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Next to Swiss, the Japanese watchmaking industry is considered home to some of the most exquisite watch brands and collections.
However, the market is still largely untapped for many aficionados. Popularity-wise, there’s no one coming close to the holy trio of Casio, Citizen, and Seiko. This means some excellent watchmakers offering just as good quality (oftentimes at a lesser cost), can go unnoticed.
One of the highest-rated “outsiders” is Orient. The brand has been around for 7 decades already and during this time, it has gained a reputation as one of the leaders as far as the quality-price ratio is concerned.
In this Orient watches review, we will take a detailed look at what makes the brand so tempting for enthusiasts all around the globe.
Orient Watch History
Despite the official beginning of the Orient Watch Company being listed as 1950, its roots date back to as early as 1901. That year, the company’s founder, Shogoro Yoshida, embarked on his journey of selling imported pocket watches.
In just over 30 years, Yoshida’s company went from merely importing timepieces to manufacturing them. Operating under the name of Toyo Tokei Manufacturing, the company released its first watch model in 1934.
Despite enjoying year-on-year growths since that initial release, like many others, the brand couldn’t handle the economic hit caused by the aftermath of World War II and had to shut down at the start of 1949.
One year was all it took for the company to be born again, albeit under a different establishment. Definitely, a great aid in the rebirth of the Japanese watchmaker was the launch of the Orient Star collection that turned to be a massive hit both in the local and overseas markets.
Orient Star was a sleek mechanical timepiece that was introduced as the “true star” of the brand. Featuring a small case and simple, timeless dial distinguished by blue hands and fine lines on the second hand, it was a breath of fresh air in the industry.
The year 1961 saw Orient develop its first line of automatic watches. Six years later, Orient’s proudest automatic release, the Fineness, saw daylight. The automatic model included a day-date window and was one of the tiniest Japanese-made watches produced between 1967 and 1974 – a period of the increased popularity of slim dress watches.
Another pivotal chapter in Orient’s history is the Quartz Revolution of the 1970s. Started by the release of the first-ever battery-powered watch by Seiko, the movement forced many brands to ditch the decades-long focusing on solely mechanical timepieces and dive deep into the unknown territory of quartz mechanisms.
Unlike Seiko and Citizen, Orient’s biggest local competitors who started the mass production of battery-powered watches and enjoyed rapid growth, Orient didn’t follow the same path. Instead, the brand decided to continue developing mechanical watches. Whilst there were many question marks over the decision at that time, ultimately it resulted in vastly improved know-how when it comes to mechanical calibers.
Up to the present time, because of the excellent reliability and ruggedness, Orient mechanical watches are considered to deliver some of the best value on the market.
These days, Orient is part of the Seiko Epson group. The move to install Orient as a wholly-owned subsidiary came in 2009 whilst in 2017 Orient Watch was fully merged into the group. Although the Seiko influence is palpable with the release of some solar-powered and quartz models, the core of Orient remains the same: a rich line of reliable mechanical watches.
Are Orient Watches Good? (Quality Review)
When trying to evaluate a watch brand, we have to stay realistic and objective at all times. By that I mean: there’s no point stacking low-to-mid budget brands with some of the powerhouses of the industry.
Instead, we should look at how the brand fares against watchmakers in the same price basket. And that’s exactly what today’s Orient watches review will focus on.
Looking across all Orient collections (we will have a detailed look at some of them further down the article), we can easily define the brand as low-to-mid budget.
So, is Orient a good watch brand, and does it live up to its price tag? Or is it possible to find better value manufacturers in the budget mechanical watch sector? To answer these questions, let’s dive deep into the essential aspects of the Japanese watchmaker.
Looks-wise, the vast majority of Orient watches ooze class. However, even the best-looking timepieces are useless if the durability standards aren’t reasonable. That can be true especially when looking at some of the brands oscillating in the same price spectrum as Orient.
In this field, Orient watches seem to pass the test quite well.
Let’s start by briefly discussing the most damage-prone part of any timepiece – the dia window. No matter the watch model, Orient offers decent (and at times excellent) protection.
The low-cost models available in the $100 price region, such as this Orient Bambino, use mineral crystal glass. It’s a fairly standard choice amongst low-to-mid budget brands.
However, the presence of sapphire crystal glass – the most rugged glass material used by all the top-shelf watchmakers – is a huge incentive. That’s especially true when we look at what’s on offer with other watchmakers in the same price category. You can find sapphire glass models in the higher-priced models, such as in this Orient Kamasu diver. That said, these are still unlikely to set you back more than $350 which makes Orient one of the cheapest providers of sapphire crystal watches at present.
Other essential exterior parts contributing to the longevity of watches are also on point.
All cases are made from 316L stainless steel which has strong anti-corrosive properties. When it comes to bands, you can pick from stainless steel, genuine leather, and rubber. The fact that some of Orient models, particularly those in the diving collection, come with screw-down crowns and casebacks also plays an integral role in the lifespan as it massively aids in the protection against water damage (read also: Best Orient Dive Watches).
As already mentioned, Orient mainly focuses on manufacturing mechanical timepieces. However, that’s not to say there aren’t any collections for those valuing the unbeatable accuracy of quartz watches. Naturally, all movements are Japanese-made.
Let’s have a closer look at the quality of mechanical movements first.
What’s impressive about Orient is the fact that it produces all mechanical movement in-house. Since the very beginning, the brand has been paying a lot of attention to delivering accurate and long-running calibers. This pays dividends especially nowadays when automatic movements are enjoying a true renaissance.
An example of an excellent mechanical movement is caliber F6922. It’s present in many best-selling Orient models, such as the Mako II and Ray II. It’s a 22-jewel complication with a 40-hour power reserve. Like many other mechanical calibers from Orient, it’s equipped with a solid anti-shock system, Seiko Bioshock. Arguably the most impressive aspect of this movement is the -15/+25 seconds/day accuracy. You can find additional information on the movement at our friends on CaliberCorner.
So, what’s on offer with the quartz models?
These are in minority and are mostly Seiko-manufactured complications. These are also extremely reliable and rarely lose more than 20 seconds monthly – a fairly standard result in the quartz field.
All Orient watches come with a 1-year warranty period. The guarantee covers all workmanship defects (such as the movement) and naturally is voided in case of damage caused by your own negligence.
1-year is definitely not a jaw-dropping cover and it’s definitely a field in which Orient can do better. You can read the full T&Cs of the guarantee here.
Style Offered by Orient Watch Collections
Whilst the level of craftsmanship is similar across all watch collections, some of them differ in terms of styles and functionalities.
Since going through all would take us a whole day, below let’s take a look at the current 6 best-selling collections.
Orient Diving Watches
If you’re a diving enthusiast looking for a reliable timepiece for your adventures but find Seiko or Citizen watches too pricey, Orient is an excellent alternative – as listed in the article about budget dive watches.
Since the introduction of the first diver in 1964, the brand has been constantly adding to the collection.
If you’ve been crawling through diving models from other brands, you will agree that Orient offers a similar style. The vast majority of these models are fully made from stainless steel, come with easy-to-read dials with large indices, and unidirectional bezels that help you measure elapsed time underwater. Another shared characteristic is the impressive water resistance, ranging from 100m to 300m.
All Orient diving watches come with screw-down casebacks and crowns, and offer strong luminescence.
If you’re a fan of dress watches, the Bambino collection has plenty in store for you.
Orient Bambino models are considered some of the best Entry-Level mechanical timepieces in the industry. They rarely go past the $200 price point.
Style-wise, they offer a rather minimalistic approach. Many models come with large Roman numerals, adding to the vintage feel. Whilst sporty watches mostly use stainless steel cases, the Bambino collection is full of models boasting leather bands. Many come with a domed mineral crystal glass.
In most cases, the water resistance is very moderate – 30ATM / 30m.
The Envoy line is probably just as elegant as Bambino. It offers similar characteristics, such as large Roman numerals, slim watch hands, and leather straps.
Its biggest distinction is the presence of the so-called Open Heart dials. These feature a window through which you can peek at the complex workings of the mechanical movement. Additionally, the models come with transparent casebacks (read also: Best Skeleton Watches Under $300).
The water-resistance rating of these models is between 30m and 50m.
Orient Sun & Moon
The Sun & Moon collection is another one with a strong vintage vibe. The old-school style is fuelled by fairly large Roman numerals, tiny hands, and a classic selection of colors when it comes to straps and faces.
A lion’s share of Sun and Moon watches come with elegant leather bands and large, easy-to-read dials.
As the name of the collection suggests, its biggest characteristic is the inclusion of Sun & Moon phase sub-dials. It usually comes in the form of a rotating disc with the moon painted over that represents the cycle from one new moon to another. The sub-dial in fact mimics the illuminated portion of the moon just like we see it while looking from the Earth.
Most of the time, Orient timepieces scream elegance. However, there’s also a lot in store for those who prefer the combination of sleek design and sporty features. An example of a collection providing just that is Orient Neo.
The line is particularly rich in chronograph watches. Despite the sporty feel, these still look extremely stylish and at times resemble some of the head-turning models from the 70s.
The collection consists of timepieces either fully made from stainless steel or models combining the elegant feel of stainless steel cases with the sturdiness associated with rubber bands. Because of the inclusion of chronograph timers, the vast majority of Neo models run on quartz movements. Also because of the chronograph feature, these watches include additional pushers on each side of the crown.
The water-resistance capabilities of these models are also on a higher level and range from 100m to 200m.
The Orienta Panda chronograph (aka Orient Chronograph Panda) you can see below is a great representative of the Neo line.
Finally, it’s only fair to mention the Orient Star collection that has basically kick-started the rebirth of the Japanese brand.
The line focuses on paying tribute to the good old days of the horological industry. As the brand describes it, it’s “the most distinguished and exquisite timepiece collection, providing exceptional quality, craftsmanship and elegant simplicity since 1951”. The focus phrase here is elegant simplicity. All models, whether classic, contemporary, or sports, boast a rather simple design which at the same time will easily turn many heads.
The Star collection covers all sorts of strap materials and complications. That said, because of the vintage approach, the dominating movement type is mechanical.
Depending on the model, the WR rating can be as low as 30m and as high as 200m.
Is Orient a Luxury Watch Brand?
Whilst Orient watches do provide excellent value, it would be unrealistic to classify the brand as luxury.
Orient fares extremely well against brands in the same price basket, such as Vincero, Reef Tiger, or Invicta. However, as solid as they are, they can’t be compared with some of the big sharks of the luxury watch sector, such as Rolex or Omega.
That said, some of the more pricey Orient models do include materials that are an ever-present element of luxury brands. An example of such is the anti-reflective and highly scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass.
Where Are Orient Watches Made?
As already mentioned in the quality review section, all the mechanical movements used in Orient watches are produced in-house. This is an extremely huge incentive as many competitors in the same price category outsource the complications from low-cost markets, including China.
In fact, Orient is one of very few watchmakers at present that doesn’t do that.
One might wonder, why are Orient watches so cheap?
The decision to keep developing mechanical calibers during the Quartz Revolution of the 1970s has greatly contributed to today’s strategy. By not having to outsource the movements from others, Orient manages to cut a lot of the costs associated with the process. That allows the brand to list excellent mechanical calibers at prices hard to find elsewhere.
As far as quartz watches are concerned, which are a minority, the movements mostly come from a reputable provider, namely Seiko. These also include solar-powered models.
Other watch parts are sometimes entirely manufactured in Japan (like in the case of the Orient Star collection). At other times, Orient gets a helping hand from factories in other Asian countries, such as Hong Kong or Malaysia.
Where to Buy Orient Watches?
Because of the low price margins, Orient watches aren’t as popular amongst replica manufacturers as Rolexes or Hublots. However, it’s still relatively easy to come across a counterfeit Orient timepiece online.
There are a few online destinations that are deemed extremely safe when it comes to the purchase.
Usually, the first obvious choice would be the brand’s official website. However, as of today, the Orient site doesn’t function as a store. Instead, it allows you to browse through all watch collections online and then use the Store Locator to help you find the timepiece in your area.
If you’d like to get the watch delivered to your home even the next day, there are literally hundreds of Orient watch models listed on Amazon. The popular marketplace offers some of the most competitive prices online and has a long list of verified sellers offering brand new models with warranties. Also, there’s the 30-day no-questions-asked return policy.
Another reliable choice is Jomashop. It’s one of the most popular watch and jewelry stores in the US, and an authorized retailer of Orient timepieces. The models are available at tempting prices and come with a 1-year Jomashop warranty.
Finally, if you don’t mind wearing a pre-owned watch, have a look at eBay. Some of the models are available in great condition and can be snatched at fraction of the price.
Orient Watches Review: Conclusion
If you’ve been mulling over the purchase of your first Orient watch, I’m pretty positive that the information you found in the article has played at least a small part in convincing you to give the Japanese watchmaker a well-earned chance to impress.
Summing up this review of Orient watches, I think it’s only fair to say that the brand offers excellent value for money. This is especially true when talking about the mechanical collection consisting of both manually-wound and automatic watches.
Even during challenging times like the Quartz Crisis, Orient stuck with its initial mission of developing reliable and durable mechanical calibers. A decision that is certainly bearing fruit nowadays – when the demand for mechanical watches is on the rise again. Dollar for dollar, you’re unlikely to find watchmakers offering better value in the mechanical watch sector.
Whilst many brands love to overuse phrases such as “excellent quality and longevity”, this doesn’t seem to relate to Orient watches. The high standard provided by the Japanese watchmaker is recognized globally, and a topic of interesting discussion amongst watch aficionados online.
Perhaps you can be a bit let down by Orient is if you’re a massive fan of quartz watches. Even though the selection of battery-powered timepieces grows year on year, these are still a minority. The fact that Orient continues to manufacture all its mechanical calibers in-house while outsourcing the quartz complications says a lot about the brand’s strategy and priorities.
Also, a lot of folks new to the brand would probably feel a tad more confident if Orient’s warranty period was longer than 12 months.
As proved in this Orient watches review, the Japanese horological industry isn’t all about Seiko or Citizen. I will go as far as saying: if you’re a fan of mechanical watches, the value provided by Orient is better than that provided by the more recognizable duo.