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When it comes to affordable mechanical watches, Orient is near the top in terms of value and quality. You may have seen the Bambino or Mako and wondered if it was any good – “Orient” doesn’t sound like a household name, after all.
However, Orient has been making some of the best-value mechanical and automatic watches for over 70 years, with their best models available in the $100-$500 price range.
As of 2020, Orient is owned by Seiko Epson – the largest and oldest Japanese watchmaker in the world. As Seiko moves up-market, Orient is taking their place as the best entry-level mechanical watch brand on the market.
In this article we examine Orient’s best watches, as well as provide a review of the brand as a whole. Feel free to skip ahead to relevant sections, but here’s a summary of their top watches:
- Best Overall: Orient Triton
- Most Unique Style: Orient Sun and Moon v3
- Best Field Watch: Orient Defender
- Best Dress Diver: Orient Mako II
- Best Traditional Dress Watch: Orient Bambino
- Best Tactical Diver: Orient Ray II
- Coolest Chronograph: Orient Panda Chronograph
- Best Weekend Watch: Orient Disk
What makes Orient Watches stand out?
Orient is a very special and underrated watchmaker. While other brands mass-produce tired old designs in cheap cases in an attempt to sneak their product into your Amazon feed, Orient does the opposite.
Instead, Orient focuses on re-imagining watches in a fresh and innovative way. They take the best of the past, and combine it with styles and complications (features, such as power reserve indicators) that should drive up the price tenfold but do not.
As of 2009, Orient is owned by Seiko, yet they still retain their original design language. Even better, they produce their own movements, making them one of the most affordable watchmakers with an in-house movement.
While they’re priced similar to Invicta, Stuhrling, and other fashion watches, their quality is closer to Swiss watches priced ten times higher. Anyone who’s worn an Orient knows that they beat the Swiss in terms of value every day of the week.
Best of all, Orient keeps innovating. Their supply is still largely driven by Japanese consumer demand, which translates to some very interesting design and watchmaking choices that we get to enjoy from the Far East.
For more about Orient, read the review at the bottom of this article. For now, let’s take a look at some of their best models in 2020:
Best Orient Watches
Best Overall – Orient Triton (aka Orient Neptune)
One of the best dive watches for the money in 2020 is the Orient Triton (sometimes called the Neptune). Unlike other divers in it’s price range, the Triton is much more robust, functional, and unique. It features many upgrades over a Seiko or a Swiss dive watch that will make it your perfect one-watch-collection.
Sporting a sapphire crystal, you’ll never have to worry about scratching it up. The Triton is Orient’s “affordable flagship” watch, replacing their professional Orient Saturation Diver.
The Orient Triton is an unbeatable value for the money among all watch brands. It’s a professional 200m dive watch so you can take it into any environment without a worry.
Besides the gold-black dual-tone, it comes in a shiny reflective blue and all-black. They all have a power reserve indicator at the top right, which is unheard of at this price point.
Most Unique Style – Orient Sun and the Moon
When it comes to breaking the rules with style, you’ll be glad to do so with the Sun and Moon on your wrist. Orient boldly reinvents a dress watch for the 21st century, getting rid of the “boring” and “traditional” in favor of an eye-catching and sophisticated timepiece.
At the center of it all is the Sun and Moon complication, with a shiny sun and shiny moon chasing each other harmoniously around the subdial all day long.
The Orient Sun and Moon has an immersive 6-layer depth that photos can’t capture; you’re guaranteed to be impressed and amazed, and so are your friends and colleagues.
Best Field Watch – Orient Defender
Whereas traditional field watches are plain and ordinary, the Defender continues Orient’s theme of reinvigorating the design with sophistication and style.
The Orient Defender is a field watch with class: it has a 24-hour time indicator to show you the clock in military time. Also it has a day of the week indicator, which makes it quite useful and interesting to look at.
Best of all, it maintains the military aesthetic. The black-dial version can be dressed up with a leather strap or NATO strap for unlimited versatility.
Best Dress Diver – Orient Mako II
When it comes to style and function, the Orient Mako II is still at the top of the list for value and quality. For under $150, you get a crisp 200m diver that actually looks great with both scuba gear and in a professional environment.
The Orient Mako II is considered a “dress diver,” meaning that it’s both a tool watch and an office watch. You can dress it up or down with a NATO or a leather strap to fully express your personality.
Overall, the Mako may be the best watch under $150 that you can buy. It’s usually my first recommendation for anyone wanting a long-lasting and versatile automatic watch.
Best Traditional Dress Watch – Orient Bambino
By now, everyone has heard of the Bambino. This is Orient’s answer to an ultra-affordable high-quality and traditional automatic dress watch.
The Orient Bambino is a collection spanning over 50 watches across 5+ generations, with different dials and nuances in each one. The featured one is one of my favorites, but you can browse most of the collection here.
What makes the Orient Bambino special is the bang-for-the-buck. A quality in-house movement with a watch that’s instantly recognizable as continuing the tradition of dress watches from hundreds of years prior.
While I respect Orient’s decision to make this collection, I think it’s unfortunate that this is one of their most popular models. Why? I believe their greatest strength is in putting out unique and sophisticated timepieces with original takes on traditional designs rather than rehashing old ones.
Nonetheless, if this is the style of dress watch you’re looking for, the Orient Bambino is the best-made version you will find.
Higher-Tier: Orient Star
While Orient makes great entry-level watches, Orient Star takes it to the next level. Orient Star is the higher-end of Orient’s collection, and is priced accordingly.
These models are a bit harder to find, so they may not be ideal for someone just getting acquainted with the brand. Personally, I’ve owned at least a dozen of these and struggle to find any brand that can match the value.
Most people who dip their toes into Orient Star make the same mistake as the Bambino – going for the Orient Star Classic, which is probably the most boring watch in the collection. Nonetheless, it’s still beautiful and eye-catching at a distance.
Orient Star watches are made at a much higher-quality than Orient, and a large portion of them are assembled by hand in Japan.
Best Tactical Diver – Orient Ray II
Where the Orient Mako II is a neat dress diver, the Orient Ray II has a ranger-like tactical quality to it. Despite being a black watch, the dial is quite eye-catching at a distance, and will net you lots of compliments.
The Ray II is Orient’s affordable adaptation of the classic iconic dive watch design, popularized by the Rolex Submariner and Seiko SKX007 – black 200m dive watch with circular hour markers and demarcated bezel.
The Orient Ray II also comes in a reflective blue, and at a super-affordable price point. The biggest drawback is that it’s difficult to pick between this model and the Orient Mako II – both are an amazing value.
Coolest Chronograph – Orient Panda Chronograph
For those with an insatiable need for speed, Orient has you covered with a sporty racing “Panda” chronograph. It’s clearly based on classic Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster chronograph DNA, and yet it has enough originality to make it unique to Orient.
It’s called the “Panda” because the contrast of the subdials against the dial resembles the color patterns of a panda bear. This species of chronograph (and bear) are rarer and more desirable, and have a universal appeal.
The Orient Panda Chronograph gets you a quartz movement chronograph, and is solar-powered. For the price, you’re getting one hell of a design, and one hell of a watch.
Best Weekend Watch – Orient Disk
Now here’s an exciting piece – the Orient Disk. This automatic watch is quirky and innovative; the changing colors make it vibrant and dynamic, and will always put a smile on your face.
How does it work? The hour hand is actually a cutout in the inner dial. As the time advances, the inner disk spins slowly, revealing a different color on the gradient underneath (corresponding to the hour markers, which are also cutouts).
Throughout the day, the Orient Disk keeps on changing colors. It’s unique and innovative, and will keep you excited about your watch all day.
Orient Watches Review
History of Orient Watches
Orient Watch began as the Yoshida Watch Store in Tokyo – a small watch importer and retailer started by Shogoro Yoshida in 1901.
After decades in the watch business, the company expanded to manufacturing their own watches in 1934, and continued to do so for decades more. However, following management turmoil after WWII, the company was dissolved in 1949.
The next year, in 1950, the employees of the factory reopened as Tama Keki, and finally changed the name in 1952 to Orient Watch.
Since then, Orient has had a lot of success, while focusing on what makes them unique – original designs and vivid colors at a high quality and affordable price point. Orient has been producing wild watches from out of left field – like the Orient Permanent Calendar and Orient Star Retro-Future.
Orient diversified it’s production to Quartz watches in the 70s, and to printers in the 80s – as those technologies became ubiquitous and high in demand. This is what led it to partner with Seiko Epson in various aspects of business, as they had also been entering the field of printers and electronics.
Between 1997 and 2017, Orient and Seiko Epson become more and more intertwined. In 2017, Orient officially became a wholly-owned and fully-integrated subsidiary of Seiko.
However, throughout the years, Orient has retained and matured in it’s own unique design language and mission. The integration with Seiko gave Orient access to some technologies. markets, and manufacturing channels to innovate even further; yet, at the core, Orient remains Orient.
Orient Watch Quality
Orient watches are made of high-quality stainless steel, and have a solid and robust construction. They have in-house movements that are some of the most accurate for mechanical watches in their price range.
When you feel an Orient watch, it does not feel cheap nor does it feel inexpensive. It feels like a high-quality tool that will last many years. In fact, Orient watches typically last 10+ years before they need to be serviced, and can be worn “til they die without a servicing” for 30+ years. This is exceptional for the price range.
The one exception to this is the bracelet quality. At best, the bracelets and leather straps on Orient models are adequate. At worst, they have a few components (usually hidden parts of the bracelet) that feel somewhat cheap. However, this is a standard tradeoff for an affordable price for an otherwise high-quality watch.
Orient Watch is one of the few watchmakers in the world to have in-house movements. This means that they actually manufacture the movement themselves, typically in Japan.
This is in contrast to typical watchmakers who source the different components from different places, and import an out-of-the-box movement to put inside it.
Instead, Orient designs and builds each watch from scratch from the ground up. This is quite unique to affordably-priced watches, as in-house movements are typically only found in luxury watches, and is one part of what makes them sell for such a luxury premium.
The Orient logo is composed of two inner-facing lions holding a heraldic crowned emblem with a stylized ‘O’ in the center.
The lion on the left represents the Orient company, and the second lion symbolizes Orient’s partners. The crown represents you – the customer.
It’s an iconic and distinctive logo that has varied execution on different dials. Sometimes the logo draws criticism as having too much information and imagery in it, but overall most watch dials look rather good with it.
Some models have the logo engraved into the caseback, and give those watches a luxurious quality.
Orient vs Orient Star
Finally, I should mention the brand’s higher-tier offering: Orient Star.
You’ll notice in my author bio that I explicitly name Orient Star as one of my favorite brands, and it’s with good reason.
Orient Star watches double down on the value proposition of regular Orient watches. They are more feature-rich, and finished to a much higher quality. They represent what Orient is capable of achieving when it’s not constrained by trying to stay “affordable.”
Sadly, it can be difficult to find Orient Star watches at decent prices – they are mostly sold in Japan. The watches that do make it to US markets are typically some of the more boring and conservative designs, such as the Orient Star Classic.
In the future, I hope to see more Orient Stars promulgated to watch-buying communities in the West. Their quality is much higher than many Swiss brands, including Oris, Squale, Christopher Ward, and any other microbrand – to name a few.
Conclusion: Are Orient Watches Good?
Overall, Orient makes some of the best watches for the money. They outperform watches that are 2-3 times more expensive by a long shot.
The list of best Orient watches in this article represents some of the first choices that I recommend to anyone looking to buy their next watch, or their first watch. They are timeless pieces that will hold up very well under stress and over time.
Even Orient’s lowest-priced options come with a high degree of quality and in-house movements. As Seiko moves up-market and raises their prices, Orient becomes the brand of choice for affordable high-quality mechanical watches.
In the end, you can’t go wrong with an Orient watch. The best part of this brand is that you’ll always get a much nicer watch than you expect. Pictures don’t do many watch brands much justice – doubly so with Orient, as they exceed all expectations (except maybe the high expectations that I just set!)
Image Credits: Orient Watch Japan