Orient watches appeal to a wide audience, mainly since they offer premium quality and a high-end feel but without the premium price tag. The company was founded independently but is now owned by Seiko Epson. Adding to the appeal of every Orient watch is a brand history that tells a story of perseverance and ingenuity. The company has focused on manufacturing its own Japanese movements, making the price of each timepiece remarkably good value for its money. In a market where many watch brands outsource their watch movements to keep costs down, Orient remains proud of its heritage and its reputation for independent watch manufacture.
The history of Orient watches
Orient watch company can trace its roots right back to the year 1901. With over a century of watch manufacture to look back on, the brand offers an extensive range of timepieces to suit all tastes and needs. When Shogoro Yoshida first founded the Yoshido Watch Shop, it began specialised in selling watches as opposed to crafting them, but by the year 1912 was venturing into watchmaking, creating its first gold watch cases. These foundations paved the way for Toyo Tokei Manufacturing facility to come into existence during the year 1920. Here, the company focused its attention on developing table clocks but began developing its own wristwatches during the 1930s. Due to the devastating effects on the economy during World War II, Toyo Tokei Manufacturing was forced to close its doors and ceased production of its watches in 1949. The company was revived a year later and in 1951 was renamed to Orient. Under the management of Tama Keiki Company, Orient watches were met with resounding success and in 2020 the company celebrated its 70th anniversary.
If there is one watch design in particular that represents the success of the company from the 1950s onwards it is the Orient Star. Featuring a distinct aesthetic with blued steel hands and a compact case, the watch was valued not only for its sophisticated style but also for the reliability of its in-house developed movement. After 1955 Orient branched out overseas and began getting its name noticed around the world. Some of the most successful and widely recognised Orient watches are those such as the Auto King Diver watch and the Multi Year Calendar watch. In 2009 Orient became a Seiko Epson subsidiary but was dissolved in 2017. It now remains one of Seiko Epson’s integrated brands yet remains a manufacturer of its own movements.
Popular Orient watches
One of the most collectable Orient watches, as mentioned earlier, is the Orient Weekly Auto watch which was one of the company’s first forays in waterproof watch manufacture. Before then, Orient had released showerproof watches, however, the release of the Weekly Auto King Diver watch came at a time when the demand for divers’ watches was at an all-time high. The solid-looking steel 42mm watch was released in 1965 and continued through to 1968 where it formed the foundations to more recent models like the Orient King Diver 70th Anniversary reissue watch.
During the 1960s, Orient released the Multi-Year Calendar watch. At the time of its release, the model was remarkably modern, featuring a striking blue dial and a squarish-shaped case with rounded edges. The model was redesigned in 2009 and retained its clean unobtrusive dial for easy timekeeping. The focal point of the design, which is now hard to come by and particularly sought-after, was its calendar function located at the south of the dial, which went on to feature against a myriad of different coloured dials. Today Orient offers robust dive watches like the Mako II and Mako III Dive watch. The Mako II follows on from the original Mako watch but features an improved automatic movement. Its 200-meter water-resistant case, day-date feature at 3 o’clock and robust stainless steel bracelet make it a practical and affordable dive watch that balances form with function perfectly. The Mako III watch differentiates itself from its former predecessors with Arabic numerals around the hour track that are inspired by the geometric forms of the Orient way. They were also covered in a luminous material for assisted timekeeping during the night or in low light conditions. In addition to these features, the Orient Mako II and Mako III models also feature a diving scale on the bezel for intuitive reading of elapsed time whilst exploring down to 200 metres below the surface of the water.
Released in 1967 was the Orient World Diver watch, which featured the cities around the periphery of the dial, followed by a newer iteration in 1969. The latter came complete with a map design on its dial and was powered by an improved automatic movement. After this, the brand began focussing on refining the case dimensions of its watches and invented the elegant Fineness watch. Its day-date movement was impressively thin, as was the case that housed it. Miniature parts were finely crafted to achieve this level of thinness, which also made the Orient Fineness a watch to wear for business. The Orient Fineness watches had a clean and sophisticated three-handed dial design, making them popular dress watches. Today, Orient offers other refined dress watches such as those from its Bambino series. The Bambino watch is popular due to its unfussy dial design that promotes a clean, purist look without appearing too bare. It also pairs well with all attires and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Due to its affordability, the Orient Bambino is a great beginner’s watch for those looking to build the first timepieces to a growing collection. The first series of Orient Bambino Gen 2 watches are characterised by their pointed hour markings which appear thicker than other iterations, as well as its triangular hands. The second-generation features Roman numerals and train track chapter rings. The third iterations of the Bambino Gen 2 watch showcase a Bauhaus-inspired look with a remarkably minimalist dial adorned with clean lines, squared-off hands and no numbers on the display. There are also fourth and fifth versions of the watch. The former borrows some design features from the first and adds them to sunburst-coloured dials with red-tipped second hands The latter version released in 2018 had a completely new look of its own. A different font is also used for the Arabic numerals and the hands are curved against a dial finished in sunburst effect. There are also small second and open-heart versions of the Bambino Gen 2 watch and all of the models come on classic-looking leather bands for a sophisticated look.
Orient also added another Diver watch to its catalogue called the Kamasu in 2019 – an even more affordable option from its diving watch collection compared to the already popular Mako dive watch lines. The Kamasu is powered by a reliable Japanese movement and features an Oyster-style bracelet. With a luminous dial and a 200-meter water-resistant case, the Orient Kamasu watch is robust, stylish and resilient enough to wear as a sports watch, a dive watch or as a sophisticated timepiece to wear with more formal attire.