Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 30 May 2021

Orient "World Map" Hands-On Review

In February this year, Orient announced the re-issue of its famed, now-ultra-rare, 1969 "Map Dial" World Diver. Dubbed the World Map diver, the new watch immediately drew the attention of fans of the brand in general, and those familiar with its vintage diver legacy in particular.

Therefore, I was very pleased to receive two World Map versions for review – the limited edition reference RA-AA0E04Y (or RN-AA0E04Y in Japan) with its multicolor true-to-the-original dial, and the regular production ref. RA-AA0E01S (or RN-AA0E01S) with its ivory dial.

As a general rule, I evaluate watches based on their own merits, but here it's difficult to overlook the historical context behind the design. So before I begin to discuss the pros and cons of the "World Map", I'd like to briefly describe how it works as a re-issue.


Old vs. New

Not all watch brands treat their legacy designs the same way. Many so called "reissues" are in fact "homage" watches, that take certain elements of the original and blend them with more modern elements, typically larger cases, trying to emphasize the progress made by the company. Not so with Orient.

This isn't the first time Orient makes a new iteration of an older design that's almost impossible to tell from the original. But with the rather elaborate and very distinct visual footprint of the vintage world diver, the way it is being preserved by the new watch is absolutely impressive.

It's easier to say what has changed than to point out everything that is the same. So, you have a slightly larger case (43.5mm vs 42mm); the day-change push button has been omitted, as both day and date are now set from the main crown; and you have some very minute changes to the dial text, mainly the word "automatic" now added, and the tristar symbol removed.

You can see it in the pictures; my vintage World Diver is on the leather strap, while the new World Map is on the steel bracelet. The map image is absolutely identical, down to replicating the original Pantone color codes.

Okay, now that we got the historical comparison out of the way, let's move forward and focus on the new watches, shall we?


How They Look

The World Map immediately stands out as an original design, very much unlike any other diver or sports watch currently on the market. The large lugless case and the unusual internal 24-hour bezel provide a distinctive outline, even before setting one's attention onto the illustrated dial.

Naturally, while the overall shape of the watch is very simple, all that's interesting is taking place under the mineral glass. The dials, both the white version and the multicolor, are lovely in different ways. The white one is restrained and elegant, definitely more versatile in appearance; the colorful version is vibrant and playful, and increases the already-high standout factor of this model.

The 24-hour rotating bezel adds to the playfulness; to be honest, anything you can have in a watch that one can play with while wearing it, without messing with the time adjustment, is good. Watches are meant to be fun, aren't they?

That said, there is something very misleading about the dial and bezel. They'd make you think there has to be some clever way of telling the time in different cities in there. Well, in theory, that might be possible – but in practice, finding your current location or destination on this map is challenging to say the least.

In other words, if you are the sort of person who insists every element must be usable and functional, the World Map is likely to drive you mad. To enjoy it, you have to appreciate it's just a fun watch, and the "worldly" side of it is little more than an artistic expression.

Zoom in on the details, and you won't be disappointed. The map, particularly on the white dial, is printed in crisp precision. The hands are pleasantly shaped, and the date window is attractively framed. Considering the price point, there is nothing to complain about: the dial has depth, and all the elements are well proportioned and sit together nicely.

Also worth mentioning are the two crowns and the coin-edge bezel. Particularly on the white dial version, the gold tone of both bezel and crowns emphasize how well they match. Some might not like the two-tone finishing though, but of course, they can turn to one of the other references (like the blue or green dials, which I have not seen in person).

Regarding the bracelet, again, there are pros and cons. It looks nice enough, with the alternating brushed/polished finishing that mimics a five-link bracelet (though the links are single pieces). My main gripe is that the brushed part does not really connect with any other element in the watch, as the case is entirely polished.


How They Wear

We've already mentioned this is not a small watch, and a width of 43.5mm without the crowns might seem daunting to some. However, notice the total length of the case is only 46mm, meaning most people of average wrist sizes should be able to wear the World Map diver without it overhanging.

On the wrist, the watch is truly very comfortable. The 156g weight feels reasonably distributed between the case and the steel bracelet. The bracelet is really fine for the price, and is certainly of better quality than what Orient offers with some of its cheaper models. The end-links are solid and the rest of the pieces feel solid too.

This also means you don't have to adjust the bracelet for perfect tightness to avoid it swinging around, as might happen when big watches hang on cheap bracelets or thin straps. You can wear the World Map diver as tight or as loose as you like.


How They Function

Let's first look at the basic operation of the watch. Using the crown at 3 to wind the movement and to set the time, day and date, is easy enough. Winding feels a little rough and sounds more like grinding than the gentle meshing of tiny teeth on little wheels, but that is common to many Orients that use caliber F6922 (more on this, later).

Note that while this watch is dubbed as a diver, the crown does not screw in. Some hardcore dive watch fans might snub at this, but at least you get simpler operation and – unlike some Orient divers – zero crown wobble.

The crown at four is used for turning the bezel. As noted before, we're not taking the world timing functionality of this watch too seriously – I'm treating the bezel as a fidget toy. As such, it is harmless fun and "works" nicely.

The movement here is Orient's very widely used F6922. Its stated accuracy is between -15 to +25 seconds per day, but the pair of World Map divers I got faired much better. The white-dial watch was doing about +1.5 seconds per day – and kept this accuracy both during the three days I was wearing it and two days after – almost till the very last drop of power-reserve juice. That's quite impressive.

The multicolor version which I have tested but did not adjust the bracelet and therefore did not wear, was doing +6 seconds per day, mostly resting on its back, and that too is a very good result.

As far as legibility is concerned, it is a bit of a mixed bag. On all versions of the watch you get big, contrasting hour and minute hands, enabling very quick and easy telling of the time at decent lighting conditions.

However if it's precision you're after, then finding the second hand is a bit more challenging. Especially on the white dial, the thin hand – which looks about the same color as the lines that make up the map – just gets lost against the background. This is a little better with the multicolor dial, and I suspect it would be the blue and green dial versions that may offer better spotting of the seconds hand.

Using the lume for night-time reading of the time is also tricky. The hour and minute hands are lumed and sufficiently visible – but the lumed hour markers reside on the rotating bezel. Which means, if you accidentally move the bezel while it's dark, your time reading would be off.

Orient refers to this as a diver, and it does have a water resistance of 200m. So, while not ISO certified and lacking a screw-down crown it would not count as a professional diver, the World Map has the everyday waterproofness most of us practically need.

That said, I would certainly not call this a tool watch. Glass is mineral and is raised slightly above the bezel, making it prone to scratches; and the big, shiny case is also likely to get bumped if worn carelessly for outdoor work.


The Bottom Line

Like many Orients, the World Map diver is not a perfect watch, nor is it the most practical timepiece ever. It is clearly a case of "design first, function later," and that is obviously not a flaw in the process but a conscious decision. Honestly, I find this a refreshing approach, which is true to the brand spirit, stretching all the way from the original World Diver of 1969 to recent Orient models.

On the plus side, you get a handsome design – in fact a few versions of it – that is well executed, producing a cool watch that's got the looks and the wrist presence. It is comfortable, and driven by a reliable movement. Above all, the World Map is a fun product that is a faithful representation of the Orient brand and its legacy.

On the other hand, you get a number of drawbacks in the practicality department, such as the imperfect legibility and a rather useless world time function.

Like many Orients, this is a watch for people who are either collectors or fans of the brand, who don't care too much about practicality (and probably have a few other watches on rotation that could make up for any of this model's flaws). It may well also be appreciated by anyone looking for a stylish and attractive wristwatch or who sees watches as jewelry rather than serious time-telling machines, but prefers something of higher quality and prestige than "fashion watches".

In other words – the World Map diver might not be a watch for everyone – but there are still many people out there who are likely to love it. And if you are such a person, go ahead and get yourself one – the price (typically 400-500 USD) is fair, and the quality won't disappoint you.


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us these World Map diver watches for review.

Sunday 16 May 2021

Orient's Triple and Double Movement Watches

Watches that contain two (or more) movements can turn out rather funky. And Orient, as a brand never shy of going funky, definitely had made a few attempts at producing such watches, with varying degrees of success.


The Mecha-Trenics

The beast that started the trend was the 2004 "Mecha-Trenics", and a beast it was! That was a 50mm-wide case, housing no less than three independent mechanical calibers "55", a fairly small movement primarily used for women's watches.

The implementation of the movements was rather curious, though that was probably mandated by the crowdedness of the dial. You had one movement driving the "1st time zone", a dub-dial with a full set of hour, minute, and second hand. Another movement drove the "2nd time zone" with the hour and minute hands; and the third one moved only an hour hand, representing a "3rd zone". All three zones had their own date display though…

The "Tre" in the name indicated the trio of movements, by the way – it had nothing to do with (elec)tronics, as the watch was indeed purely mechanical.

Two models were produced, each a limited edition of 999 pieces: Reference WV0011NT had a black dial, while ref. WV0021NT had a white dial.


"Stylish and Smart" Dual

Throughout much of the 2010s, Orient pushed forward with their "Stylish and Smart" line, an eclectic collection of watches that featured a modern, mostly young and fun kind of styling that avoided conventional time-telling designs. It was there where in 2012 the company introduced its new "Dual" concept.

The Dual watches combined an automatic movement along with a quartz movement to show two time zones. The first two releases, ref. WV0011XC and WV0021XC, were constructed using rectangular cases, measuring 31mm across and 49.5mm long (fairly big for a lugless design). The automatic caliber presented time digitally, using rotating discs, at the top – and the quartz running normal hands in a lower sub-dial.

In 2013 Orient presented the "Dual II", this time in a round 43mm case. Four models were produced in different colors. It's fair to say that the Dual II was a much better design, and these are some pretty cool watches.

Also, note that Orient being Orient, they would not just settle for squeezing two movements and two dials into one reasonably sized case; they also added an internal rotating "calendar" bezel – the kind where you align the weekdays and dates at the beginning of a month to enjoy a daily calendar for the rest of the month.


"Moussy" Watches

No historical review of Orient oddball creations would be complete without an even more oddball creation coming in from leftfield, would it? enter Moussy.

Moussy is a Japanese women's fashion brand. Orient started cooperating with Moussy in 2013, when it launched a bunch of quartz watches – including some dual-movement releases.

One style of dual watches consisted of a couple of small cases lined up together on a strap. A few references in different color combinations were presented, and they actually seem to have been very nice and wearable items.

The other type of dual Moussy watches was the real deal: a 50mm satellite-dish of a case, providing plenty of room for a couple of quartz movements to show the time on fairly legible sub-dials; legible, if it weren't for the cartoon dial, that is.

And this, more or less, is it. Today Orient is not producing any new dual (or triple) movement watches.

Photos were taken from official Orient advertising, except the photo of the two mecha-trenics versions, taken from Watch Tanaka blog.

Monday 10 May 2021

New Models Added To The Bambino Family

A bunch of new references has recently been added by Orient to the Bambino family, or "Classic and Simple" series, as it is called in the brand's formal announcements.

The quintuple includes:

·         Ref. RA-AC0018E, with a green dial and a mesh bracelet

·         Ref. RA-AC0019L, with a navy blue dial and mesh bracelet

·         Ref. RA-AC0020G, with a crème or beige colored dial, and mesh

·         Ref. RA-AC0021L, with a navy blue dial and matching blue leather strap

·         Ref. RA-AC0022S, with a white dial and black leather strap

All models feature roman numerals at 12 and 6 and stick markers for the other hours. The case is the standard for the series 40.5mm wide, 12.3mm thick stainless steel piece with exhibition case-back and mineral glass.

Prices have not been mentioned, but are likely to be in the same range as other members of the Bambino family.

Interestingly, no Japanese (RN-xxx) references have been provided, so at least for now, these are strictly non-Japanese models that should soon be available for worldwide distribution.

Sunday 2 May 2021

Orient's Skeleton Watch History

Watch brands have different ways of showing off their fine watchmaking expertise. One such method is producing skeleton watches, in which as much of the dial and movement bridges are stripped ("skeletonized") to provide a clear view of the beating heart of the mechanism.

Skeletonization is a very delicate art. When done right and skillfully executed, it can result in a highly exquisite timepiece. However, poor design or low-quality execution of a skeleton watch would likely end up looking cheap, hard to read, and generally very far from making a positive impression.

Orient too dipped its feet in the skeletonized end of the watchmaking pool, with varying degrees of success. Let's look at the company's skeleton watches over the years.

The Mon Bijou

In 1991, Orient introduced the curiously named, and non-Orient branded, "Mon Bijou" – literally meaning "my jewel", in French. A number of Mon Bijou versions were released, all featuring a hand-wound movement, but differing in the style and finishing.

The Mon Bijous were fairly small watches, measuring around 35mm in diameter, give or take (versions did differ slightly). Today you may find it advertised as either Men's or Women's watch, although it really is kind of unisex – with some of the versions leaning more toward the feminine end of things.

Nowadays, these early skeletons may seem a bit over-the-top ornate, their flamboyance out of line with the brand's DNA (and with their petite size…) – but at the time, they represented the top of Orient's watchmaking skills.


Orient Star / Royal Skeletons

A few years later (probably around 2000, though I could not pinpoint the exact time), the skeleton design found a new home under the Orient Star and Star Royal branding.

The "Star Royal" variant, ref. EQ00-A1, received the more elaborate execution of the movement, while the mere "Star" ref. EQ00-A2 boasts a more subtle and actually fairly elegant view of the movement. By the way, make no mistake, both are in stainless steel and gold plated. None of the Orient skeletons was ever made in solid gold.

The next iteration of the skeleton came in 2004 with the introduction of caliber 48B56, offering improved accuracy of +10/-5 seconds per day (vs. the earlier model's roughly +15/-7), a power reserve display, and the hacking mechanism missing in the older models.

At first, this movement was cased as "Orient Star Royal", with ref. WZ0011FQ in stainless steel and WZ0021FQ being gold plated. These watches also featured slightly larger diameters of 37mm without the crown.

Reference WZ0031FQ joined the pack a little later, bearing only the Orient Star logo and featuring unique bridges very reminiscent of Girard Perregaux's signature skeleton bridges, as seen below in the smaller picture.


Royal Orient Skeletons

In 2007 came the next iteration of cal. 48B56, this time in full Royal Orient guise, as the Star Royal was now renamed. References WE0011FQ and WE0021FQ were almost identical, except the sub-dial track colors, silver in the first and black in the latter. Also, a thin white line was added to the hour and minute hands of the darker version to improve legibility. Case size grew a little again, reaching 38mm.

A couple of years later, these were released again as Ref. WE0031FQ and WE0041FQ, differing only in the new Royal Orient logo.

In 2010, Orient introduced the rarest and finest execution of its Skeleton watch yet – ref. WE0011DU. The story of this unique creation was posted here on the blog last year.


Orient Star Vintage and Classic Skeletons

In 2013 Orient announced a new skeletonized movement – caliber 48E51 – and a new line of watches, the Orient Star Vintage Skeleton. Two limited editions of 500 pieces each were introduced: ref. WZ0011DX with a gold-plated case and champagne-colored dial, and WZ0021DX with plain steel case and silver-colored dial.

Once again, the new models featured a slightly larger case, with their width now reaching 39mm. Despite the "vintage" in their name, embodied mainly in the use of an old Orient Star logo, their design was actually more modern, featuring a cleaner look than earlier Orient skeleton watches.

In 2016 Orient released the Orient Star Classic Skeleton, using the same movement but returning to a more ornate dial design. Ref. WZ0031DX featured gold-plating on the stainless steel case, while WZ0041DX kept it clean. The movement inside was gold plated on both though.

Later that same year, reference WZ0051DX joined the collection, featuring dark-brown dial elements. This was a limited edition, sold exclusively on Orient's Prestige Shops. The last member of the DX family, ref. RK-DX0001S, was released in 2017. Here most of the golden elements were removed in favor of a clean silver-grey appearance; even the gold-plated movement was replaced with a similar non-plated version, cal. 48E52.

 The 70th Anniversary Skeletons

We are skipping a few other watch models like Orient's long-running "Modern Skeleton" collection, and the recent "Avantgarde Skeleton". These do not feature a fully skeletonized movement, and more accurately belong in Orient's broad range of Semi-Skeleton watches.

And so we arrive in 2021, when finally a new movement and a new line of skeleton watches were introduced. As we reported here back in January, Orient presented caliber F8 featuring 70 hours of power reserve, with two new skeleton models housing it - Reference RK-AZ0001S with a champagne-colored dial, and RK-AZ0002S featuring a white dial, both in stainless steel cases.


And that's it – you have the full history of Orient's skeleton watches!


Photos were taken from official Orient catalogs and old sale ads.