It’s sort of a general rule of thumb that mechanical complications increase the price of a watch. If you look at a brand’s catalog, their chronographs, GMTs, perpetual calendars, etc… (should they have them in the first place) cost more than simpler 3-hand models, and understandably so. As the name implies, complications increase the complexity of the movement, which, generally speaking, increases the amount of parts, labor and skill required to make the movement and thusly increases the cost. So, when you’re perusing the internet or a local shop and you come across an automatic GMT with a power reserve and decentralized date by a reputable brand, you’re likely looking at something that costs at least $1,000, more likely much more. Well, Orient once again defies pricing logic with their CDH00001B – Explorer, which costs $650 MSRP, or $455 with an Orient 30% discount code (try fall2012).
So, what is the Orient Explorer? Well, on paper it’s basically everything you’d want in a traveler’s watch in an affordable package. To start, it’s a GMT or dual time zone watch. This allows you to track the time somewhere else in the world via a 24-hour disk that is visible through the dial. Next, it features a power reserve indicator with a 40-hr reserve. Considering what a pain in the ass it is to miss a flight, it’s always good when away to know that your watch isn’t about to stop. A power reserve is the simplest way to ensure that your watch has the juice stay accurate. Naturally, the watch also includes a date function, but rather than the typical date window, the Explorer indicates it with a hand on a separate decentralized index above 6, dressing up the function ever-so-slightly.
Mechanical complications aside, the Explorer also features an internal slide-rule bezel, which is a genuinely great tool to have when abroad. A slide rule bezel can allow you to convert distances, calculate currency exchanges, multiply, divide and more. And let’s not forget that the watch also has a sapphire crystal with AR coating, display case back, deployment clasp strap and 50m water resistance. Needless to say, it’s a lot of watch for $455.
Case: Stainless Steel
Movement: Orient Caliber 48K40
Dial: Black and Silver
Strap: Black Leather
Water Res.: 50m
Thickness: 14 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 5 x 3 mm push/pull
Warranty: 1 year
The Orient Explorer is a pretty large watch, which is to be expected given the internal bezel and how much is going on in the dial. The stainless steel case measures 44.5 x 50 x 14mm. The case has a very simple and classic design that lacks any unnecessary finishing or adornment. This is a circumstance where less is more, as the dial is very busy and complex and anything else would become overwhelming. Though the aesthetic of the case is very simple, there are some interesting design elements. Namely, the case does not have slab sides, but rather a very contoured shape. The sides quickly sweep in to meet with the domed case back, which seamlessly meets the sides. In profile, the watch more of less has the shape of a bowl that is capped off by the bezel.
The case back is screwdown and features a large sapphire window. Having a sapphire display on a watch this price is a really nice and unexpected touch. Around the window various details and serial numbers have been etched in. At 3 is a push-pull crown for setting the time and at 4 is a crown for the internal bezel. Both crowns are medium sized, signed and feature simple texturing for easy manipulation. I’m a big fan of internal bezel crowns being at the 4 position as it is the best location for easy use when wearing the watch (assuming you are wearing it on your left wrist). The bezel itself operates well, with nice resistance and precision, though there is a bit of rattling sound that is made when the bezel is in use. This is not to the detriment of the bezel, but it is a noticeable sound.
The dial of the Explorer has a lot going on, both in terms of the abundance of information being displayed and the intensely layered and textured design. The density of the dial, which presents the time, 3 mechanical complications and a slide rule bezel, essentially becomes the aesthetic of the watch. It’s technical, sophisticated and masculine with a bit of a sporty edge. But if you don’t like a lot of information, it probably wont be the dial for you. There are 3 color variations of the explorer available, and the one we have for review has a primarily black dial with silver accents. The outer perimeter of the dial is broken into 2 dense logarithmic scales that function to create the slide rule bezel. These scales are presented in silver on black with a few key numerals and markings, such as 10 or the origin, in red for added visibility. Please see our video on how to use a slide rule bezel for more information on this great feature.
Moving in, the main hour index is presented in chunky applied steel markers with lume filling. These markers do a good job of standing out from the rest of the dial, which increases legibility. It is critical that when looking at this dial, or any dial of this complexity, that you are able to clearly separate one index from another. Orient was smart to use depth and texture to achieve this, as it easy to grasp visually. Between the applied markers is a minute and second index comprised of small silver lines. There is an arcing window through the dial that runs from 8.5 to 10.5 in which you can see the dual time disc. Unlike most GMT watches, which indicate a second time zone via a 4th center hand, Orient opted for this alternate disk display. I happen to really like this detail, as it is very easy to read, and separate enough from the rest of the dial as to not interfere with other information. The second time zone is actually read at 9.5, where there is a little red arrow, a partial index and the words “dual time” which are printed on a slightly elevated area, making it hard to miss. The dual time disk is white with black text. As the inverse color from the dial, it really stands out, but unlike a date window that can sometimes break up a dial, this feels like an appropriate contrast.
Just under the 12 marker is the power reserve indicator, which is presented with a fairly elaborate set of indexes. Essentially, there are 2 partial rings used to indicate the amount of hours of stored energy the watch has left. The first index is a textured silver ring with black numerals for 0, 10, 20, 30 and 40 in an arc shape. The second ring is black, and outlines the first silver ring, but is elevated above it ever so slightly. On the black ring are silver markings that correspond to the hours on the silver ring, as well as intervals of 5 hours. The small silver dauphine hand that is located in the center point of these rings reaches out to the black ring. It’s a surprisingly complex set up for a single, albeit significant, index. But the attention to detail here is indicative of the dial as a whole. Every little thing has been addressed and finessed to some degree, creating a unified look that, simply put, makes the watch look like a much pricier piece than it is.
The lower half of the dial, from the center point of the watch to where a 6 marker would be, is a very large silver ring that is used to indicate the date with a small silver hand. Personally, I have not come across a decentralized date wheel like this, and I doubt there are other brands on the market in this price range with a date complication like this. ETA certainly doesn’t make a movement with a date indicator this style, and I don’t believe Selitta, Soprod, Miyota or Seiko do either. Regardless, this sub-dial works to visually balance the power reserve on the upper half of the dial and adds another element to the design. While a date indicator like this isn’t necessarily more functional than a standard date window, it is appealing to look at and simply makes the watch more unique.
The primary minute and hour hands of the Explorer are a modern Dauphine style in stainless steel with lume. The seconds is a thin stick with a red arrow pointer tip, a drop of lume and a counter balance on its back end. The addition of the red tip is a nice touch as it brings out some of the more technical details of the dial. The lume on the dial is fairly sparse, only being present on the main hands and the main hour index, but what is there is bright and responsive.
The Explorer is powered by the Orient in-house caliber 48K40. This is a 21-jewel automatic movement with GMT, power reserve indicator, 40hr power reserve, decentralized date and hacking seconds. The 48K40 has a frequency of 21,600 bph. Looking through the display case back, the lightly decorated, but clearly complex movement can be seen. As far as decoration goes, there is some perlage on various plates in the movement, and the rotor is adorned with a color logo and some interesting striping. Though the finishing and decoration are not above and beyond expectation, the movement is nice to look at. It is clear that much of the height of the watch comes from the movement as there appear to be several layers of plates.
All of the functions of the movement are set with one crown in a simple manner. Pull the crown out one stop to set the dual time disk and date, two stops to adjust the time. When in first position, turning the crown away from you will adjust the second time zone in half hour increments. I’m not sure why it doesn’t go full hours, as that is typical, but it is nevertheless easy to set. Turning the crown towards you will adjust the date indicator, one day at a time.
Strap and Wearability
The Explorer comes on a 22mm black leather faux croc strap (the same look as the one on the Bambino) with a deployment clasp and an atypical design. What makes the strap different is that the deployment clasp only opens up in one direction, and was designed in such away as to make the strap appear backwards. What I mean by that is that the tail of the strap comes towards the inside of your wrist rather than the outside. Honestly, at first, I thought the strap was just put on wrong, but that’s not the case as is clearly indicated by the direction of the logo on the clasp (I also verified this with Orient Watch USA). In the end, it’s actually a clever design that makes closing the strap on your wrist easier. The strap itself is of good quality and while suiting of the look of the watch, is fairly formal. Given the size of the watch, I think you could also pull of something either more casual, or a bit more rugged like a canvas strap.
On the wrist, the Explorer is quite comfortable despite its large size. The lug-to-lug width of 50mm, while not insignificant, isn’t overly long either, so the watch does fit on my 7” wrist. The domed back of the watch prevents too much surface area from being against your skin, which also adds to the cover. That being said, the Explorer is a large and tall watch, so you do have to be into that style to wear it. It’s also very bold due to the expansive, dense and complicated dial. There is so much depth to this dial that the watch almost looks like a diorama on your wrist. And I mean that in a good way. It’s has a very architectural appearance that is due to the layering and the technical aesthetic. Ultimately, it’s just a very serious looking watch that will certainly get attention. And while not a dress watch, is definitely appropriate for the office as well as other more formal situations.
The Explorer comes in a simple but sturdy black box with a matte coating. The box is fairly compact and has sharp edges, making it a stark cube. The lid and the front panel of the box are hinged, creating a somewhat unexpected and dramatic presentation of the watch within, which creates a more entertaining experience when you first open it. The interior is lined with black velvet, which keeps it scratch free. All-in-all, it’s not an extravagant package, but it gets the job done and looks good.
Once again, Orient has created a really substantial watch that betrays the general rules of pricing we are used to. For $455 (after coupon), the Explorer offers a nearly unparalleled value for a mechanical watch packed with complications. A dual-time watch alone at this price would be a decent deal, throw in the power reserve and decentralized date, and you have something even more interesting. Top all that off with sapphire crystals front and back, a slide rule bezel and a remarkably complicated and visually interesting dial and… well, you get the picture. It’s a big watch at 44.5mm, but if you can rock something that size, like, need or are interested in a dual-time complication and find complex dials suit your style, then be sure to consider this watch. As a watch-nerd, I find that the Orient in-house caliber 48K40 inside this beast is the most interesting part of all, especially since there is no other movement on the market with the exact same layout (that I am aware of). That adds a value that goes beyond the aesthetics and function, which is also very rare at this price.
By Zach Weiss
Watch provided by Orient Watch USA