Japanese watch brand Orient has been praised here on aBlogtoWatch for the level of quality they offer in relation to their prices – in other words, value. We recently recommended Orient as the best option for budget mechanical dress watches. And, while stylistically a bit different from those models, this Orient Star Standard-Date is another good example of Orient value, but a step up in terms of materials, movement, and price.
First, let me say that, to me, this watch just screams “Japanese watch,” and I love that about it. The last thing I want is a watch that is trying to be something it isn’t – though, ironically, the Japanese tendency to try a little too hard to be something else has created a familiar look of its own – which is exactly what this watch has that I enjoy. Does that make sense? I lived in Japan for several years, so while I appreciate that not everyone will have the same associations I do, I think they will recognize the Japanese touch. Anyway, although the Orient Star Standard-Date, particularly with the carbon fiber dial, will not be for everyone, it offers a lot of value for the money and turned out to be fun despite its apparent seriousness.
While not formal, the Orient Star Standard-Date looks like it would go well with an everyday suit. Maybe it is the excitedly shiny yet simultaneously sober business-look – I can’t quite put my finger on it – but I can easily picture it on the wrist of a stylish young Japanese salaryman. This is a watch that will move seamlessly between the office, the karaoke box, and the izakaya. That is not the effect I had anticipated before receiving and wearing the watch – I had actually expected something more in the style-family of, say, the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. The Orient Star Standard-Date ended up surprising me in a few ways.
Sticking with the salarymen for just a moment, let’s take another look at the company. Under the Seiko Group are diverse companies, including Seiko Holdings, which in turn, owns the Seiko Watch Corporation that, obviously, makes Seiko branded watches. Orient is owned by Seiko Epson Corp., also under the larger Seiko Group, but quite distinct from the company that owns Seiko Watch Corporation. I believe that some watch lovers have tended to think that Orient was a subsidiary of Seiko Watches or even a sub-brand in some sense, when in fact, they are probably more distant than that – though Orient undoubtedly benefits from the relationship.
Orient Star poses the question of what quality and value Orient is capable of at its uppermost level. Orient is known for making inexpensive mechanical watches and movements. Orient Star is not supposed to be on the same level as something like Seiko’s Grand Seiko, but Orient Star watches use better movements and materials, finished to higher standards than other Orient products. Orient Star is also branded separately, with a distinct logo – as seems to be a Japanese habit, and which can be a little confusing. Check out our review of the Orient Star Retrograde watch here. There are three Orient Star Standard-Date models, and I was in the mood for a black dial when I chose this reference SDV02002B.
Introduced, I believe, in 2013, the Standard-Date is currently the most basic in terms of features in the Orient Star line, with only three-hand time-telling and the date – all other Orient Star watches seem to feature at least a power reserve indicator, though some do not feature the date. Even if you are more interested in other Orient Star models, I hope this review will provide a point of reference. Above are the three current Orient Star Standard-Date models.
The use of sapphire crystal, antireflective coating, the hand-winding and hacking movement, and the overall fit and finish are what make the Orient Star Standard-Date a step up from other Orient products. But let’s jump straight into that carbon fiber dial, as it is the watch’s most immediately distinctive and controversial visual feature.
Actually, at times, it looks as though you could jump straight into it, as both the carbon fiber texture and the flat sapphire crystal make me want to compare them to water. Dials need some sort of texture to them, and some may question how successful it is to pair this overall very classic design with the anything-but-classic carbon fiber. Perhaps it is this mixing of styles that seems so “Japanese” to me. The carbon fiber dial is distinctive, but not without some sacrifice, as I will explain.
The Orient Star Standard-Date turned out to be all-round rather shinier than expected. As for the dial, in some lighting situations, you will find that the many mirror-polished surfaces on the hands and indices tend to flash in the light as the carbon fiber shimmers underneath. And don’t forget the clear epoxy coating on top of the carbon fiber that creates yet another among the multiple layers of light reflection. All these reflective surfaces make for some, shall we say, “dynamic,” light play that can be a little dizzying at times, as everything on the dial seems to float, undulate, and gleam. This, of course, compromises legibility in some lights, especially when the shiny minute hand is passing over one of the similarly shiny indices.
This is the watch that debuted Orient’s “SAR” (Super Anti-Reflective) coating, and they are very proud of it. Orient claims that the SAR coating, using multiple layers and antifouling films, is more anti-reflective, more scratch-proof, and more stain-proof than ordinary coating (see Orient’s test comparison images above). The SAR coating is applied to both sides of the crystal and works well to make it often seem to just disappear. So you have a clear view of all the other reflecting light. The flat sapphire crystal sits flush with the bezel, again, reminding me of a pool of limpid water from some angles.
The hands along with small dots (pips) above each hour index are lumed, so it is sufficiently legible in the dark while the lume lasts (not that long). The date wheel is white, and the dial is black – there, I said it, and it shouldn’t bother many people at this price level. It also won’t be an issue with the other two Orient Star Standard-Date models which both have white dials.
At 40mm wide excluding the crown, what I measured to be about 47mm lug-to-lug, and 11.6mm thick, this is a pretty neutral size, neither large nor particularly small. It wears very comfortably on my 6.5” (17cm) wrist. The case also has a lot of polished surfaces, alongside some brushed ones, and these work very well together – though, again, the watch’s net effect is “shiny.” Water resistance is 50 meters, slightly better than the absolute minimum standard, so it will be ok if caught in the rain, but you probably won’t want to submerge it.
On the wrist, the bracelet is very comfortable and matches the case, mixing brushed and polished surfaces, and does so surprisingly well for this price point. Although the bracelet’s overall feel is not comparable to higher-end luxury pieces, it is of note that the clasp feels more substantial than, say, some of the Seiko clasps that seem to be stamped out of tin. Also note that, for those who are into changing straps (22mm lug width), because of the carbon fiber dial, this model is somewhat limited in the strap combinations that will match it well.
That is essentially the watch from the front. The back has a window to the simply decorated automatic movement. If you’re going to show off the movement, you have to do something, right? Here, it’s some light perlage and Geneva stripes, with the Orient Star logo in a gold tone on the rotor, as you can see.
Part of the price premium on the Orient Star Standard-Date watch has to do with its movement. Many cheaper Japanese and Chinese watches don’t feature hand winding and hacking, which can be especially frustrating to watch lovers who are accustomed to those features. No hand winding feature on an automatic mechanical watch means you can only “charge” the movement (wind the mainspring) by shaking the watch to spin the automatic rotor. A hacking feature means that the seconds hand stops when you pull out the crown, allowing for more accuracy and control when setting the time.
Happily, this Orient Cal. 40751 features both hand winding and hacking, which makes it relatively premium in Orient’s lineup. With a power reserve of 40hrs, and running at 3Hz (or 21,600 vibrations per hour), Orient’s specs claim an accuracy of +25 to -15 seconds per day – but it seems that watch lovers record generally better performance. Best of all, you can tell your friends it’s an entirely in-house movement. The feel of the crown as you wind the watch is something you may be familiar with from Orient and other Japanese watches, with a slight grinding sound and texture.
The Orient Star Standard-Date watch in many ways embodies Japanese aesthetics, perfectionism, and inherent contradictions. There are watches out there that have a Japanese theme, like, for instance, the Jeanrichard Aquascope with Hokusai’s famous wave pattern on the dial. But that makes me think more of a Manhattan sushi restaurant than it does of modern, day-to-day Japan (but I’d totally wear it). The Orient Star Standard-Date, rather, reminds me of a more mundane yet fascinating side of Japan that perhaps fewer people are familiar with. Though, again, Japaneseness aside, there is a lot to appreciate here in terms of value.
The $500-$1000 price segment is a weird one to be in – not quite entry-level luxury, but out of the territory of most cheap/quartz/fashion watches – and you will find a wide range of features and more Japanese watches/movements around this price. But it is important to note that the Orient Star Standard-Date’s competition should not necessarily be defined by its list price, since it can often be found for less, at which price point, it is hard to resist. List price for this carbon fiber dial Orient Star Standard-Date SDV02002B is US$880. The white dialed model is the same, with the two-tone model being a little more. orientwatchusa.com