Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 24 December 2023

Farewell 2023, hello 2024!

Another year is ending, and 2024 is just around the corner. In what has become a tradition here on Orient Place blog, it is time for our annual summary post!

First, a retrospective look at this year's releases. To be honest, we saw nothing particularly revolutionary or surprising; however, the same can be said for the entire watchmaking industry, so Orient is not exceptional in this sense.

Yet, while the brand seemed more focused on expanding its online stores across global markets, it did introduce some decent models. Particularly in the higher end of the Orient Star range, in the "M collection", we saw a number of attractive designs. Still, somehow my yearly podium ended up housing three less flamboyant models.

In third place, representing nothing more than my personal, totally subjective selection, is the M34 Avantgarde F8 Skeleton. It ain't the prettiest watch the brand ever made, but as far as sharp-edged industrial designs go, this one checks all the boxes. Add the new F8F64 caliber that brings Orient's silicon escapement to the masses (well, more masses than the $3K 70 hour version…) and you get a very interesting watch with a properly modern movement.

The second place in my opinion goes to the much talked about Mako 40. A more than capable watch that's highly wearable and offers a very compelling package; plenty of value for money and a good new size for a modern diver. If only it wasn't for that weird issue with the minute markers (which new production runs have probably gotten fixed by now), and if the crown was a little bigger and offered finer operation, this model would have been perfect, and a first place winner. As it is, it's a close runner-up.

My winner for top Orient of 2023 is perhaps a little unexpected – it is a watch that did not cause much of a stir, and while I don't have the numbers I can safely assume it wasn't the biggest seller in the Orient Star range. But forget all comparisons and judge it by its own merits: a perfectly sized sports/dive watch with cool, vintage-inspired looks, good specs, lightweight titanium case and bracelet, high-quality yet subtle finishing: the latest version of the 1964 2nd edition diver really works as a coherent design, and perhaps the brand's most solid and versatile new watch.

While Orient's new releases may not have been super-exciting, some of the old models I added to my collection in 2023 were actually very cool and satisfying.

The M-Force Delta was definitely the big winner this year, and became my go-to watch for when some tough labor (or looks) were required – it is as beautiful as it is bold. The Retro-Future Bicycle watch too proved to be a most satisfying find.

The Weekly Auto AAA with its fluted bezel may seem the more mundane of the lot, but it too has its charm, and plenty of nice little details. And then there was the Fineness, with its deceivingly simple looks – perhaps a bit too small and delicate for daily wear, but its history and subtle sophistication make it a lovely addition to the collection.

Last but not least is the very unusual Orient Star "Sky Sports" World Timer. No, you haven't read about this one on the blog yet… I should give it some more wrist time, hoping to post a review in January.

My previous year-end post, twelve months ago, concluded with four wishes – of which Orient did deliver on one (making the brand's online stores accessible in global markets), but did not see eye to eye with my other wishes (specifically for a new 300m diver, and a new GMT movement).

So let me repeat those wishes for 2024, and of course – also wish all blog readers and followers, their families and friends, a happy holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous new year!

Thursday 7 December 2023

The "Planet Orient"

Planet Orient was the nickname for a series of sporty watches released by Orient in the late 2000s, sold around 2008-2012. These became quite popular, having something of a cult following to this day. A good reason to borrow my friend B. B.'s Planet Orient for a few days, and check out what made this watch so special.

But first, as usual, a bit of history. Where does this model get its planetary name? It certainly does not feature any map or earth-like elements. The reason lies elsewhere…

In 2005, Omega launched a new line of watches, the Seamaster Planet Ocean. The first Planet Oceans had a black or orange bezel, but it was the orange version that caught most of the attention. Orange became known as the Planet Ocean color, despite being nearly invisible on some of the models.

So, when a few years later Orient released its own line of watches having orange elements (some more, some less), it was naturally given the unofficial name, "Planet Orient". And just like its Omega spiritual father, it did not really matter that most versions had very little orange in them.

Orient introduced six variants of the model (note that as always with Orient, models starting with FM can be found as FFM or CFM, too).

·         Reference FM00001B with a black bezel insert, black dial, and steel bracelet.

·         Ref. FM00002B with an orange bezel insert, black dial, and steel bracelet.

·         Ref. FM00001S with a black bezel insert, "tuxedo dial" (black and white), and steel bracelet.

·         Ref. FM00003B with an orange bezel insert, black dial, and black leather strap.

·         Ref. FM00004W with a silver bezel insert, white dial, and brown leather strap.

·         Ref. FM00005D with a dark blue insert, dark blue dial, and brown leather strap.

The model I got my hands on for this review is the most orange of the lot, and therefore also the most sought-after: the orange bezel FM00002B. While over a decade old, its owner did not actually wear it much, and the watch is really in very fine condition, so I could review it as if it were new.

The watch stands out immediately with its rugged appearance. The visual impact is made by both the chunky case, and the massive-looking five-link steel bracelet. The playfulness of the orange bezel does not detract from this impression – it just makes it sportier.

The actual dimensions of the watch are not as intimidating as its initial appearance may imply, or as the advertised 44.5mm width may suggest. That is actually the dimension including the crown guard. Without the guard, the case (and bezel) width is 43.2mm, which is still not small but also not unusually large. 

Lug-to-lug, the Planet Orient is a reasonably 49mm long. Lug width is 24mm, but the integrated bracelet then tapers to a comfortable 20mm. The whole thing weighs about 180g.

While not a small watch by any means, it is perfectly comfortable to wear. The bracelet works well here, both visually and practically. It flows nicely from the drilled lugs, hugs the wrist well, and from a design perspective matches the angles of the case and grooves of the bezel.

The bracelet is very good quality, and provides a good counterweight to the case itself. With no hair pulling, an elaborate finishing, and solid end-links, it is a step above standard Mako bracelets – and indeed, when released, the Planet Orient was positioned – and priced – above the basic divers, closer to the M-Force. The clasp however, is more standard, similar to the Mako bracelet.

The case itself is well made and shaped less conventionally than, say, the aforementioned Mako. There's use of polished and subtly brushed surfaces, as in the bracelet, and the angular design makes it more interesting.

The bezel does rotate, however it is not as grippy as on typical dive watches – and indeed it is not a diver bezel. It feels quite tough and reassuring though as it moves through its 60 clicks.

Looking more closely at the dial, one can appreciate again how this watch is above the brand's entry level. The markers are big and very three-dimensional. The various sections and sub-dials are clearly separated and somehow – in what is an Orient expertise in my opinion – create a pleasingly balanced and uncluttered layout.

All these components work together to produce a very legible watch face. I must admit I usually prefer a date window to a pointer, but the date sub-dial here is large compared to some other Orient models, so reading it is relatively easy.

Lume is pretty good too – it's not particularly long-lasting, but the sheer amount of it makes night-time legibility more than decent. There's even a little bit of lume on the power-reserve needle.

You might wonder then why, with the bezel, lume, and even a screw-down crown, this watch was not designated as a dive watch, and was only rated to 100m. This is probably more due to product management considerations by the brand than any technical limitation.

The caseback provides a glimpse of the movement, Orient's automatic caliber 46U40. This one does not feature hacking or hand-winding, but like all Caliber 46 variants it is a very reliable and resilient movement. It's even nicely decorated.

All in all, it's easy to see why people liked this watch. It has a very distinctive look and just the right amount of Orient quirkiness, but not too much; it's built like a tank; and it was very reasonably priced – still is, if you can find one, a fairly doable task.

Indeed the chunky design is not for everyone, nor is the size, and it is still not as robust as an M-Force, contemporary models of which featured sapphire crystal, better shock resistance, and true dive-watch specifications. However, for those who like the style of the Planet Orient, that is indeed a very lovely piece to own.