We often get emails asking us for watch recommendations on a budget. When someone asks us to point them in the direction of a good automatic under $300 or a nice dress auto under $500, Orient is always on the top of the list. We’ve reviewed them many times now and the conclusions are always the same, great watch for the money. But, honestly, that downplays them a bit. Sure, they aren’t perfect watches, but they offer quality in-house movements (which is easy to forget given their prices) with complications and often nice designs.
While we’ve looked at sport and military models, larger modern designs and even some unique and quirky versions, the Orient watches that tend to surprise and enchant us the most are their various dress models. Simple, elegant and often with a vintage undertone, their dress watches are in a class of their own in the price range. In fact, for mechanicals, it’s hard to think of a strong competitor.
The Orient Curator, which is a fairly new dress offering from the brand, keeps this trend true, offering great style and quality components at a remarkably low price. While the design of this watch is in many ways quite similar to the Orient Star Classic in terms of dial layout and markers, the overall watch has a very different feel. The Curator is an every day watch with a masculine palette and beefier case. It features an automatic movement with power reserve and date as well as a sapphire crystal, which is uncommon for Orient. The MSRP on the Curator is $415, but with 30% coupon code ‘wornandwound’ you can get it for $290.50, which is clearly a great price.
Orient Curator Review
Movement: Orient 46N40
Water Res.: 50M
Dimensions: 41 x 47.5 mm
Thickness: 11 mm
Lug Width: 22 mm
Crown: 6.5 x 3mm
Warranty: 1 year
Price: $290.50 after coupon
The Curator features an all polished stainless steel case that measures 41 x 47.5 x 11mm, for a nice casual wear. The case itself has a very simple design, bordering on plain. From overhead you have a thick angled bezel with on a slab-sided body with fairly thick, slightly tapered lugs protruding from each side. The lug width is a surprising 22mm, which is large for a watch this size, but I think that work towards creating something a bit more robust and masculine than your typical dress watch.
At 3 is a well proportioned push-pull crown that measures 6.5 x 3mm. It’s easy to grasp thanks to the coin edging, but like the case itself is a bit plain. Surprisingly, it lacks a signature or logo on the flat end, which makes it feel like a generic or stock part. Flipping the watch over, you can see the solid case back, which features a pretty basic etching with a large brand logo a few details about the watch.
The most remarkable thing about the case is actually the crystal, which is a sapphire. Typically from Orient we’ve seen mineral, even on watches with higher price tags the Curator. Naturally, this will please a lot of people as it’s definitely a value adder on a sub $300 watch. All in all, the case design works with the watch, as the magic really happens on the dial, but a little more detailing would have gone a long way. Brushing on the sides, signed crown, etc… would have brought it to life.
With a mix of dark colors and interesting textures, the dial of the Curator has a handsome look. The surface is a charcoal grey with a slight sunburst to it, that reflects with hints of purple. It’s a deep color that is very interesting and unique. Grey dials are less common than black, white, silver or cream and have an interesting presence to them that works very well in a dress/casual context. Since it’s not quite matte, that also adds more dimension to the overall dial.
The primary index consists of large applied steel markers. These vintage-esque markers are big and chunky, with a very interesting design. They taper towards the center of the dial and have beveled edges on all sides, with a longer bevel on the front tip. The top surfaces then have a coarse brushed finished, while the edges are polished. This creates a lot of interesting reflections when the watch catches light. The coarse brushing also adds an interesting and rugged detail that is unexpected on a watch this style, but adds to its manly character.
Between the markers are small printed lines for the individual minutes/seconds. At a glance, they appear white, but under closer inspection it appears that they, as well as any other text on the dial, are actually a silver print. What might actually be happening here is that they are voids in the grey surface, showing a metal substrate underneath. Regardless, the slightly metallic nature of the lines makes them more elegant than simple white would have been. Sometimes they reflect light, appearing more pronounced, other times they reflect something solid and dark, receding into the surface.
On the outside of each of the applied markers are also small lume dots. These immediately give the watch a vintage feel, looking like tritium dots on mid-century watches. I love this detail, and surprisingly, they happen to glow quite well. At 3 there is a silver-rimmed date window showing the black on white date. This was well integrated into the dial and doesn’t feel out of place.
Just below 12 is one of the cooler features of the watch in general, a power reserve meter. Orient is one of the only brands to offer budget watches with power reserves, others use the less common Miyota 9100, and few swiss offerings will go for under $1000. Though a simple function, telling you how many hours of life your watch has left, it’s very practical and a personal favorite among complications. The index is presented in an arc from 40 to 0, with a needle shaped hand above. The implementation here is very low key, which is in keeping with the dress/casual style. Though I wish the watch was hand winding, so you could directly increase the reserve.
The Curator features dauphine style hour and minute hands with lume filling. Both hands have a stripe of brushed finishing running down them, which ties them into the marker design. The hands are nice and bold, so they make for great legibility. The seconds is a simple polished stick hand that is easy to not to ice at a glance. This watch would have actually been interesting without a seconds hand entirely.
The Curator is powered by the Japanese made Orient 46N40 caliber. The 21 jewel automatic movement features a power reserve indicator, 40 hours of power, date, and a frequency of 21,600 bph. The movement neither hacks or hand winds. In the time we’ve spent with the watch, the movement kept good time and had now issues with power reserve.
It’s easy to forget that Orient makes their own movements and what that means. In an industry where “manufacture” brands, or companies that make their own movements, are exalted and have prices that match their prowesses, affordability is not often a part of the picture. So, when you hear that Orient makes their own movements, but their mechanical watches have a starting price around $100, it’s hard to connect that with the bigger picture. Naturally, there are vast and significant differences between an Orient caliber and one by a haute brand, but there are also differences between an Orient and a Miyota. Not to say one is better than the other, but in the scheme of the watch world, Orient (and Seiko) are really very unique.
Straps and Wearability
The Curator comes fitted with a 22mm matte black faux-croc leather strap. It’s an interestingly made strap that is different than others we’ve seen from Orient. It’s extremely padded, with filler going from the lugs all the way to the tip. This gives it an pillowy quality that makes it quite comfortable, being at once plush yet a bit stiff. The strap also is matte to a bit greasy with matching black stitching for a very dark surface that contrasts nicely with both the polished case and the grey dial. A dark brown tapered strap would look nice against the Curator, as well as color 8 cordovan.
On the wrist, the Curator wears wonderfully. 41 x 47.5mm is a very nice size, that though large for a dress watch, is very practical for a daily wear. The watch also doesn’t seem too large or oversized at all due to good proportioning. The dial is simply gorgeous and a pleasure to see on your wrist. All of the little textures and colors make it really dynamic, shifting throughout the day. The mid-century aesthetic also makes it quite stylish, feeling vintage but not contrived.
Though the size might make it a bit less formal than a 36 or 38mm dress watch, I do think this has a very versatile look that would fit most occasions. Certainly welcome at work or the bar. Wear this with a grey oxford, jeans or slacks and you’ll be good to go. Naturally, it wont look out of place under the cuff of a blaze either.
There’s a lot to like about the Curator, especially for the price. The power reserve, in-house automatic, sapphire, interesting dial with unique finishing make for a very wearable and cool watch. Style wise, it’s really a great looking piece that will work with anything you wear. Versatility in our book is one of the strongest assets a watch can have, so it’s great to have it in an affordable package.
The only draw back for me was the sort of bland case, but I think that is over shadowed by the successes of the dial and the wearability of the watch. So, if you’re in the market for an easy to wear watch with hints of vintage styling, but a modern profile, the Orient Curator is a very solid option. For $290 after a 30% coupon, this is a genuinely great value for what you get.
Review watch supplied by Orient USA
by Zach Weiss