The Orient Defender is one of the Japanese watchmaker’s answers to the humble field watch. A field watch is a generalized term for a military infantry watch or one worn by someone who is traversing the outdoors. Field watches are meant to be durable, reliable, affordable, easy to read, and not particularly pretentious. Worn by soldiers and adventurers of the past, the field watch of today is a humble statement that communicates your active lifestyle, and that you probably prefer mountain biking to mimosas.
Orient produces the Defender (reviewed here as the reference FET0N002K0) in at least five different styles including four dial colors and either a leather strap or steel bracelet. This version has an olive green dial and is paired with a rather comfortable black leather strap. Even though black-dialed watches are probably more common, olive drab-colored dials are more common for field watches, so I think it is a fitting hue for the Orient Defender.
While the Orient Defender is not going to be the field watch for everyone – given the dial design – it is a remarkably capable watch with personality. Indeed, there aren’t other field watches (that I know of) on the market with an asymmetrical set of sub-dials that include the time, date, day of the week, and AM/PM indicator. Most field watches have just the time, with possibly the date.
The AM/PM indicator (the 24 hour sub-dial) serves two purposes. First, as mentioned it is a handy AM/PM indicator, as the 24 hour time is synchronized to the main time. Second, it helps satisfy the almost ubiquitous requirement that field watches have a scale for military time. Unlike most field watches that put this scale next to the main hour markers, Orient is cleverly using a sub-dial for this purpose.
To me the hands, hour markers, and peripheral text feel more aviation or racing-inspired versus classic “field watch” but it really doesn’t matter. Legibility is pretty good, and raised hour markers (that use a lot of luminant) give the watch an overall upgraded feel over other field watches (of which there are many). I will say that while the hands are decent in design, they could benefit from being a bit longer.
The 42mm-wide case wears modestly on the wrist as a field watch should, sitting comfortably at 12mm thick with a sandblasted steel case. The watch has a screw-down crown, (that is oddly polished and not sandblasted), which helps offer 100m of water resistance. The flat crystal is mineral glass, and appears to have some welcome AR-coating which further aids legibility to be its best.
Inside the watch is Orient’s in-house made caliber 46B40 automatic movement. This isn’t one of Orient’s newer movements that also offer hand-winding (in addition to automatic winding) and hacking seconds. However, as far as I know, Orient does not yet offer those movements with these complications. The movement is simple, but reliable and the added complications make the sub-$300 price of the Orient Defender more than palatable.
While the Orient Defender doesn’t look like most other Orient watches I’ve worn, it does offer the same pleasant ownership and wearing experience that includes a solid dedication to utility, just the right amount of personality, and a price that won’t make anyone flinch. The welcome humility of the watch is going to be really desirable to a lot of the collectors I know who are more interested in tool watches than blingy watches. I also feel that Orient nailed the case size and the strap.
As I mentioned above, the Defender is also available on a matching steel bracelet, though I haven’t had an opportunity to check it out hands-on. My suspicion, however, is that most of the pieces Orient will move are those on a strap… and I can already see buyers personalizing their Defenders by putting them on green NATO-style or fabric straps to better complete the military field watch look.
Where can Orient go from here for the Defender? While this watch is already a great value and offers some welcome personality over other field watches, I think Orient could certainly benefit from tweaking the hand length, as well as possibly adding a sapphire crystal in the future. While I don’t know what Orient has in development, being able to hand-wind a field watch is always a good idea. And, if they are going to upgrade the movement, why not also add a power reserve indicator where the current logo is?
The Japanese Orient Defender watch on a strap (such as this FET0N002K0 seen here for review) has a retail price of $250 USD. On a bracelet, that goes up to $285 USD. orientwatchusa.com
>Model: Defender (reference FET0N002K0 as reviewed)
>Price: $250 USD
>Size: 42mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Military field and Japanese watch lover looking for something useful and versatile, but with a little bit of personality.
>Best characteristic of watch: Comfortable on the wrist with an easy to see dial. The sandblasted case fits the field watch theme rather well. Complications help it stand out from the crowd, and the three dimensional construction helps upgrade the overall look.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Hands are a bit on the short side. Movement isn’t the newest and doesn’t offer hacking or hand-winding.