Orient Place

Orient Place

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.


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