Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 7 November 2021

Orient's Retrograde Watches

In watchmaking, "retrograde" refers to a hand that moves along a path (typically, an arc), and after reaching its final position – jumps back to the starting point. This, as opposed to the usual continuous movement of hands around the circle of the dial, or of a sub-dial.

That little jump adds a certain degree of difficulty in the design and construction of the movement. Note that the typical arc movement of a power reserve indicator is not a "retrograde", as the hand moves smoothly in both directions, and does not jump at any point.

Orient has produced one base caliber that features a true retrograde hand – to which two near-identical variants had been added over time. Today we'll focus on Orient watches that use this movement.


Caliber 40A50

The base caliber 40A50 is a unique example in Orient's history where a complication was only ever implemented in a single movement – so far. This movement, introduced back in 2009, is now celebrating its 12th anniversary and shows no signs of retiring anytime soon.

The movement features central hours, minutes, and seconds, a date sub-dial at 9, the famed power-reserve indication at 12, and retrograde days of the week at 6.

The retrograde movement only ever featured in Orient Star and Royal Orient models, never in a regular Orient model. Its Orient Star version was denoted "DE", and offers a standard Orient accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day, whereas its Royal "JD" equivalent offers +10/-5 seconds accuracy. Other than that – likely more due to careful regulation at the factory than any mechanical differences and some decorations, both calibers appear to be the same.


Orient Star Retrograde

The first models of the OS Retrograde were presented in 2009, and more similar references were added between 2010 and 2015. They differed in colors and straps but shared a common case construction, featuring a 39.5mm wide case that was 14.3mm thick, and 46mm long lug to lug.

In 2016, Orient presented a new OS Retrograde model, featuring what the brand referred to as the "classic" case. The new case was 40.5mm wide, 47.5mm long, and 14.7mm thick. Interestingly, water resistance here was reduced from 10bar in the original mode, to just 5 bar.

The movement in this model was a slightly modified variant, named 40A52 – in which the only differences seem to be a slight re-orientation of some of the sub-dials: the date sub-dial now has "1" at the top, rather than "31", and the week-day retrograde arc has shifted slightly to the left.

In 2019, added a new batch of retrograde watches under its "contemporary" line-up. These actually use a case very similar to original models, and having the same dimensions – and also retaining the 10 bar water-resistance. However, the dial layout is different, as this model also makes use of the updated cal. 40A52.

Note that as both cal. 40A50 and 40A52 are technically identical, models using either movement have "DE" in their reference codes.


Royal Orient And More…

2014 saw the launch of two Royal Orient watches carrying the more finely regulated and decorated version of the retrograde movement: caliber 40B50. Reference WE0011JD featured a black dial and steel bracelet, while ref. WE0021JD had a white dial and leather strap.

These references both used a stainless steel case measuring 39mm across, 47.3mm lug to lug, and 13.2 mm thick, and featuring fine "Zaratsu" polishing. The very fine finishing is evident in every aspect, such as the hands, markers and other dial elements, as well as the exhibition case-back and bracelet.

One other Retrograde model was produced by Orient for DAKS, as part of the cooperation between the brands. Two references were presented – WR0011DE with a white dial, and WR0021DE with a black dial and golden bezel. These were manufactured to Orient Star standards and used the OS movement.


What Next?

The caliber 40 family is aging. Nowadays, One expects new Orient Star models to feature movements from the F6/7/8 family, offering 50 hours of power reserve or more – compared to the current retrograde model's 40 hours.

Is it possible Orient will simply ditch the retrograde, as it did the GMT? Well, it hasn't done this so far – which may be an indication of the popularity of this movement, or at least the importance which Orient sees in having this fairly unique complication in its collection. We're hopeful then that when the time comes to retire cal. 40A50, it will be replaced with a new modern movement – and hopefully, also one that is a little thinner…!



  1. I have both WZ0011 and WZ0031 and they are the pride and joy of my collection. If only they'd be 28800 bpm.

  2. Do you guys know how durable the newest 40a52 movements are compared to F6 movements? While I don't bang my watch around, I do wear it while doing everything. My biggest concern would be if the vibrations of using a brush cutter/weed trimmer for a few hours at a time. I've never had problems with Seiko 6r15/6R35 while doing such things and would really like to switch over to one of these magnificent Orient Stars.

    1. The cal. 40 movements should generally be about the same as F6 (and Seiko 6R for that matter) as far as durability - with differences being mainly in the case construction of the specific model. They should withstand normal work as you describe, as your hands do provide certain dampening of the vibrations created by the equipment. Of course if your work would involve more sudden, strong blows (e.g. if you were to cut down trees with an axe...) I'd say, stick to quartz or some more robust models like the M-Force.

    2. Thanks for the reply! I think I'll be getting one of these,most likely the white dial and putting it on the steel bracelet. These are too good to resist at the prices they go for here in Japan.
      And thank you for doing this blog! I really enjoy it.

  3. I have to say, it's pretty cool they're still producing caliber 40A52- the cost to replace the movement is approx. $250 USD.
    I love my JDM WZ0051DE- it's great to know we have the option to swap movements.

    The thickness doesn't bother me- I'm not wearing it with tight cuffs. More of a summer weekend watch. The blue dial is stunning. Also, the crystal is probably 1.5-2mm of thickness. Maybe it's just my wrist, but it sits similarly to most of my 11-12mm thick watches. The bracelet design does seem to help, on leather the thickness was much too apparent.

    The 2nd gen being 14.7mm with 5 bar WR rating is crazy, & now the latest is 15mm thick, but not 15-20 bar WR rated. No thanks.

    I'll stick with gen 1: best dial texture and case design thus far. In good condition, or even NOS, only about 20-25% the cost of the Royal Orient, and so much easier to obtain.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts about this special family of watches! Definitely hoping to see a gen 3 retrograde one day, hopefully with modernized caliber and slightly thinner case.

  4. I forgot to mention- Epson is building movements to higher standards than the former Orient Watch Company did. Parts are less inconsistent, tolerances now tighter.

    The new F movement family shares some parts with the old 40 series, but a few major differences were made. Maybe you've read this article from Chronos Japan Edition March 2020? A fascinating read on the recent state of Orient, the changes made, making me hopeful for continued innovation:


    My retrograde doesn't have Epson marked on the caseback, but does boast a rather impressive amplitude of 275-300 degrees, dial-up. Keeps about +5s /day. If manufactured under Epson's stricter standards, I'd bet it could do even better.

    1. Yes, that article really emphasized some of the things I (and probably, we) like about this brand - being very much design oriented, the creative use of colors, and I think the refining of mechanics not just for the sake of mechanical superiority (like some other watch brands) but to support design concepts like skeletonization - or in this case, the retrograde layout. And yes, they've definitely benefited from the technical expertise at Epson - and that corporation boasts plenty of such expertise across different aspects of manufacturing.