There's something about a solid gold watch that's hard to describe. Is it the weight of the precious metal? Is it because of how shiny it is? Or maybe it's just the psychological effect of knowing, the piece you are holding or wearing isn't just gold plated – it's the real thing.
Solid gold watches are generally quite expensive and reside well outside the price bracket where brands like Orient usually roam. Most brands' gold models start at the high four figures (in US Dollars), or five figures if we're talking luxury brands. There are very few entry-level brands that offer gold watches that one might refer to as more accessible, say around 4-5,000 USD, and these would often be very plain looking pieces (and let's not name names here, okay?)
Enter Royal Orient, and its promise to deliver proper luxury (or, if one hates the overuse of the term luxury, call it "a very exclusive combination of rarity and quality"), with designs that are anything but plain, at relatively affordable prices.
In the modern era, Orient has produced three references of solid 18K gold watches. The first was ref. DN00-A0, a 33mm wide piece with a beautiful dial, released around 1998. That model used a famed Swiss hand-winding movement named Peseux 7001.
Ten years later, the brand introduced a new gold model based on the in-house caliber 48A40. At first it was released as "Orient Star Royal" ref. WZ0061EG – and then, as properly re-branded "Royal Orient" ref. WE0011EG. Today we'll take a closer look at the latter one.
Everything about this watch whispers pure class. Case dimensions are 35.5mm wide (without the crown), and 41mm long. I've seen some online websites mentioning case widths ranging from 33 to 36mm, but trust me, I've taken measurements myself…
Is it small? Yes. Is it too small? Well, not really. Dress watches are at their best measuring between 36-38mm wide. And honestly, a 35.5mm gold case has the wrist presence and visual impact of a steel watch a couple of millimeters larger. So this really works, and it wears perfectly even on my wrist, the same one that not too long ago hosted the 48mm beast that is the Orient Netuno.
The case is beautifully polished, and this really brings out the glitter of the metal. I've actually skipped a few options to buy this model that seemed to have too many scratches in photos, before buying this one. Gold is soft and scratches easily (though it can be buffed just as easily, so hairline scratches do not necessarily mean a polish is required). The piece I ended up owning arrived in mint condition, which added a lot to the wearing experience.
The face is just as exquisite as the case. You get a finely textured dial, golden hands and markers (not sure if solid or gold plated), and that beautiful and rarely used Royal Orient logo. I have to admit that while finding the "Star Royal" version (that had the Orient Star logo) was easier, I knew I had to get this reference. The golden royal logo may seem like a small thing, but it adds so much.
Also made of 18k gold in this watch are the crown, and the folding buckle. Together with the high-quality alligator leather strap, the result is impressive. Take away the logo (just for a moment, right, because we love the logo and want it back), and you'll be able to fool any watch snob into believing this is the product of some Swiss luxury watchmaker.
Now what about the movement? Well, Orient has nothing to be ashamed of here. Caliber 48A40 is a beautifully decorated mechanism, offering 50 hours of power reserve, +10/-5 seconds a day accuracy, and a very sweet winding action. And what it lacks in pedigree, it surely more than makes up for with Japanese reliability.
This watch has non-gold sieblings encased in Sterling Silver, ref. WE0031EG and WZ0031EG, which are also beautiful. The version that I do not like as much is the one that has the silver case and gold markers – ref. WE0021EG – which lacks the purity of the all-silver model.
The silver versions can be found at around 1500 USD, give or take, depending on the condition of the watch and the mood of the seller. The solid gold reference can be valued at anywhere between 2-3K USD, again depending on its condition.
Now, this might sound like a lot in the context of most Orient watches; but compare it to other gold watches, and you'll be hard-pressed to find anything offering this level of watchmaking in this price bracket. Personally, I consider this to be not just a good acquisition but a great one. This Orient is an eye candy, a conversation piece, and an absolutely perfect dress watch.