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Tuesday 10 November 2020

Orient "Retro-Future Camera" Re-Issue Hands-On Review

Orient's Retro-Future series was born in 2005, meshing classic designs from the 1950s – 1970s with some of the then-new hallmark signs of the brand's mechanical watches, like the power-reserve indicator and the open-heart dial.

The Orient Star Retro-Future Camera model was the first in the series (which later included such classics as the motorcycle, the car, and the guitar). Its first iteration was based around Orient's caliber 46S – its first open-heart movement. In 2010 it was replaced with a nearly identical model equipped with caliber 40S, adding hand-winding and hacking to its list of features.

The Retro-Future models were quite successful in introducing the brand's DNA to a broader market segment, becoming a favorite with people looking for unconventional designs. They weren't meant to be mass-volume bestsellers but seemed to hit the right note with influencers (I recall the first time I saw an Orient Retro-Future was on the wrist of some Japanese fashion designer, though I cannot find that photo right now). A good reason then, for Orient to produce a new re-issue of the Camera watch for its 70th anniversary!

Orient provided two watches for this review: the limited edition "Jaguar Focus" version ref. RN-AR0204G (RA-AR0204G), and the non-limited ref. RN-AR0201B (RA-AR0201B). Their visual impact is quite different, but they are, of course, mechanically identical. Below, we'll conveniently refer to them both as "Camera" when discussing their common features, or "Jaguar" and "Steel" when addressing one of the two in particular.


How They Look

The Camera is Orient through and through. It is quirky, bulky, and as far from functional minimalism as possible. It is a fairly common approach by the brand, making models like this very much "acquired taste".

Opinions among friends and colleagues who got a glimpse of the Camera were divided. One said the Jaguar is beautiful; another, a watch enthusiast, loved the Steel version better; another, a novice watch-person (and owns an Orient Bambino), didn't really know what to make of either version. Ralph, who's responsible for the professional photography in this review, said he hadn't worn a watch in years, but he'd gladly wear the Jaguar.

My initial impression, before diving into details, was very positive. The Camera seems to possess the unconventional components I seek to find in an Orient, has them laid out just right, and the result is a bold and surprisingly esthetic impact.

That said, the Jaguar outshines the steel version: it simply takes the unconventional one step further. Its color scheme, which may seem a little cheesy in some photos, really works in real life. The bronze plating of the case is subtle but adds a unique flavor to it. The gradient dial, well, when the light falls on it it's more radiant than gradient!

The Steel has a more refined appearance and is obviously more versatile with its monochromatic scheme. It can also take on a black leather strap for added versatility. I can definitely see why someone who isn't a hardcore Orient fan could prefer it over the extravagant Jaguar.

Now let's take a closer look at the details. The first thing one notices looking at the Camera is the rotating bezel. The bezel markings represent minutes (or seconds) as one would expect, but the styling is intended to remind one of a camera lens.

The dial's main theme is the aperture of a camera, represented by the spiraling lines etched into it. These are cleverly done, immediately noticeable, but not so intrusive as to detract from the watch's legibility.

The dial has two cut-outs: There's the open-heart that immediately stands out, revealing the standard Orient movement finishing; and a thin, round opening that encircles the dial, separating it from the minute track with its applied hour markers. Little bits of movement plates are visible through this opening.

Interestingly, while the model has been "demoted" from the original's Orient Star status to the re-issue's mere Orient branding, the overall level of finishing does not seem to be inferior in anyway (in fact, Orient claims to have improved upon some of the aspects).

The sides of the crown and the bezel are both etched with a matching criss-cross pattern. The crown is stamped with the Orient logo. These two, bezel and crown, really make a handsome couple here. This is particularly true for the Jaguar, with the bronze tone of the crown and the dark plating of the top of the bezel.

The case and the lugs are essentially constructed as one chunky piece of metal, which is mostly brushed. The crown guard is polished, though, as is the case back. The back is mostly solid but has a small aperture offering a glimpse of the movement, exactly opposite the open heart on the dial.

To sum it all up, in the looks department this is a success. Not necessarily a mainstream success, but an excellent example of Orient's modern design approach, where a bunch of components that seemingly have little in common somehow make it work. The Jaguar Focus edition in particular is beautiful, but the more standard steel version is mighty fine, too.


How They Wear

Looking at off-wrist photos, one might be fooled into thinking the Camera has to be a big watch. In fact, it isn't. Orient packed a lot of design into a small package. Case width is 40.8mm, length is 46mm, and thickness is 12.6mm. Thick, yes, but not as big as the case structure intentionally has you thinking.

On the wrist, there is obviously a big difference between the two versions we're reviewing, as the steel version comes on a bracelet, while the Jaguar is attached to a leather NATO band (NATO-style is the proper term, as true NATO is nylon).

The Jaguar version is fairly light at around 100g. Once again, the initial expectation of feeling significant heft on the wrist soon fades away. The leather strap is really good, soft, and nicely textured. The need for it to pass between the spring bar and the case prevents the use of padded leather; This is a good thing, as it allows the strap to hug the wrist and hold the watch case tightly in place.

Of course, if a NATO strap isn't your thing, you can easily replace it with any 20mm wide strap. The spring-bars are removable, and the lugs are drilled.

The steel version feels quite different than the Jaguar, thanks to its bracelet, weighing in at over 170g in total at full length. This bracelet seems thicker than what you get in some of the less expensive Orients – it weighs about the same as the Kamasu bracelet despite being 2mm narrower.

In truth, the original Retro-Future Camera was fitted with a proper Orient Star bracelet, with an elaborate link design and solid end-links. This here is much simpler, and connects to the case via folded end-links. Still, it seems to offer a decent compromise, and as "simple" bracelets go – this one is good enough. It feels robust, got just the right amount of flexibility in it, and matches the case well.

So in terms of wearability, there's nothing to complain about. If you like 'em big and bulky for the looks, then the Camera has the bulky looks. If your wrists are just average in size, or even a little smaller than average – the modest lug-to-lug dimension should help you get by with this watch. You get your bracelet option, your leather option, and chances are if you do like the look of the watch, its size won't prevent you from wearing it.


How They Function

So we've established that these Orients look good and wear comfortably. Now, how does this retro-futuristic thingy perform?

First thing's first, we operate the crown. Winding feels a little rough, but not in a way that requires any excess force – it is just a feeling of friction against the turning of the crown, which some people actually seem to like (personally, I prefer a smoother feel).

This is a time-only model, so the crown's second position is for setting the time. As with all Orient open-heart models, there is no date-disc here. In fact, the only open-heart Orient that has a date function is the Moon Phase – where the date is presented using a sub-dial.

The movement inside is Orient's in-house caliber F6S22 – a no-date, semi-skeletonized variant of the F6 family. Like its siblings, it operates at 21,600 bph, and its accuracy as stated by Orient is between +25/-15 seconds a day. The results we got from the test units were better: The Jaguar version measured +8 sec./day on average, after a few days of normal mixed usage (on the wrist during the day, at rest during the night). The Steel version measured +4 sec./day, mostly at rest. These results are perfectly good for this sort of mechanical movement.

Operating the unidirectional bezel is fine. The bezel presents the right amount of resistance and clicks rather satisfyingly. It does have more back-play than one would want in a professional diver watch – but as this isn't a diver's watch, it is acceptable.

The crystal here is mineral, both front and the (very small window in the) back. Sapphire would have been a welcome upgrade to the specs in this case – although to be fair, the original Orient Star also used mineral crystal.

Legibility with the Orient Retro-Future Camera is pretty good. Despite the elaborate dial, the hands manage to stand out. This is particularly true with the Steel version, but the Jaguar too manages to make time-telling easy enough, even with somewhat less contrasting colors.

The hour and minute hands, as well as the markers, are lumed, again assisting with low-light visibility. Don't expect anything near the level of lume you'd get in a decent dive watch like the Kamasu though.


The Bottom Line

Bottom line, the Camera is a very likable model. It can just as well be unlikeable or controversial if you're not the type, but that's okay because Orient aren't shooting for mainstream consumers here but rather for the kind of people who appreciate this sort of design.

Orient fans will almost certainly love this watch. It is very wearable for a large range of wrist sizes, it presents a style that's unique but not strange-for-the-sake-of-being-strange, and simply put – it's fun.

This watch is probably not ideal for those seriously methodical watch collectors who like to put things in pigeon holes, as it's not quite a sports or diver watch (as it lacks some of the required specs) and it's definitely not dressy or an everyday office-wear.

The official prices for these are just under 600 USD. Actual prices we're seeing online at the moment are around 500 USD for the Steel version, and closer to 550 for the Jaguar Focus. Indeed these prices are getting closer to Orient Star territory – but then, this watch is very much an Orient Star at heart, and carries many of the qualities associated with Orient's higher-end sub-brand. And what it does lack in specs, it more than makes up for in charm.


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us these Retro-Future Camera watches for review, and Ralph Hason, for excellent product photography (where his name is stamped; other, less professional photos were taken by the author)



  1. Thank you and great review as always. Fair and insightful. This one is not for me, but must say loving what they did for the case back window!

    1. Thank you sir! Definitely, always trying to be fair and add insights.

  2. hi, iVe got this watch as a gift of my parent. But we dont know what year was made. Can you tell me where i can find the year?

    1. Hi! Blog comments do not allow pictures so I can't see what you have... you're welcome to send a message through our facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/OrientPlaceBlog/