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Review: Orient Bambino ER24004B

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Featured | Popular | Review | 08.29.2012

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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.

Movement

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.

Conclusion

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

  • http://URL Jose M.

    40mm is a very classic size… I would like 42 though… anyway it’s a beauty! it’s a gorgeous watch in fact and dresses up great, you made a great job choosing those C&B straps they are awesome too. thanks!

  • http://URL Jim

    Great review! This is currently my daily. Very light, very accurate, and always looks good at work or just casually. Mine has the black dial with rose gold markers and hands. One of the more slim mechanical’s I have that slides under my dress shirt sleeves as well.

  • http://URL Richard

    This piece is on my very short list of upcoming watch purchases.

  • http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/ Speedmaster

    Fantastic, love that domed crystal.

  • http://URL BenR

    I like everything about this watch except its size… 40mm is really too big for this kind of classic dress watch style. 36-38mm would be a major improvement.

    • http://URL Able

      What are you a woman?

    • http://URL BenR

      First, it’s pathetic to use “woman” as some kind of poor excuse for an insult. Some of the best people I know are women, and if I were a woman myself, it would hardly be something to be ashamed of, as you seem to want to imply. The only man insulted by comparison to a woman is a man who is insecure with his own gender identity. Please examine your insecurities next time before attempting to project them onto others.

      Second, there is nothing inherently feminine or masculine about a particular watch size. Our fathers’, grandfathers’, and great-grandfathers’ generations wore classic watches smaller than 40mm, including in venues like Vietnam, Korea, Normandy, North Africa, Iwo Jima, and so on. Anyone who would describe such men as effeminate or un-masculine because of their watch size is a clown. On the other hand, I’ve seen a lot of physically inactive, underachieving men who wear comically oversized watches in a badly calculated attempt to appear more active, vital, and “macho” than they actually are.

      Third, a disproportionately large watch will actually have the practical effect of making the wearer’s wrist look smaller and more delicate. As a result, a too-large watch can actually look rather feminine, as it is strongly suggestive of the oversized watches that are currently popular in women’s fashion.

      In short, kindly go bugger off until you’re ready to participate in a normal, adult conversation.

    • http://URL Clifford

      The Seiko SARB029 is 36mm is very similar in style. I agree that the retro 50s-60s aesthetic is more suitable for a smaller size. The 40mm seems a little clunky.

      Also, that comment left by Able seems rather insecure. Attacking someone else’s masculinity and size shaming tells me he’s overcompensating for something!!! HAHA

  • http://URL Randy_Torres

    Lovely watch, would love to see a silver dial with blued hands version.

  • http://URL squash philately

    love everything about it. a question for everyone. there’s apparently a black case available on their website now which I’m thinking might help dress this watch down a little (i only wear casuals). what are your thoughts on this?

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Hey,
      The black case version is actually a different, but similar, watch called the “Symphony”. It’s a bit less expensive, has no domed crystal and has some more modern details, like a chapter ring with markers. (there also a few different dials if you look at the different case styles). The black IP coating will certainly be less dressy, but I honestly felt that while the Bambino has dress elements, and can be worn as a dress watch, it looked right at home with non-dress clothes. Change the strap from the black one that it comes on to something more mellow, and the whole watch changes.

      -Zach

    • http://URL squash philately

      thanks Zach.

      i’ve been trying to find these online to purchase but they seem to be out of stock everywhere. any idea where I could get it online? thank you.

  • http://www.nindy.co.uk Nindy

    Very elegant!! Want one!

  • http://URL Colin

    Great review, guys. Thank you. Chanced the giveaway but didn’t win. I went ahead to purchase one (white dial) for myself and I’m enjoying every moment with it. Such a pleasure to look at it.

  • http://URL Mitch

    I just received my Bambino yesterday. Figured I just had to have one after reading this rave review. So, while it’s not bad watch by any means (especially for the price) I am less thrilled with it than I thought I would be. I don’t think the “pie pan” dial was a good idea as the raised center of it casts a greyish reflection on the crystal above which makes the crystal look hazy and dirty most of the time, depending on the lighting angle. IMO, a nice satin finished or matte FLAT black dial would have looked better. I also was expecting the domed crystal to be fully “domed” rather than just curved sides and a flat top. And my last comment is about the super glossy black imitation gator strap. I know Orient went for the dressy look but the quality of the strap looks more cheap-ish than dressy, IMO. At least that part can be corrected by changing to a nicer, better looking strap, as Zach did in his video review.

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Hi mitch,

      Sorry to hear you weren’t totally satisfied. I think it really comes down to taste. I legitimately loved the details you seem disappointed in, especially the crystal… The strap leaves something to be desired for sure. No matter how one looks at it though, for the price it offers a lot.

  • http://URL Mitch

    Yeah, you’re right, Zach. It is a matter of taste, and I must admit that after wearing the Bambino for a while, my impression of it has changed – in a positive way. Especially after changing the strap from the glossy black gator pattern to one made of super comfortable medium brown lambskin which totally transformed the character of the watch from dress to dress/casual and it feels now like one I could easily wear on a variety of occasions.

  • http://URL steve55

    My all time favourite watch is the beautiful black 60′s Omega Seamaster, so when i first saw these i was ready to buy one in each colour. But at 40.5mm i am put of by the size for this type of dress watch.

    I know the current fashion is for larger watches, but as a purist i wish there was also a more discreet, ‘true vintage’ style 36mm version available too.

    I think a watch that looks this beautiful deserves it.

  • http://URL Phil

    Beautiful review of this watch zach, I think the bambino looks greatly with the honey brown strap.
    I just ordered the black case orient symphony with black ip coating And wanted to change the strap to Crown & Buckle honey brown. Do you think the black case will go well with it?

    • http://www.zachstarrweiss.com w&w

      Hi Phil,

      Yeah, I think that might look very cool. The honey strap has a bright orange-ish color that will contrast well with the black case.

    • http://URL phil

      Thanks Zach for the quick reply.

      Great. I just ordered it!

  • http://URL Robert Stephen

    Zach your review was very helpful in making me click on buy this orient , and am now hoping that it will reach me in Brazil from wherever it is coming from ! Already in anticipation of its arrival I would like to ask you a question and offer a tip. In that order , you sound a bit doubtful about it’s capacity to keeo out water down to 30 metres , as orient claims it to be capable. How alarmed should I be by your skepticism ? And my tip regarding your gripe with odd lug widths is to go one size up , 22 in this case , and compress a band of supple enough material. It worked with two oddballs I have – ’97 19 mm Seiko 5m42 kinetic , and 23mm victorinox mach6 airboss.

  • http://URL Scott

    Yep, count me as one more vote for a 38 mm version. This is a handsome watch, but too big for dress if you’re over 21.

    As for water resistance: if it doesn’t have a screw-in crown, don’t swim with it and don’t take it in the shower. You might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later, you’ll buy yourself a big repair bill for being lazy.

    If it comes with a leather strap, I take that as a hint that it’s not meant for swimming.

    Typically great review by the way.

  • http://URL Vintage fan

    Would also prefer a slightly smaller , 38mm version. Just seems too big and shouty on the wrist, for a classy discreet dress watch.

  • http://www.ceasuridemanablog.com/ Despre Ceasuri

    Love the look with the brown leather.

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  • http://URL Sebastian

    Great review, Zach. Thanks for the very interesting info. No doubt it is a classic and very nice looking watch at an affordable price range. However i must say the look of the quartz version the “Capital” even if it doesn’t have the nice automatic machine is a bit more classic in a sense and better looking for me. Any thoughts on that?

    http://orientwatchusa.com/ug1r002b

    have you had the chance to try it on? Best, Sebastian

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  • http://URL Pete

    Hi. Been so close to pulling the trigger on the Bambino. I have also thought about the Orient Capital because I am a professional drummer and I am always taking my watch off every set but I wouldn’t have to with quartz. I used to wear a simple quartz watch until I discovered the world of watches. From time to time I miss those days.
    Is the Capital the same watch as the Bambino? I like the simplicity of the logo on the Capital as well. It’s always great when the experts think for you. Also, thoughts on the rose gold version?
    Thanks!

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  • http://URL Dennis B.

    Is getting strap 21mm the entire length or does it taper? Considering a deployant clasp with it and wonder what size to order.

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  • http://URL martinheimer

    Your review was EXCELLENT ! I just bought one after seeing your review. I cannot wait until it arrives. I have acquired several dozen straps that are 20 and 22mm ,so it will be fun to see how they look when I change them out.I really enjoy your reviews and I find them to be informative and thorough. Thank you

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