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When talking about the Japanese watch brands, the two names almost entirely taking the center of attention are Seiko and Citizen. It is for a good reason too, since the achievements in horology and the level of quality are world-class.
However, the Japanese watch industry is a whole lot more than just the two brands.
Orient, for instance, has produced numerous models that can bravely stand the comparisons with the greatest names in the industry. Moreover, considering the prices of Orient watches, they’re often deemed one the best in price-quality ratio.
With this Orient watches review, we aim to explain the background of the success by digging into the cores of the brand. We also shed light on the exemplary Orient timepieces with an impeccable reputation. And while you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll know whether to consider the brand’s watches upon your next watch purchase or not.
Although the Orient Watch Company has the founding year of 1950, its roots date back to 1901 when Shogoro Yoshida, the company’s founder, started to sell imported pocket watches.
It didn’t take long for the company to move from importing the products to actually manufacturing them under the name of Toyo Tokei Manufacturing. It produced the first watch in 1934, which laid solid groundworks for the brand’s success for the following decade.
The economic downturn caused by the aftermath of World War II hindered the company’s hopes for survival, which eventually resulted in shutting down the manufacture in 1949.
Orient was basically reborn from the ashes when the production continued in the same factory in 1950 but under the new establishment. The breakthrough was instant with the introduction of the Orient Star watch that caught the attention in both Japan and overseas.
The Quartz Revolution in the 1970s was pivotal for Orient – when Seiko and Citizen promptly switched from mechanical watches to mass-produced quartz pieces, while enjoying rapid success, then Orient decided to follow the old path of manufacturing mechanical watches.
Despite its questionability, the decision resulted in improved quality levels and better know-how in dealing with the movement. To this day, Orient is best known precisely by the mechanical calibers that boast outstanding reliability and precision. It’s automatic wathes are regarded among the best in their immediate price categories.
Today, Orient is owned by Seiko Epson, one of three core companies of the Seiko Group.
Where Are Orient Watches Made?
One of the main factors contributing to Orient’s highly appreciated reputation is how it produces mechanical movements.
The company doesn’t outsource the job to low-cost countries, nor does it equip the watches with movements from other producers, but manufactures them entirely in-house.
In fact, Orient is one of the few companies in the world that does that.
The independence from the movement producers has helped cut the costs, which eventually has helped Orient market some of its automatic watches for as little as $100.
However, the story is a bit different when it comes to the whole watch production, and not only the movement manufacturing.
When the higher-end models, such as Orient Star watches, are entirely made in Japan, the others are most probably assembled elsewhere. Hong Kong is thought to be the primary location. Since the information on the places of production is limited, the question recedes to pure assumptions only.
Another question, though, is the importance of that exact location. When even the Swiss luxury brands source parts of their watches from Asia, or Apple assembling its iPhones in China, does it really matter where a particular Orient watch is made?
As long as the watches that Orient produces are durable and good-looking, the buyers should rest assured that no matter the place of production, the Japanese know-how is deeply rooted within the timepieces.
Watch Calibers & Overall Quality
As noted, the prime selling argument for Orient is their in-house mechanical movement that is both extremely accurate and long-lasting.
The watches are equipped with fully automatic, automatic with winding capability, fully hand-winding, or hacking-enabled calibers. All the watches are guaranteed with a 40+ hour power reserve, meaning that you don’t have to worry about the tickers stopping overnight when worn daily.
The most popular Orient mechanical caliber is the F6922 you’ll come across in the majority of wristwear, including Mako II and Ray II watches.
Orient’s quartz watches, however, consist mainly of Seiko-produced movements. As we know, Seiko is the pioneer of quartz technology, which already tells us about the reliability you can expect from a timepiece carrying that movement.
Although the number of Orient quartz pieces is small compared to the mechanical ones, you can still find some highly appreciated models.
The overall quality of Orient watches is more than one would expect from a brand that markets most of their watches for around $200.
The watch cases are of durable and anti-corrosive stainless steel, while the bands come in either metal, leather, or rubber. Orient’s dive pieces feature sufficient water resistance to specific depths, a screw-down crown, and caseback.
The dials of more affordable watches are covered with a mineral crystal, whereas the pricier models feature the most appreciated crystal in wristwear, a sapphire.
The Looks & Styles
The design of Orient is quite distinguishable. The majority of models have Roman numerals or indices, while numerics are not that widespread. One of the brand’s trademarks is the shaded dark blue/black/white dial accompanied by italic writing, stating either the movement type or water resistance.
When discussing Orient’s various styles, we can distinguish between two major lines – diver and dress.
Orient has a vast selection of dive watches that are highly appreciated in the dive community. What makes them unique is their suitability for diverse occasions – modest dials, sleek design, and decent case sizes ensure that an Orient piece does just fine, whatever the event.
Their dress watches, on the other hand, beam the utmost class. Elegant yet simple faces are often coupled with open-heart designs, textured backgrounds, and Sun & Moon indicators, making the Orient dress watches way more luxurious than the prices would suggest.
Besides the two, you’ll also find some chronograph-featured sports watches. However, the selection for this type is somewhat limited.
How Much Do Orient Watches Cost?
A typical Orient watch costs between $100-$300. Considering that it comes with an automatic mechanical movement, the price is simply stunning.
As a matter of fact, Orient is the most affordable provider of quality automatic watches in the world, even elapsing its close partner and competitor, Seiko.
Orient Star, the premium collection of the brand manufactured entirely in Japan, is also considerably cheaper than some might think. The lower-end Star models equipped with sapphire crystals and mechanical movements start from $500, while the highly complicated mechanical moon phase skeleton pieces cost well over the $3,000 line.
How Does Orient Compare to Other Brands?
Orient may be relatively unknown to many since it doesn’t possess the popularity many other well-known watch brands have. Thus, some comparison is required to understand better the position Orient holds in the industry.
First off, comparisons to fashion brands, such as Invicta, Stuhrling, or Vincero are ill-placed due to the much more proven quality Orient holds.
The closest brand to Orient in terms of quality and looks is Seiko, albeit their difference in popularity. Some of the most affordable dive watches from both brands fall to the same price range. While some prefer Seiko, the others appreciate more the work of the Orient brand.
When Seiko and Citizen often find themselves in comparison, which is mainly due to both companies’ illustrious heritage and similar technologies, then Orient is rarely compared to the latter. If, then only in the dive watches category, where they both hold a highly regarded reputation.
Premium and luxury brands are obviously better for featuring more expensive and durable materials. The only exception is the Orient Star collection that boasts equal quality standards to the likes of Tag Heuer and Longines.
Thus, Orient finds itself well above the fashion brands, in the same category as Seiko and Citizen but is far from the standards to be called premium or luxury. The company’s goal is to provide quality watches at accessible rates, which they’ve achieved entirely.
So, Are Orient Watches Good?
When a watch manufacturer decides to describe its products with adjectives like “quality” and “reliable,” the wider public is the one confirming them. While many of them fail to live up to such terms, Orient exceeds them by not a small margin, but with several ones – all confirmed by the people who wear these watches.
The company’s quality levels are on par with the likes of Seiko and Citizen. Although Orient may not possess the popularity and subtle technologies of these two, the brand compensates it with lower prices and steadfast credibility. Naturally, it is among the top affordable watch brands a man can buy.
Following, we’ll cover the four most famous and sought-after models from various collections: Orient Mako, Orient Ray, Orient Bambino, and Orient Star.
Orient Mako II
Orient’s dive watches are one of the best from the Japanese manufacturer as we’ve repeatedly stressed. The main contributor to the success has been the legendary Orient Mako model.
The name Mako hasn’t been implemented by the brand but was given by the community who thought the dolphin figure on the first versions of the watch straps reminded the shortfin mako shark.
The watches belong to the best affordable mechanical dive watches for a good reason. First of all, they’re incredibly durable to stand severe conditions underwater. Secondly, they cost a fraction compared to many other highly recognized dive wristwear. And lastly, they possess a versatile design that fits basically any attire.
The Orient Mako II is the perfect example. The most recent version of that Orient features a trademark shaded blue dial and comes water-resistant up to 200m (660ft).
Hidden inside the 41mm stainless steel case is the highly appreciated F6922 hand-winding and hacking automatic caliber with a 40+ hour power reserve. And since it’s meant for serious water activities, it has a 120-click unidirectional bezel and a screw-down crown.
There’s another version of the Mako available that has been enhanced in cooperation with Reddit’s audience. Following the suggestions, the Orient Mako USA II has a larger case size (45mm), is covered with premium sapphire crystal instead of mineral, and comes with solid-end links.
Orient Ray II
Another diving watch that has received all but positive feedback from the community is the Orient Ray II.
What is different from a regular Orient Ray is the much better F6922 mechanical movement that features hand-winding and hacking possibilities, which was missing in the older version.
For a quick explanation of these two features – hand-winding possibility lets you wind the watch without continually wearing it, and hacking provides the opportunity to correct the time on a charged and running automatic piece.
The Ray II is often called the New Mako for being the more recent model. The specs are also very similar for the two, as are the prices.
But what separates them though is the looks – the Ray II has circular markers, bigger bezel font, clearer luminosity, and a slightly more ornamented bracelet.
Orient Bambino models are among the best entry-level mechanical dress watches on the market. They’re elegant with a clean aesthetic and are sure to receive compliments for their classy appeal.
Orient has several Bambino versions available, from Version 1 up to Version 5, and also including Open-Heart models.
While the last one gives a hint about its dial appearance, the other versions look quite similar, except for the differences in hour markers, where indices alternate with Roman numerals.
The last version, the Orient Bambino Version 5, however, surprises with Arabic indices and a vintage font (the other style of that iteration has bar indices). There’s also the coveted hand-winding and hacking automatic movement that holds a standard 40+ hours of power reserve and keeps precise time.
One of the features prevalent in all the Bambinos, including Version 5, is the domed mineral crystal that adds uniqueness and increases protection from shatters.
Undoubtedly, the most prestigious line of wristwear of Orient is the Star collection. It’s also the line that made Orient famous after its rebirth in the 1950s. But what’s special about the watches, then?
For many, the prime reason for going for the watches is that they’re entirely made in Japan by specialist craftsmen. People who appreciate the Japanese watchmaking virtuosity take this factor very seriously.
But that is not the onliest reason.
The Orient Star watches also come in various elegant styles, for instance, skeleton and retrograde dials.
They also feature power reserve indicators and GMT windows. And above all, the watches look expensive, although the prices often don’t reflect that.
When the most expensive models with a mechanical moon phase caliber cost above $3,000, then the least expensive ones sell below the $1,000 line.
One of the most affordable ones is the Orient Star RE-AU0004B00B automatic watch with sapphire crystal, transparent caseback, and 100m (330ft) water resistance. The most appreciated function, the power reserve indicator, is visible at 12 o’clock.
With this feature, you know exactly when the watch needs its spring to be wound, either automatically or manually via the crown. The extended reserve up to 50 hours is also something you won’t find from regular Orient pieces.
The refined appeal goes superbly with various attires and occasions, whether it be an important business meeting or a family vacation by the ocean.
One of the main reasons for Orient’s success can be credited to the dedication to provide affordable yet highly reliable mechanical movements. They didn’t go along with the Quartz Revolution in the 1970s but instead decided to improve the very movement that brought us the timekeeping in the first place. That bold step resulted in the most appreciated models on the market, whether it be a luxurious Orient Star or a professional Orient Mako dive watch.
We hope this Orient watches review has given you confidence that its timepieces are as good as they’re described, and the Japanese watch industry is a whole lot more than just Seiko and Citizen.
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