May 27, 2013
by James Lamdin
Orient has long been appreciated on ABTW for their commitment to producing high quality, affordable timepieces with in-house movements and great looks. Today we review the Orient Star SDE00002B0 Retrograde watch. Their continually growing collection of men’s and women’s timepieces feature designs that run the gamut from tool to technical, vintage to modern, casual to dressy and everything in between. As a result, Orient generally has something for everyone.
Since the entry price point of many pieces in their lineup is just a few hundred dollars, I know many collectors who got started building their collection with them. This was either financially necessitated, or just because it was a great way to get their feet wet and buy something cool and get going. And while some of these collectors moved on to become “Swiss Watch Only” elites, just as many of them keep buying Orients alongside much more expensive Swiss brands.
Several of the first pieces I collected were Japanese, but I have never owned an Orient. When the opportunity came up to spend some time with their Retrograde, a part of their Star collection, I jumped at the chance to see what it was all about. The Orient Star collection stands apart from the rest of the Orient line primarily because of the price point – starting at $690 and reaching just over $2000. For a brand generally known for watches that usually cost about $350, this is a pretty fantastical jump, and I wanted to figure out why – and if they are worth the premium.
First, the vital statistics: The Orient Star Retrograde retails for $1010, and is available with a white or black dial. It comes fitted on a stainless steel bracelet with deployment clasp, and measures in at 39.5mm with a thickness of 14.25mm. Sapphire crystal is used on both sides, and has an anti-reflective covering on the dial side. The movement is Orient’s in-house 40A50, which has a 40 hour power reserve and provides the energy to operate a three hand timekeeping mechanism, 7-day register with retrograde movement, calendar register, and a power reserve indicator.
The complications on this piece alone could perhaps justify the increase in cost, but leaving it at that wouldn’t be telling the whole story. After a week with the Retrograde, I am delighted to convey that the piece as a whole far surpasses my expectations, for a number of additional reasons.
For starters, the fit and finish of the Retrograde bely its origins as a mass-produced Japanese timepiece. While a number of the lower-end Orients (divers, specifically) that I have handled have felt somewhat tinny in construction, the Retrograde is a solid piece with a high degree of workmanship. The case construction is superb, with elements of brushed and polished steel working in harmony. The detailing around the bevel’s lip and on the lugs is particularly well executed.
Furthermore, the bracelet is well designed and solid – with minimal play at the end links and a two-button deployment that works very well. My only criticism here would be the lack of micro-adjustments, along with expanding pin construction instead of screwed links. The lack of a bracelet adjustment tool would make proper fitment a pain in the ass, and for a piece priced at over $1000 I would have expected screwed links. That criticism aside, the bracelet wears very comfortably, and the combination of brushed and polished elements gives it a distinguished appearance.
The best detailing, however, is on the dial. The dial itself has depth, with cutouts for the three registers sitting lower than the rest of the dial. This shows a higher level of workmanship than in many pieces even twice as expensive. There is a nice use of polished elements as hour markers and around the subsidiary registers, which complements the polished hands. The hour and minute markers have a generous portion of lume, allowing the time to easily be read in low light. Surrounding the dial is an outer track with white markers and luminescent plots. The nicest detailing is on the dial plate itself, which has been machined with tiny concentric grooves reminiscent of a vinyl record. You have to look closely to see this, but it adds a high degree of polish to the timepiece, and in short – I love it.
From a functionality standpoint, the Retrograde is entirely useful and easily read. A quick glance at the large hands will easily show the time, and the day and date functions are well placed and equally readable. The power reserve indicator (a popular function in Orient’s line) is placed at 12, and watching the hand sweep left while manually winding the movement through the crown is particularly satisfying. Similarly, the calendar display (rather than a date wheel) and retrograde sweep of the day hand is a welcome element and fun to play with. These functions work together well and are generally found in timepieces much more expensive than the Orient.
Once again, my disdain for display backs is my one major dislike. While they are becoming de rigeur for just about every manufacturer across the price spectrum, I fail to be impressed looking at a movement that is anything less than a masterpiece to behold – and while I am certainly impressed by the simple fact that the 40A50 is a manufacture movement, it is not one of beauty and I would happily do without it.
Ultimately, Orient pulls it off with the Retrograde. I admit that initially, my expectation was that a thousand dollar watch actually worth a thousand dollars was going to be a stretch for the brand, and I didn’t expect to be so impressed. Between the heft of the case, the solid feel and accuracy of the manufacture movement, the comfort of the bracelet, and the impressively detailed dial, I would absolutely recommend this timepiece. If you are in the market for a (still) affordable men’s wristwatch with unusual complications and a killer look, this should be on your short list of considerations.
Now I just need to see what that TWO thousand dollar piece is all about… orientwatchusa.com
>Model: Orient Star Retrograde SDE00002B0
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: That guy looking for a dressier watch with some high end characteristics on a budget
>Best characteristic of watch: High build quality and exceptional dial detailing
>Worst characteristic of watch: Mediocre decoration on the manufacture movement – unnecessary to display