Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 28 January 2024

The Sky Sports Orient Star ref. WZ0021FZ

Orient Star's 2008 catalog featured what may have been the brand's most attractive product range since the 1960s. In it you could see the 300m Saturation Diver (still with the FD movement and syringe hands); the mighty Clubman Chronograph; some of the brand's last cushion-cased models (including the very first open heart model, WZ0011FH, still selling at the time); numerous Retrofuture watches; and more.

And, in that year, Orient also introduced a new series of sports models, dubbed the "Sky Sports" line, presumably to take the place of pilot watches alongside the brand's divers and outdoor models. While possibly not as famous as some of the aforementioned watches, these were no less cool and special.

The Sky Sports range featured four versions:

·         Reference WZ0011FZ with a mostly black dial, and some black ion plating on the bezel and bracelet.

·         Ref. WZ0021FZ with a "reverse panda" dial, and mostly black IP on the case and bracelet.

·         Ref. WZ0031FZ, the more elegant of the lot, with a gold-plated case (and black IP bezel) and a sporty leather strap.

·         Ref. WZ0041FZ with a completely stealthy case and dial, except some dark-orange hands and markers.

All versions share common dimensions and features. The lug-less barrel case is 44mm wide (without the crowns and the tiny crown guards), roughly 46mm long, and 14mm thick. The bracelet width is 24mm at the case, with the steel bracelet tapering down to 18mm at the clasp. Lug width (though, as mentioned, it's lug-less…) is just 22 mm, so that would be the width of a leather strap, if you choose one.

The movement denoted by the "FZ" code is Orient's caliber 48H world timer. Technically belonging to Orient's vintage 46/48 family of movements, it does not hand-wind and only features 40 hours of power reserve; it does hack, however, and as you'll see below, it offers some really nice features.

To take a closer look at what makes the Orient Star Sky Sports special, let's focus on one particular watch – in this case, a lovely WZ0021FZ in mint condition.

Like many other Orient models, this piece is characterized by a purposely complicated dial. And again, like in numerous other watches reviewed on the blog in the past, Orient manages to nicely balance the abundant details with legibility.

The dial layout, dictated by caliber 48H, includes the central hour and minute hands; a sub dial for small seconds at 6; the date pointer at 9; and the power reserve at 12. In addition you get the 24 hour disk, surrounding the dial; and then there is the internal rotating bezel, presenting twenty-four time zones.

Closer inspection reveals the intricate textures of the dial. The main plate has a subtle grainy surface, as does the date sub-dial, while the seconds and power reserve sub-dials are finished with a very light sunburst effect.

The overall design style of the dials is meant to resemble flight instruments. This is particularly evident in the small seconds sub-dial. This design, together with the World Timer function, produces the "aviation theme", justifying the Sky Sports moniker.

The case and bracelet also participate in this game of mixed finishes. Where there is IP coating, it is smooth matte, while the uncoated steel is mostly brushed, with some more finely polished pieces adding some sparkle. The side panels on the case match the bezel, here as on the other references in the series. Even the crowns are finished in black and metal.

The only elements that add a bit of color here are the orange "GMT" sign and the transparent pointer at the top of the dial.

Some more color can be found in the back, in the orange-tinted mineral glass. It also continues the aviation theme with some flight-related text, like "VFR" (visual flight rules) and "IFR" (instrument flight rules), and some additional stuff relating to flight height and angles. Hopefully, your pilot would not need to resort to reading the caseback in midflight to land you safely at your destination.

Watch operation is similar to other Orient World Timers, such as the WZ0091FA reviewed here a few years back, except that the main crown here is a screw-in type. Once unscrewed, pull it to the first position and turn clockwise to advance the 24-hour disk in half-hour intervals.

Use the second crown at 4 to rotate the timezone bezel – and it doesn't really matter how you set it up, as long as the current hour sits against the current zone you're in. Although it might be more visually pleasing, to those of you with OCD, if you place the GMT time on top of the yellow pointer, and then set the disk accordingly. Once set, the disk just moves with the main time.

Otherwise, operation is fairly standard. Turn the crown counter-clockwise to set the date, and pull it to the third position for setting the time. As there is no hand winding, there is nothing to do with the crown in the first position. A slight nudge or setting of the time forward, however, is enough for the movement to start ticking.

On the wrist, this is a very comfortable watch to wear. Not particularly heavy for its size, at 175g; actually it's not really that big for its size… one of the advantages of a lugless case design. The tapering bracelet also helps in inducing a lighter wearing experience.

It's also practical enough (100m/10atm water resistance, front sapphire crystal) and feels tough enough to serve as a daily wear or tool watch.

So there we have it, another great watch by Orient Star, from one of the best periods in the brand's history. If you like the styling, it is definitely worth looking for this model, or one of its siblings in the FZ/Sky Sports range.

Despite the quality and relative rarity (though I would not say it is at the top rarity level for Orients), watches in this series sell at very reasonable prices, typically asking around 500 USD for a watch in very good condition (like the one pictured here)

Thursday 11 January 2024

The Hidden Treasure of the 65th Anniversary

This is the first Orient Place blog post of 2024, so I thought: why not kick off the new year with something that isn't very new, but is quite festive and unique? I give you the hidden treasure of Orient Star's 65th anniversary: the very exclusive, solid gold Reference EG06-AQ.

Back in 2016, Orient celebrated 65 years of Orient Star. Throughout the brand's history, different names were used to present its higher-end products: sometimes it was Royal Orient, other times Grand Prix, but it was "Orient Star" that held on the longest. Orient, therefore, chose to mark its anniversary with something special.

You may recall the story of the Royal Orient ref. WE0011EG, which was mentioned as one of only three gold models made by Orient in modern times; well, apparently, this was not accurate! Indeed, one learns something new every day (almost). Because that "something special" in 2016 turned out to be yet another gold watch.

Orient Star Ref.EG06-AQ was in fact a younger brother to that Royal Orient model, produced some eight years earlier. Both featured a lovely 18K Yellow Gold case, and shared the same 48A40 movement. The main differences are in the dial.

While the Royal version's face was highly elaborate with its intricate textures, the Star version's dial is simpler – but it is far from mundane. The surface seems to be sand-finished matte with a silver-like hue. The overall layout is like an upscale "Bambino", but with the golden hands and markers; the minute markers are also golden, as opposed to the usual printed minute track.

And, of course, there is the power reserve indicator, counting down from the movement's full 50-hour reserve.

The case is slightly larger than the Royal's, at around 36mm wide by 42mm lug-to-lug. As I've mentioned in my review of the Royal Orient model, something about the wrist presence of gold makes these dimensions feel and look bigger. So, while its case is small, this Orient Star still passes as a perfectly sized dress watch. The chubby gold crown also helps in this respect.

Going back to the hand-wound caliber 48A40 hand-wound, it is visible from the back, and is just as beautiful as on the Royal version. Also carrying over the +10/-5 seconds a day accuracy, it is definitely one of the finest movement to feature on an Orient Star.

The same movement by the way was also used to drive the Royal Orient pocket-watch, EG0A-C0-B (or, in its JDM reference, WE0041EG) and the identical watch branded Orient Star Royal, ref. EG03-A00). A very special movement then, found exclusively in some of the brand's top releases.

And the 65th Anniversary Orient Star is not just a top release, but a very rare one. Only 65 pieces were made, making this one of the hardest to find among modern Orients watches. And prices, if you should find one, are well within the four figures, USD.


Pictures that appear in this post were taken from old Orient catalogs and sale ads.