Orient Place

Orient Place

Wednesday 27 January 2021

New Orient Star Skeleton with 70 Hours of Power Reserve

Orient is kicking off 2021 with the introduction of a new Orient Star "Skeleton" model, equipped with a new movement featuring a respectable 70-hour power reserve. This is also a nice nod to the 70th anniversary of the Orient Star brand, being celebrated this year. And it's 30 years since the introduction of Orient's first skeleton movement. Let's party then!

The star (pun intended) of the show is no doubt, the movement, being both in full view and boasting advanced watchmaking tech applied for the first time in an Orient timepiece. The new "46 series F8" movements utilize a new silicon escape wheel developed in house by Epson, Orient's parent company, to make power last for almost an entire day longer than the previous skeletonized caliber 48E51.

70 hours are considered a dress-watch benchmark, enabling owners to take the watch off at the end of the workweek, switch to their weekend attire and (presumably) sports watch for the next three nights and two days, then put the dress watch back on without having to wind it.

Accuracy of the new movement has been greatly improved as well, now declaring +15/-5 seconds per day, instead of the old movement's +25/-15.

Orient is releasing two versions of the new Orient Star Skeleton: Reference RK-AZ0001S has a champagne-colored dial, and its movement is finished in gold. Reference RK-AZ0002S features a white dial and silver-colored movement. The watches house hand-wound calibers F8B62 and F8B63, respectively, differing only in their color, as mentioned.

Case size for both references has been very slightly reduced compared to the older skeleton model: width is down from 39mm to 38.8, while thickness and length remain at 10.6mm and 46mm respectively. Lug width is still 20mm. Water resistance remains at 5 bar.

In comparison to the older Orient Star Skeleton models, it appears that overall finishing has also been taken to a higher level in the new models, offering more elaborate decoration and chamfering of the various bridges and visible parts of the movement.

The view from the case back also seems nicer now, and in the new models is viewed through a sapphire crystal instead of the old models' mineral glass. Front crystal, of course, is sapphire as well.

What we have here then is a very impressive piece of watchmaking. Being positioned as the brand's new flagship, the Orient Star Skeleton showcases the manufacturer's engineering, design, finishing, and overall watchmaking skills.

All this comes at a price, of course. The new models will both be priced at close to 3,000 USD, almost a 20% increase over the older model. However, this increase appears very reasonable considering the many improvements.

The new Orient Star Skeleton should be available to purchase starting March 18, 2021. Till then, watch this space, as within a week or two the blog will feature the story of Orient Star history!


Sunday 17 January 2021

Orient's 2020 M-Force Watch Review

Orient introduced the first M-Force in 1997 (and you can read about that piece of history here). The name was intended to indicate its "Mechanical Force" – being driven by an automatic movement – as well as its being "Massive" and boasting a "Maverick" design.

The latest generation of M-Force watches was introduced in September 2020, and while initial responses to the advertised images were mixed, there was no denying the three "M's" have been met in full: Mechanical, of course, it is; Massive it is as well, measuring 47mm in diameter (well almost… but we'll get to that later); and its design can undoubtedly be described as Maverick.

To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to the design. As better photographs of the watch began to surface in social media, I actually started to like it. Eventually I decided to treat myself to a brand new M-Force. Choosing one model to go for could have been a tough task, as each of the five versions available has a certain unique appeal, but the task was made easier thanks to my local AD – who offered a single choice. Very well then – a stealthy reference RA-AC0L03B it is!


How It Looks

It was the Cartier brand who, many decades ago, coined the term "tank case" to describe a certain type of square watch design, usually attributed to rather delicate, elegant dress watches. Well, I am sorry Cartier but that was no tank. THIS is a tank:

This watch looks tough, like an armored vehicle. And armored it is, with its most prominent feature being that bulk of a crown guard. However what seems like an overgrown piece of metal that throws the case off balance in photos, makes more sense in real life, and on the wrist. It even adds a certain sense of directional edge, and hence speed, to the otherwise very rounded design.

Other unique elements that stand out include the bezel-guard opposite the crown, the unusual "technical" font on the bezel, and the nicely cut out hands. Together, they give the M-Force a very technical, tool-watch appearance, which is quite different from the brand's other diver-style models like the Kamasu.

The particular version being reviewed also stands out with its stealthy appearance created the matte-finished black plating on the case and bezel, black silicon strap, and greyed-out hands, dial (and bezel) text, and even the Orient logo.

A few elements in red stick out against this dark background: the tips of the minute and second hands; the "Diver's 200m" writing and the "O" in the Orient logo, on the dial; and the red ring adorning the crown. This is just enough color for the watch not to look too boring or austere, and certainly not in excess.

Upon closer examination, one can appreciate the decent quality and cohesiveness of the execution. The case, bezel, dial and hands all feature a very particular grainy texture that bonds them visually. The case feels very smooth though, like a pebble. The only bright spots seem to be those flashes of red paint.

Note that unlike most dive watches, there is no bezel insert here. The bezel is a single piece of metal with the minute markers engraved into it. This too is characteristic of most M-Force models since the very first 1997 release, and definitely adds to the perceived robustness of the watch. Naturally this also means you cannot just replace a scratched insert, and if needed – the entire bezel will need replacing.

Overall, I like how this M-Force looks. It is bold, very confidently designed, and manages to make use of just a few standout elements to achieve an immediately recognizable identity.

This aligns well with the DNA of M-Force watches of previous generations: most of them (with the possible exception of the 2016 "Bravo" model) weren't really streamlined designs, but rather unusual creations always having some oddball feature or other, be it a strangely shaped case, an irregular bezel, or something else.


How It Wears

It's an M-Force so it has got to wear big and imposing, right? Well, to some extent it does. But as I hinted at the beginning of this review, it's not the huge paperweight of a watch that the specs might make you think.

In fact, it weighs almost exactly the same as the elegant and most un-tank-like Orient Star Diver! On the silicon strap, the M-Force weighs only 5 grams more, at 132g vs the OS's 127. On a steel bracelet, the Orient Star's 2mm wider lug width makes the broader bracelet even things out, and both weigh about the same (205 / 206g).

Part of this is because official dimensions are a bit misleading. The 47mm figure is inclusive of the crown guards; take those away, and you get a 45mm wide case. However the bezel is only about 42mm wide. Thickness is a very reasonable 13.2mm (compared with the OS diver's 14mm) and lug to lug is 52mm.

Not a small watch by any means, then, but not a hulking beast either. On the wrist, it feels surprisingly light, very comfortable, and just like a well-proportioned diver or sports watch.

The standard silicon strap is soft and supple, and adds to the comfort. Inside it is not smooth but has a kind of grainy texture. The 20mm lug width which might have seemed too small for a 47mm wide watch, makes more sense given the actual dimensions and the thickness of the lugs.

That said, I think the strap supplied is about 10-15mm too long. This watch wears perfectly on my 7.25" wrist, but I'm fairly certain it would be just as perfect for 7" and very wearable for people with a 6.5"+ wrist who love big watches, and they would certainly feel the strap length make it hang a bit funny. So maybe, if you're a smaller wrist person, get ready to replace or cut the strap short – or just go for one of the bracelet models.


How It Functions

Now let us put the watch to work, and first thing is crown action. Screwing and un-screwing is easy enough. The crown is large and grippy, and its threading seems to have been well executed. When pulled out, it is obvious the crown stem is thick and robust, and while the crown does wobble ever so slightly, it is hardly noticeable.

Winding is easy, with a very slight feeling of grinding or roughness (less so than on the Kamasu). Setting the time and date is effortless, and the crown guards leave enough space for the crown to be held and turned at ease.

Operating the bezel is similarly easy, with just the right amount of resistance. The bezel turns with a very satisfying clicking sound, and with very little back-play that would be virtually unnoticeable unless you pay special attention to it.

Legibility is excellent. The markers, which are embossed rather than applied, are large and filled with lume, and contrast well and clearly against the darker dial. The hands are dark grey on this version, but their tips are clearly painted, lumed, and make reading the time as easy as can be.

In the dark, you get a fairly strong and long lasting visibility of the luminous parts, including the bezel pip. I've seen stronger luminosity in various hardcore dive watches, but the size of the markers and hands here make them easy to discern in low light, nonetheless.

The movement here is Orient's in-house caliber F6727. This movement is currently unique to the M-Force, and it seems to be based on the more widely used F6722, having the same functionality, layout, jewel count etc. Possibly, it is the same caliber only with some added shock protection, as has been hinted by M-Force marketing presentations.

Performance is satisfactory: I have measured its accuracy over 72 hours of normal usage, on and off the wrist, resulting in the watch gaining 10 seconds per day on average. As stated accuracy is +25/-15 seconds per day, this is just fine, although not exceptional.

What the movement, and thus the watch, lacks, in comparison to most other M-Force models of the past, is the power reserve indicator. Nowadays it is only Orient Stars that get this feature. Is that a great loss? Sentimentally speaking, a PR gauge would make it more of a classic-looking M-Force. Practically speaking, it would be unnecessary, perhaps even a distraction. The watch design seems coherent and sensible without it, and legibility is definitely best just the way it is.

The M-Force is proud of being a very capable watch outside the comfort zone of office wear. Front crystal is sapphire, and is further protected by the being slightly recessed below the bezel, which in itself is protected by the crown guard and the opposing bezel guard. Apparently, there is further protection inside the watch, by a system of rings that absorb shocks between the dial, movement and case.

Water resistance is an ISO-standard air-divers' 200 meters. I did not take the watch for a deep dive, but it feels perfectly safe to bathe, swim, and snorkel, which is what most of owners might ask of it.


The Bottom Line

Yes! Despite initial concerns I had prior to getting my hands on this watch in person, the new M-Force is a great addition to the Orient line-up. It might not fit exactly into the niche prescribed by M-Forces of old, but it does offer a welcome upgrade to the brand's existing range of sports watches, providing better specs and quality than Kamasu and Kanno, and sliding into the price gap just below the Orient Star 200m diver.

Different M-Force models all currently seem to be selling at around 500-600 USD online, and from what I'm hearing – they're selling well. And this makes sense, as you're getting a highly capable watch for the price.

As wearable as the M-Force is, its dimensions should still be taken into consideration before buying. I'd say, this is probably less suitable for people of wrists under 6.5" unless they really are fond of overhanging watches. Between 6.5-7" it would feel big but not ridiculous and more down to personal taste – it really doesn't wear larger than most rounded smartwatches. If you are 7"+ then it's a no-brainer.

Other than that, if you like how this watch looks in my photos, you won't be disappointed seeing it in person. The new M-Force is an excellent watch, and very much worth considering if you're looking for a tough sporty watch that can go anywhere.


We'd be very happy to learn about your experience with the M-Force. Have you a different dial version, or one of the bracelet models? Please share your thoughts about it in comments below!


Friday 1 January 2021

The Orient Logo

One of the controversial elements of the Orient brand is, undoubtedly, the logo. Some people seem to like it, some are just “okay” with it – and then there are those who simply cannot get over how much it annoys them…

People who like this logo refer to it as classic and royal (though, in fact Royal Orient does not use it) while those who hate the logo say it looks old and outdated, and often say it looks like the Philip Morris logo. Truth be told there are many similarities between the two, but then both just borrow from the styling of old coat-of-arms symbols.

Orient did not actually use this logo in its early years, and I am not 100% certain when it was designed. The brand’s first watches, introduced in the 1950s and early 60s, usually simply had the “Orient” name printed on, in various fonts and styles.

Often, there was no clear branding as such, and the Orient name was simply used as part of the model name (e.g. “Weekly Auto Orient”)

It was the Orient Star sub-brand that received a dedicated logo first, as early as its launch in 1951. The “S” symbol that decorated this more upscale line of watches was refined, and while it underwent some changes over the years it remains largely recognizable throughout its evolution – till this very day.

The familiar logo began appearing on Orient watches around the mid 1960s, although logo-less models continued to show up long after. During the 80s, for instance, most quartz Orients did not have the logo on them. More recently however the logo became an inseparable part of the brand’s dial design.

Interestingly, Orient provided a rational explanation to the design: In a letter published a few years ago by Jun Watanabe, president of Orient Watch Company, he stated that the lion on the left symbolizes the company, while the second lion symbolizes their dealers and partners. The crown above the shield symbolizes the customer. The entire emblem therefore represents Orient’s respect for its customers and the desire to provide them with quality products.

Last but not least, comes Royal Orient. This line of higher-end watches was introduced in 1958, and at first – did not bear any unique logo. In its modern iteration, it briefly adopted the crown logo, then – the “R” logo, similar to the classic Orient Star symbol. Finally, in its latest production runs prior to being discontinued, it returned to a clean text-only logo.

Back to the main argument though… where do you stand on the question of the Orient logo? Like it? Hate it? Share your thoughts with us!


Photos taken in part from Orient Place blog own photography, and in part – from official Orient catalogs and old sale ads.


After this article was published, an avid reader (thank you, omegaforest!) pointed out an additional, rare variation of the logo that seemed to be used with only a few old models - apparently "AAA" models from the later 1960s. This version used only the stylized "O", which appears on the shield in the full logo.