Orient Place

Orient Place

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Happy New Year!

2022 is just two days shy of over, and we can already smell 2023. Time for a little summary and perhaps, some hopes and wishes for the next year.

Other global topics aside, in the Orient watchmaking business the year was somewhat less hectic than 2020-2021. No special anniversaries or celebrations, Orient had launched fewer new models, and was more engaged in expanding its online retail operation (for Japanese customer only, at this point).

The brand did introduce two new models – the second edition of the 1964 diver, and the Neo Classic Sport; and, presented various new versions of existing models, like the Mako/Kamasu, M-Force, Orient Star Moonphase and Skeletons, and more.

Here at Orient Place blog, I found that I spent a little less time on reviewing new watches, and more on looking at vintage models, movement and topics from Orient's history. In part because of growing interest among readers and in part, thanks to the lovely 1999 Orient Watch Catalog book – though even that book could not answer every open question in the brand's obscure history: for instance I only recently found out about the 35j Triostat AAA movement (thanks to Rustam's Japanese Vintage Watch blog) which is not mentioned in any historical record I could locate…

The two Orients added to my personal collection this year were also vintage pieces, quite special and hard to find. The Olympia Calendar Speed Data I already wrote about, and the Royal Orient I received more recently is definitely going to be dedicated a post here, soon!

Some of my wishes for 2023 – again just in the context of Orient…

  • To see the brand make its online stores accessible in global markets
  • To see more new model releases, of course
  • To have a new 300m diver announced (because Orient Brazil's watches are even harder to find than JDM…)
  • And, it would be great to see a new GMT movement in 2023 – being the 20th anniversary of Orient's first GMT movement from 2003!

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


Sunday 11 December 2022

Orient's Direct-Read Watches

When one looks for unconventional watch designs, one usually need look no further than Orient. Historically, "Jump Hour" watches provided a cool alternative to the standard hour-hand, minute-hand setup – and Direct Read provided a simpler substitute to Jump Hour movements.

Before continuing, it might be worthwhile to clarify the distinction: while both types of display show the hours and minutes using rotating discs with digits printed on them, Jump Hour keeps the hour indication more or less immobile until the minute disc returns to zero and pushes the hour forward. With Direct Read, the hour wheel just keeps turning, in the same way as the hour hand would normally.

While a Jump Hour mechanism is easier to read, as the hour is steady, and more akin to digital displays, Direct Read watches are simpler to build, since they just use regular movements and replace hands with discs. Orient typically leans toward simpler movements, at least in non-Star models – so when looking to provide a "mechanical digital" design, sometime in the mid-2000s, it adopted the Direct Read approach.

Reading this display is, well, fairly direct and simple – though it requires some getting used to. In the picture above, for instance, the time is about 10:08:36. You can see the thin red horizontal line pointing between 5 and 10 on the inner circle; look more closely and it's just past the 8. Those are the minutes. The thicker red line you see is actually the second hand.

It's funny as this would be the time you'd normally see a watch in Orient catalogs – with the hands arranged in the "smiley" configuration. Of course it's quite meaningless when no hands are involved…

The date wheel is standard, appearing here as the outermost disc. The date is read as usual through the small window at the bottom.

During the roughly ten years of producing direct read watches, Orient made three main models, each having numerous versions differing mainly in colors and choice of strap/bracelet. All of them have been discontinued a few years ago.

The most familiar model, and the one that's easier to find online nowadays, is the lugless design also known as the "Orbit" (a nickname given to it by Orient USA I believe).

The Orbit's case was 35mm wide and 40mm long, and 12mm thick. Fairly modest dimensions that were given enhanced wrist presence by its 28mm lug width, fitted out of the box with a double-hole strap that did not taper too much.

Inside the Orbit was Orient's caliber 48743, a reliable and robust movement that had no problem turning those discs around. Cal. 487 variants are typically identified in Orient's references as "ER". When searching the web for this model, you could look for codes including "ERAM" or "ERAK", as well as "Orbit".

The same movement was placed in a more conventional case to produce the "Masquerade". It had considerably larger dimensions – 35.5mm width, 47mm lug to lug, and 13.5mm thickness. The strap was narrower than the Orbit's though, at 25mm, enabling a single-hole structure.

When searching the web for this model, you could look for codes including "ERAP" or "Masquerade". Note that some sellers incorrectly refer to all Direct Read models by this name, so you might find some Orbits that pop up when looking for the Masquerade.

Another important note (that is, if you care about these things…) concerns the movement. Apparently, at some point, this model was mistakenly advertised as utilizing Orient's 46S50 movement, and this mistake was repeatedly copied onto various articles and publications. That is not true – 46S50, recognizable by having "FH" in the reference, was a completely different, no-date, small seconds caliber, used solely in semi-skeleton watches.

Orient also produced a smaller version of the lugless model, a "mini-Orbit" if you will, designated as a women's watch. This model looked almost identical to the larger Orbit, having similar proportions and dial layout. It was, however, only 28mm wide and 31mm long.

This model had a lug width of only 20mm – narrow enough to allow for wearing it on a bracelet. The watch was indeed offered having both a steel bracelet and a leather strap, similar to its bigger sibling.

Orient fitted the watch with its caliber 557, a smaller movement typically reserved for ladies' watches (and which, despite its age, is still being used in some current models). Cal. 557 has the same 40 hour power reserve as the larger caliber 487, however its accuracy is not so impressive at +40 / -30 seconds per day, compared to the 487's +25/-15.

Caliber 557 is identified by the letter "NR", and this model's reference would typically include NRAK. When searching or shopping for an Orbit, make sure you're looking at the right model – so you don't end up ordering a watch that's too small, or too big.

Prices for pre-owned Orient direct-read models typically range between USD 100-250. Personally I think paying up to USD 200 would be sensible, for a watch in mint condition.


Photos in this post were taken from various old Orient publications and sale ads.


Wednesday 7 December 2022

Orient Dipping Its Toes into the Customization Game

Orient announces a new line of "iO" watches today, but more than just a bunch of new models, this a new step for Orient – into the space of watch customization, which is growing in popularity.

From tiny micro-brands to the mighty Rolex, it seems like everyone is looking to offer watch buyers the experience of customization. A few manufacturers really present a choice of components, such as different bezel inserts, markers, hands, and so on; most, and particularly larger watch brands, simply let you combine a few dial colors, band styles, and maybe decorations like adding some diamonds etc. This limited form of customization seems to satisfy most buyers – and it's the path Orient has taken.

This also comes as a logical next step following Orient's recent launch of its online store. While currently limited to local buyers in Japan, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the store would soon open to more markets along with more customization options. There are plenty of regions in the world where Orient is not present, or is represented by distributors who only offer a limited selection of models. Allowing buyers in such locations to shop online, directly from the brand instead of unofficial shops or private sellers on eBay, would definitely be a wise business move.

Anyway, let's look at the new watches now. The iO line was originally launched as a range of fashion watches for women, but is now being re-positioned by Orient as a unisex collection. All new iO watches are solar (light-powered) quartz movements, and the models announced today all feature sapphire crystal.

The new collection includes two chronographs and four time-and-date models – and nine different leather straps. The chronographs are 38mm wide while the non-chronos are 36mm; however, all have the same 18mm lug width, so all straps fit all watches.

It's interesting to see Orient chose very calm and neutral colors for the watch dials, and a choice of both neutral and brighter shades for the straps. On one hand, this minimizes color clashes, allowing most of the available combinations to be viable choices; on the other hand, it does not provide much room for really "crazy" combos, which is something I do like to see in custom watch building – particularly when looking at what's essentially a fashion watch.

The new iO watches are around USD 100 plus tax for just the case, plus around USD 20 per strap. If you're not in Japan, you'll probably also need to pay for international shipping and service fees to one of the numerous services offering global delivery of JDM items.


Sunday 27 November 2022

Orient's L-Type Movement

Orient's started manufacturing the L-Type movement in 1961, as a replacement to the N-Type. It was engineered to enable lower production costs, and easier regulation and maintenance, while offering more flexibility in adding complications and components.

While the N-Type shaved off 0.60 mm from the thickness of the T-Type movement that preceded it, the L-Type base (no-date) caliber was a further 0.55mm thinner. At 3.65mm it allowed Orient to produce thinner watches, and add more layers, such as a week-day disc, or even a battery.

Calibers from the L-Type family were produced in a great variety of price levels, with jewel counts starting at 19 and going up to 30 in "normal" watches (and lots more in the Grand Prix models).

The L-Type was celebrated by being introduced along with a new family of quality watches, the Olympia. All Olympia models that followed used some variation of the L movement or other. Yet, this caliber was also implemented in a number of other models.

The first version of the new movement was simply, caliber L. A hand-winding, time only movement, that powered the new Olympia watch – at that stage still an elegant yet simple dress watch, very similar to N-Type driven models that preceded it.

Note that 19 jewel version at that time generally did not include the latest shock protection mechanisms, these were added to higher jewel-count models.

In 1962, Orient presented the Olympia Calendar, and the new caliber LC. "C" would henceforth indicate the calendar function, or date disc, in L-Type movements.

Caliber LC would become Orient's most widely used movement of the 1960s. It was initially used in both dressy and sportier models, like the Olympia Calendar Swimmer, and later on in Orient's first proper dive watch, the 1964 Olympia Calendar Diver. In also featured in various other special models, like the triangular case, or the lovely trapezoid at the top of this post.

A non-Olympia model was also introduced – the "Freshman", which replaced the previous "Youth" model targeting younger clients. It carried the simpler, 19 jewel version of the LC.

In 1963, Caliber LCY was first to include a week-day disc on top of the date, paving the way to Orient's first day-date model – the Olympia Orient Weekly. Alongside it Orient also introduced the Freshman Weekly – the only Orient that had just the week-day window, but not the date.

The LCY was also presented in the form of a Swimmer model, as well as a rectangular version.

Innovation did not cease in 1964, when the Orient Flash went on sale. This model took advantage of the relative thinness of the base L caliber, to create a watch containing a battery and LED lights that enable night-time visibility and basically, just make for a very cool looking piece of gear.

However Orient’s development of the Type-L movements did not stop at complications and gadgetry. Alongside the aforementioned variants, Orient was working on more important stuff – automatic winding.

Orient introduced its first automatic movement in 1961, as the “Super Auto”. The following year, as it became clear that the L-Type was the way to go, Orient simply borrowed the Super Auto’s efficient self-winding mechanism, and added it on top of the new LC movement to create the caliber LCW – with “W” obviously representing Winding.

You can read more about the LCW’s development into a high-end movement in my blog post about the Grand Prix series. There, you will also be able to read about the LCYW caliber – clearly, a self-winding, day-date movement – which was reserved exclusively for the Grand Prix.

Towards the late 1960s Orient was already developing and manufacturing a new generation of movements. In 1970, production of the L-Type calibers ceased.


Pictures of the L-Type movements that appear on this post were taken from the 1999 Orient Watch Catalog book.


Wednesday 9 November 2022

Orients with Rectangular Cases

I posted some stories before about Orients with particular case shapes: triangular, cushion, and barrel cases. Now how about rectangles? They're angular and sharp, not soft like cushions, and harder to swallow than round watches (there's a reason why no one's making square pills!). Love 'em or hate 'em, square-cased Orients exist. Let's look at a few examples.


The Good Old Days

And by "good old days" I mean, the 1960s. Round watches were the more popular option back then, just like nowadays, but Orient did produce a few rectangular models.

In the early-to-mid 60s, it was the Olympia model that ruled the Orient line-up. Orient produced a bunch of square Olympia Calendar models, as well as Olympia weekly versions (which included the day wheel in addition to the date).

A few years later the "AAA Deluxe" joined the party. AAA's were actually made in a broad variety of shapes, and naturally, a rectangular case was introduced as well.

If you are looking to buy any of these vintage models, keep in mind they were quite petite: the Olympia cases were around 30mm, and early Deluxe models around 29mm; later models, like the one with the black dial above, were around 32mm. Narrow rectangular cases in modern watches work when lug-to-lug is longer, 40mm or more, but these older models were not that long.



In the 1980s quartz became dominant in Orient's product range, and among those quartz watches it seemed rounded cases were almost falling out of fashion. Many had tonneau cases, some almost square, and some – unashamedly rectangles.

In particular, it's worth noting the EQ line of quartz models. There were some pretty cool designs there, including this very fancy-looking piece. Do note, though, it too is a small watch, and while back then it was designated as a unisex model, today it would be clearly seen as a women's watch at 26mm.

Later, more modern models with larger cases joined – like the nice chronograph at the top of this post.


Return of The Machines

Toward the late 1990s, the automatic movement took back its position as the centerpiece in Orient's line of products. Over the next two decades, numerous designs were introduced that featured rectangular cases. Such were (shown below, from left to right) the "Galant", the "Noble", and the "Producer".

The versions featured above are only a few examples – each of these models was available in a number of dial colors, strap options, etc. They were not small watches, with the common case size around 36mm wide and 45mm long – which, for a bulky square shape, wears pretty large.

More recently, however, rectangular cases have almost completely disappeared from Orient's catalog – along with cushion cases and most non-round designs. The only two square cases now listed on Orient's global website are a couple of Multi-Year Calendars.


Pictures that appear in this post were taken from old catalogs and sale ads.


Thursday 27 October 2022

New Shades of Grey for Orient's "Layered Skeleton"

The Layered Skeleton watch was introduced in early 2021. When reviewing it, I wondered whether a more standout color scheme would have elevated the impact of its complicated design; now, however, Orient is presenting two new references of this model with an even subtler color scheme than before…

Reference RK-AV0B06N features what Orient is referring to as a "greige" dial, that is a cross between grey and beige. In pictures, the lower layer appears to be more silver-grey, and the main plate of the dial seems a slightly golden shade of beige. Well, however you want to call it, it's a very pleasant palette that combines well with the metal bits of the movement and the gold hands and Roman hour markers.

Ref. RK-AV0B07E is presented as "olive". It's a calm earth tone, more or less uniform across the layers of the dial. Green is generally accepted as a nice complement to gold, and I think that in the case of this more desaturated shade of green it matches the few golden elements even better.

Both variants are technically identical to the older references in the series, with caliber F6F44 beating inside the 41mm wide case. Both new models include both a stainless steel bracelet, and a leather strap.

The new watches are JDM, and are exclusive to the new Orient Star online shop. They are priced at around 700 USD at the current rate of the Japanese Yen, which is almost 10% more than other Layered Skeleton watches – including the Prestige Shop version that also includes an additional leather strap.

I'm not sure what is the reason for the price difference – but perhaps a positive way of looking at it is, that Orient prefers not to raise the prices of older models (as opposed to many other brands that have increased prices recently) and instead puts higher price tags on new releases.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

New Orient Store With New Mako Models

Orient announced today the opening of a new online store, that is joining the online Orient Star store that opened earlier this year. Both these stores sell and ship exclusively to Japanese destinations, and while numerous websites offer worldwide shipping of domestic Japanese products, it's unlikely that this should be an attractive offering, cost-wise.

What is interesting, however, and might be worth looking into for global delivery, is the launch of two new Mako references, exclusive to the new store.

The Mako model was officially being replaced by the newer Kamasu, which offered a number of upgrades over the older watch. However, the popularity of the Mako (and generally lower prices after the introduction of Kamasu) kept it alive.

Now, Orient offers two new Mako references, both featuring colorful gradient dials (otherwise resembling the Mako II setup of hands and markers), and matching colored bezels (with the larger numerals actually resembling the Kamasu / Ray bezels). And most importantly, both have front sapphire crystals.

Reference RN-AA0817Y features a gradient Orange dial, and an orange and grey bezel; Ref. RN-AA0816L has a blue dial, with a blue and grey bezel. Both are the usual Mako/Kamasu dimensions of 41.8mm wide, 46.8 lug to lug, with 22mm wide bracelets.

One might say these are actually Mako/Ray/Kamasu combos. Possibly Orient making efficient use of leftovers from all types of older models… but nonetheless, they definitely look nice!


Sunday 23 October 2022

Orient "Stylish and Smart" Disk

A few years ago I was reminiscing about how it started, "it" being my deep dive into the history of Orient. I can add one more detail to the story now…

As I mentioned in that post I linked above, I was already collecting watches for a while before my interest in Orient got reignited. The trigger for this renewed interest was, of all models – no other than the humble Disk.

The Disk was introduced as part of Orient's early 2010s "Stylish and Smart" collection, which consisted of fun, mostly colorful and unconventionally designed watches. 

At the time I was hoping to add this sort of unassuming, inexpensive watch to my collection, so I hurried (well, not hurried. But eventually went) to the local Orient AD, just to find out they actually had no Orients on display, and the salesperson – of a shop belonging to the official brand importer mind you! – tried to talk me out of this watchmaker's products altogether.

Well, me being me, and that salesperson being as obnoxious as he was, the result of the brief conversation was the exact opposite of what he'd pushed for. I decided I was going to get an Orient, and that it was time to dive a little deeper into the Japanese brand's line-up and see what they've been up to.

Anyway, back to the Disk watch. The first batch of Disks was released in late 2011. Six references were presented, all sharing one key feature: the hour hand was replaced with a rotating disk that had an arrow-shaped cutout. That cut-out actually served as the "hand", pointing toward the hour markers, which were similarly cut out instead of applied on top.

Technically, this was very simple, but quite innovative. The color under the cut-outs added some style, thus fitting the "Stylish and Smart" tagline. The six versions presented differed in their dial color schemes, as well as the case and bracelet or strap colors.

Another notable feature shared by the different models was the tinted case-back crystal, which revealed the movement – in this case, as in all later men's Disk models, Orient's automatic caliber 48743. This movement did not feature hand-winding and hacking.

In 2012, Orient released a couple more versions aiming to be even more playful in their use of color. The "Rainbow" Disk had a multi-color plate under the dial, so that the hour markers were in all the colors of the rainbow, and the hour "hand" would change its color to match, as it rotated. The "Tricolor" Disk was a bit more restrained: its hour hand would simply switch from a red rectangle and blue triangle to a blue rectangle and red triangle, gradually as it moved around.

The overall construction of the watch was similar to the first models. All of these versions featured the same 41.4mm wide case, stretching 47.4mm lug to lug, and having 11.3mm of thickness. The lug width of all these models is 22mm.

In 2012 Orient did the sensible thing and presented the women's model of the Disk. Five references were released, featuring different color schemes. Some of the designs were unique to the new references, and some were made to match the men's watches, as "pairs". A new men's reference, WV0821ER, was introduced as a white-dial version of the Rainbow, creating an additional pair.

Technically similar to the original model, the women's Disk watch was smaller in size (measuring 29mm across, and 35mm lug to lug), and used the smaller, no-date automatic caliber 55542.

The final batch of Disks arrived in 2014. This time, the twist was in the shape of the hour markers. These were cut out as numbers, instead of simple sticks. The hour hand was also changed, now made of three squares.

Four references were presented under the new "Typography" Disk line-up, three men's and one women's.

All these models were originally sold as fairly inexpensive models, generally under 200 USD. However, as the Disk model was discontinued, and is gradually becoming harder to purchase, online prices are going up, and I'm seeing both NOS and pre-owned ones asking for much higher prices. I think a new or "as new" Disk at no more than 200-250 USD, can still make a nice addition to one's collection.


Pictures that appear in this post were taken from Orient website and catalogs.

Sunday 2 October 2022

How Do You Collect?

Are you a collector? Are you a hoarder? Technically if you have more than a couple of watches, you collect – as all those articles discussing "the perfect three-watch collection" provide evidence to.

Orient is definitely a brand that lends itself to collectors; the great variety of models, and the generally affordable range of prices, mean that the typical watch enthusiast does not need to hold back on adding another item to his watch box now and then. And that box doesn't have to be particularly fancy, we're not looking at a high-end watch winder and safe set here! We're keeping it modest.

So, how do you collect?

Some follow a theme. I know this guy who has every Seiko diver since 62MAS. From each family of divers he has one per year. 1965, 1966, 1967… Some of them really look the same to me, but I appreciate the tenacity. Personally, I could not spend so much time (and money) on sourcing so many watches that are so similar. I think there are so many designs, colors, styles, and materials out there… I need the variety.

Some tick boxes. They know they need a diver, a dress watch, a beater or tool watch, perhaps a chronograph or a GMT… they make sure they have one (or more) of each type. I actually dig this, though it could make one a bit preoccupied with checking a box, while missing out on other nice watches that could actually fit their lifestyle better.

Many methods of collecting then… For me, I have one main rule, which is to diversify as much as possible. I don't focus on one particular style, colorway, era, size, and so on. I don't really even focus on the brand; I keep returning to Orient as I feel I know the brand and its history well, and I prefer to make knowledgeable purchases. But I do have plenty of watches from other makers, Japanese, Swiss, and other countries.

Out of the diversity emerges the versatility of the collection. Even when limiting myself to just the Orients I have, I can find a match for every occasion. And every color.

Another rule I follow, is that watches are meant to be worn. I do not buy safe queens, and I do not buy a watch if its mechanical or cosmetic condition means I am unlikely to wear it. This also means I do sometime have to regrettably pass on interesting opportunity to get vintage models that might be cool, but are simply too small!

Yes, some of the items in my collection are gentler than others. Some I'll only put on indoors, working in the office, and not on a day out. Some I'd be more careful with near water. But they all get wrist time.

What about you? How do you collect? You're welcome to comment, here, or on the Facebook/IG post that brought you here J


Sunday 18 September 2022

Orient Olympia Calendar Speed Data

Last year, I posted a review of my good old Orient Olympia Calendar Swimmer. Today we're looking at another model from the Olympia family – the Olympia Calendar Speed Data. A watch that provides you Data at Full Speed.

Or is it…? Some transcriptions of the Japanese name (that does not show on the watch itself) call this the Speed Dater – which sort of makes sense. So which is it?

First, let's look at the watch itself. This is a wonderful specimen from the mid-1960s, practically a new old stock (or near NOS). It arrived with an original leather strap and buckle, which I have removed and kept safe as soon as I finished taking photos.

Mechanically, it runs on a base L-type movement that is typical to Olympia models, specifically the LC caliber. The LC here is the same 19 jewel variant as on my Calendar Swimmer, featuring a date wheel, sweet hand-winding action, and excellent long-term reliability.

What makes this model unique and gives it its name (whatever that name may be) is the rotating bezel. Here you have the dates printed on the bezel, and using the crown at 2 the wearer may align the dates against the day of the week. Do it once at the beginning of the month, and then for the remainder of the month you can quickly check what day every date is.

It was this cool concept that soon after gave birth to the even more sophisticated configuration of the Multi-Year Calendar.

With this functionality in mind, it is hard to tell whether the original name was Speed Data or Speed Dater. While the latter makes more sense, it shows up in fewer sources. So we'll just stick with the more common name.

By the way, the modern term "speed dating" for a quick matchmaking process was only coined in the 1990s, so it would not be on the mind of anyone naming watches thirty years earlier.

Two versions of the Olympia Speed Data were produced – a stainless steel version with a black dial, and a gold-filled model like the one at hand, with a silver dial.

Note that the black dial version has the weekdays on the rotating bezel, and the dates printed on the dial. Don't ask me why… The operation and usability is exactly the same either way.

Functionality aside, wearing a watch like this, that's hardly been touched since its production, is a joy. Gold-filled watches age much better than gold-plated ones, as the coating is much thicker, and so the un-polished case and lugs here are bright, sharp and sparkly. The glitter is further enhanced by the shiny golden markers and hands.

The case is 37mm wide without the crown, and 45mm long lug to lug. It is larger than the Olympia Swimmer then, but looks smaller; It was the case-within-case construction that probably made the Swimmer seem bigger.

Small or big, the Speed Data looks very elegant and dressy. It is quite thin, around 9.5mm, despite the box crystal that adds around 2mm to its height.

So there you have it, another fine example of Orient watchmaking history that wears and runs like new almost 60 years after it left the factory.

Asking prices for rare Orients are hard to establish and have a very high variance. And this model is quite rare. I've seen some Speed Data listed at over 1,000 USD; however, I was able to buy this one, being in as good a condition as you're ever likely to find, for less than 500. Good deals are out there, and you just need to keep an eye out.