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.
Hi, Mr. OrientReplyDelete
Why is ORIENT RA-AA0E04Y limited edition 300 and 1200 ?
Orient limited the production of that model to 300 units to sell in Japan, and 900 units for export, i.e. to sell through worldwide distributors.Delete