Orient Place

Orient Place

Thursday 27 June 2024

Orient's Complicated Dials

What does a watch brand do if it wishes to present to compete with higher-end watchmakers but it does not have the capacity to produce high-complication movements? What can it do to attract the more sophisticated buyers, who are looking for elaborate designs?

One way to go is, make the watches look more complicated than they actually are – and where a watch is made that does contain some level of fancy technical intricacy, emphasize it as much as possible. And this, Orient always knew how to do.

First of all, let me return to my thesis, which I first mentioned when discussing multi-year calendars, which date back to the 1960s. Back then, decades before the arrival of the smartphone, the wristwatch was the most advanced (and often, the only) piece of technology a person would carry around. The watch was not only functional as a time-telling device, it was the only item one could show off anywhere or fiddle with at times of boredom. Making it complicated, then, made sense.

Indeed, the multi-year calendar presented Orient's busiest-looking dial at the time. Showing a full month calendar, a year disc, the date, and, of course, time, owners had plenty to keep them interested.

Another great way to add interest (and visual heft) to a watch dial, is a World Time complication. A world timer bezel, with names of cities from all time zones, can become a pretty dominant part of a dial – particularly when coupled with a 24-hour track, as is not always – but often – the case.

Since the early 2000s, Orient also often included numerous sub-dials with its world time / GMT models – e.g. for the date, seconds, and power reserve – adding to the impression of a very sophisticated product.

Speaking of sub-dials, that is also a proven method of complicating things, in a good way. Add a small-seconds sub dial (instead of a central second hand), a power reserve etc., and you got yourself a smart-looking dial. Even if the sub-dials don't really add much information, they give the impression that they do.

And indeed, even the humble Bambino can benefit from an upgrade to its plain dial! Or does it?... many would prefer the basic, yet elegant, dress-watch design.

And then, of course, is the skeleton – particularly the semi-skeleton approach, which Orient so often uses. In its simplest, "open heart" form, it adds a bit of technical flair to otherwise standard dial layouts; but other times, it can be turned into a much more elaborate element and become the focus of the watch design.

Orient has indeed often did just that: while relatively limited in its ability to produce highly complicated movements, the brand's designers often excelled in delivering very imaginative expressions of time-telling, in watches like its "retro-future" series, or more recently the avant-garde skeletons.

Luckily, I'm fond of the Orient design philosophy. While I have much appreciation to a well-executed time-only dress watch, I find a busy watch dial to be entertaining – and when properly done, also very aesthetic.

And how about you…?

The pictures of the Avant-Garde skeletons and Bambino variants that appear in this post were taken from Orient catalogs. Other pictures that appear in this post are copyright of the blog. 

Sunday 9 June 2024

Traveling With… An Orient

We often talk about watches being rugged and capable of surviving the rough outdoors, beyond the office doors and the neon lights under which they look so nice and clean. In my reviews, too, I often take note of features such as water and shock resistance, as well as suitable appearances (I think a little gold dress watch would look very much out of place, getting beaten up and soaked in some river, even if technically it would not be damaged).

To make this a little less theoretical, today's blog post is about my experiences with Orients in the wild. Once again, it's the M-Force models that take up center stage, but whereas my recent post about them was a bit academic, this time, we'll be taking a deep dive into the real world.

The first Orient to accompany me on my journeys was the EX00. I was about to go on a two-week trip in the Pacific Northwest and was looking for a watch that would be sporty, tough, yet comfortable. An ad by a familiar seller caught my eye. This first-generation M-Force, with its titanium lightweight case, seemed right for the job.

And it was! The EX00 was almost 20 years old at the time, which is not old at all for this type of watch. The convenience of titanium made it a perfect companion for this relatively long journey. And while the region – particularly in the mountains – generally has a cool climate, it was still summer (Seattle in particular was scorching on the day I visited there!) so the cool feel of this metal was also appreciated.

In the pictures above, by the way, are Mount Rainier and Smith Rock State Park. These are just two of many spots making the PNW trip memorable.

Jumping a few years forward, when planning a trip to Iceland in 2021 I already had bought the then-new 3rd generation M-Force, and had gotten used to (and even grown fond of) its bulky crown guard. Being perfectly comfortable on the rubber band and seemingly more robust than the old 1st generation model, I chose it as my wrist partner for the trip.

To be honest, by that time I was already thinking of the older M-Force as "vintage". With its non-sapphire crystal (and particularly the easy-to-scratch cyclops), I wanted to keep it safe. I was planning some hikes in Iceland, and not knowing exactly what to expect on the remote island, going for sapphire and a newer case construction seemed to make sense.

Plus, to be honest, despite getting used to its design – I still felt I'd rather get the newer watch scratched than the old one (or any of my other dive/tool watches)…

The pictures above are of Vestdalsfossar waterfall and Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. It is honestly impossible to pick photos from a trip around Iceland. The picture with the watch, of course, was taken at the famous Reynisfjara beach.               

The newer M-Force was also my watch of choice for a shorter trip to Spain. More driving was planned than hiking this time; however, I always find the time for a short (or not so short) walk in the outdoors, so a watch that's ready for anything that might come its way is always a good thing.

The photo shows the lovely view of Málaga as seen from the Mirador de Pocopán. It is an easy 5 km hike with a surprisingly steep and slippery slope to the viewpoint…

Meanwhile, the 2nd generation "Beast" arrived. Possibly the toughest and boldest of the lot, this one also has two critical features: it's the heaviest of the lot, and – my favorite, design-wise. The combination of heft and not wanting to get it scratched or banged, means I don't usually take it on long journeys.

I do still take it, occasionally, on short trips close to home…

For the next trips, I went back to the 3rd gen M-Force. In Norway, this choice made sense. I arrived in October, intentionally aiming for the end of the tourist season. The timing earned me beautiful views of trees in fall, and much less crowded viewpoints over the fjords.

It's a risky affair, of course, as I did had to cancel one planned trip due to road closure (granting me instead a trip through the 25 km of the longest road tunnel in the world, Lærdalstunnelen, also a kind of experience). And I did find myself on a road that began to freeze with snow, forcing me to stop and wait for a little sunshine.

This also became my rainiest trip – though I was preparing for it. As I drove further away from Bergen, things got better, but I still found myself on some very slippery trails – one of which I just had to abort two-thirds of the way to the top, as things got too muddy. That was definitely a time when having a waterproof watch with decent case protection proved to be effective, as on some parts of the path I had to use my hands to climb safely.

Pictured below, a small stream just off the amazingly scenic road to Geiranger, and a place near Fjærlandsfjorden where I'd honestly be happy to retire to, one day... I must admit that among all the beautiful countries I have visited, I found Norway to be the true beauty queen.

A good place to wrap up this story would be the Faroe Islands. Going to this usually cloudy, often foggy location, with plenty of hikes and the memory of skiddy Norwegian paths in mind, I again went for the newer M-Force, now becoming sort of a habit – my go-to watch for remote trips.

The islands proved to be less rainy than I feared; indeed, I arrived in late May (yes, just a couple of weeks ago) relying on statistics showing this was actually the least rainy time of year, despite July – September being warmer. I really don't mind the cold.

Throughout the week I spent on these beautiful, calm – almost dreamy – islands, I encountered one really rainy day, five days that were cloudy but mostly dry during the day, and surprisingly – one day of sunshine and blue sky. As you can see above, in these two pictures taken near Norðradalur. 

Wednesday 5 June 2024

38 mm Small Seconds Bambino, Now in Japan

A couple of months ago we reported the announcement of Orient's new small-seconds Bambino in the smaller 38mm case. It was one of those rare occasions where a new model is presented as a world-wide release before it is announced in Japan.

Now finally, we're getting the Japan versions release, and as often is the case – with a few differences in the range of variations.

First off, three identical models are:

·         RN-AP0101B (same as RA-AP0101B) with a black and silver "tuxedo" dial and black leather strap;

·         RN-AP0104S (same as RA-AP0104S) with an all-silver dial and black strap;

·         RN-AP0105Y (same as RA-AP0105Y) with an ivory dial, and a brown leather strap.

The gold plated model (RA-AP0106S) was dropped from this release.

Perhaps more interesting are the two new models, and – anyone following Orient's announcements closely could have guessed that if the first batch had a gap in a reference numbers, it would be filled on the next batch. And indeed, it is:

·         RN-AP0102E with a dark green dial and gold-toned markers, on a brown leather strap;

·         RN-AP0103L with a light greyish-blue dial and black strap.

The new green and blue models are not limited in numbers, but are exclusive to Orient's online store. Other than that, all models are technically identical to the global versions.

Now that all models are on the Orient Japan website, we can compare prices too – and see that these small-second models are officially about 5% higher than the regular (center seconds) Bambino.