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.