If you follow worn&wound on a regular basis, you’ll know that Orient is one of our favorite brands. They are among a small handful of companies that specialize in very affordable mechanical watches that, despite their low prices, are attractive and well made. And they standout from that small group of brands by also offering complications, such as dual time and power reserve, making them all the more unique. We’ve reviewed several of their watches before, but this is the first time we’ll be taking a look at an Orient Star, one of their sub-brands of higher priced watches, and the only available in the US.
Now don’t worry, higher-priced for Orient is still well below average in the watch market. What distinguishes them is a higher level of finish and in some cases more complex movements. Yet, even for a watch with multiple retrograde dials, you are unlikely to pay over $1,000. In fact, today’s watch, the Orient Star Classic, retails for $690, which after the obligatory 30% discount is only $483. Even if this watch weren’t gorgeous, which it is, $483 would still be a great price for a quality automatic.
And, it’s not just a quality automatic; it’s an in-house, Japanese made automatic with a power reserve and more. If value were the only factor, Orient would probably be the only watch worth buying. Obviously, there is a lot more to it, but you know what I mean. And frankly, this watch also has a lot more going on. It’s got cool vintage inspired looks, an interesting and dynamic dial and more. Rant done, let’s look at the watch.
Case: St Steel
Movement: Orient 40N52
Dial: Silver Sunburst
Water Res.: 50M
Dimensions: 38.5 x 44.5mm
Thickness: 13.4 mm
Lug Width: 20 mm
Crown: 6.5 x 3 mm
Warranty: 1 Year
Price: $690 ($483 with Orient Watch USA online discount – use code “wornandwound” for 30% off)
Measuring 38.5 x 44.5 x 13.4mm (including crystal) the Orient Classic is a moderately sized watch by today’s standards. Yet, the smaller case size is very welcome in both a dress watch and a vintage inspired piece. The case itself is very simple in design, with a standard shape, relatively short and thin lugs and minimal finishing. A nice and oft over looked detail is the use of drilled lugs. Though to some the hole might be a distraction, I find it lends even more of a retro feel to the watch, and makes strap changing more convenient. All of the surfaces of the case are polished except for the tops of the lugs, which have a light brushing that prevents the watch from getting too shiny.
The crown of the Classic has an elegant and somewhat atypical shape. Measuring 6.5 x 3mm, it’s fairly flat and wide, but has a stepped shape. The area with grips curves ever so slightly towards a protruding cylinder, which has the Orient Star signature on it. The slightly larger than expected size gives it a more sturdy feel, and since the watch is hand-windable, you might find yourself using it more than other crowns.
Perhaps the most standout feature of the case is actually the crystal. Made to emulate the domed acrylic crystals of mid-20th century watches, the mineral crystal of the Classic is very eye-catching. Typically, a heavy domed crystal on a watch this price would be acrylic, and by making it mineral they did create a somewhat more durable piece, as mineral is more scratch resistant. For $483 you can certainly find watches with sapphire crystals, even by Orient, but they won’t be domed, at least not to this extent.
The Classic also features an exhibition case back that shows off the somewhat decorated 40N52 movement. Around the display window are all of the typical details you’d expect to see, including water resistance and “made in Japan”. We’re always glad to see an exhibition case back on an under $500 watch, especially when the movement offers some level of decoration. It increases both the charm and value of the piece.
The dial and hands of the Classic are exceptionally well executed and styled. Though the vintage theme is familiar, the overall look feels a bit unique given interesting details. To start, the dial is a sunburst white/silver that interacts with light in dramatic and beautiful ways. The color is very light, hence why it could be described as white, but the sunburst effect gives it a metallic or pearlescent quality. Adding to the effect is the fact that the dial is domed, curving towards the outer edge. Altogether, it creates a very dynamic backdrop for the indexes and hands as well as a higher perceived value than the actual watch’s cost.
The main index of the dial consists of large three-dimensional applied steel markers. The markers are long and thin, tapering towards the center. They are actually quite dramatic, though not obnoxious. At 12 is a rectangular double marker, which helps orient the watch at a glance. Between the hour markers are thin black printed lines for the minutes/seconds, which increase the legibility of the watch as well as give the dial a more closed feeling. At 3 is a silver lined date window with a black on white date. This integrates into the dial nicely, though there is a sense of the date disk being far away from the surface, likely due to the dome of the dial.
Located just below twelve is a very nicely executed power reserve indicator. Rather than being a whole sub-dial, the indicator is just a small “alpha” style hand that points down, toward a single arcing index. The index, which consists of markers for every 5 hours, numerals every 20, is an applied arc with a concentric pattern on it. This makes it literally stand off the dial, acting as an interesting textural detail. Aside from the looks, the power reserve is a very practical complication we’re always glad to see.
The large blue dauphine hands they chose for the Classic really give the watch a unique presence. The blue is a very deep, cobalt color that is striking against the light silver dial. It’s dark, yet refined, dressing up the watch a bit more and giving it a more masculine feel. The slight three-dimensionality of the hands reflects light very dramatically, making the hands the focal point of the watch. While I think the watch would have still been successful with polished steel hands, the blue is that little unexpected twist that takes this watch from nice to great.