Orient Place

Orient Place

Sunday 26 May 2024

Cyclopes, and Where to Find Them

The "cyclops" is a magnifying lens, typically placed over the date window of a watch, intended to make the date more legible. The concept was invented by Rolex and was used for the first time with the 1953 Datejust. In the years that followed it was gradually adopted by other brands.

Orient started using cyclopes (which is the proper plural form of cyclops) in 1961, which makes sense as that is when the brand's first watches that featured a date wheel were introduced.

The first two models equipped with a cyclops where the "Lucky Calendar", and the Grand Prix Calendar. Later, in 1963, Orient also added a cyclops to some of its Olympia Orient Weekly models.

Over the years, Orient would occasionally add cyclops to certain models. While the brand never seemed to maintain a consistent, long-term approach to the use of this contraption, it did implement it regularly throughout the production of its "Rolex President" homages, both the day-date and the datejust variants. That too makes sense, considering these watches were the origin of the cyclops.

On a few rare occasions, Orient even placed a cyclops over both the date and the day, in cases where the two shared an aperture, or were placed adjacently. Such were the Orient Fineness, as well as certain models of the Chronoace, including a few "College" and "Racer" versions. A few of the 1970s

Note that the vast majority of Chronoace watches did not feature a cyclops, so a flat crystal is what you're likely to find when shopping for these.

A few "AAA" King Divers also featured the combined day and date magnification. You can see a few examples here.

Here are a few examples of how effective the magnification is; as you can see in the close-up photos of the Fineness above, and the Weekly Auto Orient AAA and M-Force below.

Note that only the early 1997-8 M-Force models featured a cyclops; later models did not. Keep in mind the first generation of this watch did not use sapphire crystal, and the lens protruding from the mineral glass was prone to scratches, particularly with a watch that's intended for rough use. So perhaps that's why Orient dropped the cyclops.

On one particular occasion, Orient started making a line of watches with the Cyclops, and then – removed it… this was the 2010 "Star Seeker" GMT line.

The first references of this model (WZ0011DJ, WZ0021DJ, WZ0031DJ) were introduced with a cyclops; after one year of production, Orient replaced them with new references (WZ0041DJ and WZ0051DJ) that did not feature a cyclops. Both early and later versions had a sapphire crystal. Why did Orient do that? Was it to simplify production? Was it a design decision? Who knows.

However, the change definitely helps to observe just how effective the magnification is. See how much clearer the date appears in the earlier model (on the right-hand side of the image).

These are, of course, just a few examples. You will be able to find other Orients equipped with a date magnifier, particularly among older watches.

But, despite the usefulness of the cyclops, especially in watches intended for older customers (such as the president homages were, indeed), Orient's current line up does not include a single watch featuring this lens.

Personally, I would have loved to see a cyclops on the 38mm Bambino, for instance, or the Orient Star Classic. What do you think?


The picture of the M-Force, AAA, and Fineness that appear in this post are copyright of the blog. Other pictures that appear in this post were taken from various Orient catalogs and sale ads. 

Sunday 5 May 2024

Orients with Stone Cases

If you go looking for vintage Orients, particularly Chronoace models, you would occasionally come across unique pieces where the case appears to be made of stone or marble. What are these? And why would anyone manufacture a watch case out of stone?

First of all, a stone case actually has its advantages. An obvious one would be aesthetics. Check out the pictures, and you'll see some of these are truly beautiful. Stone (or marble, or other similar materials) has a very different appearance from metal, of course. You get different textures and colors, and these provide a perfect match to some Chronoace versions like the Mexican and Jaguar Focus dials.

Some of these watches likely made use of reconstituted rock, where the raw material is ground to fine grains and then glued back together using resin. This allows for the addition of colors and a more consistent look, while still maintaining much of the character of stone.

Stone is generally also lighter than steel, though not by much. If you examine how these cases are constructed, you'll see the back of the case is made of steel – only the top material is different. Of course the movement itself also stays the same. So the difference in weight here is probably quite negligible.

While some stones are softer than steel, using marble or reconstituted stone can actually provide better scratch resistance. And where a more natural finish is left, the stone would also camouflage any scratches more effectively.

There are more reasons for not producing watch cases out of stone. The material itself is less durable and more fragile than steel. And then the manufacturing process isn’t just more expensive than working with metal, it is also quite different. A production line that is built around casting and finishing steel isn’t easily transformed into working with rocks.

Now, these kinds of watches were clearly not made in large quantities, and very likely not even produced in Orient’s main manufacturing facilities. It is not clear whether they were marketed as original Orients at all, or whether they were some kind of an aftermarket product.

I could find any original Orient catalogs featuring stone-case Chronoaces. I did, however, note such watches that were sold as new, i.e., these weren’t mods added on top of a used watch. Therefore, the rocky Chronoace watches were either some special editions by Orient, or custom made by Orient dealers or local Jewelers.

So, while verifying the authenticity of such items nowadays is hard, I can say that at least most of the ones that I saw that had the specialty Chronoace dials (again, Mexican, Focus etc.) seem to have all the right parts – case backs, movement, dial etc. Others, particularly ones where the dial is not a typical Chronoace one, would warrant caution.


The pictures that appear in this post were taken from various sale ads.