If there's one thing Orient doesn't really seem to excel at, it is naming their models. The brand's history is full of quirky creations like "Para Aimant" (arbitrarily going French with just one model) and "Super Auto Perfect Self-Winding" (is this a name or the technical specification provided to the designers?). I'm looking at you, the unbefittingly, underwhelmingly named "Basic Date"!
Because, even before diving deeper into the details of this Orient Star, it is clear that it is far from basic. And while common reasoning might have you thinking that as "basic" it is positioned below the Orient Star "Standard", the fact of the matter is that it's not – it's bigger and more expensive!
But, enough complaining about names. Let's talk watchmaking. Let's talk about the Orient Star reference RE-AU0404N.
The second you lay your eyes on this watch, you understand this isn't your standard Orient – not even by Orient Star standards. Having perhaps the most mundane design of the brand's current line-up, which results in very unexciting catalog pictures, Orient has clearly put all of the Basic Date's eggs in one basket: quality.
And indeed, this watch very confidently presents the high level of execution that Orient is capable of. The term "poor man's Grand Seiko" is often used in conjunction with some Orient Stars, and here it seems more accurate than ever. At a fraction of the cost of entry-level Grand Seiko automatic models, you're getting finishing and details that might not be quite up there with the famed Zaratsu-polished masterpieces, but are certainly more than mere "adequate".
The Basic Date family contains a number of versions with different combinations of dial and bezel colors, and even one two-tone reference; from photos, there appears to be a different vibe to each of these variations, so in this review, I can only comment on the one piece I have in my hands. I do have a feeling though, that if I was presented with all versions in person I'd still go for the all-metallic one I now hold.
The sunburst grey-silver dial combines superbly with the case and bracelet to create a visual presence that's confident, tough, and yet very elegant. I cannot help but be reminded of (forgive me watch fam!) a Rolex Oysterdate, despite some obvious differences in the design. Yes, it's also very much an "adults" Orient, the sort of watch that wouldn't be out of place on the wrist of your uncle from Florida when he goes golfing.
Taking a closer look at this Orient Star, it's easy to see where the perceived quality is coming from. The case and bracelet are all finished in very subtle, uniform brushing, with just the bezel and chamfers polished brightly. The dial is sunburst, with the power-reserve section just very slightly differentiated in finishing to create a playful, yet restrained effect.
The hour and minute hands too are very well executed. Multi-faceted, mostly polished but brushed toward the pointy end, these are definitely not an entry-level set of hands. And the markers they're pointing at are also multi-faceted and well made, with polished bevels that reflect light brilliantly and grooved top surfaces providing a more muted reflection granting the dial a sophisticated, understated look.
All these elements are laid out very pleasantly. The dial has more than enough breadth to contain the power-reserve indicator, date window, the logo, and a little bit of subtly-printed text, while maintaining a spacious appearance. Sticking with a strictly monochrome scheme, the dial is kept in perfect balance – albeit possibly a little too somber for anyone looking for that famed Orient quirkiness.
Other elements of the Basic Date – such as the clasp or the parts of the movement visible through the case-back – are clearly more functional than particularly decorative, but they too are adequately finished and do not detract from the excellent overall impression.
The Basic Date packs heft which, unsurprisingly, is in line with its stout appearance. It is indeed a solidly built piece of steel, and while no official weight figures were released, I can estimate something around 180g on the full bracelet.
That said, this heft is balanced properly around the wrist. The bracelet is thick enough to provide a proper counterweight to the case. The lugs curve down nicely and the whole thing just wears well. Naturally, fans of smaller, lighter watches may object, but then this watch does not replace other, dressier and slimmer options from the Orient Star range. It adds a new option that is sportier and more pronounced, and that usually entails a certain minimum size.
The Basic Date case is 42mm wide without the crown, 50.8mm in length from lug to lug, and 11.5mm thick. These are reasonable dimensions for this sort of watch. Again, it does not replace the smaller Orient Star "Standard", which is 38.5mm across, and despite certain differences, the two can be seen as Midsize and Large versions of the same concept.
Anyway, on the wrist, this watch really wears comfortably. The bracelet is really good: it feels very solid and secure. Thanks to the balanced weight distribution you don't have to wear it too tightly, and even with a decent amount of breathing space the case will not dangle about and would stay pleasantly centered on the wrist. This is a sign of smart watchmaking that considers wearability, and not just visibility and mechanics.
Would this watch work on a leather strap? While in theory it could, I wouldn't recommend it. The bracelet works so well, it's clear that this model just wasn't designed for any other type of strap. And it's not just because of the odd 21mm lug width…
The movement inside the Basic Date is Orient's in-house caliber F6N43. This movement features automatic and hand-winding, second-hand hacking, and a 50-hour power reserve. Like most Orient Stars it declares a +25/-15 seconds per day accuracy: the unit tested yielded +12 seconds per day.
The crown here is of the non-screw-down type, which is easy to operate but limits water resistance. The Basic Date has a 5 bar (50m) water resistance. The crown is decently sized, not too big or too small, and quite comfortable to handle; however, winding does feel a bit harsh. I would love to have softer, smoother winding in a watch like this, as it would definitely create a more luxurious feel. The rotor itself is generally quiet, and you wouldn't hear it unless the watch is given an intentional shake.
Legibility is generally very good here, especially considering that in this version of the Basic Date there is lower contrast between the hands and dial, compared to other references. The markers really stand out thanks to their highly reflective finishing. The hands too are easy to spot, and have a bit of lume painted onto them.
Now, one might wonder about the practicality of lumed hands when the hour markers are not. Lume dots at each hour would not have compromised the consistency of the design too much (though they would, just a little). It's not completely useless though, as with some orientation you can usually tell the time by looking at the hands, even without markers. Generally speaking then, this isn't the level of legibility you'd find in divers or professional sports watches, but more a halfway between sports and dress watches.
Other than the water resistance, which is just okay, the Basic Date offers decent practicality and durability, with sapphire crystal at the front, and overall construction that feels sturdy. Not a watch you'd take rock-climbing, probably, but certainly good enough for most of your daily activities.
The Bottom Line
Honestly, it's hard to find serious faults with the Basic Date's design and execution. It is a very mature creation, and a fine piece of watchmaking. At an MSRP of around 700 USD and an average "street" (well, online) price closer to 500 USD, this Orient Star makes a very compelling proposal.
This watch would make anyone looking for a hefty, solidly built automatic watch, very happy. Naturally it won't be ideal for somebody with slim wrists, or one looking for a classic dress watch. And it's absolutely okay if you're the sort of person who says 100m or more of water resistance and good night-time visibility are critical. Otherwise though, this is yet another great release from Orient.
The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us with this Orient Star Basic Date watch for review.