient also became one of the most remembered brands by Brazilians. The brand earned several awards from the Brazilian annual "Top of Mind" survey, which tests for public brand recognition. So, not really threatening to undermine Rolex's stature, but still a decent achievement…

However, the most interesting fact about Orient Brazil, is that much of their local production consists of unique models, produced and sold exclusively in the country. Some of these models use modern Orient movements, some rely on older generation calibers (like the trusty 469), and some even use non-Orient (!) movements.

Below are three examples of these unique pieces that I find particularly appealing.

If this dial layout seems familiar, you're probably right. You've seen it as caliber 4R57 driving a number of models in the Seiko Presage line. Difference being, over in Japan these are 42mm-wide watches, selling at above 500 USD. The Brazilian version is a healthy 45mm in diameter, and at the current rate of the Brazilian Real (local currency), costs about half as much.

The nice gold-toned version in the picture is ref. NE5GC001 (and yes, the NE prefix is an indication of the movement). There are a few other references. Apparently, the model is NE5, then G indicates the gold tone – whereas S indicates steel and R indicates rose-gold. There you go, we're learning Brazilian reference coding too! And they're quite different from the Japanese annotation.

Looking for a new Orient 300m diver? Well, look no further than ref. F49TT001! This beast features a 47mm titanium case and ceramic bezel, comes with both a titanium bracelet and rubber band, and is limited to 1000 units. Crystal is mineral, mind you. The price: 1,600 Real, which at the current rate is a little over 300 USD.

The movement, as the name hints, is Orient's cal. F49, the 469 replacement. While reliable and robust, this is a very rudimentary movement with no hacking or hand-winding. Yet, for this price, I find this model offers immense value.

Remember the old Orient Speedtech models from Japan? So, the good people down in São Paulo took the concept further and added SeaTech and FlyTech models as well.

I really like these FlyTech chronographs in particular for their properly aircraft-inspired design. I have no idea what movement drives them (quartz, obviously) but they are impressive titanium monsters measuring 47mm across, and seem a fair offering for their current price of roughly 300 USD.

Generally speaking, the Orient Brazil line-up is very diverse, and not all models there would have much appeal for the sort of watch buyers who are interested in Japanese Orients. The collection covers many different designs, for men and women, some of which – to be honest – appear to have a very loose connection to the parent brand.

And yet, some real gems are hidden in the Amazon forest... some local customers clearly have a preference for big tough watches that contain tough old mechanical movements, and that is a formula that might produce surprisingly satisfying results.

The Brazilian Real nosedived recently, from over 0.3 USD in the past few years to under 0.2 currently. This represents a unique opportunity to acquire one of these Amazonian beasts at a very low price – that is, if you can find a Brazilian seller willing to ship overseas. And it seems most of them, at least officially, are not allowed to do so.

But is the price misleading? What sort of quality can we expect from these watches, manufactured so far away from the Japanese quality control and management? Well… you're in luck! The blog's got its hands on one of the most sought after Brazilian models, the venerable "Netuno" 500m diver! And you can expect the full hands-on review, here on the blog – soon.

All pictures are taken from the Orient Brazil website and advertisements, at https://www.orientrelogios.com.br/ except for the last photo of the Netuno taken by the blog.