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Orient Place

Sunday 13 June 2021

Orient Star Layered Skeleton Watch Review

Call it an open heart dial, call it a semi-skeleton watch, whatever name you use – the concept of watches that offer a glimpse into the mechanical movement has been a familiar design theme of Orient since 2003.

Earlier this year, Orient presented their latest iteration of the concept, dubbed "Layered Skeleton", aiming to add depth to the dial by dividing it into two stacked layers. Today we'll be reviewing one representative of this new model: the Layered Skeleton reference RE-AV0B02Y (RK-AV0B02Y in Japan).

How It Looks

When I first saw Orient's official photos of this model, I thought this watch needs to be seen to appreciate whether the design works. When I first saw it with my own eyes, I thought: I need to wear this a little longer to make up my mind. A week later, it becomes clear why there's no easy answer here, as there are a number of aspects involved here.

  • Is the watch impressive? It pretty much is. Elements like the case finishing and the five-link bracelet make an immediate visual impact, and the view into the beating heart of the watch can also impress, particularly those who are not used to semi-skeleton dials.
  • Is the watch elegant? One might argue that the mixing of steel and gold-toned markers, or even the very notion of multiple dial layers, each with different etching, does not meet the conservative definition of elegance. In terms of outline and proportions, though, it's all very harmonious.
  • Is the watch pretty? The answer is obviously subjective. I would say it is definitely not ugly, and it has some cool design elements. However, at no point did I feel I want to stop work and just look at it – which is what a truly beautiful timepiece should make me do.

So now that we've established why assessing this model's looks is so complicated and inconclusive, let's dive into the details.

First, the dial, which is a complicated affair here. The top layer is brown and carries a fairly clear herringbone pattern. Underneath it is a blue layer which, upon closer inspection, shows a kind of paisley pattern with leaves and flowers. The texture on both layers is subtle enough in most lighting conditions, though it can burst into a more powerful presence under strong, direct sunlight.

The elements above the dial are all quite stylish and finely executed, including the hands, markers, and the Orient Star logo. If you're not too concerned with the mixed use of gold and steel hour markers, you will likely find the dial attractive and well made even under the magnifying glass.

Below, cut-offs in the dial provide a view of the balance wheel and a few other bits of metal. The sight of the engine room is far from Haute Horlogerie but is not too shabby either.

The famed Orient Star quality reveals itself more prominently in the outer workings, namely case and bracelet. The case (seen before in other Orient Star models) has beautifully flowing lines, and its complex shape features alternating finishes of vertical brushing (top of the lugs), polishing (chamfers and bezel), and circular brushing (case sides).

The bracelet too looks good with broad brushed links separated by thin polished links, and its visual connection with the case works well. The milled clasp at its back looks good too.

The exhibition case-back allows further observation of the mechanism. The movement's backplates are adorned with perlage, while the rotor has some very subtle Geneva stripes and a golden Orient Star logo. Nothing that we have not seen before, but no flaws here either.

All in all, it's a mixed bag. If one were to judge this design by dress-watch standards, a disappointment would be the likely result. However, consider the Layered Skeleton a casual, or even sporty, watch to wear to the office and to the pub with the boys after, and it makes more sense. Like many Orients, you have to accept that it is not following common conventions other than the brand's own, and then you can start to like it.


How It Wears

The Layered Skeleton is not a lightweight at just over 150g, but it is very comfortable to wear nonetheless. You feel certain heft, but in a reassuring way, unless one is really used to very small, light watches. The 41mm wide, 48.3mm long case lies smooth on the wrist, and the downsloping lugs ensure the bracelet also wears well, spreading the weight evenly around the wrist.

The bracelet is definitely high-end, a clear differntiator of Orient Star from "Mere Orient" watches. It is flexible enough, yet feels robust and secure. Needless to say, you will experience no hair-pulling at this level of quality.

The clasp too is comfortable, easy to use, and does not protrude or push into the skin as in too many other watches.

Will it fit under a cuff? The watch is not particularly slim, being nearly 14mm thick. However, it's smooth enough to slide under your sleeve if it's not too tight.

So it's comfortable to wear but isn't too small. What wrist sizes are we talking here then? I reckon 6.5" and above would wear it well. Under 6.5", its wrist presence may appear bulky – or manly, depends on one's perception… – so trying it on before buying would be recommended.


How It Functions

The movement driving the Layered Skeleton's is Orient's caliber F6F44. A member of Orient's current crop of modern, 50 hour movements, it is expected to maintain its siblings' reputation for long-term reliability. The accuracy measured on the sample unit reviewed was +12 seconds per day, which is within the stated -15/+25 specifications.

Like all current Orient Semi-Skeletons, this watch includes the power-reserve indicator, and does not have a date function. And, like many of the brand's open heart watches, it features the small seconds in a sub-dial. I tend to like this configuration, as the power-reserve and small-seconds create certain symmetry on the dial.

Legibilty is excellent: despite the busy dial, the hands stand out in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight – and fairly dark spaces. Telling the time is therefore always quick and easy. There is some lume on the hands and dots next to each hour markers, so you get some night-time visibility as well – not dive-watch levels of it, though, but every little helps.

Practicality is fine. You get 100 meters of water resistance, which is fairly good for a watch that's not a diver or a tool watch. Front crystal is tough, AR-coated sapphire; The case-back, being less prone to scratches, is covered by mineral glass.


The Bottom Line

Objectively speaking, what we have here is an impressive watch: it is constructed and finished to Orient Star's usual high standards and features some original design ideas; and it is a practical, comfortable daily wear that's powered by a robust and reliable automatic movement. On paper, a very worthy Orient Star.

Subjectively, I was left a bit cold by the Layered Skeleton. Not sure exactly why, but I felt that the dial was perhaps too technical for my liking, and the color scheme did not excite me too much either. Possibly, bolder colors could lift this design to a higher level: imagine this dial having a red top surface, with piano-black lower plate…?

That said, colors are indeed very much a matter of personal preferences. If you do like the overall design concept, it's worth checking out the other references in the series, as you get versions with a white/silver dial, black, and that limited edition sparkling green color.

Prices for the Orient Star Layered Skeleton are generally in the range of 800-900 USD, meaning they are selling at close to MSRP. Not a cheap watch, then, so you'd absolutely want to make sure you like it before committing to the expense. If the style speaks to you and you do go ahead and make the purchase, the execution will not disappoint.


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Orient Star Layered Skeleton watch for review

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