Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 8 January 2023

The Polka-Dot Royal Orient

A few months ago I posted a story about unusual Royal Orient designs. Among the models featured you may have noticed one particular watch, with a dial that was rather lavishly adorned with dots. That "polka-dot" piece is really rare, but I was lucky enough to get my hands on one – in pretty good shape too.

This watch was made in 1959. Like all Royal Orients of the 1950s, it made use of the time-only version of the N-Type movement. This particular model is equipped with the 19-jewel variant of this movement.

The movement here certainly seems to live up to its good reputation. Winding the watch feels very robust and sets the Royal Orient ticking away happily. All in all, using it is a very positive and vital experience, not just considering old age. It feels like a very dependable mechanism.

As a dress watch, this timepiece works as you'd expect – back "in the old days" they weren't fooling around. At 36mm wide (excluding the crown) and about 11mm thick, with long lugs and a thin bezel, it is classically proportioned and wears very well. It would be perfect for slim-to-average wrists, but the design keeps it appropriate as formal wear on larger wrists too, as long as one keeps their "sport mode" turned off.

Obviously, this isn't any regular vintage dress watch. The dial is the attention grabber here. So let's pay some attention to it.

At first glance, you notice the peculiar design. The white dots are spread almost randomly against the darker background. In theory, this should produce a confusing appearance and lead to reduced legibility; but in reality, somehow this works. The gold hands remain clearly visible, and the overall appearance is special, in a good way.

Upon closer look, the unique texture of the dial is revealed. It doesn't really look like any watch dial I've seen before: the surface seems like it has been imprinted by some kind of fabric. In the macro shots it even appears like brush strokes, but it is somewhat misleading, as in reality that would have to be a very tiny brush indeed – keep in mind each white dot is about one millimeter in diameter.

The dial does however succeed in making the "Royal Orient" moniker disappear almost entirely. It takes some very sharp eyes (or some keen photo enhancement…) to identify any of the dial text.

To sum it all up – this "polka dot" Royal Orient is one seriously cool vintage piece. It was certainly built to high standards, which is evident in how well this specimen has survived its 64 years in service.

Naturally, abuse can leave any old watch, no matter how well made, in bad condition – and when buying a vintage watch you need to verify its condition prior to making the purchase. But there are enough vintage Royal Orients that look pretty good out there to testify to the longevity of the movement, design and execution. If you buy from Japanese sellers, for example, you are likely to find fine samples at really low prices – certainly when compared to high-end Seikos of the same era.



  1. That's a really cool watch. Thanks for the detailed article about it. The dial looks like it could be paper or fabric. Do you know what material it is? With the spotty strap in the catalogue photo this would have made for a pretty interesting look when originally produced.

    1. I really don't know what material is the dial. Looks like something that was prepared soft, and then hardened, retaining the soft look.