Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 21 March 2021

The Orient AAA Deluxe

The "Deluxe" moniker was introduced into Orient's lineup in the mid 1960s, and was attached to the brand's "AAA" watches – possibly, to symbolize the use of a new generation of automatic movements, the caliber 49xx family.

To highlight this new collection of watches further, Orient added the "DXO" logo. This was the abbreviation of "Deluxe Orient". Most – but not all – Deluxe Orients had therefore carried the very elaborate branding of "Orient AAA Deluxe" plus the "DXO" logo on their dial.

The DXO family was home to a wide range of models, including a sporty Racer, a Swimmer, the Crystal, and some King Divers – among them, the mighty 1000 meter "baby Panerai" (which may have been a baby as far as Panerai were concerned, but for Orient was a real beast).

I have one good-looking DXO Crystal in my collection representing this line of watches. Let's take a closer look at it…

The watch isn't too small: case width is 37.5mm without the crown, which is a very wearable size, particularly considering the wrist presence of the very angular case. Lug to lug it is 40mm long.

Thickness is quite moderate at a fraction over 12mm. The sides of the case are designed to make it appear slimmer, as the side photo reveals. This combination of an arched profile and sharp lugs makes for a nicely sculptured appearance.

The main attraction here is the watch face, which is well worth zooming in on. What immediately catches the eye is that spider web design with lines stretching from the center of the dial to each hour marker. And then there are the lovely raised markers: not anything we've not seen before, but they are sharp and well made.

Complementing the markers are similarly styled hour and minute hands, and a second hand that also resembles the black stripes on the thicker hands.

This model is equipped with a 27 jewel Caliber 4973, one of the many members of the 49xx family. This movement provides the time, date and weekday, and features manual winding – unlike some of the other caliber 49xx variants.

The main crown here does nothing in the first position. When pulled to the 2nd position it allows you to set the time – and this is also what you'd use to slowly set the weekday. Pull the crown to the 3rd position to manually wind the watch.

Thankfully, advancing the date is enabled by the pusher at 2 o'clock. Not so thankfully, the pusher is tiny, and using it to advance more than 2-3 days forward is really an annoying task. Clearly, it was made with daily wearing in mind, so owners did not have to use the date pusher too much – unless they had let the watch unwind and rest for too long.

Overall, this Orient AAA Deluxe appears to be a very well-made watch. Considering the one I'm holding is almost 55 years old, it is quite impressive: the dial has kept its colors and various elements very well, and the movement goes strong. This particular specimen is also well kept, with sharp case lines and a beautiful original bracelet.

Good looking DXOs like this can be found for around 200-300 USD, and you can still find decent, perfectly wearable ones at 150-200 USD. I also occasionally see some DXOs being put on sale with much higher asking prices – but there's honestly no reason to pay much more than 300 USD for most AAA Deluxe pieces, unless a truly unique one or possibly, a NOS item. An exception to this rule would be King Divers, which fetch considerably higher prices due to their larger case sizes, and particularly - that rare 1000m diver.

Sunday 7 March 2021

What IS Good VFM (Value For Money), Anyway?...

One very general definition of "Value For Money" says, it is "a measure of quality that assesses the monetary cost of the product or service against the quality and/or benefits of that product or service, taking into account subjective factors such as fitness for purpose, along with whole-of-life costs such as installation, training, maintenance and disposal, and wastage."

In the world of watches and watch collectors, "fitness for purpose" does not concern solely the purpose of telling the time… as the purposes for buying a watch might include the joy of owning and observing it, expressing one's social status, as well as a sense of accomplishment in acquiring one's grail or a watch from a highly coveted brand.

Since we are talking about subjective goals, can we refer to a brand or watch as being objectively "good value for money"? To our point, can we describe a brand like Orient as a "VFM watchmaker"?


Objective VFM

A product can be thought of as objectively good VFM if it can be shown to be equal to or better than any comparable product, yet costing less. In this sense, if you were to take all dive watches and found out they all provide similar functionality, display similar quality, yet most of the cost 1000 USD and one costs 200 USD, then we might be tempted to claim this one watch offers better VFM, in an absolute way.

That might not be true though; because if one of these expensive watches is, say, a reputable brand that even non-watch-nerds recognize and admire, and the rest are not – well then, would that not justify the price difference, at least to some buyers?

In that case, you could say "the 200 dollar watch is the best value for money, as long as brand recognition is not a consideration of the buyers". In other words, while there may not be a single "objectively best VFM" it is possible to divide buyers into a number of segments characterized by specific requirements, and then to identify the best VFM product for each of the segments.

Mind you, this still requires certain conditions are met. In the example above, if not all the dive watches were similar, and the least expensive one was of lower quality than the thousand-dollar models, then calling it VFM would have been subjective, and would depend on an individual's willingness to settle for lower quality.

And, if one watch was more expensive than the rest but exhibited significantly better quality – some buyers might have argued it's actually the expensive watch that is great VFM, because the price premium asked was perceived as more than justifiable.

So, What About Orient?

We're not just philosophizing here, right? This blog is about Orient, and is Orient is often mentioned along with other Japanese watchmakers as a maker of generally good VFM products. Can we say this is true, in light of the analysis we just conducted?

We said the first thing to do is understand the market segments. In my mind, Orient generally targets consumers who:

  • care more about functionality and less about branding (and I'm not talking about brand loyalty here but about "brand prestige");
  • do care about design and looks but not necessarily on visual symbols of "luxury" (as opposed, for instance, to cheap watches that present guilloché dials copied from traditional Swiss designs);
  • appreciate a mechanical movement's reliability over time, while not demanding it offers chronometer accuracy.

This seems a very specific group, but in fact covers a lot of consumers, and is probably targeted by many watchmakers – not only Japanese. Several German brands for instance come to mind, as well as some entry-level Swiss, and countless micro-brands.

I feel that in this segment of the market, it is nearly impossible to point out any watch or brand that are objectively best VFM. Here you will find watches ranging from 200 to 2,000 USD, generally none being "perfect". The 200 dollar watch would usually lack solid end-links, or fine case finishing, or sapphire crystal, or lume, or whatever. The 2,000 dollar watch might have all of these components – but then, it will be let down by its price, where justification again would be only subjective.

Would an Orient Kamasu or Bambino present good value for money in this segment? Yes, it probably would. A person would rarely buy one of these and feel he did not get his money's worth. But, might a Timex, for instance, present similar good value? Well, I usually prefer Orient's designs and character, but I cannot say a Timex is less of a good VFM. This, then, is subjective.

What about Orient Star watches? They'd be 2-3 times as expensive as "regular" Orient models, or more. But you get better bracelets and cases, more complications, a little more of everything. Once again, when you buy an Orient Star you are most likely going to get a great value for your money. But can you say without a doubt it is better value than, say, an 800 dollar Mido, or a 1,200 dollar Hanhart Pioneer (just giving examples from my personal collection)? The Mido has chronometer accuracy; the Hanhart has an immaculate finishing and bracelet (and charm); both of them cannot be considered expensive for the qualities they carry, and neither asks for any real "brand premium".


And Then Again…

We cannot ignore the magic of an inexpensive watch. As collectors, the chance of buying ten 200 dollar watches instead of a single 2000 dollar watch, is enticing. It creates an added value, that is on top of the value of any single watch – that is, the value of a collection.

In other words, while we could argue that a Kamasu has a similar value-for-money "ratio" as the Mido diver, per a collector's budget, there is an appeal in getting a Kamasu, and an M-Force, and a Bambino, for the Price of one of those (admittedly very good) Swiss watches.

And while indeed there are other brands that could claim both decent VFM and affordable prices, I see the broad and diverse range of affordable timepieces from Orient as what really constitutes it as a VFM brand for collectors.

Anyway, that's my opinion, and my personal analysis… what do you think? Let us know what you think, in comments below, or on our Facebook page!