Orient's N-Type movement was presented and put to use in 1958. Despite being an important step forward for the brand, and powering some of its most prestigious models at the time, it was not long-lived, and its production ended in 1961.
As with most vintage Orient movements and watches, official info and original documentation pertaining to the N-Type is scarce. A bit of detective work was required to gather information, still leaving plenty of unknowns.
What we do know, is that Orient took great pride in this new caliber. It was considered a major advancement over the previous movements used by the company, primarily the T Type. A thin and modern movement for its time, it was intended to compete with the leading Japanese products, mainly Seiko's Cronos.
The new movement featured improved accuracy and reliability. It had a wider diameter than its predecessor and offered greater precision, and improved shock resistance. It also used the recently invented Nivaflex material for its mainspring.
Some say the first Orient to use the N-Type was a 1958 ultra-rare second iteration of the Royal Jupiter, which in itself was a super-rare higher-end version of the Jupiter.
In any case, Royal Jupiters of all sorts were short-lived and by end of 1958 were replaced by the more familiar line, Royal Orient. It was with these Royal Orients that the N-Type movement found its home.
Early Royal Orients came in a variety of shapes and dial versions, including some pretty fancy ones. These surely deserve, and will receive, a dedicated blog post later on. However, they all made use of the N-Type.
In 1960, a new iteration of the Jupiter name was deemed worthy of this high-end caliber, and so received the N-Type movement as well.
In 1961, Orient introduced the new generation of the N-Type movement with a date wheel – rendering the no-date version granted to the Jupiter somewhat outdated, and less of a generous gift than might have appeared in the first place…
The new movement was installed in three levels of watches: the "Lucky Calendar" which was slightly more pricey than the Jupiter; the yet-more-expensive Royal Calendar; and the top of the line Grand Prix Calendar.
In addition, a high jewel-count version of the no-date N-Type movement was used to drive a new "Special" Grand Prix.
Like Orient movements before it, the N-Type was not wholly original, and its architecture was based on the 1955 FHF 73 caliber (by Fabrique d'Horlogerie de Fontainemelon).
The FHF had various bridge designs, and the one chosen by Orient was similar to the Delvina/Delbana version, also used by other brands. You can see a sample of this movement below, being very much identical to the Orient movement, except it clearly says Swiss...
Orient adopted some variations of the original FHF designs, including the later FHF 73-2 (with a date wheel). They manufactured both the version that had balance screws, and the one that did not, as well as both 17 and 21 jewel versions – again like the original caliber they used as a basis.
Later on, Orient did play around with jewel count, adding a few to the high-end models (as high as 25 jewels for the Grand Prix) and removing a few for the simpler implementations, like the 1961 Jupiter.
All N-Type variants beat at 18,000 BPH, and were hand-winders. Indeed, it was the introduction of automatic movements into Orient's line-up that eventually led to the early demise of the N-Type movement.
Pictures of the N-Type movements that appear on this post were taken from the 1999 Orient Watch Catalog book.