Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 21 February 2021

A History of Orient's Use of Power Reserve Indicators

Power Reserve indicators have become a common feature in many Orient watches. It is a mechanical complication that not only adds functionality that is often useful, but can also enhance the appeal of a watch dial, make it more interesting, or visually balance other dial elements such as the date or small seconds.

In this article, we will explore the mechanics of the PR indicator, and the history of its use by Orient.

How Does A Power Reserve Indicator Work?

The power reserve indicator was first introduced in a wrist watch by Jaeger LeCoultre, with Caliber 481. Interestingly though, the watch you'd currently see if you visit the Wikipedia page forPower Reserve Indicator, is an Orient (and it wasn't me who put it there, I swear!)

The mechanism itself is not too sophisticated, in comparison to some other watch complications. Without diving into too many technical details, the PR indicator generally provides a measure of how wound the mainspring is. This is done via an additional module that connects to the mainspring barrel.

There are a number of different modules that can produce a PR indication. One popular method is via a differential gear, where the many rounds of winding up (or un-winding, down) are converted through a number of gears to a smaller turning angle, so that one might see the entire range from zero to full winding in something around 90-120 degrees, typically.

Another method is via a differential (i.e. tapering) screw, where the turning of the barrel would cause the screw to move up or down over a small distance, again enabling easy reading of the remaining power.


Orient's First PR Indicator Model

Orient introduced its first PR indicator-equipped movement in 1996, as caliber 46F. It was initially included in a series of Orient Star models generally known as EW00, with a follow-up series of similar design known as EW01.

Caliber 46F was a 21-jewel movement, featuring 21,600 vibrations per hour like most Orient movements, and offered a 40-hour power reserve. Its stated accuracy was within +25/-15 seconds per day. It only had automatic winding – so owners could not experience the satisfaction of winding the watch using the crown and watching the power reserve needle go up…

These early models were time-only pieces, and did not include a date or day mechanism. If you are interested in acquiring one of these references, please note they are fairly small, with a case measuring about 35mm across, without the crown.

Soon after, Orient followed up and introduced non-Star models containing the same movement and generally very similar features, as the EW03 series. Yes – some of those did feature cathedral hands… this is authentic.


Other Power Reserve Models

The power reserve indicator quickly became popular, and the brand added more calibers with additional features. Such was caliber 46G, which added a date wheel and in 1997 became the heart of the all-new M-Force. That watch boasted the advantages of its mechanical movement over the then-prevailing quartz movements, and thus highlighted its power reserve indicator.

The following table lists the various 46-series PR movements.

Orient continued to make use of power reserve indicators in later generations of its movements, such as in its series 40 and 48, and more recently in its F6 and F7 series movements.


The Power Reserve Indicator, Today

Throughout 2020, Orient faded out the use of PR indicators in regular, non-Star models, and has apparently decided to keep them as a unique feature of its Orient Star line.

Regular Orient models will have to do without this complication we grew so much accustomed to. Even the M-Force, a watch so strongly tied to the essence of the Power Reserve, had to bid the PR indicator farewell in its latest iteration.

With Orient Star, though, it's business as usual. The Power Reserve indicator was at center stage recently as the brand unveiled its latest Skeleton model with the new F8 movement, now offering 70 hours of power.

Photos of EW00, EW01, EW03 series, are taken from old sale ads. Other photography is copyright of Orient Place blog.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Orient Re-issues The "World Dial" Watch

Sometimes Orient really catches us by surprise and does something unexpected. Today it does one such thing, announcing the release of four new versions of its famed 1969 "Map Dial" World Diver model.

The new World Map is very similar to the original watch. You get the time, date and day, as well as an inner rotating 24-hour bezel. The crown at three sets the time, while the crown at four turns the bezel. Four variations would be available:

·         Reference RN-AA0E04Y is a faithful reproduction of the original map dial design in full color, limited to 1200 units (300 in Japan, 900 for export).

·         References RN-AA0E01S, RN-AA0E02E, and RN-AA0E03L feature the world map etched on an ivory, green or blue dial, respectively. The ivory version also features gold plated bezel and crowns.

All references feature a 20mm solid steel bracelet, reminiscent of the vintage bracelet style. The case measures 43.5mm wide, 46mm long, and 13.9mm thick – so, slightly larger than the original, but maintaining very similar proportions.

The front crystal is mineral, while the case-back is solid. The watch features a useful water resistance of 20 bar (200 meters). Inside is Orient's caliber F6922.

The different models are priced around 500 USD, with the colorful and ivory versions being a little higher than the green and the blue.

The blog's verdict: Orient has definitely pulled an ace here. In fact, they set a benchmark for other watchmakers on how to do a reissue. The watch, all versions of it, looks amazing and should sell like hot cakes.

New Orient Star Models for 2021

As expected on its sub-brand's 70th anniversary year, Orient continues today to introduce new models into the Orient Star line-up: we so, we get a new Moonphase watch without (!) an open-heart aperture, and a new family of semi-skeleton watches.

The "Layered Skeleton"

Orient are trying out a new style of semi-skeleton design with this model. Featuring the time, small seconds and power-reserve indicator, the watch dial is given added depth by applying different textures, making it appear as if a full-plate dial is slightly peeled off to reveal a little bit of its underpinnings.

The watch measures 41mm wide, 48.3mm long, and 13.6mm thick. Lug width is 20mm. Front crystal is sapphire while the caseback is covered in mineral glass.

Five references will be released, officially on March 25:

·         Reference RK-AV0B01S, having a white dial, and coming on a steel bracelet.

·         Ref. RK-AV0B02Y with a brown dial, and also attached to a steel bracelet.

·         Ref. RK-AV0B03B features a black dial – and likewise, a steel bracelet.

·         Reference RK-AV0B04S would be sold exclusively on "Prestige Shops". It has a white dial, and is sold with both a bracelet and a leather strap.

·         Ref. RK-AV0B05E is the Orient Star 70th anniversary model, and will be limited to 700 JDM pieces and 700 export pieces. This model comes on a leather strap and features a uniquely painted green dial.

All models use Orient caliber F6F44, offering 50 hours of power reserve, and a stated accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. The different models are all priced the same, at around 900 USD.

The blog's verdict: it's the sort of designs one needs to see in person to appreciate whether they pulled it off successfully or not. However, we're being optimistic, given Orient's experience with semi-skeleton designs, that this is likely to turn out pretty good.


The Mechanical Moonphase

The new Moonphase model would please many fans of the brand and of the concept of a moon phase watch, who preferred a simpler dial design without an open-heart feature. Unfortunately, only a single reference will be released – RK-AY0108S – and it will be limited to 200 pieces only available exclusively on Orient's "prestige shops" in Japan.

This is the lowest production volume of any recent Orient model, and it also priced slightly lower than the open-heart versions, at around 1700 USD. Therefore, It would likely be sold out rather quickly. It is expected to arrive in the stores on March 18.

The specs are very similar to those of the open-heart versions: dimensions are still 41mm wide, 49mm long, and 13.8mm thick, crystal is sapphire front and back, and water resistance is 5 atm.

The movement is Orient's caliber F7M65 – probably just a non-semi-skeletonized version of the F7M62 that drives the brand's open-heart moonphase models. It has an accuracy of +15/-5 seconds per day, and keeps a power reserve of up to 50 hours.

The blog's verdict: yes, thank you and we want more!


Sunday 7 February 2021

A Brief History of Orient Star

The Orient Star brand was born 70 years ago, in 1951 – just one year after the birth of Orient itself. We are now entering the 70th anniversary of Orient Star, a milestone that has already provided us one major launch (the new Orient Star Skeleton and 70 hour movement) and is expected to yield more releases and announcements.

This, then, is a good reason to take a quick look at the history of Orient Star. We're not going to go into the details of specific models in this review, but more to understand the roots and DNA of the brand.


The DNA of Orient Star

Orient takes pride in the heritage of its Orient Star line. Despite producing some quartz models for women, the brand is positioned primarily as a manufacturer of mechanical watches since its first model until today.

The nature of mechanical watches, as items that are passed on from generation to generation and transcend temporary trends, is important in the narrative of the brand. It is also a significant element linking its very first model with the latest, as despite advancements in watchmaking technologies, the fundamental concepts of mechanical watches have remained unchanged.

Looking at some of the marketing content and stories released by Orient, it seems they also see the concept of "joy" as key. They describe it as an attempt to provide owners with the joy of being fascinated by the mechanics, of connecting with the past, and naturally – of wearing the watch. I see this concept as true to the end product: Particularly as opposed to the seriousness with which many European watchmakers perceive themselves, there is something lighter, and often fun, in Orient's watch designs (not just the Orient Star models, by the way).


A Brief History of Orient Star

The Following "lineage tree" of Orient Star appears in the company's Japanese website – I've taken the liberty of translating it…

The earliest models on the tree show the very quick evolution from the 1951 Orient Star design, which visually is very much "early 20th century", to the 1957 "Dynamic" model that presents the kind of dress-watch esthetics that are acceptable even today.

The rest of the diagram ignores some really beautiful Orient Star models, as it seems to focus less on looks and more on substance, that is, mechanical innovations that the brand sees at important steps in its history.

Such important steps include, of course, the introduction of series 46 calibers, the ancestor of modern Orient movements that continued to evolve into the 46-F6, F7 and F8 movements. Though that has not been unique to Orient Star, of course.

We can see some familiar elements of Orient Star watches mechanics that also have a significant implication on their design: such are the Power Reserve indicator, introduced in 1996, and the Semi-Skeleton introduced in 2003.

The original diagram had only reached 2017. As I've already broken the shame barrier by translating it, I saw no reason why I could not just extend it to 2021. So, here goes – my interpretation of what Orient Star's lineage tree would look like, had it been drawn today.

Orient Star Within The Orient Range

Today Orient Star represents the top of the Orient line in terms of quality and pricing. It is worth noting that this was not always the case.

Royal Orient became part of the brand's portfolio in the late 1950s, taking over the top of the range, before itself being overtaken in the early sixties by the even more expensive and luxurious Grand Prix line.

Later in the 1960s and 1970s it seems that the Orient Star name disappeared, in favor of such marks as Orient Deluxe and specific high-end models like the Fineness and the Tenbeat.

The 1980s appear as a period in time where the Orient range was less exciting and quartz became a more prominent part of the brand's offering. Luckily, the 1990s marked the return of the mechanical movement to center stage, along with the reappearance of Orient Star, which from then on kept its place as a higher-end sub-brand that is characterized by excellent quality and finishing, with only the occasional Royal Orient releases overshadowing it.