Around Christmas time when I dug into the archives of Orient Watch, the lesser known sister company in the Seiko family, our story resounded with our readers in a big way. Personally, since my early days of vintage obsession, through to a brief flirtation with a Mako diver, I have nurtured a secret love for the quirky nature and superb value of Orient. Like that holiday destination you don’t want anyone else to find (it’s in the South of France, that’s all I’m telling you), I have been persuaded to share more of their horological offerings with you, and what better way to start than their best new releases of 2021?
Don’t be shy, here is a tough as nails alternative to other deep ocean dwellers, be that Tunas or Turtles, in a brand new version of the distinctive M-Force series. It’s a bullet-proof diver’s watch with a heritage that stretches back to its initial run from 1997-2002. Admittedly, it isn’t a 38mm svelte vintage dressy diver, but a pure tool that might look intimidating enough to be refused access to a respectable club.
With a spot-on petrol blue fume dial, this 45mm diver is a colourful beast with large indices, an easily clickable black bezel and the baddest, most fortified crown guard this side of a bullet-proof kevlar vest. The dial with its fresh pop of yellow is protected by an AR-treated sapphire crystal, while the in-house caliber F6727 is a solid, handwound, hacking automatic. This brawny watch also comes in a fresh red on a steel bracelet, but on this black rubber strap it has a microbrand-beating price of $665 USD
M-Force AC0L black PVD
Should your occupation be a Navy Seal or foreign stealth operative with a need for tough discretion and a blacked out mission ensemble, this version is another tempting proposition that offers the same in-house movement, 200m ISO compliant depth rating and solid Japanese provenance. Favourite detail except for the unapologetically large size that laughs in the face of my vintage 39mm divers? A bright red tip on its minute hand, matched by a red arrow seconds. Like the steel version above, it’s large but still comfortable with a 13.2mm thickness. Price: $715 US
Well, it’s a diver’s watch, pure and simple. The bright red sunray dial Kanno is fresh as a newly picked cherry with a clean-cut, early Sub style steel case and a none-too shy case size of 44mm. This is your solid, everyday tool watch for those of you that would rather have Japanese in-house production over a Miyota-powered microbrand. A simple, clean diver’s bezel frames a subtle and balanced dial, with a bold sword handset and the useful day-date function typical of classic Japanese diver’s watches. I know, a no-date might be all clean and balanced, but in my locked-down existence I find myself wondering what day it is fairly regularly. With its slim, polished case sides and F6922 automatic movement, this is a sure shot on a budget. Price: $425 USD
Orient Star Avant-Garde
Orient Star is the top tier line of watches from the Japanese brand and here is another rugged tool watch, with a quirky lug design and a muscular 43mm case with a design that could only have come out of the Japanese mindset far from the Vallee Du Joux. This is an arctic cool alternative to the skeletonized beasts from the likes of Hublot and once again offers serious bang for your buck. Polished and matte steel details together with bold indices and a layered, openworked dial ensure this has a lot going for it, with polished angled edges to the chapter rings and a 50-hour power reserve crescent at 12 revealing a solid dose of craftsmanship.
The bolted and notched bezel will definitely polarise opinion, but that non-conformity is exactly why the deep-felt Japanese design speaks volumes. The Avant-Garde comes on a solid, angular Oyster-style bracelet that looks eerily similar to the one on my Seiko Baby Marinemaster, which I’ll confess is the best Seiko bracelet I’ve had. This is more of an urban sports watch than a diver, but still comes on a double release-button solid folding clasp, with three micro-adjustments. Behind the caseback lies the in-house F6N44 automatic caliber with a power reserve complication, small seconds and a decent 50 hours of power reserve. Price: $2205USD