Orient vs Orient Star | How Do They Compare?
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Ok, this may sound a little controversial but bear with me. I was recently walking with my wife through a small town here in the UK and we saw a quaint little jewellery store. As we often do, given our profession, we spent a few seconds gazing through the window at some of the pieces they had on show.
Among the typical array of low-end and mid-tier brands were far more expensive luxury pieces from IWC. I’ve never handled one of them before but they were very close to the window, so I was able to get a real good look and you know what? We both preferred the £300 watch that I already had sitting on my wrist! No word of a lie, we mutually agreed that the dial looked more attractive, at least from an arm's length.
The mystery piece in question was this Orient Star Classic, a member of Orient’s higher-end mechanical lineup.
I’m sure there’s more to it and undoubtedly the finishing of the IWC will be better on a macro level, but it really got me thinking. How close is this ‘premium’ Orient to a luxury watch and is it noticeably better than some of their cheaper offerings?
Well luckily, Jomashop had originally sent me the Orient Star for me to take a look at; which puts me in the perfect position to answer some of those questions. I’ll link both the Orient Star and the regular Orient I’m featuring throughout this article. They have an extensive range of other pieces too, which are worth a look if you haven’t seen their site before. As always though, I have full creative control over this post, meaning I could condemn this watch if I wanted to. But do I want to?
Sure the watch may look nice, but does that make it a good watch, or worth the extra money over a standard Orient?
Well, for starters, the improved packaging indicated that this Orient Star could be a step above. By no means is this too extravagant, though is a suitable upgrade over the basic box provided with most Orient watches. It’s more padded and plush, giving a pleasant first impression that you’d expect with a higher-priced watch.
One thing to mention is there’s a $700 Orient sticker on the box. Looks like they’re pulling an Invicta here as I can’t recall ever seeing this watch for $700 on any site.
Nevertheless, I was immediately pleased with the sizing. Here we have a 38.5mm case size, paired with a 12.9mm thickness and a resultant lug to lug of just 44.3mm. While at first, the chunky depth may seem disproportionate, a notable chunk of that is constituted of the domed crystal. Like the Bambino, this glass features heavy curving at the circumference, which levels out somewhat across the top. As a result, the watch does wear thinner than the measurement would indicate.
From my experience, it is just about slim enough for a dress watch and narrowly squeezes under most sleeves when needed. Even a couple of millimetres more and I probably wouldn’t have been saying that, so a future slimmer revision would be preferable. Regardless, it fits my thin 15.5cm wrist near-perfectly and would certainly provide that vintage sized look for those with larger wrists.
When compared to the similarly-sized open heart model that I recently reviewed, the case shape is more dressy, with narrower lugs that jut out from the predominantly round profile. Despite both models having comparably styled brushing; when side by side it’s clear that the Orient Star is done to a higher standard. Not only are the edges markedly sharper, with neater transitions between different sections. Additionally, there’s a touch more finesse to the polishing, which provides cleaner reflections than that on the more budget-oriented model; though I’m not sure how it will come through on camera.
Both are still constructed of the same 316L stainless steel, which is the industry standard, alongside screwed exhibition rears that help secure both pieces to a reasonable 5bar water resistance. This reveals another one of the primary differences between the two models, the movement. Unfortunately, there’s little information about either of these automatics online, though there are some notable differences. The main visual change comes in the form of decoration. As expected, the Orient FAG has an entry-level, undecorated F6922 movement, which has plenty of functionality but isn’t the most visually impressive. On the other hand, the Orient Star houses the calibre 40N5A, which offers a slightly nicer custom rotor, as well as perlage brushing across the different support plates.
Not only does it look nice, but it does offer a useful extra feature. That being the power reserve indicator, present at the top of the dial. This is a rare addition to a watch at this price point and is, in fact, the first time one has appeared on this blog. As you can see, this maxes out at 40 hours, the maximum reserve provided by this movement. If you’re not one to wear your automatic watch every single day, this can actually prove to be a rather useful instrument, allowing you to keep tabs on the current level of quote-unquote ‘charge’ left.
Despite this, I doubt most of you would notice a substantial difference in performance between these movements, which both pulsate at a moderate 21,600 beats per hour. Both hack and hand-wind, the latter of which looks cool on the Orient star, as you can see the power reserve meter filling up right before your eyes.
The Orient Star also features some alterations and upgrades that contribute to its handsomeness. First up, while this model foregoes any sort of sunburst, instead rocking a black matte texture that has a kind of leatherette finish to the surface that gives it an unusual air of quality. The applied hour markers don’t appear to be a significant improvement over those on the FAG, rather a restructuring. This time, they sit within the chapter ring, stretching out further into a sword shape. I think these look better but I’ll leave that to your interpretation.
Some of you reading may also be pleased to see the replacement of the divisive Orient logo with that of the Orient Star line. While I’m fine with the original, I do think this version is sleeker and more attractive, given the classier font style.
Furthermore, something was mystifying about the handset. For whatever reason, it seemed to catch the light better than the previous Orient when side by side in the same conditions. Well, some quick work with a macro lens shows us the secret. You see while these dauphine hands may look identical from a distance, those on the Orient Star have a brushed portion occupying half of each hand. This is done to such a standard that it almost resembles frosting on a window and is a true highlight of this timepiece that helps make the watch look much more expensive.
All looks well so far, but are there any parts that let down this mid-tier package? Well, you’ll notice so far in this post, the majority of the photographs have been taken with the watch on a brown leather strap. Luckily though, that’s not because the bracelet sucks or is faulty in any way. I just think the watch looks better on a band instead. The stock option is very solid and a noteworthy upgrade over that provided with the regular Orient. While the clasp looks the same, this one is milled, rather than pressed, providing a more satisfying and secure feeling. As you might expect, all of the links here are solid, including the end links this time and the overall finishing is elevated too.
You can go a couple of ways with this wristwatch. Personally, I’ve opted for a simple brown band from Barton, which I’ll link here. If you wanted to dress this up a bit, you could go for something with more of a taper to it, or stick with the steel bracelet, should that suit your preferences.
While in many ways it’s clear to see why so many reviewers consider this to be a real ‘affordable luxury’ watch. It looks beautiful, is high-quality and yet, isn’t overpriced. Nevertheless, I’d like to point out a couple of small drawbacks to keep it in check. First up, I’d love to see a smoother, higher beat-rate movement in here. I’m not sure if that is possible whilst maintaining the power reserve complication at this price but a smoother sweep would certainly boost the elegance of this Orient Star even further. Currently, it ticks along at the same rate as many much more affordable watches, reducing the sense of sophistication.
Furthermore, while the domed crystal looks great, it is only mineral, not sapphire. This means it will inevitably accrue scratches over its lifetime, with no way of removing them. As I stated in my watch glass guide, I typically prefer sapphire crystal to prevent scratches, so it’s a shame that the premium material is absent from the ‘premium’ wristwatch. It’s clear some cost-cutting has taken place here.
Nevertheless for the most part the watch has lived up to my expectations. The brand hasn’t poured loads of money into marketing has instead produced a beautiful, well-designed watch that would be a good fit for almost any wrist out there. In most aspects, it looks and feels like an understated entry-level luxury watch and is a distinct step-up from their similarly styled budget watches.
That being said and almost by nature, I’m not sure it offers the same pound-for-pound value as some of those budget offerings. Like with many products, the more you spend on a watch, the more diminishing returns you’ll tend to get. Only you can decide how far down the spectrum you’re willing to travel.