Orient watches are pretty synonymous with affordable mechanicals. In their ever-changing line up, not only are there the typical three hand models, but also models with power reserves, GMT and calendar complications, almost all of which cost under $1,000 dollars. These aren’t budget watches, they are watches designed to be affordable and high quality, which is an important distinction. And just to confirm that, not only are these watches Japanese made, they exclusively feature in-house calibers. I actually reviewed an Orient watch before, the Masquerade, right when we started w&w. That watch, which I still wear, was one of the first pieces to open my eyes to affordable mechanical watches. Now, after seeing and handling a multitude of watches, I am extremely pleased to return to the brand with one of the most exciting affordable mechanical watches on the market, the Orient Bambino ER24004B.
There’s a lot to talk about on the Orient Bambino, as almost every component is unique and finessed to create a seamless retro aesthetic. From the case to the crystal to the dial, no component feels stock or contrived. And powering the watch is genuine in-house caliber automatic movement. Abstractly, thinking about tooling and manufacturing costs, one would expect a watch like this to cost a pretty penny. Well, it’s only $260 MSRP, but as anyone who has ever bought an Orient knows, there are always discount codes available for 30%, which brings the price to $182. As I go through the watch in the review, I think it will quickly become evident that the Bambino is a much more substantial watch than the price suggests. And frankly, it looks so good, no one will believe you paid that anyway.
Case: Stainless Steel
Movement: Orient Cal 48743
Dial: Black w/ Steel Markers
Lume: No Lume
Lens: Domed Mineral Crystal
Strap: Black Leather
Water Res.: 30m
Dimensions: 40.5 x 46 mm
Thickness: 12 mm
Lug Width: 21 mm
Crown: 3 x 5.5 mm push/pull
Warranty: 1 year
Case and Crystal
To be honest, when I first took the watch out of the box, it wasn’t the dial that struck me; it was the case and crystal. The case and crystal combined measure 40.5 diameter x 46 lug to lug x 12mm thick. All in all, not too uncommon for contemporary watch, but the dimensions of the components themselves are quite different. The body of the stainless steel case measures about 4mm thick, making it very thin. The case back, which has a sort of truncated cone shape, then adds another 4mm, but it quickly recedes from site given its shape. The remainder is all dome. While the proportions are 1:1 for the various parts (this is all by our measure and not 100% exact), the appearance is that it is all crystal. Now, I’m a sucker for domed crystals, which is why I often am enthused to find acrylic in use, so this watch really does it for me. The crystal measures 37mm wide, which when added to the 4mm height makes for one expansive dome. The fact that it’s mineral crystal, so those inevitable door way dings wont scuff it, makes this one of the most impressive crystals I’ve come across…and it’s on a watch that will likely cost you less than $200.
The shape of the case is classic, with a cylinder shape, flat sides and relatively short lugs that taper towards the case. The case is capped with a thin, slightly beveled bezel that leads to the domed crystal. Though it’s thin, it is proportioned well to the case and dial, creating a needed border to the crystal. The metal is polished on the top surfaces of the watch and lightly brushed on the sides, which is a drop of nice detailing that also serves to break up the sheen of the watch, adding some dimension and texture. The crown, which is positioned at 3 is fairly small, but graspable. It has the Orient logo, lions on either side of a shield, etched into the flat polished front surface. It is always a plus to see a signed crown, especially on such an inexpensive watch. The screw down case back is all polished steel with an etching on the flat area in the center. When the watch arrives, new, it should have a little holographic sticker over this area indicating the model number of the watch.
The execution of the case and crystal really belie the price tag of this watch. The machining is excellent, the finishing is excellent and the aesthetic is well achieved. If it weren’t for the relatively large size of 40.5 mm, you might think this was a 50-year-old watch. Every edge is crisp and the tolerances between the case back and case, bezel and crystal are all high. The only marginal grievance I could make, and this is just for the sake of being fussy, is that the case back was put on in such a way that the text doesn’t run left to right when I flip it over… yeah, that’s about as insignificant as a detail can get.
Dial and Hands
Though the case and crystal might have been the first thing to grab my attention, the dial and hands inevitably drew me in as well. The designer behind the Bambino new exactly what they were doing when they put this together. No fussing around or trying to overly complicate things. Just a simple and elegant dial, with hands to match, that hearkens to watches of the mid 20th century. The dial surface is a deep black with a slight sheen to it. Not full gloss, but rather a satin finish. This is particularly noticeable, because the dial surface is domed, so there are areas that pick up and reflect light differently. I’ve already ranted about the domed crystal, and now I am faced with yet another great detail, a domed dial. Though once upon a time domed dials and pie-pan dials might have been common, these days they are fairly rare, especially in the sub $1000 price range. Which is a shame, because in this simple act of three-dimensionality, the visual intrigue of the dial has grown dramatically. As you look at it, and move around it, it shifts and changes ever so slightly. Paired with the giant domed crystal and you have quite a mesmerizing watch (granted I am easily transfixed by such things, but since you are reading this I imagine you are too).
Around the perimeter of the dial are small white markings for the minutes/seconds. Moving in, the hour index is marked in large trapezoidal polished steel markers. The markers have a 3 sided, sort of pyramidal, shape that adds depth and some interesting reflections. The markers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 are larger, almost double the width, but the 3 marker gets cut off by the date window. The window is marked with a white outline, and the disk underneath is white with black text. Sometimes we gripe about having a date disk that doesn’t match the color of the dial, as they can be disruptive to the flow of the dial, but in this instance it works. A black date wheel with white text might have been too slick, and not really in tune to the retro aesthetic. At 12 the orient logo has been foil stamped on the dial, with a drop of red in the lion and shield emblem. Surprisingly, the logo and emblem have been kept to a relatively small size and proportioned correctly to the dial, so they don’t overtake the top half of the watch, and actually look quite nice. Just above the 6 marker, written in a elegant script font, it says “Water Resist”, but no depth rating is listed. In other words, try not to get this watch wet. That being said, the font they chose looks great and once again pins the aesthetic to the mid-century.
The hands of the watch are also in polished steel. The hour and minute hands are dauphine style, which are relatively thick kite shapes. These too have a three-dimensional quality, which is visible in the line that bisects the hands. Each side is ever so slightly angled, creating a fairly striking reflection. The second hand is a thin straight needle. Both the minute and second hand are bent towards the tip to reflect the curve in the dial, another great visual detail.
The Bambino is powered by the Japanese made Orient Caliber 48743, which is a 21-jewel automatic that is not hacking or hand winding, but does feature a date. The frequency of the movement is 21,600 bph, which translates to 6 beats per second. As such, there is a noticeable ticking to the second hand, though it is certainly still a sweep seconds. Setting the time and date is done as expected, and the sensation of setting the time, that is to say the resistance of the crown, the smoothness of the hands motion, is all very good. I only point this out, because of the low price of the watch and that sometimes low-end mechanicals can have a cheap “feel”. The movement feels good, is accurate and has a good 40hr power reserve. One thing to note is that rotor is a little noisy, though if you are like me, you might like that detail.
Straps and Wearability
This is watch with a lot of presence. The 40.5 x 46 mm case is small enough to fit well, but large enough to stand out. Combined with the giant dome, glimmer of the polished markers and hands, the dark black dial, the overall retro look and you simply have a watch with a lot of personality. One thing that is very nice about the design in terms of comfort is that the tapered case back lets the watch sort of push into your wrist…that might sound weird, but the end effect is that the watch sits a lot flatter on your wrist than one might expect given it’s thickness and the domed crystal.
The Bambino has 21mm lugs, which is unfortunate. 21mm straps are not particularly common, and certainly are only available in limited styles. Given that I can’t think of a watch that I wouldn’t want to alternate the straps on, having an odd sized lug width is irritating. That being said, you can force 22mm straps onto the watch without much issue, but I do find that it slowly distorts straps, especially if you change them often. The model of Bambino we received came on a black leather strap with croc patterning. The strap has a gloss finish, making it almost a patent leather. The strap is well made and has a nice thickness to it. It’s fairly stiff out of the box, but loosens up quickly and becomes pretty comfortable. In terms of looks, it’s definitely intended to bring out the dressier elements of the watch. The black strap with the black dial has a very formal feel to it. While the look works, it proved to be a bit stiff of an aesthetic for my personal taste, so I looked into some other options.
A great way to lighten up the look, but still maintain a level of dress, is to put on a light brown strap. I personally find the croc patterning works well with retro watches (and vintage watches for that matter) so I tried the watch on a Crown & Buckle 22mm Honey Brown Calf with Gator patterning. This really opened up the versatility of the watch for daily wear. The Honey color and black go very well together, not clashing at all as a darker brown might, and the colors both go well with blue jeans, black jeans, a grey suit… you name it. It makes it the kind of watch you can wear everyday and in many circumstances, which adds value to the watch.
The classic look of the watch can definitely lend itself to preppy styling, so another option would be a multi-striped NATO. I tried it on a C&B 22mm 5-stripe NATO with green, red and black. The look is very cool and really transforms the feeling of the watch, making more casual and playful. While this might not be appropriate for every situation, or every outfit, it’s a great laid back alternative for wearing with shorts, a polo shirt and some boat shoes, or as a way to add some color to an otherwise subdued outfit.
Watches like the Orient Bambino spoil us all. For $260 minus one of Orient’s constantly available 30% discount codes (such as summer2012 at the time of writing this review), which comes to $182, you’re getting a genuinely good mechanical watch. Not just one that happens to be passably good looking and well made enough to not look cheap, but extremely well styled, detailed and solidly built. Not to mention that this made with an in-house caliber, which is very cool in its own right. I know this review might be overly glowing, but the watch has been a genuine pleasure to wear. And I can’t take my eyes off that domed crystal, it’s just gorgeous.
My only real grievance is with the 21mm lug width, but there are workarounds for that. Frankly, in wearing the Bambino I realized the value in having a watch with this style. Sure, a nice diver can be worn in any situation, but it will always have that sporty edge to it. Similarly, pilot watches are chameleons as well, but that military look is unavoidable. The Bambino is just a nice looking watch with an aesthetic that in one light can be formal, another totally casual: sophisticated, yet playful. The retro aesthetic is timeless, and the medium-large case adds a contemporary boldness to work with today’s trends. That being said, I’d love to see a 36mm version of this as well, perhaps the Bambini?
The Bambino is also available with a white dial and steel case, which is sold out at the time of this review, as well as variations with gold and rose gold accents for both dial colors. The black and steel is a classic look that I’ve found great to wear, but I could see how the white on steel option could be even a bit more versatile. The gold and rose gold options cost a drop more at $280 starting price, but overall are still a great deal, if you are looking for a more formal option.
Review watch supplied by Orient Watch USA
Additional straps courtesy of Crown & Buckle
By Zach Weiss