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Seiko and Orient are two Japanese watchmakers known for making high-quality, affordable timepieces that last for decades.
As of 2009, Seiko owns Orient entirely, yet the companies still operate largely independently. They produce their own movements and maintain their individual design cultures.
Orient or Seiko?
If you prefer a tried-and-true watch with proven and popular designs, Seiko is the brand for you.
If you prefer something to stand out from the crowd – a risk-taking watchmaker blazing a beautiful new trail – then Orient will make that watch.
For more information, read the full Orient Watches Review.
Ultimately, you wouldn’t be wrong to choose either one, or both. Most people start out with a Seiko and add on an Orient later once they have more experience with watches. But if you’re a risk-taker, getting an Orient first is well worth it.
Which Brand Reigns Supreme?
Seiko and Orient started off as two separate companies, both of them Japanese. After decades of operation, Orient was acquired by Seiko, yet it kept it’s independent operations, design language, and style.
Both companies manufacture their own movements. Seiko Epson has a dedicated subsidiary – Seiko Instruments Inc. – which makes their movements. Orient makes it’s own movements in-house.
Orient brings a youthful, modern, and contemporary style to watchmaking; Seiko reinterprets older successful designs in stylish new ways.
Orient focuses on incorporating new and sophisticated complications, especially power reserve indicators, to its models; Seiko specializes in refining already-perfected watch designs.
To use a watch analogy, Seiko is like Rolex; Orient is like Tudor – both are owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation (Seiko Epson). If you know Tudor, you know that they make watches for a younger generation without being limited by the big name’s magnetism; yet ultimately they are of the same quality.
Dive Watches: Orient Ray II vs Seiko SKX007
Although the SKX007 has been discontinued since 2019, it’s still regarded as Seiko’s best entry-level 200m diver. This is why we’re going to compare it to the Orient Ray II, Orient’s most popular entry-level 200m dive watch.
While they look similar from product photo thumbnails, they have many key differences that speak to how each brand operates, and reveals the philosophical outlook of each.
- Seiko: The SKX007 has the appeal of a classic aesthetic. Sure, it’s loosely based on older iconic dive watch designs, but since it’s release in 1996, it hasn’t had much change in appearance for over 20 years. Nonetheless, it’s a timeless design that will never go out of style.
- Orient: First off, the Ray II comes in both a black and blue dial. It’s not just any blue – it’s a gorgeous reflective Orient blue. Right away, we can see how Orient thinks: it’s not enough to just reinvent the wheel, they also have to make it the star of the show.
- Winner: Tie. Both dials have a lot to offer, and it comes down to a matter of preference. Do you want a timeless classic dial (SKX007)? Or a brilliant next-gen blue that certainly has a spark of the avante-garde (Ray II)? Personally I prefer the blue, but note that the black Ray II also has a shiny dial.
The movement is the biggest differentiator between the Ray II and the SKX007.
First, I’m going to even the playing field by noting that the “II” in “Ray II” is a recent 2016 Orient release. Prior to that, the Orient Ray I used the caliber 46943, which had no hacking or hand-winding, and a lower accuracy of +35/-25 sec/day. Still better than the 7S26.
Here is a comparison of the movement specs for both watches:
|Watch||Orient Ray II||Seiko SKX007|
|Movement||Caliber F6922||Caliber 7S26|
|Accuracy||+25 / -15 sec/day||+50 / -20 sec/day|
- Winner: Orient. The movement in the Orient Ray II is objectively superior to the SKX007.
- It’s interesting to note that the Orient Cal. F6922 has the same specs as the Seiko Cal. 6R15, which is found in Seiko’s 3rd Gen Monsters, SARBs, and 1st Gen Alpinists – an upgrade Seiko fans have been asking for in the 007 for ages. Interestingly, Orient can sell their watch for under $150, while the Seikos mentioned are priced at $300+.
- Seiko: The SKX007 is marked as “Diver’s 200m.” This makes it a water-tight ISO 6425 water-resistant watch. This means it can be used for professional SCUBA diving all day long.
- Orient: The Ray II is only marked as “Water Resist 200m.” While it’s a deep rating, it’s technically not an ISO 6425 -compliant dive watch for missing a “diver’s” marking.
- Winner: Seiko. The SKX007 makes an extra effort to be professionally-certified, even if the Ray II is a better watch to dive with overall.
- Seiko: At the time it was discontinued, the SKX007 could generally be found in the $200-$300 range.
- Orient: The Orient Ray II can usually be found in the $100-$150 range.
- Winner: Orient. the Ray II is priced at about half of the SKX007 (now and in the past). Given the relative similarity of both watches, that’s an unbeatable value-for-the-money proposition.
Orient vs Seiko Divers: Conclusion
Overall, the Orient Ray II is a better option that the SKX007. There are a number of factors we didn’t consider (bracelet, crown, handset, bezel), but overall the two watches are similar in these regards.
However, the Orient Ray II is objectively a better watch, especially because of the movement. To top it off, it’s priced at half the cost of the SKX007, and is still in production. The only real reason to get a SKX007 over the Orient Ray II is for the history and timelessness of the Seiko.
Dress Watches: Seiko Cocktail Time vs Orient Sun and Moon v4
Although Orient is famous for its Bambino dress watches, I find them to be overrated for one simple fact: they are very traditional and don’t represent the best of Orient. For this reason, we are going to compare dress watches in the $200-$400 range instead.
Seiko has many dress watches in this range, most notably the Cocktail Time series. Let’s take a look at how the two brands tackle a dress watch that “takes it to the next level.”
- Seiko: The Seiko Cocktail Time has a gorgeous radiant blue dial that plays with the light in spectacular ways. It has an eye-catching textured appearance that radiates many shiny blues in many different lights.
- Orient: The dial of the Orient Sun and Moon v4 has an incredible 6-layer depth and a slew of complications (features). The subdials and date windows are textured with fine detail that shows an exquisite level of craftsmanship.
- Winner: Tie. The Seiko attempts to be simple and sparkling, while the Orient is going for sophisticated and complex. Both excel at what they are trying to do.
- Seiko: The Cocktail Time design is beautiful, yet still conservative. It follows the traditions of minimal dress watches, keeping the dial relatively uncluttered, simple, and elegant. The Cocktail Time is meant for very formal events, and would look out of place with jeans.
- Orient: The Sun and Moon is anything but traditional. It pushes the boundaries of what is a dress watch with a medley of subdials rich with complications. The Sun and Moon is accomplished with sophistication, and the entire layout is very modern and eye-catching. The Orient is much more versatile, and can be worn with any outfit.
- Winner: Orient. While Seiko improves on existing traditional designs, Orient reinvents the dress watch from scratch.
Movement and Complications
- Seiko: The Cocktail Time uses the tried-and-true Seiko caliber 4R35. It features Hacking and Hand-winding, a date complication, and an accuracy of +45/-35 sec per day.
- Orient: The Orient Sun and Moon uses the upgraded Orient Calibre F6B24. It has Hacking and Hand-winding, a Sun and Moon complication, date window, and day indicator. It has an accuracy of +25/-15 sec per day.
Here is a comparison of the movement specs for both watches:
|Watch||Orient Sun and Moon v4||Seiko Cocktail Time|
|Movement||Caliber F6B24||Caliber 4R35|
|Accuracy||+25 / -15 sec/day||+45 / -35 sec/day|
|Complications||Sun and Moon|
- Winner: Orient. The Orient movement is much more complicated (more features), and has an accuracy that is twice as good as the 4R35. Seiko is being too stingy with their 6R15 movements, and Orient is beating them by a long shot.
- Seiko: The Cocktail Time comes in at a very conservative 40.5mm diameter x 11.8mm thick. It can easily slide under a cuff and has a very thin profile.
- Orient: By contrast, the Orient is pretty large at 42.5mm diameter x 14mm thick.
- Winner: Seiko. Comparing the two watches side-by-side, the Orient looks way too big. Many people with smaller wrists won’t be able to pull it off.
Orient vs Seiko Dress Watches: Conclusion
There is no clear winner in this comparison. On the one hand, the Orient Sun and Moon offers a feature-rich watch with a great movement and a modern design that’s extremely versatile. On the other hand, it’s rather large for a dress watch.
Meanwhile, the Seiko Cocktail Time is a high-quality timepiece that improves on decades of dress watch traditions and spices it up with a radiant dial. While it has a weaker movement, it’s able to pull it off in a very conservative size. However, the Seiko lacks the complexity of the Orient, and may get tiresome after a while.
Overall, it comes down to a matter of preference, since both are excellent watches: which one looks better to you?
Field Watches: Orient Defender vs Seiko SNZG15
People looking to purchase their first mechanical field watch often face a difficult choice: Orient Defender or Seiko SNZG15? Both are great quality timepieces for nearly the same price. Let’s take a look at how they compare.
- Seiko: The Seiko SNZG15 has a very traditional field watch dial: Hours are marked 1 through 12, with a smaller inner ring marked with 13 through 24 for military time. The entire dial is recessed and concentric to the outer dial, which has the minute marker indices. The writing is fairly cluttered with the Seiko “5 Shield Sports” logo.
- Orient: The Orient Defender is a next-gen take on a field watch. It does away with any Arabic hour markers, and puts the minute markers on the chapter ring. The chapter ring also has the miliseconds, which are a bit superfluous considering that the seconds hand doesn’t reach that far. The Defender features two subdials – a day indicator and a 24-hour military time indicator. The logo and writing are very uncluttered despite being more extravagant than Seiko’s.
- Winner: Orient. Aesthetically the Orient Defender’s dial is much more interesting to look at. From a field watch standpoint, both have the same readability – slightly obscured by the dial elements.
Features and Complications
- Seiko: The Seiko field watch has a day-date display at the 3-o’clock position.
- Orient: The Defender has a date window at the 6 o’clock. It also has two subdials: the day of the week indicator is an interesting twist on an affordable field watch. It makes the dial much more interesting to look at. The 24-hour military time isn’t especially useful and can’t be set to another timezone. However, it’s still neat to look at.
- Winner: Orient. Orient is known for having rich complications in affordable timepieces, so it naturally wins this category. By the way, if you noticed that the dial layout on the Defender is similar to the Orient Sun and Moon, that’s because it’s a similar movement. The Sun and Moon subdial is swapped for the 24-hour subdial, and they are both slaved to the main time and work the same way.
- Seiko: The Seiko SNZG15 is part of the Seiko 5 line, which makes it one of Seiko’s budget offerings. The movement is in line with the collection, and is the Caliber 7S36. It doesn’t have hacking or hand-winding, and the accuracy is mediocre at +50/-20 sec per day.
- Orient: The Orient Defender is also one of the brand’s lowest priced offerings, yet comes equipped with the Orient Calibre 46B40. It has hacking, hand-winding, and an accuracy of +25/-15 sec per day.
Here is a comparison of the movement specs for both watches:
|Watch||Orient Defender||Seiko SNZG15|
|Movement||Caliber 46B40||Caliber 7S36|
|Accuracy||+25 / -15 sec/day||+50 / -20 sec/day|
- Winner: Orient. The Orient movement is much more complicated (more features), and has an accuracy that is twice as good as the 7S36. They are an in-house movement watchmaker after all… but then again so is Seiko.
Orient vs Seiko Field Watches: Conclusion
From a value standpoint, the Orient Defender is the clear winner. It has a movement that’s miles ahead of the Seiko, and a new and innovative design that’s interesting to look at.
The Seiko SNZG15 field watch is still a great value in the watch world. But it doesn’t have hacking or hand-winding which are pretty much the minimum requirement for a good value mechanical watch these days. The accuracy is also too low. Despite having the traditional aesthetic, it’s not as good of a choice for a real field watch over the Orient.
Mid-Tier: Orient Star vs “Baby Grand Seiko”
Watch brands become difficult to compare fairly at higher price points because each brand chooses to focus on different aspects. Moreover, it’s difficult to compare price points because in the Mid-Tier, the price range is more flexible and less constrained ($700-$1500) than in lower ranges ($100-$200).
Nonetheless, Seiko and Orient continue to compete in the higher ranges as well. In this comparison, we’re looking at two watches that represent the mid-tier for both brands well – the Seiko “Baby Grand Seiko” Snowflake power reserve and the Orient Star GMT.
We won’t be determining winners here because value becomes much more subjective across such a wide price range, and it’s difficult to determine the actual prices of these watches as they’re not widely available.
- Seiko: Seiko makes very high-quality watches in the mid- and upper-tier. Of course we have Grand Seiko in the luxury tier, but below that there is a wide range of options for those wanting tip-top quality without shelling out the big bucks. This can be found in the Prospex LX and higher Presage range. This higher-end Presage range is often referred to as “Baby GS” (Baby Grand Seiko) for being very similar visually and in most aspects of quality to Seiko’s luxury range.
- Orient: Orient’s highest-end watch line was called Orient Royal and then Orient Star Royal, but these are discontinued on-and-off. Generally they are close to Grand Seiko quality, but they used to come at much cheaper price points. Orient’s mid-tier equivalent to LX and higher Presage range today is the Orient Star collection. This range allows Orient to fully express their innovation and unique design language without being constrained by affordability.
- Seiko: Seiko isn’t known for complications at lower price points, but we can see them strategically implement them extremely gracefully when they choose. Grand Seikos are famous for having power reserve indicators, and the “Baby GS” ranges implement them successfully as well. It’s rare to see a GMT complication on a mechanical Seiko outside of the GS range, however. Most of their complications relate to showing the date.
- Orient: Even at the affordable range, Orient is famous for their complications. In particular, you can find Orient watches under $200 with a power reserve indicator, which is typically only found in luxury watches. When it comes to Orient Star, the implementation of loads of complications continues. The Orient Star GMT has both a power reserve indicator and a GMT indicator – a combination you can’t find outside of Grand Seiko. Other models such as the Orient Star Retrograde and Orient Star World Time are jam-packed with complications without being cluttered or noisy. In my opinion, they pull off this slew of features much better than most Seikos.
- Seiko: At the higher ranges, Seiko continues it’s style of exquisite traditionalism. They double down on simplicity and elegance, and invest in giving it the best aesthetic possible under those conditions. Most of Seiko’s higher-end watches are classic dress watches with some extreme: a gorgeous dial (enamel, porcelain, or textured), striking hands, and a zen-like harmony to bring it all together.
- Orient: If Orient wasn’t content with outputting traditional styles, Orient Star challenges itself to the next level. At higher price points, they create watches that have only a trace element of traditionalism, while incorporating modern and futuristic designs with loads of complications. I would call them unapologetically contemporary and sporty.
Both Seiko and Orient Star make magnificent watches. Once you get a taste for these horological masterpieces, you may find it difficult to wear an “affordable” Seiko or Orient ever again.
Each brand chooses to specialize in different aspects of watchmaking, same as their affordable counterparts. Orient Star doubles down on contemporary sporty complications, while Seiko focuses on perfecting traditional designs with a modern Japanese influence.
Ultimately you can’t go wrong with either choice. The limited marketing done by Orient Star in the US ensures that most people don’t know about the brand nearly as well as Seiko. As such, people are less inclined to purchase an Orient Star. You can’t even buy an Orient Star on Amazon.
Those that have heard of it choose to buy boring traditional designs like the Orient Star Classic or the Bambino… lamesauce. On the bright side, this means that the prices are lower for the rest of us… for now.
Seiko vs Orient: History
Seiko and Orient have a very similar history. Both began as watch repair and trading shops in Tokyo at the turn of the 20th century that expanded to magnificent heights over their first 100 years.
Today, Orient is wholly-owned by Seiko Epson. As such, their history has been somewhat re-written from the perspective of this victor.
Both companies have been very innovative and adaptive, but Seiko’s accomplishments can’t be denied. They invented the quartz movement, Spring Drive, and many other pioneering technologies.
On the other hand, Orient has consistently innovated on designs and experimented with the artistic aspect of watchmaking. The merger of these two companies helps the global reach of both.
Seiko began back in 1881 when Kintaro Hattori opened a watch repair shop in Tokyo. In 1892, he opened up the ‘Seikosha’ factory for clock manufacturing.
In 1895, Seikosha built the first pocket watch.
In 1913, Seikosha produced Japan’s first wristwatch – “the Laurel.”
in 1923, an earthquake destroyed the Seikosha factory in a fire.
In 1924, the factory was rebuilt and renamed Seiko. That same year, the first Seiko-branded watch was produced.
1924-1959 – Seiko expands its operations and experiments with new watchmaking innovations.
1960 – Seiko produces the first Grand Seiko
1965 – the 62MAS is released – the first Japanese Diver’s watch
In 1969, Seiko introduced the world’s first quartz watch, the “Seiko Quartz Astron.” This kickstarted the Quartz Revolution which put over a thousand watchmakers out of business.
Between 1970-2000, Seiko expanded it’s scope in the areas of electronics and professional watches, growing to become one of the biggest watchmaking names in the world. The expansion included digital/LCD watched, 600m professional Tuna divers, Seiko Solar, and Kinetic.
In 1999, Seiko introduced Spring Drive technology: a luxury mechanical movement with quartz-modulated accuracy.
In 2005, Seiko released the first Grand Seiko Spring Drive, followed by Credor Spring Drive (2006) and a Spring Drive Chronograph (2007).
In 2017, Grand Seiko becomes an independent brand from Seiko.
The story of Orient watches began at the turn of the century in 1901. Like many watchmakers, Orient started as a smaller watch-related business: a man named Shogoro Yoshida started the Yoshida Watch Store in Tokyo and began importing and selling foreign watches.
Eventually the company expanded to manufacturing their own watches (1934), but had to shut down in the midst of the post-WWII economic depression (1949).
They reopened in 1950 and Orient Watch Co. Ltd. officially formed in 1951.
In 1951, they launched the first Orient Star, a higher-tier collection.
In 1959, they released the original Royal Orient line – the company’s high-end watches.
In the 1995, Orient expanded to manufacturing printer parts.
In 1997, Seiko Epson becomes the largest shareholder in the Orient company. By 2001, Seiko Epson owned 52% of Orient’s shares, making them a subsidiary.
In 2004, Orient revived their high-end “Royal Orient,” but sadly discontinued it sometime after 2014.
As of 2009, Orient is 100% owned by Seiko Epson as a wholly-owned subsidiary.
Orient vs Seiko: Conclusion
Ultimately, both Seiko and Orient create watches of astounding quality at an affordable price.
Seiko puts its efforts towards refining and perfecting older designs that it pioneered decades ago; Orient packs its watches full of complications, beautiful new dials, and unique Japanese reinterpretations on classic old themes.
Seiko – In the last decade, Seiko has been moving up-market. Many of their entry-level movements have become obsolete. Instead of upgrading these watches with better movements, crystals, and specs, Seiko has a pattern of discontinuing these long-time favorite watches. Then, they re-release them with these improvements at double the price.
Long-time Seiko fans will find that with such an up-market move, Seiko no longer holds it position as the best-value-for-the-money watchmaker that they used to be.
Orient – We’ve seen that Orient is capable of great things, yet it’s most popular watch is the Orient Bambino – a boring typical dress watch that looks like every other watch on the market. This has made Orient produce a slew of other Bambino-esque variations (Monarch, Analyst, Curator), but they’re ultimately selling themselves short.
Meanwhile, Orient Star is thriving. They’re producing amazing moonphases, open-hearts, retrogrades, dive watches, sports outdoor watches, and more. Unfortunately for the US markets, they’re not advertised at all, and local selection is limited.
However, the pendulum will continue to swing forward and back. The entire time, it’s good to know that whether you pick and Orient or a Seiko watch, you’re getting a high-quality respectable timepiece that will last for generations.