Orient Place

Orient Place

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

New Bambinos

Last week Orient got us excited with the flashy new "M Collection" of high-end Orient Star watches, now it's back to basics – and nothing is more basic (in a good way, like T-shirt and jeans) than a Bambino.

First, there's a new model – though with a familiar movement. The "Bambino Sun and Moon" is a new variation on Orient's well-known (and likeable) adaptation of the "24 hour sub-dial" concept.

This model is larger than most Bambinos but smaller than the V4, having a 41.5mm wide case. It's also smaller than the classic sun-and-moon that comes at 42.5mm. Other dimensions are 47mm lug to lug, 14.2mm thickness, and 21mm lug width.

The crystal here is mineral glass – unlike the sapphire used for the classic model. It also comes with a simple buckle, unlike the three-fold one in the classic model. Water resistance is 3atm. These are all standard Bambino features – part of the model's charm (and relatively low price).

Four references were announced today:

·         RA-AK0801S with a rose-gold color case and markers, and white dial (also available as JDM ref. RN-AK0801S, limited to 500 units)

·         RA-AK0802S with a steel case and white dial

·         RA-AK0803Y with a steel case and ivory dial (also available as JDM ref. RN-AK0803Y)

·         RA-AK0804Y with a steel case and brown dial

All references come with a matching leather strap, and feature a transparent case-back where you can see the F6B24 automatic movement. Price is around 340 USD, which is higher than most Bambinos – but lower than Orient's other automatic sun-and-moon models.

In addition, Orient also present some new dial color options for the 38mm Bambino. Whereas the first batch of this watch included classic dress-watch colors (white, black and ivory) the newly announced variants are more vibrant and warm hues.

The new references are RA-AC0M05G (cream-yellow dial), RA-AC0M06L (light blue), RA-AC0M07N (dove grey – a kind of warm beige-grey shade), and RA-AC0M08Y (copper). These are all limited to 360 pieces, for some reason; there are also equivalent JDM models with similar colors, each limited to 30 pieces and exclusive to Orient's online store.

The models all come with a grey nubuck leather strap. They are technically identical (and similarly priced) to the previous 38mm Bambino.


Sunday, 10 September 2023

Orient Non-Scratch and Super-hard Stainless Steel

In 1962 Rado presented the "Diastar", the world's first scratch-resistant watch. The concept took a few years to gain popularity, but when it has, it pushed other watchmakers to follow. Orient was one of the brands that set out to deliver a scratch resistant watch. But before we dive into this piece of history, let's first understand what scratch resistance is.

Hardness – measured in HV (Vickers Hardness), inversely corresponds to the depth of a scratch left by a pyramid-shaped indenter, when pressed at a given force against the surface of the material. The deeper the dent, the lower the hardness; the higher the HV value, the more scratch-resistant the material.

The hardness of typical 316L stainless steel, as used on most watches is 150-200 HV – depending on the specific compound and treatment. It generally contains iron, chromium (16-18%), nickel (10-12%), and molybdenum (2-3%). Rolex's famed 904L steel boasts similar hardness – it retains its shine thanks to better corrosion resistance, not scratch-resistance.

HY-80 aka "submarine steel", used for instance by Sinn, achieves 300 HV (Sinn actually further hardens it with surface treatment). Damasko manages to reach 800 HV by a special treatment, removing nickel and adding carbon and nitrogen.

It is also possible to coat or harden just the surface of the steel, maintaining the ability of the core of the material to sustain blows without breaking. Such surface treatment can achieve well over 1000 HV, which is ceramic territory; however, as this is skin deep, it would be a good protection against regular scratches but leaves the metal vulnerables to deeper indentations.

Like Rado with the Diastar, Orient used Tungsten Carbide for its "non-scratch" watches. This material is extremely hard, measuring 2600 HV, and is generally considered the hardest material that can be used in the jewelry and watchmaking industry, excluding gemstones of course.

The brand produced a few non-scratch watches in the late 1960s, mainly Deluxe and Chronoace models. These typically cost significantly more than similar stainless steel models, as much as doubling their price.

Many Orient Nonscratch watches were characterized by a hexagonally-shaped caseback – reminiscent of the hexagonal structure of Tungsten Carbide crystal. Ironically the case-backs were made of steel.

Tungsten Carbide had its limitations though: it is almost twice the density, and hence the weight per given shape, than steel. It is more brittle than steel, which is serious consideration: most people would rather have their watch get scratched when hitting the door knob than break.

Tungsten Carbide is also very hard to machine, and particularly tough to mold into complex shapes. Which is why all of the Orient Non-Scratch watches you'll find are either just a circular, lugless case or a similarly featureless and equally lugless barrel.

Now, there was nothing wrong with these case shapes, and many of these were absolutely pretty, some with lovely "Mexican" or other colorful dials. But, the cost and complexity of manufacturing them was considerable, and prevented the use of more interesting case shapes, surface brushing, rotating bezels etc.

So, like many other watchmakers, Orient ditched the carbide option in favor of hardening stainless steel.

Orient's "SSS" or Super-hard Stainless Steel claimed a surface hardness 1000 HV, a very respectable value in the 1970s. With this material, Orient could produce more elaborate case shapes, and maintain similar machining to those used with regular steel.

Super-hard Stainless Steel was used initially with Chronoace watches, and later in the 1970s with some caliber 46-based models. Indeed the use of steel enabled Orient to produce a greater variety of case designs with greater geometric complexity.

Another advantage for the SSS approach was it enabled a more visually seamless integration of the bracelet with the watch case. As carbides could not be used to produce bracelets, the contrast between the relatively dull steel and the bright sheen of the tungsten case might have seemed odd. That said – there's no denying that even as new, SSS cases could not match the mirror-smooth polish of the Nonscratch cases.

Towards the 1980s, "SSS" models too gradually disappeared from Orient's product lines. Today, even those Super-hard cases would show signs of aging; however, vintage Orient Non-scratch watches can often be found with their tungsten carbide cases sparkling like new.

Pictures that appear on this post were taken from old Orient catalogs, online sale ads, and Wikimedia.

Thursday, 7 September 2023

Orient Star's "M Collection" EU/Global Versions

Following yesterday's announcement of the new "M-Collection" of Orient Star models, the brand today follows up with a number of new Global releases.

First up, and perhaps the most unique, is a global version of what was the first "M45" release (even before the entire M Collection was thus named). This is the very cool-looking, black n' blue Moonphase ref. RE-AY0119L.

Technically identical to the JDM RK-AY0117/8L, the different number part of the reference indicates something has changed: the strap material. While Orient sells these with Crocodile leather straps in Japan, limitations on exporting this type of leather dictate a different material for global distribution. Therefore, the new reference comes with Cordovan leather.

The watch uses a 41mm wide black-coated steel case, housing Orient's F7M65 automatic moon-phase movement with 50 hours of power reserve and +15/-5 seconds per day accuracy. Crystal is, of course, sapphire back and front (with the front having SAR coating applied), water resistance is 50m, and the watch is limited to just 80 pieces.

Orient also presented the global version of the golden-brown moon-phase model, now as reference RE-AY0121A. This, too, is identical to the JDM version except for the cordovan strap, and is limited to 180 units.

Finally, Orient also announced global references in the M34 series. Here, we actually get slightly different dial variations than the Japanese variants. Technically, the watches have the same case dimensions, style, and movement.

·         Reference RE-BY0004A has a blue MOP dial, comes with a steel bracelet, and is not a limited edition.

·         Ref. RE-BY0005A has a green MOP dial, comes with a steel bracelet, and is also not limited.         

·         RK-BY0007A has a charcoal-grey dial similar to the JDM RK-BY0006A, comes with both a steel bracelet and calf leather strap, and is limited to 500 units.

No global version of the titanium 1964 Diver has been announced, yet.

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Presenting the Orient Star "M Collection"

Orient has just announced a new collection of Orient Star watches, dubbed the "M Collection". The announcement claims these "M" models represent an even higher quality than most Orient Stars – this of course has yet to be seen in person, but the pictures no doubt tell a compelling story.


M45 F7 Mechanical Moon Phase

At the top of the line sits a new version of Orient's moon-phase watch, reference RK-AY0120A. It is a full (no "open heart") mother-of-pearl dial, similar to last year's MOP moon-phase model. The new dial is a very warm mix of golden-brown shades, matched to a complementary bronze-plated bezel and brown crocodile leather strap (a steel bracelet is also included). A very elegant combination indeed.

That said, there does not seem to be any real difference between the "M" version and previous moon phase references from the Classic collection, and the slightly higher price here probably just reflects the bezel plating.

You get the same F7M65 movement, a quality automatic 50-hour caliber with +15/-5 seconds per day accuracy, the same dimensions of 41mm width and 49mm length, Orient Star's SAR-coated sapphire crystal, etc. This model is limited to 350 pieces.


M42 Diver 1964 Titanium

Or, "M42 Diver 1964 2nd Edition F6 Date 200m Titanium" to be precise, as Orient is joining the Swiss trend of super-long names for watches, reference RK-AU0701B.

The new model is based on the "Diver 1964 2nd edition" released in 2022, with the main difference being that it's made of titanium – making it much lighter than the steel versions, at 113g vs. 175g. Many might also prefer the somewhat warmer and less bright shade of the Titanium finish, which makes it look less dressy and more "tool watch".

Again, all other technical and visual elements are the same – including case dimensions (41mm wide, 49.6mm long), movement (F6N47 with +25/-15 seconds per day accuracy), and dial design (only differing in the addition of "titanium" to the dial text).

The bracelet, too, is Titanium of course, inclusive of a diver's extension, but unlike the previous releases, no rubber band is included. The price is about 15% higher than the steel models, which is a reasonable premium for titanium.


M34 F7 Semi-skeleton

This is a new Orient Star semi-skeleton design, not radically different from previous semi-skeletons, yet it is modernized with a new movement, caliber F7F44, featuring +15/-5 seconds per day accuracy.

The first thing to notice about the new M34 watches is the mother-of-pearl dial. At closer look you can also appreciate tasteful little elements, like the tracks of the seconds sub-dial and the power reserve indicator.

The M34 line includes four references –

·         RK-BY0001A with a blue-green gradient dial, comes with a steel bracelet, and costs around 950 USD.

·         RK-BY0002A with a golden-brown dial, comes with a steel bracelet, and costs around 950 USD – now available only on Orient Star's online store.         

·         RK-BY0003A with a blue-green dial, comes with a steel bracelet and leather strap, and costs a little over 1,000 USD – now available only on Orient Star's Prestige shops.

·         RK-BY0006A with a charcoal-grey dial, limited to 300 units, comes with a steel bracelet and leather strap, and costs a little over 1,000 USD.

All references feature a 40mm wide case, 47.3 long lug-to-lug, 13mm thick and having a 20mm lug width. The front and back crystals are sapphire, and water resistance is 100m.

Thursday, 24 August 2023

Orient Mako 40mm Hands-On Review

Orient's Mako family of diver-style watches is among the most important product lines in the brand's current and historical offerings. For almost 20 years, this group of models (starting with the old Mako and Ray watches with caliber 46, continuing with Mako II and Kamasu with cal. F6, and now "Mako III" range) has provided buyers with sports watches that are entry-level yet reliable, well made and respectable.

However wearable and popular Mako watches are at the current 42mm size, the demand for smaller watches has surged in recent years to a point where Orient obviously had to take note – and they did, in the form of the recently announced "Mako 40mm".

Here at the blog we also took note and wasted no time getting our hands on one of these babies, eager to see how worthy the newcomer is of wearing the Mako badge… so please say hello to Orient reference RA-AC0Q02L – blue dial, stainless steel, diver-design watch, aka Mako 40mm.


How It Looks

There is an undeniable appeal to all-steel designs. The new Mako proves this with the combination of steel case, bezel and bracelet – no plating, no bezel inserts, just using different finishing techniques to sculpt the metal. A bit of matte brushing here, a sparkle of smooth polish there, will get the job done if executed properly. And Orient definitely know how to make a good looking piece of metal for the price.

The dial looks practically black in low light, but reveals its blueness in the sunlight. The color is not entirely matte and not completely sunburst – rather, it is a mixture of both, a very pleasant combination often used by Orient.

One might argue that this reference represents the best of the new Mako: the blue dial works great with steel, and it's almost as versatile as the black dial version but with the added flash of color. The white dial version might come on as slightly more elegant. The purple and salmon dials can be good options if you already have a dark dial sports watch and looking for something a bit more playful, though their appeal might not be as long-lasting as this dark blue.

The dial layout is simple but well thought-out. All elements are nicely proportioned, and should work well even for the most nitpicking watch aficionados who like to complain about a hand being too short or a marker being out of place. It's just a nice looking dial.

Unlike Mako models, the smaller diameter here got Orient to ditch the old day-and-date combination in favor of just a date window. A very sensible choice, if you ask me, resulting in a cleaner looking dial.

Note the markers are somewhat reminiscent of the 1964 diver's first edition, as is the steel bezel; they all seem a little vintage-flavored. The hands are different from both the Mako's and vintage divers; they are squared-off and semi-skeletonized, and contribute to the clean look.

Overall finishing, however, is very much like the Mako 3 and Kamasu. You get very subtle circular finishing on the lug tops, and on the bezel, while the sides of the case are polished; likewise, the bracelet is brushed on top and polished on the sides. Also similar to the Mako are the two dolphins swimming on the case back.

Fans are expected to compare the new Mako with its older siblings and ask whether it retains the charm of the 42mm Mako. I would say, this new watch sure has a charm, but it is a different one. The smaller, more compact, all-steel case somehow reminds me of certain German tool watches (and yes, it also personally reminds me of my blue-dial world timer, in a good way).

It's not all flawless, though, and the new watch has a certain peculiar "bug" that appears on all dial versions, and can be seen even in the catalog pictures: the 26 minute marker is too close to 25, and the 33 minute marker is ever so slightly closer to 32 than to 34. Why is that? Is there an explanation? Is that a secret message to aliens, or is 2633 the year the world will end (Oh dear, I actually Googled and found this). It's one of those things you won't immediately notice, but once you have… you know. Hopefully Orient should get this fixed soon, rendering the early production batches collector's items…


How It Wears

Since size is supposedly the new Mako's highlight, let's first talk about dimensions. Indeed it is smaller than older models by roughly 2 millimeters – reducing case diameter from 41.8 to 39.9mm, to be precise.

However, the new model is only 0.3mm shorter than the larger versions, at 46.5mm lug to lug, vs 46.8mm. This means actual wearability is very similar to Mako 2/3 or Kamasu. That's not a bad thing, as these all work very well for most wrist sizes, hence their popularity. It's just that the new model has longer lugs, relative to its width, than the old Mako.

The new and old Mako even weigh about the same (165g, of the new model vs. the Mako 3/Kamasu's 169g) and are both 12.8mm thick, so the size difference has more to do with how the watch looks, than how it wears.

The bracelet is very similar to the old Mako's – except being 2mm narrower, as lug width here is 20mm. You get the same style of clasp, same hollow end-links, and while not being remotely luxurious Orient seem to stick to their successful formula here – offering good value for money with a bracelet that is simple but feels robust enough to match the tool-watch image.

All in all, the watch is very comfortable to wear, there's no hair pulling from the bracelet or pinching from the clasp, and it's got just enough heft to be felt but not be a burden on the wrist.


How It Functions

The beating heart of the Mako 40mm is Orient's caliber F6722, an automatic movement that is similar to the Mako 42's F6922 except for the omission of the day wheel. It features hand-winding and hacking, about 40 hours of power reserve, and the same stated accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. The watch reviewed provided a +11 seconds per day accuracy, with very little deviation between wearing and off-wrist time, which is quite acceptable for this price point and type of watch.

The relative weakness of the Kamasu I once reviewed was the crown, so it was interesting to see what has changed here.

Despite being a smaller watch, the crown is about the same size, though the crown-guard of the larger model makes it a little hard to make a direct comparison. The absence of a crown guard on the new Mako should have allowed for an easier grip on the crown, but somehow it does not feel this way, and operating the small crown is still tricky – particularly when trying to screw it into position.

Winding, however, does feel a little smoother compared to the Kamasu's rather gritty operation, and the crown is almost wobble-free, so there are also some improvements. All things considered, crown operation is still a relative weakness.

Bezel operation is on the hard side, harder than on the Kamasu – possibly because of the small diameter. But, it does offer accurate operation with almost no back-play, certainly better than most watches in this price range.

Legibility is excellent – the markers are big and clear, as are the hands, with sufficient lume to enable reading the time when it gets dark. It is not an all-night kind of crazy lume you might get from professional dive watches, but it is still pretty good. And while the sapphire crystal here does not feature the excellent anti-reflective coating found on most Orient Star models, the clarity and contrast of the dial layout make reading the time easy through most reflections.

Note that unlike most Orient diver watches (except the Kanno) there is no lume on the bezel, and the dot at 12 is just steel. As this is not intended as a true diver's watch, instead aiming for dive watch styling, this is not a major drawback, and if you see the bezel more as a decoration than a functional component it can actually be an advantage.


The Bottom Line

The new Mako 40 is not just a "smaller Mako". The difference in styling, and even more so in the wearing experience, is actually more noticeable than the difference in size. As such, it presents not just a compelling alternative to the 42mm model, but even a complementary option. This also makes it as strong a competitor in the entry-level automatic sports watch market as any of its Orient forerunners.

As a package, it's pretty convincing, in the functional-mechanical aspect as well as stylistically. Yes, it has its imperfections – the crown operation is still not fully satisfactory, and there's that weird minute-markers thing. But overall, you get a good looking watch that's as dependable, comfortable and well-made as we've come to expect from Orient. It really is enjoyable enough on the wrist to make one forget the downsides – most of the time.

Official pricing is about 5% above 42mm Mako/Kamasu models, and while the only reason that comes to mind is the steel bezel, it is a fairly minimal difference and street prices are now dropping to more realistic levels anyway; I'm seeing the Mako 40 now selling anywhere between 300-400 USD. It takes a while for a new watch to find its place on the supply/demand diagram, but I'm guessing it should soon glide toward the 300 mark, as older 42mm versions stay not to far below it.

So – well done Orient, get those minute markers fixed, and don't forget to give us a yellow-dial version next year, to celebrate the first Mako's 20th anniversary!


The blog would like to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Mako 40mm for review.


Monday, 14 August 2023

Orient Brazil Celebrates 50 Years With New Model

Orient Brazil is celebrating 50 years since its transformation from an independent local importer to an Orient company (although local manufacturing began five years later). To commemorate the event, the company has just released a special model which goes by the sexy name "F49SS029".

While the Brazilian watchmaker's product lines do not always follow its Japanese origins, the new release has proper Orient DNA. Its shape is classic Orient, with the bulky case, colorful dial, tristar symbol, rotating inner bezel, and two crowns.

The movement is Orient's good old F4902. It is almost identical to the caliber 46943, except that the day and date can both be changed from the crown in 2nd position (instead of using a button). Like the 469 this movement is automatic, with about 40 hours of power reserve, and does not offer hand-winding or hacking.

The new watch has two versions, each in limited numbers, and the numbering actually tells a story: watches numbered 1-972 are the "Japan" version, having a blue dial with some red markers; while those numbered 973-2023, 1973-2023 being the years now celebrated, are the "Brazil" version. Of course, the Brazilian website does not forget to mention blue and green are their countries' respective football team uniforms.

The watches measure 44mm wide and 50mm lug to lug, making them slightly larger than the similar offerings from Orient Japan such as the Neo Classic Sport and World Diver Reissue. Front crystal is sapphire, and the case-back is decorated with a golden medallion in true vintage style.

Orient Brazil often provides its watches with generous packaging and this one is no exception, as the box includes a set of three straps: a sporty leather strap, steel mesh and – very thoughtfully – a jubilee-style bracelet: after all, this is a jubilee being celebrated!

The watches currently sell (in Brazil only, as always) for around $2700 Real, which is close to 550 USD. Pretty decent value, if you can get your hands on one.


Sunday, 6 August 2023

Orient Hi-Ace and Bronco

As mentioned briefly in last month's story about caliber 46, Orient's first model that put this venerable movement to use was the Hi-Ace (aka Hiace, or simply HA). So let's talk a little about this watch and its non-identical twin, Bronco.

As always with vintage Orients, naming is a mystery. Why would the brand name its watches after a pair of cars? Both the Hiace and the Bronco were car models manufactured by Toyota and Ford, respectively, first introduced around 1966/7, about five years prior to the commercial launch of cal. 46.

"Hi Ace" may be somehow understandable, as it sounded a bit like a successor, or even an upgrade, to the Chrono Ace. But why Bronco? Obviously, it was related to the car, as there was no other use for this term in English at the time, and Orient did not use Spanish words for its model names. A mystery indeed…

Whatever the reason, the Hiace was an important part of Orient's product range between 1973-75. The brand released many versions of the watch, boasting different case shapes and dial styles.

Not all Hiaces were mechanically identical. First of all, there are those equipped with cal. 46, and those that utilize the very similar cal. 48. The latter variant had mostly used the same components and architecture as the 46, but eliminated the click-button at 2, allowing instead the date to be set from the crown.

The elimination of the button, and the addition of a screw-down crown, enabled Orient to introduce the Hiace King Diver, which was resistant to 100m. A number of versions of this model were presented, including this beast from 1975.

The Bronco was another version of the Hiace, despite not having HA printed on its dial. For this version, Orient removed the rotor from the movement and presented it as a hand-winding line of watches – presumably at a lower cost.

Broncos, too, had included some watches featuring the click button, having movements denoted as 46620, and others without the button, having movements listed as 46320.

Button or no button, all automatic Hiace movements had 21 jewels, and all Broncos had 17 jewels. All Hiace models – Broncos included – featured the date and weekday.

In terms of pricing, it seems that the Hiace marked an increased price-point compared to the Chronoace, at least when looking at the mainstream models. A price range of 11,500 – 17,000 JPY for most versions was roughly 20% higher than Chronoaces, which was more than twice the inflation rate at the time.

The HA King Diver, however, was actually slightly less expensive than the top-of-the-line CA King Diver at 19,000 JPY – which, when comparing the two watches, actually makes sense. Also priced at around 19,000 JPY were special dial versions of the Hiace, such as the Jaguar Focus.


Pictures that appear in this post were taken from various sale ads and the 1999 Orient Watch Catalog book.