Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 29 May 2022

Orient Star Basic Date Hands-On Review

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.

 How It Looks

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.

 How It Wears

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…

 How It Functions

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


Sunday 15 May 2022

The Very Fine Orient Fineness

 In the mid-1960s Japanese watchmakers waved the white flag and admitted Orient had won the jewel-count battle with its Grand Prix 100. The industry then went on to discuss more important matters, namely: who makes the thinnest watch movement.

At the time, Citizen held the record for the world's thinnest mechanical three-hand movement, the hand-wound cal. 0700. But then automatic winding became favorable with watch buyers, and so the next challenge was to build the world's thinnest self-winding movement. Orient embraced this challenge.

In 1967 Orient introduced caliber 3900, so named for its thickness: a mere 3.9mm, less than the competitor – Citizen's 3.98mm thick caliber 54. A tiny difference, but one that took Citizen 5 years to overcome. And so, it took the crown for the world's slimmest automatic day-date movement.

Cal. 3900 boasted 35 jewels, and was equipped with the latest advancements (at least those that could be fitted in), such as a bi-directional winding mechanism and incabloc shock absorption.

The new movement was placed inside a special new model – the Fineness Ultramatic. Featuring a uniquely shaped cushion case with sharp edges that emphasized its slim profile, this watch really stood out from the crowd. The case was 33mm wide, and its overall height including the domed crystal was about 8.5mm.

Another feature that set the Fineness apart was the unusual layout of the day-date wheels, which enabled both day and date to be viewed through a single aperture, one on top of the other. This helped avoid unnecessary clutter on the already small and fairly crowded dial.

A number of variants of the Fineness were released followed that early, silver-dialed model, including a dark dial, and a gold-plated watch.

The Fineness was also priced competitively, with basic models selling just below 20,000 JPY, and the gold plated version priced at around 22,000 JPY. Comparable models from Citizen, such as the Super Crystal Date and Chronomaster cost thousands of Yens more. These were all pretty high-end wristwatches mind you, costing more than most King Seiko models at the time.

In 1968 a new Fineness design was introduced, set in a larger round case, measuring 36mm across. A "cyclops" was added to the crystal to assist in viewing the small print of the day and date.

Like the earlier model, this model too was mainly offered with a silver dial but also had darker colored versions. Variations also included a dial with Roman numerals, in addition to the more common stick markers.

An even rarer model of the Fineness was introduced later on. This time Orient returned to the cushion form factor, albeit in a larger and slightly elongated shape, measuring 36mm across.

This final version of the watch was equipped with the latest iteration of the movement, caliber 3991, and a push-button at 2 to enable quick date setting – as opposed to earlier releases where the date had to be set by moving the hour hand back and forth across midnight.

And then, as the decade was ending, things took another turn. Orient entered into an even hotter fight than the one for thinner movements – that focused on faster movements. With limited resources, no further work was done to push the limits of slimness.

In 1974, Citizen introduced the 3.73mm cal. 8001A, and returned to the top of the podium of thin day-date self-winders. As the battle for thinner movements continued, it eventually got completely taken over by the leading Swiss brands.

Citizen later focused on thin quartz movements, and Orient returned to concentrate on what it did best, which was producing reliable, serviceable, decently accurate workhorse movements for affordable watches.


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


Tuesday 10 May 2022

New Orient Bambino 38mm

One of Orient's best-sellers of the modern era is the famed "Bambino" entry-level dress watch, widely accepted as offering some of the best value-for-money in the industry.

For years though, a major complaint of many watch buyers was the size of the model, which at 40.5mm (and 42 for some versions) was too big for a classic dress watch. The 36mm version was of little consolation, being too small for many and generally sold as a ladies' model.

But now it seems Orient really was listening to its customers (and following the current trends in watchmaking), and is finally announcing a new 38mm Bambino!

Yep, Orient has just announced the new "Classic and Simple Style" (they never officially adopted the American, and now global, "Bambino" name) 38 model, featuring a style very similar to the Bambino V4 – but with broader dauphine hands, similar to V1.

The new model finally features dimensions that should be embraced as truly classic proportions: 38.4mm width, 44mm length, 12.5mm thickness, and a standard 20mm lug width.

Four versions are being presented:

·         Reference RA-AC0M01S with a gold-colored case, hands and markers, a white dial, and brown leather strap.

·         Ref. RA-AC0M02B with plain steel case, black dial, and black strap.

·         Ref. RA-AC0M03S with a white dial and black strap.

·         Ref. RA-AC0M04Y with a beige dial, blued hands, and brown strap.

The movement is Orient's automatic cal. F6724, offering a 40-hour power reserve, and stated accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. Water resistance is a very basic 3 bar.

The new 38mm Bambino looks like the right watch at the right time, packing all the familiar and well-loved design elements of the original model, with the curved dial and domed mineral glass, and that clean and simple (yet not overly simplistic) dial.

Prices have not been advertised but are likely to be very similar to the affordable range of existing Bambinos.

Orient Star "Diver 1964" Second Edition

Orient announce the follow-up to their acclaimed Orient Star Diver 1964, aptly named the "Diver 1964 Second Edition". Whereas the previous was a re-issue of the brand's first official dive watch, the Olympia Calendar Diver, the new release pays homage to Orient's first automatic diver, the Calendar Auto Diver.

What we're now getting is a proper, ISO-6425 compliant dive watch, with a 200m water resistance. As such it has improved visibility over the original, with an extra lume-pip on the bezel and at 3, and an extended minute scale on the bezel.

The new diver also differs from the original in its power-reserve indicator and the Orient Star designation; it does however borrow plenty of design cues from the 1964 version, such as the uniquely shaped hands, and the overall styling of the case and dial.

Orient releases two versions of the 1964 second edition:

·         Reference RE-AU0601B (RK-AU0601B in Japan) has a black dial, similar to the original

·         Reference RE-AU0602E (RK-AU0602E in Japan) has a lovely gradient green dial (which actually looks turquoise in pictures).

Other than dial color, both versions share the same specs: case dimensions are similar to the "first edition" re-issue, measuring 41mm across (40.2mm without the bezel), 49.6mm lug to lug, 14.5mm thick, and 20mm lug width.

The case and bezel are stainless steel, with an aluminum bezel insert, and a slightly domed, AR-coated sapphire crystal. As you may expect from a diver's watch, the bezel is unidirectional, and the crown is of the screw-down type.

The Diver 1964 2nd edition comes with both a steel bracelet, featuring a divers' extension, and a diver-style rubber band. On its bracelet, the total weight of the watch is 175g.

The watch is powered by Orient's in-house automatic caliber F6N47, having a 50-hour power reserve, and accurate within +25/-15 seconds per day.

Unlike the "first edition" which was limited to 500 units, the new model's production will be unlimited. When the watch goes on sale in July, both versions will be officially priced at around 1,150 USD.


Sunday 1 May 2022

Orient Star Avant-Garde Skeleton Watch Hands-On Review

For more than three decades, Orient has been experimenting with different skeletonized and semi-skeletonized designs, making skeleton watches one of the hallmarks of the brand. One of Orient's newest skeleton models recently arrived at the blog's desk for review – it's the Orient Star Avant-Garde!

Specifically, we are looking at the blackened reference RE-AV0A03B (RK-AV0A03B in Japan).

How It Looks

The Avantgarde skeleton makes an immediate impact when you lay your eyes on it. It's the sort of design that looks very intriguing in pictures, but makes you wonder how it would work in real life. Will it be confusingly overloaded with details? Can so many visual elements live together in harmony? Well, thankfully, the easy answer is: this thing looks good!

Besides just "looking good", a number of more specific words come to mind when looking at this watch: sporty (well, it is part of Orient's sporty line-up); elaborate; industrial. Its esthetics don't seem to stem from any particular Orient model.

Some similarities can be drawn between the avant-garde and Orient's Retro-Future watches. Still, there's also something very Jean-Claude Biver about this skeleton, a little Hublot, a little (or much) Tag-Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01.

The design of the Avant-Garde Skeleton is supposed to be inspired by automotive parts, but I find this to be a fairly abstract influence. However, the overall "mechanical" look of the watch works well as a skeleton, and the outer shell of the watch connects very naturally with its inner workings.

The dial (or what's left ot it) is nicely laid out, with small seconds at 6 and the familiar power-reserve indicator at 12. At 9 is what would be the open-heart cutout if this was a "semi-skeleton". The circles that mark these three elements make up the top layer of the display, along with the big, bold hour markers.

Below this layer run the minute track and the logo plate, and underneath these two blackened layers is a dark-red/brown plate. Beyond this tier, you can see the actual movement. Note that you don't actually see much of the mechanism, and you cannot see the back of the watch through it; in this sense, it's not really the movement that is skeletonized – it's the dial.

This multi-layered construction successfully creates a sense of depth, and results in a watch that's very interesting and fun to look at. The metallic components of the movement shine from beneath, contrasting against the darker elements above it. This color scheme just works.

Examining the dial under the magnifying glass does not lessen the impression, as almost everywhere you look there would be layers and angles. The level of execution is very good, and while perhaps not threatening any high-end Swiss watchmaker, it definitely lives up to Orient Star's reputation and standards.

Compared to the intricate dial, the case is fairly simple but is well made. The black IP coating somewhat blurs the finishing, but when observed closely, its quality can be seen – as well as the subtle differences between the matte and polished surfaces.

The bezel, though, is far from plain, with its grooves and notches. Sitting atop a red aluminum ring, it matches the dial perfectly.

How It Wears

The Orient Star Avantgarde isn't a small watch, and does not wear as such. It is 43.2mm wide, 49.2mm lug to lug, and 13.7mm thick, and weighs 109g on the leather strap.

Considering these dimensions it feels quite comfortable on the wrist. This owes to the classic case design with its flat back and arching (and not too long) lugs, and is aided by the leather strap.

The strap is good quality calf leather, and properly padded. As with most padded straps it is initially tough, but should soften after a short period of use. The upper layer is perforated and painted black, while the bottom is red and smooth. So it doesn't just feel good, it looks very sporty as well.

One thing worth noting is the rather unusual length of the strap, as the two pieces are 60mm and 140mm. Normally you'd find strap lengths to be something like 80/120 on average. As the short band is shorter than usual here and the long is longer, it means you'll see more of the strap's end hanging outside the loop, and the thinner your wrist (even at a normal 6.5" – 7" circumference) the longer the overhang.

Attached to the strap is Orient's standard folding clasp. It is easy to operate, and locks confidently. Its underside is smooth and slim enough so as not to create any discomfort on the wrist.

Note that the lug width on this watch is 21mm. I wouldn't call this "non-standard", but admittedly many stores might not hold 21mm straps in stock. There are plenty of compatible straps available online, though, and to be honest, that's where I'd look for replacement bands anyway – the range of options is just so huge, why limit yourself to what you'd find in one shop?

Overall, the wearing experience with the Avantgarde Skeleton is comfortable, at least if your arms aren't too skinny. As is often the case with models referred to by Orient as sporty, this watch may look a bit too much on wrists under 6.5". So while kids might be fond of its playful looks, this is a watch for grown-ups.

How It Functions

Now we're getting to the business end of things. How does this watch perform its job? Most importantly, is it as illegible as too many skeleton watches, or could one actually look at it and tell the time?

Well, here is the good news: yes, you can tell the time on the Avantgarde Skeleton! Partly because it's not a see-through skeleton, and partly because of the cleverly made hands and markers, legibility is pretty good. For a skeleton, that is...

Both the hands and the jagged surfaces of the markers are shaped to reflect light coming from different directions, making them stand out against the mostly dark background. The result is a watch-face that makes time-telling really easy, despite the holes in the dial.

The second hand is a little harder to spot, but as it similarly reflects the light in both directions it does not get completely lost. All this however becomes irrelevant in a dark environment, as there's no lume in this version (some other references of the Avantgarde Skeleton do have lumed hands).

What lies behind the dial is Orient's in-house caliber F6F44, featuring 50 hours of power reserve and an official accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. The review unit tested to run just 11 seconds fast per day.

The crown feels firm. It's a little heavy to unscrew and turn, but appears to be well engineered, and slides onto its threads with precision.

The watch is water-resistant to 100m, making it perfectly capable of withstanding the occasional splash of water. That said, if one intends to take it for a swim, an aftermarket rubber band would be recommended (or just choosing one of the other Avant-Garde versions that are fitted with a steel bracelet).

The front crystal is sapphire, so overall durability should be fine. Plus, the sort of rugged design featured here can take a few scratches without losing its charm. It's a watch that does not need to be treated too gently and should be perfectly fine serving as a beater.


The Bottom Line

The Orient Star Avant-Garde Skeleton is a cool timepiece and very easy to like if you're into sporty, rugged-looking watches. While one can think of some other watches it resembles, it still looks fresh enough. Combined with the excellent quality of materials and finishing, this provides a great wearing experience.

Some downsides noted are the rather non-standard strap length and nonexistent lume. Both of these shortcomings can be resolved if you opt, for instance, for reference RK/RE-AV0A01B, which features lumed hands and markers, and comes on a bracelet. But then again, the stealthy dark looks of the RK/RE-AV0A03B have a charm that's hard to deny!

The official price for the Avant-Garde Skeleton is around USD 900, but it can be found online for around 750-800 (and yes, I know you can also find it for much higher on some websites…).

It's more expensive than other relatively elaborate Orient Star models like the Layered Skeleton or the Semi Skeleton Diver, but I feel the complexity of the design and construction of this model justifies the added cost. It's also more expensive than the somewhat similar aforementioned Retro-Future Camera – but you are getting higher specs and more intricate construction in this Orient Star.


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us with this Orient Star Avant-Garde Skeleton watch for review