You may or may not have heard of Orient watches, but that is OK since they only recently (officially) entered the US market. Orient is a Japanese watch maker that has been getting very serious about making some nice watches for US tastes. The company has been around for over 50 years, and is well known in most of Asia and lots of Europe - producing over 2 million watches each year. A great high point of Orient is that they make their own high quality mechanical watch movements in-house. Inside this CFT00004B is automatic movement with a power reserve indicator - and it gets admirable rate results. Part of the appeal here is the partial skeletonization that allows you to view the movement while it is in operation. You can see the balance wheel quickly oscillating and the escapement in the face, as well as mechanism that allows you to adjust the watch via the crown. There are a total of seven little windows on the dial, and the entire rear of the watch it fitted with a transparent sapphire crystal caseback window. It is fun to watch I admit, and doesn't seem to get old. Sometimes I peek at the watch and end up just staring at the gears moving. After I've looked away I realize I forgot to check what time it was - the original reason I even looked at the watch. This is a good thing, and keeps you happy when looking at the watch.
The skeletonization is not total on this watch, but rather, is combined with the look of a quasi-aviator or racing watch. I tried to figure out exactly why I liked the overall look of the watch, even though it didn't serve any formal functional purpose. The design seems to ride between being a tool watch, and being a watch that showcases how a mechanical movement works. Then I remembered the Terminator, from the movies. Everyone remembers the cool look that Schwarzenegger had when he was between looking like a person and a machine. You got a glimpse of what was making him work, but you still were connected with the human part, and the functional "covering" over the machine underneath. This is the same idea behind this Orient CFT00004B watch. See what I mean? Look at the face and see how it is roughly sectioned off into three pieces. One that is mostly clean with what the watch would look like without the cut-aways, then a section with reduced hour markers with more of a view into the movement, and then another section that is more or less totally open. The concept works because it appeals to our sense of wonder into how things work, but combines it with something that actually does work. This makes for a perfect "guys watch," that few men would refuse to like. The whole concept JUST WORKS.
One area that impressed me was the decoration on the movement. You typically don't see this from Japanese brands, but the movement has a fair amount of perlage polish as well as a nicely signed rotor. The polish looks machined as opposed to hand applied (as is done with very high-end European watches). This type of decoration is not at all expected on a watch with a retail price of $600. Orient has some way to go if they want to be serious about decorating their movements, but they off to a good start, and having it makes the ownership experience feel more valuable as I didn't expect it in the first place.
Despite the skeletonization on the dial, the watch is easy to read. This is in part thanks to the large lume covered hands, as well as the fact that there are still small indicators on the minute marker ring around the dial. You can tell from the images that the lume on this watch is really bright. It will take some getting used to that not all the hour markers are presents, but you will adjust, and simply realize that this is part of the watch's personality. Case stainless steel case is hefty at roughly 43mm wide. The relatively thin and sloped bezel helps make the case appear larger, while the sapphire crystal is also cute with a slight slope on its edges to match the slope of the bezel. This is a nice touch, and something I've not seen before.
You'll notice that this watch has two crowns. The crown for adjusting the watch is placed in a lefty position at 9 o'clock, while the crown in the 4 o'clock position is used to operate the slide-ruler. More on that in a second. The movement in this watch does not support hand-winding, which is less of a deal than it might seem. This mean that the watch is wound via the automatic rotor only. If the watch's power reserve runs out, then you need to oscillate it manually to get it wound a bit. I place my Orient CFT0004B on a winder which keeps it running for a long time. The power reserve of the movement is about 40 hours, so leaving it off for a day wont be a problem, and you still have the hand power reserve indicator to tell you when it need to be worn a bit. The automatic rotor is quite efficient, and I find while wearing the watch, the power reserve indicator is almost always near full.
As I mentioned, this watch is fitted with a slide-ruler. Back before electronic calculators were en vogue (admittedly before my time), people needed slide rules to do mathematical calculations they didn't feel like doing on paper. Breitling was of the first (or the first) to fit their watch with a slide-ruler in the bezel. If you are trained properly, the slide ruler can calculate a number of important things. To operate the slide-rule, you simple unscrew the crown located at the 4 o'clock position and use it to spin the internal slide-rule ring. The action is quite smooth, and nice to use. Still, I admit that I'll most likely never use the slide ruler, though it is cool to have. Watch designers have long since realized that adding a lot of little numbers around the periphery of a watch face makes it look cool, and more technical. I admit the trick works here as well, and to Orient's benefit, they decided that instead of just placing little numbers for no reason, they would be at least useful if you wished to use them. I don't think any of you are going to buy this watch because of the slide-rule, but you at least appreciate that it is there.
Each time I wear the watch I like how it feels, and how it looks. It is a unpretentious look, that appears comfortable being what it is. It doesn't try to hard, and the element coalesce together nicely. My thoughts are that this watch is good for any guy who wants a nice watch, that will last, that has reasonably good internal mechanics, and is different enough for other guys to notice. I further feel good about recommending this watch because it has a solidly built case and bracelet. As is the case with most Japanese watches, the quality control is impressive. All the pieces fit together nicely, and there is no travel between the bracelet end pieces (which are solid steel) and the lugs. The bracelet itself is better than most I've seen from Japanese brands. Sometimes a Japanese watch case looks great, and you wonder why a mediocre bracelet is attached to it. Here the quality of the case and bracelet match well. The bracelet tapers just a bit, and is a five link design - with alternating satin and polished finishes. The links are solid metal, and use good quality pins. I actually think that the bracelet on this Orient watch was the easiest I've ever had to fit. Usually the bracelet fitting ritual is a slightly delicate and sometimes frustrating procedure. I think it was about 5 minutes from when I started the procedure until it was perfectly sized on my wrist. Included on the deployment are three micro adjustments that are infinitely useful if you like that precise fit that I do. Too many watches that don't feature this always feel just too loose, or just too tight. It is funny how most Japanese watch makers are mindful of this, while a great deal of high-end Swiss watch makers totally over look it. I have no complaints with the deployment either. This is actually one of the most important parts of a watch because you use it at least twice a day (putting the watch on, and taking it off). The clasp has a stamped Orient logo, with a push-button release and a safety clasp. It is on par with the value of this watch, and hassle free to use.
The Orient Racing Automatic skeletonized series of watches actually comes in a few colors -with either the metal bracelet or a leather strap. This particular model is my choice as I like the dark gray (almost black) face with the lime green seconds hand (with making hand on the power reserve indicator). Other colors include white, yellow, orange, and a dark blue. The Orient CFT00004B men's watches will yell out to some of you who are taken by it's looks. I also think that this watch would make a great gift for someone who isn't as into watches as you are - as it has that type of masculine look with broad appeal. Retail price is $600 from Orient, and it is also available from other watch retailers.
See this Orient Racing Automatic Ref. CFT00004B men's watches for sale at Orient here.