Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 28 September 2023

Comparing the Mako 40 to Citizen's Promaster

Before wrapping up my time with the Mako 40 and returning it to Orient, I thought it might be interesting to see how it fares against a comparable dive watch, at a similar price range, from a different Japanese brand. Enter the Citizen Promaster!

Specifically, I'm looking at the Godzilla limited edition, ref. NY0080-21z. I picked it from my personal collection, and as it is of the older, 42mm case models, which are closer in size to the Mako. Note that newer Promaster automatic divers (NY015x series) look very similar but have a 44mm case.

Despite the wider case on paper, the two watches are very similar in how they are worn. The Mako is slightly shorter at 46.5mm lug to lug, compared to the Citizen's 47.5mm, both are about the same 12.8mm thickness and same lug width of 20mm.

Visually the Promaster looks a bit smaller than its 42mm, as the bezel is slightly narrower than the case; likewise the Mako looks a little bigger than its 40mm width, thanks to the visual impact of the steel bezel, and the greater volume occupied by its lugs – compared to the Citizen's.

In terms of styling, the two watches take quite a different approach to the dive concept. The Orient has more flat surfaces and a simpler design language. With its rectangular markers and hands, and raw steel bezel, it looks like a tool watch first, and a diver second. The Citizen is more rounded, like a pebble, and includes some more elaborate shapes among its hands and markers (and I'll ignore the Godzilla dial for now…)

Personally, I do like the Mako style, and particularly the finishing, a bit more. I find Orient's choices of where to have it brushed and where polish the case bright, quite appreciable.

Technically, too, there are some clear differences between the watches. The crown of the Citizen is easier to handle – it is bigger and screws / unscrews more smoothly; on the other hand, it is left-sided, which makes setting the time a little confusing (I hold it upside down for that purpose), and while setting the time is smooth, changing the day and date feel a little plasticky compared to the Mako. It's kind of a draw here, really.

The Mako has a sapphire crystal, while this Promaster uses mineral crystal. I believe the new 44mm Promasters use sapphire as well, as do some Fugu versions of the older 42mm Promasters, but here's it mineral.

Legibility is very similar; both watches stick to the dive watch dial rulebook that dictates large, lumed indices and hands. There's no clear winner here, they're both really good. However, for those who care about diving functionality, the lumed pip on the Citizen bezel might gain an extra point.

On the subject of diving, note that while the Orient is just a "diver style" watch, as Orient puts it, the Citizen is a true diver with 200m rating. This difference is also apparent in the brand's choice of bands. While both watchmakers offer steel bracelets for these models, Orient's other strap of choice for the Mako 40 is leather – while Citizen's is a rubber band. Mind you, I found the Citizen rubber to be too tough and uncomfortable, so I switched it to an Uncle strap. I did not try Orient's rubber with the likes of Kamasu and Mako 42, but the rubber on both OS Diver and M-Force is considerably better than the Promaster's.

Bezel action on the Citizen requires less force than the Orient's but is equally accurate with very little backplay. I guess those who just like to fiddle with the bezel would prefer the Promaster, while those who seek a very secure bezel would prefer the Mako – despite this possibly going against their diver/non-diver orientations.

In terms of accuracy, my Mako measured +11 s/d deviation – while the Citizen does -3 s/d. Better accuracy from the Citizen 8204 then, however, many would prefer a watch running slightly faster than slower. The Orient movement's overall better specs (+25/-15 vs. +40/-20) indicates it might also be easier to regulate to higher accuracy.

So these are both pretty good watches for their 300-400 USD range, with different but comparable specs and characteristics. I admit to liking the Mako styling better (though I like the Godzilla dial on this particular limited edition Promaster). I feel like while objectively the Citizen might have the slightly upper hand in technical specs, somehow it's the Orient that gives a tougher and more capable impression. I do believe the objective differences are small enough to justify whichever of the two you subjectively prefer.


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.