Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 18 February 2024

Three Generations of M-Force, Compared

The "M-Force" is currently Orient's longest-running product line, now spanning 27 years since the introduction of the first generation. During this time designs have changed and movements have evolved, but the "three M's DNA" remained as Orient has defined them: Mechanical, Massive, and Maverick.

Owning three different members of the M clan from three different periods, I thought a comparison would be interesting. What do the three have in common, how much do they differ, and which one – if that is at all a reasonable question to ask – is the best?

First, a quick reminder of what we're talking about here.

The oldest of the lot is the 1997 EX00 – really the earliest model among the EX## family of "first generation M-Force". This was also my first M-Force, bought in 2017. I first got it on a replacement strap (the one you'd see pictured in that old blog post); a few years though, I stumbled upon a seller offering an original bracelet, a very lucky coincidence as anyone trying to find a bracelet for an old watch would know.

The next one in the collection – though the more recent acquisition – is the 2014 model also known as the "Beast 2" or "Delta" version. The biggest of the lot, and with its red dial perhaps the boldest too.

The latest M-Force model, released in 2020 (with a number of variations on the same theme introduced later) has been with me for three years now. At first it did raise a few eyebrows with its bulky crown guard and the loss of the classic power reserve indicator, but it has since been accepted to the M-Force family.

Technically, an evolution is clear, mainly between the first gen and more recent iterations. The EX00 boasts the good old caliber 46G. It's a workhorse, but lacks hacking and manual winding. The Delta uses the 40N5A, while the 2020 model uses the more modern, but similarly specced, F6727 – both offering that coveted hand-winding/hacking feature set.

Model evolution also added more protection over the years. Newer models were designed with ISO standards in mind – for diving, shock resistance and magnetic resistance. The new watches sure feel more robust than the first generation.

So, considering the first "M" – "Mechanical" – newer probably is better. While basic reliability and tool-watch capabilities were built into the M-Force as early as the EX00, I'd definitely choose the newer models for when protection is needed. And the latest one, with its shrouded construction, sapphire crystal and big crown-guard, feels the most resilient of the lot.

"M" also stands for maverick design, which is Orient-speak for "quirky", and we all know how well Orient does quirky. In this sense, the first generation was perhaps the standout. With its unashamed two-tone case and bracelet, multicolor power-reserve gauge, elaborate hands, and wavy dial texture. It's as Orient as it gets.

The Delta and 2020 M-Force are definitely very bold, and have very recognizable designs – not looking like any run-of-the-mill dive watch. The Delta's appearance is, in my opinion, also very attractive. The 2020 models I wouldn't exactly call pretty – but perhaps they do embrace the "maverick" concept more strongly than the Delta.

While they each have something unique in their design, I still find the old EX00 to be the most special of the three, a true maverick.

How about comfort? Obviously, the EX00 is a featherweight compared to later models. It may have been considered relatively big back in the 1990s, emerging from an era of thin quartz watches. Nowadays, its 42mm titanium case seems weightless. It is as effortless a wearing experience as a sports watch can be.

The Delta and the 2020 models are beasts. The Delta is the biggest in all dimensions, and not surprisingly – also the heaviest. It is perfectly wearable (especially if some heft is your thing), but not a watch you'd call unnoticeable on the wrist. The 2020 is actually very reasonably sized for a tough dive watch, and particularly on the rubber band is quite comfortable.

So, how do I feel about each of these watches? Despite each having certain downsides, they are all very likeable.

The EX00 is a quirky, funky design. The Delta is big and bold, and makes you feel like Schwarzenegger for wearing it. The 2020 is the more sensible, tough yet comfortable, and still far from mainstream.

Looking back at my wearing habits of these three, I find that the Delta was often my go-to for a quick evening excursion, the EX00 was my preferred office wear, while the 2020 became a favorite companion for long journeys and hikes.

The M-Force family might not be as tightly defined a package as, say Bambino or Mako, so there are many differences between the various generations and versions, of which there are many more besides these three. But they do share a certain philosophy, which goes beyond the formal "Three M's" and I see it as "being unapologetically different".


Wednesday 14 February 2024

New Colors for Orient Models

As expected, Orient follows last week's announcement of new Orient Star watches with some new "Regular" Orient releases as well – although, these are all just new color versions of existing models. So, let's see what's new.

20th Anniversary Orient Mako

So, the 20th anniversary Mako won't be yellow after all… Orient decided to celebrate twenty years since the release of the first Mako diver differently.

The new reference RA-AA0822L (JDM ref. RA-AA0822L) features a gradient blue dial with a wave pattern, reminiscent of certain Seiko divers. The blue and black bezel is also black IP-plated, and the hands are gold-toned. The words "anniversary edition" are also printed on the dial, rather subtly in place of some of the minute markers near 4 o'clock.

Technically, the watch is identical to other current Mako references with the 41.8mm wide case. It will however cost some 20% more. Limited to 3,000 pieces (500 in Japan), it might be worth it if you're a Mako fan, like the color scheme, and love limited editions. Expected to be available in stores from April this year.


New Mako 40 References

The Mako 40 was previously only available in Japan in either black or white dial versions; and the global market's more lively colored variants were only available on leather straps. Now, Orient are introducing two color dial options, with steel bracelets, for the Japanese market.

Reference RN-AC0Q06V features a similar "lilac" (kind of soft, pink-purple shade) to last year's reference RA-AC0Q07V; The dial of ref. RN-AC0Q04L is referred to by Orient as "lavender", but it's actually lavender-blue, also known as periwinkle. It is a soft shade of violet-blue, and new to the collection.

Both new versions look really good against the steel case and bracelet, and both are limited to 200 pieces. Why has everything got to be limited nowadays, Orient? Anyway, these should be available to purchase early March.


Fresh Colors for the Contemporary Semi Skeleton

The Contemporary Semi-Skeleton collection might not be as popular as the Mako but it is definitely very uniquely Orient with its open-heart dial. While previously available references were fairly conservative, the new 2024 batch offers more vibrant colors.

·         Reference RA-AR0007S (JDM ref. RN-AR0007S) has a white dial, and gold colored case, bracelet, hands and hour markers.

·         RA-AR0008E (JDM RN-AR0008E) mixes a green dial and gold hands and markers.

·         RA-AR0009L (JDM RN-AR0009L) features a light blue dial.

·         RA-AR0010R (JDM RN-AR0010R) features a deep red dial.

These models, thankfully, are not limited. The all-gold version would cost around 380 USD; the other references would be close to 340 USD. All should be available to buy in March. 

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Orient Star Kick Off 2024 With New Watches

After a cold and uneventful January, Orient finally kicks off 2024 with a bunch of new Orient Star watches – including a brand new model, and a number of new versions of existing designs.

M34 F8 Date

An entirely new watch that joins the new "M Collection" is the F8 Date. This watch features a sharp case, a nicely (and trendy) textured yet fairly clean dial, and a modern movement from the brand's most recent crop – an impressive package, with a price to match.

The steel case is 40mm wide, 47.3mm lug to lug, and 12.9 thick, with a 20mm lug width. Surface finishing of both case and bracelet includes a mix of brushing and polishing, no doubt done to a very high standard like most high-end Orient Star watches. The crystal is sapphire, front and back.

The F8N64 movement provides 60 hours of power reserve, and an accuracy of +15/-5 seconds per day. These are not standout features in the $1000+ price range today, even in Swiss watches, but given the brand's reputation for long-term reliability and having their watches typically better regulated than the stated range, there's nothing to complain about here.

Orient is presenting two versions today:

·         Reference RK-BX0001S features a white dial, and comes bundled with a grey leather strap as well; it is, rather curiously, said to be limited to 200 pieces for the Chinese market. Its global market equivalent is RE-BX0002S, which is the same but ships without the leather strap, and is limited to 160 pieces. Both should be available in March.

·         Reference RK-BX0003L features a blue dial, and comes bundled with a black leather strap. The global market equivalent is RE-BX0004L. These would be unlimited production models, but would only be available in June – presumably, due to a more complex process developed by Orient to produce the special dial color.

Prices for the F8 Date are in the 2,400 USD range – a little less for the white version, a little more for the blue dial. Like many recent Orient Star releases we see prices go up step by step; hopefully this is supported by an equal increase in quality of movement, materials and finishing. Judging from pictures and specs, this might be true.


Modern Skeleton

Orient is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its familiar Modern Skeleton design, with a bunch of new versions.

·         Reference RE-AV0123G features an ivory dial with a rose gold colored bezel and crown.

·         Reference RE-AV0124G (JDM ref. RK-AV0124G) features a champagne dial with a yellow gold colored bezel and crown.

·         Reference RE-AV0125S (JDM ref. RK-AV0125S) features a silver dial.

·         Reference RE-AV0126B (JDM ref. RK-AV0126B) is all black plated: dial, bezel, case and bracelet. It is limited to 340 pieces in Japan and 260 overseas.

Other than colors, these all feature the same Modern Skeleton specs: F6F44 movement offering 50 hours power reserve and +25/-15 seconds per day accuracy, in a case that's 41mm wide, 49mm long and 12mm wide. They are priced in the 750-800 USD range.


M45 F7 Moon Phase

Finally, Orient also added a new version to its M45 F7 moon phase line-up. The new watch features the M45's non-skeletonized design, this time with a dark grey gradation dial set inside a black-plated case.

The three references presented are essentially the same watch: RK-AY0122N will sell at Orient's online store, with a black crocodile leather strap; RK-AY0123N will sell at Orient's prestige shops, with both the black croco and an additional cordovan strap. Global market reference RE-AY0124N will be sold with just the cordovan leather strap. These references would be limited to 60, 140, and 120 pieces, respectively.

The M45 F7 Moon Phase case is 41mm wide and 49mm long, with a 13.8mm thickness and lug width of 20mm. Prices are in the 2,300 USD range, at the current JPY to USD exchange rate.