Orient Place

Orient Place

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

The Orient Star WZ0081EJ

Different watches have different unique qualities that define them beyond their mere technical specifications. For me, the quality of the Orient Star WZ0081EJ is simple: since receiving it a couple of months ago, I just look for every excuse to wear it. This old beauty is just so darn adorable. In fact, pardon me for the comparison, but it reminds me of Cartier watches in how it just wears so well with everything from jeans and tee to suit and tie.

But before we dive into the details, let's take a step back for a bit of history.

The WZ0081EJ was part of a series of models presented by Orient between 2007-8 that was powered by caliber 40G, and which included references with both round and tonneau cases.

The 40G movement is an unusual beast, as it included some of the features of new Orient movements, while still retaining some elements of old. Most notably, it is the only Orient caliber to feature both manual winding and second-hand hacking – like all the more modern movements – and the old click-button for changing the date.

The specific reference at hand was curiously the more expensive of the series, at around 600 USD – despite coming on a leather strap while most of the other versions included a steel bracelet (which usually costs more). Indeed it was good quality crocodile leather (not the aftermarket strap shown in photos here) but that's still rather unusual, and seems to be attributed to the special rose-gold coating and dial paint.

Speaking of coating and paint… I'm not sure if the piece I got was put through too much hard work, or that the coating applied was not the best quality, but it definitely lost much of its original golden haze in favor of a rather patinated-bronze appearance. Honestly, I'm not complaining – maybe I'm too much of a sucker for the brand but I just like how it looks now. Was this degradation of the color intentional? Who knows.

And, still on the subject of paint – you can see the eggshell texture of the dial. It's this texture that makes the dial color a very confusing one… It's blue, and it's also black. It's the miniature shaded areas that make the face of the watch look dark, almost black, most of the time – but when the light hits it right, it turns blue.

All in all, the combination of rose gold and dark blue really works beautifully. Even the white date window does not bother me too much, as it matches the white lume on the hands. It's not just a pretty sight, but also very legible, from every angle, and even at low light.

On the wrist, it is superbly comfortable. The 38mm wide case sits flat, and while it's fairly thick at its center (13.1mm) it slopes from end to end and side to side, contributing to its elegant appearance.

But beyond all technical details, there's that quality I've described in the first paragraph. Like a true Orient, this watch is full of charm – some of it comes from what are obviously intentional design choices, and some of it is just that mix of strangely aged coating, new and old movement features, and that air of timelessness that surrounds it. It is somehow both modern and vintage.

It took me a while to find this watch. Generally, Orient Star "EJ" series models are not too common, and this reference seems particularly rare.

EJ's do however pop up occasionally, so it's worth keeping an eye open. At the time of writing this, I'm seeing on eBay one round cased WZ0091EJ with an asking price of around 300 USD, and one silver-dialed tonneau WZ0051EJ asking for around 700 USD. I'm also seeing on Yahoo Japan a black-dial WZ0061EJ asking around 400 USD. This represents the typical price range for these watches.

As with most pre-owned Orient Stars, if you find one in good condition, you are getting plenty watch for your money!

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Happy New Year, Blog Readers!

And so another year draws to its end. 2021 was as interesting a year as its predecessor was – and while not all aspects of this similarity are positive, on this blog we remain optimistic and focus on the brighter sides; so for us, this was simply the 70th anniversary of Orient Star.

Orient too made every effort to remain positive and released plenty of new models, both Orient Star and "regular Orient". Some of these took inspiration from the brand's history, some continued the watchmaker's current design trends, and some – took on a new path.

Among those numerous new releases, I took the liberty of selecting my favorite three models to go on the blog's podium:

At third place – I have chosen the flamboyant MOP-dial limited edition moon phase watch. It is relatively complicated (compared to the brand's other models), well made, and unashamedly flashy. Honestly, it is the latter trait that earned it a place on the podium.

Second place goes to the new Orient Star Skeleton with its 70-hour movement. A technical achievement for the brand, the silicon-escape-wheel-equipped caliber F8B62/63 is likely only the first in a series of future 70-hour models (hopefully costing less than this flagship piece), hence its importance – and its place on the podium.

In what might seem a stark contrast to the above high-end pieces, my personal vote for first place goes to a much simpler model. Orient's World Dial re-issue captured the hearts of many fans of the brand with its cheerful colors and old-world charm, taken directly and very faithfully from the original 1960s model. Being true to the brand's DNA and history is why the World Dial watch is my Orient Of The Year 2021.

Needless to say, that is just one person's opinion… so what do you think? What are your favorite Orients of the year? And what are you hoping to see from the brand in 2022? Please leave your comments and voice your opinion.

…and most importantly – may all blog readers and followers, their families and friends, have a very happy new year!

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Orient Star 2021 Classic Semi-Skeleton Hands-On Review

The latest generation of Orient Star Classic Semi-Skeleton watches was introduced about three months ago. Shortly afterward, Orient presented a limited-edition version of that model, featuring a deep blue dial adorned with little sparkles. This model, reference RE-AT0205L (or RK-AT0205L in Japan) is the subject of today's review.


How It Looks

The new semi-skeleton immediately stands out among other members of the Orient Star Classic line-up. Whereas the rest of the crop feature lugs that project very markedly from a round case, here the case and lugs flow together seamlessly.

Somehow, this flowing shape makes the watch look radically different from its predecessor. Despite the familiar Orient elements, like the power-reserve indicator and (obviously) the open-heart aperture, the overall feel of this timepiece is very un-orient-like.

More precisely, it is unlike most men's Orients. Its design makes more sense when viewed next to some of Orient Star's recent ladies models: that's where you will find more of these smoothly flowing cases. Now add the cabochon, set into the crown of the new Semi-Skeleton, and it becomes clear this isn't less Orient-ish than past models, it is just a little less masculine.

There's nothing wrong with having a watch that is more subtle in its gender specificity. Looking at many classic Swiss dress watches, you can appreciate that their styling is actually more unisex than either male or female. Quite possibly, it was this timeless European elegance that Orient's designers were aiming for.

And elegant it is. Polished all over, with that domed crystal covering the blue dial with its elongated markers and hands. The power reserve indicator is less pronounced than in most other Orient Star semi-skeletons, so there is no apparent need to counter-balance it with a small-seconds sub-dial at 6. The centrally mounted second hand is therefore well fitted here.

Now, many readers would, at this point, likely complain about the open-heart. A common claim is that many Orient watches would look better with a full dial. Well, I tried to simulate what this model would look like if it was not a semi-skeleton; well – I don't know, it just seems less interesting to me. More classic dress watch perhaps, but we've got plenty of those, right? And then it wouldn't be an Orient.

The dial looks particularly fine when some stronger light shines on it. Then, the navy blue dial becomes more vibrant, revealing lighter shades and even some greenish hues around the edges. The flat hour markers wear warmer tones, and those tiny dots begin to glitter.

The hands and applied markers aren't the sharpest I've seen on an Orient Star, but they are still nice enough. Overall, the dial just works – it is well balanced, and is as elegant as the case.


How It Wears

This Orient Star makes for very comfortable wear, thanks to its moderate dimensions, smooth case, and well-made strap and buckle.

It is a tad larger than the previous model: case width is 40.4mm without the crown, length is 46.6mm, and thickness is 12.8mm. The watch weighs 74g on the strap – considerably less than, say, the 90g of the layered skeleton on leather.

These dimensions make it a fairly versatile watch – it would wear perfectly on wrists 6.5"-7.5". I reckon it should still be comfortable on 6" wrists as well, though it would look a bit on the larger side, and therefore perhaps more sporty and less dressy.

The 20mm strap supplied with this watch is of good quality (and has a very strong leather odor when unboxed, which I like). It was initially a little stiff, but did not take more than an hour or two on the wrist to break down and become flexible enough – while being nicely padded and not overly soft.

The folding buckle attached is also well made. I've seen it before on Orient watches, and it really is good – it feels secure, easy to use, and very smooth and unobtrusive on the skin.


How It Functions

The Classic Semi-Skeleton is equipped with Orient's caliber F6R42. This movement offers a 50 hour power reserve, and declares an accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. On my review sample, the watch actually did a mere +5 seconds per day; and when being put to rest a couple of days, while its power lasted, only lost a couple of seconds per day.

Checking the time on this watch is a simple affair. The hour and minute hand contrast clearly against the dark dial. Thanks to this, low light legibility is more than acceptable for a dress watch, despite having no lume on the hands or markers.

Crown operation is decent, though a slightly larger crown would have been more convenient. Winding feels a little rough, as in some Orient watches, but setting the time is a breeze (as would be expected).

As far as everyday usability, this is a dress watch and should be treated as such. The highly polished case and non-sapphire crystal are not intended to be worn working in the silver mines, and the 5 bar water resistance means you are not going to go shark hunting with this watch, either (by the way, I strongly recommend against hunting sharks anyway).


The Bottom Line

The new Orient Star Classic Semi-Skeleton is a handsome watch that takes a slight diversion from the familiar design lines of the brand. It's not just the case that is more polished, it is the whole concept. In this respect it is somewhat reminiscent of the Orient Star Diver, as both watches do not ignore the traditional aspects and DNA of the brand, but instead deliver them in a more rounded package, possibly aiming to attract buyers outside the existing circle of fans.

Whether one likes the new design or not, and whether one prefers it over the old styling or not, is totally subjective. What is objective, is that the quality is definitely there – the mechanics are sound, the finishing is fine, and attention has certainly been given to little details such as can be found on the dial and crown.

The new model can be found online nowadays at around $500 USD, slightly below the official price. This is about 100 dollars lower than current asking prices for the previous model (ref. RK-AV0011L would be the closest in terms of dial color).

This represents good value, whichever way you look at it. Indeed the lack of sapphire may be offputting to some, but I understand that Orient were looking for a warmer, old-school vibe here with that purposefully domed mineral glass. Clearly, when Orient wants to put sapphire in their watches they do it, at almost any price point.

Bottom line is, if you find the new design attractive, you are likely to enjoy this watch. There is nothing wrong with it – it is comfortable, legible, and well-made. And if you find this limited edition's dial too glitzy for your liking, there are three other versions to choose from.


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this limited edition Orient Star Classic Semi-Skeleton watch for review.