Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 18 April 2024

Orient Place Blog's 6th Anniversary

So, we pulled through and made it to another anniversary – the blog's sixth! And as I like to do on this annual event, it's high time for some stats and thoughts.

Let's start with the stats, shall we?

The blog website itself, has had more than 182,000 views in the past twelve months – an increase of about 29%, almost twice last year's growth in percents (and much more, in absolute numbers)! Pretty impressive, isn't it. Looks like people's interest in Orient is still growing – or that more of them have discovered this blog. Or both.

Thirty two (32) stories were posted on the blog during this time, about the same volume as in previous years. This includes five reviews of new or older modern models, a couple of vintage model reviews, three articles related to Orient's old calibers, nine new watch announcements (most covering more than a single new model), and the rest discussing various other topics.

The most popular stories during this time were our coverage of the release of New Diver and Classic Models From Orient (basically Mako versions and Bambino with sub-dials), Orient Mako 40mm Hands-On Review, and Orient's June Releases: New Bambino V4 and Divers (that also covered the release of the Mako 40).

Together with Comparing the Mako 40 to Citizen's Promaster, articles about the 40mm Mako received more than 9,000 views from direct links – that is, excluding viewers who read those stories when they were fresh at the top of the blog page – definitely making this watch the most interesting new release of the past year. This is despite the odd issue with the minute markers in the early production batches, which has since been fixed.

In Social media, too, the Mako 40 seemed to get most of the attention. The top two most liked photos posted on my Instagram account (which is largely, but not solely, blog-related) were of this piece.

The other three, which completed the top five popular IG posts, actually had little in common. They showed a bunch of Orients against a Rolex catalog, the lovely Orient Star ref. WZ0221ER, and an AI-generated mock-up of some souped-up watches.

Now, some may say that if a fairly conventionally designed diver is the most exciting thing that came from Orient during the last 12 months, they'd be disappointed. I mean, obviously we've seen really lovely new models announced, but they are all at the highest price point of the brand, well above what 99% of Orient customers are looking for.

To be fair, I think most of what fans of the brand would put on their wish list would be high-end too – whether it's a new saturation diver, a new GMT, or anything more innovative than what the basic F6 movements currently provide. Plus, it seems that with its recent enhancement of the range of smaller models (not just the Mako but also Bambino variations), Orient was really listening to its customers.

If we look at last week's Watches & Wonders event in Switzerland, we'd see that this was actually the same trend for almost all other brands – Swiss and others: very few novelties in the accessible range, with innovation mostly focused on the very high end of each brand.

So, no reason to be disappointed really. Let's just hope the brand keeps its VFM and ensures quality is in line with the recent price updates (in truth, I've seen some watch brands do the exact opposite), and maybe come next year's anniversary, there will be more cool stuff to look back on!

Until then, thanks again to all blog followers, here and on the various social media channels, keep following, commenting, and providing feedback!


Sunday 7 April 2024

Orient's "Alpinist"

In 2007, Orient presented a curious model of Orient Star Sports. It looked like a GMT, but it was not. What was it then? Let's dive in and find out.

The most obvious influence that likely pushed forward this design, was the introduction of Seiko's SARB series Alpinist the year before – a watch that became an instant classic (while actually duplicating the brand's own decade-old SCVF series, or "red" Alpinist).

The Alpinist featured an internal compass bezel, rotated using the crown at 4 o'clock – that actually looked more prominent than the main crown, as it was not hiding between crown guards.

Orient's design, albeit quite different and as far away from a copy as possible, takes two key elements from the Seiko: the internal compass bezel, and the crown at four. Hereafter begin the differences.

The model had four versions, which were references WZ0071FE, WZ0081FE, WZ0091FE and – the one I am looking at now for the writing of this review: WZ0101FE. The four differed in their dial color, and in that all but the WZ0101FE came bundled with a steel bracelet, whereas the latter was sold with a leather strap.

Now, I don't usually read a watch's instructions manual unless it is particularly complicated. So when I got this watch I immediately wanted to pull out the crown and set it… so the first surprise was that it's a screw-in crown. Why was that a surprise, I don't know, it just didn't strike me as one; at the time most of Orient's crowns were just pull-out, except for the more expensive models – which this wasn't.

The second surprise was when I tried to rotate the bezel. No crown position or winding direction seemed to do that, so went online to read about the model and found out that indeed the bezel is fixed!

When you think about it, this actually makes sense. Why would you rotate a compass bezel? The angle of the North has nothing to do with the time or the dial. You can just move entire the watch around (never mind that the whole thing is just decorative and carrying an actual compass when you're out and about would probably be a lot more helpful).

But then you think some more and once again, the logic is gone. Because this watch uses Orient's caliber 46P, which drives a 24-hour hand, and was used in some of the brand's earlier GMT watches. And indeed this watch features the 24 hour hand – and its internal bezel, besides the directions of the compass, also shows the 24 hours of the day! This thing really ought to be moving! But it does not.

So I believe we have established that from a functional point of view, this watch is rather silly. I mean, not completely – it does show the time, it is rated to a reasonable 100m of water resistance and it has a front sapphire crystal. But still, there's plenty of silliness to it.

Other than that it is a very nice piece. A 39mm wide barrel case which is practically lugless makes a very wearable watch that would fit most small-to-slightly-larger-than-average wrists. The lug width is 20mm, so changing straps is easy and you can even fit a standard steel bracelet without having to find a suitable end-link.

The dial looks good, and in fact – if you ignore the functional drawbacks, the entire watch is properly handsome. The black and red combo on this reference is sporty and sharp; other variants are a little different, with the white dial version a bit more elegant and the red – maybe more "interesting".

The dial colors are also nicely contrasting, making the watch very legible. The hands and markers have a decent lume too. It's a comfortable watch, then, sufficiently durable and useful. So maybe we were a bit quick to judge its functionality harshly.

As an Orient Star, it is also well made – although the finishing perhaps is not as impressive as most current OS production. The case has radial brushing on top and polished sides, and the overall curvature of it makes it look a little more upscale than it actually is.

The bottom line is this: it is a fine little watch. It looks good and is kind of special. If only that bezel would rotate it would be so much nicer… but still, it is what it is.


Thursday 4 April 2024

Orient Introduces a Smaller Small-Seconds Bambino

A little bit of a surprise today from Orient that almost went unnoticed: the brand introduces a new Bambino model, or "Classic and Simple" as they like to call it, with small seconds and a 38mm case.

Now, we've had a small seconds Bambino before, and 38mm models as well; but this is the first time the two features are combined in one watch. And the result is quite lovely, in my opinion.

Four references were presented with the announcement:

·         RA-AP0101B is perhaps the most unusual of the lot, with a black and silver "tuxedo" dial and black leather strap;

·         RA-AP0104S has an all-silver dial and black strap;

·         RA-AP0105Y has an ivory dial, and a brown leather strap;

·         RA-AP0106S has a silver dial with gold-color plated case and hands, and a brown strap.

I was honestly worried that the lovely tux version would turn out to be limited edition or something, but happily all versions would be globally available with no limitations.

All models are equipped with Orient's caliber F6222. A simple automatic movement but a reliable one, that holds a 40 hour power reserve and offer a +25/-15 seconds per day accuracy, hand-winding, and second-hand hacking.

The case is 38.4mm wide (without the crown), 44mm long, and 12mm thick (or thin). It's actual half a millimeter thinner than the standard 38mm Bambino, but still shares the same dial shape and curved mineral crystal.

The watch is resistant to 30m, and has a 20mm lug width. Not sporty then, but a perfectly sized dress watch. And the small seconds do add a bit of interest to the dial, so I like it. Particularly that tux dial, in case that was not already clear…