Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Orient Star Retro Future Car Concept Automatic Power Reserve Blue Chapter Ring Skeleton Watch YFHAB001D - A square watch, bit pricey but wears comfortably, A Review

Under the premium line of Orient Star, there is a sub-line of watches called the Retro Future Series that is unique that set it aside from other lines under the Orient brand. Orient designers incorporate 1950′s industrial motifs, combining past and future into contemporary timepieces. This allowed the watches under this series to be designed outside the contemporary norm of a ‘typical’ wristwatch. Hence, the word “Retro” in the name that gives an insight to the philosophy behind the series.

Unfortunately, this freedom of design does produce some examples that do not conform to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, this is the sort of reaction which the series was meant to get, a form of anti-establishment of a rebellious nature. What makes it more interesting is that it comes from a watchmaker from Japan, a country well-known for conformity.

Of all the Retro Future models available, I prefer the “Car Concept”. The most obvious aspect of this watch is its square shaped casing. The square-like shape is characteristic of 1950s design cars. Some other unique classic car-inspired designs on this model include the steering wheel-like skeleton eye, the speedometer-like seconds sub-dial, the automatic gear gauge-like power reserve indicator and the stainless steel band that recalls the textures of a whitewall Goodyear tire.

The model which I required is the blue chapter-ring version (there are two other versions available, red and black). Both the casing and the bracelet are made out of stainless steel with parts of it with either polished or brushed surfacing. The width of the watch, excluding crown, is 42 mm and its lug-to-lug width is 54 mm. Coupled with the height of the watch at 14 mm, this watch does have an obvious wrist presence. Its bracelet design, although standard in dimension to fit into the lug width of 22 mm, is unique enough to increase the wrist presence even more.

The Reveal
I first saw this watch in person at a Solar Time outlet in Sungei Wang Plaza. This mall was not a place where I go even occasionally due to its location. As I was just killing time before an appointment, I didn’t have much time to look at it before I had to leave the mall. However, subsequent investigation about the genre got me interested. So, I decided to get one via Solar Time in Mid Valley Megamall.

The packaging came in a two piece square watch box. The main watch box is the inner piece with a hinged top while the outer box is the packaging box that opens from the top.

The packaging box is made out of dark blue/black cardboard material; it has the Orient Star logo and brand prominently printed in silver on the top surface. It measures 130 mm wide, 130 mm long and 100 mm tall.

The main watch box has similar dimensions and printing except that it is covered by artificial leather. Opening the box reveals the watch sitting on its pillow in the center. There is no other storage space for the manual/guarantee document. Since the manual/guarantee document is thin, it is usually kept in between the main watch box and the packaging box.

I always wondered why this watch is not classified as a skeleton watch when at first glance it does appear to be one. Only when one is able to see the watch up close will you see that it not actually a full skeleton watch but a partial skeleton. It is more of an open-heart design.

The only written words on the watch are the words “Orient Star” in red and in a font reminiscence of the one used on cars back in the 1950s located at 3 o’clock; and (in micro size) a short manufacturer’s reference code on the chapter ring at 6 o’clock.

The long sloping chapter ring has the hours and minute markers. It is also painted in dark blue. The only odd markers are the ones just around the 9 o’clock position as the open-heart to the balancing wheel required the markers here to be truncated to some extent.

All the hour markers except for the 12, 3, 6 and 9 are painted with luminous paint. The four hands are blued. There of the hands come with luminous paint. Only the seconds hand does not come with any luminous paint.  

Apart from some of the 1950s car design elements reproduced into this watch mentioned earlier, I would also like to point out that you can see the crown stem through a couple of cut-offs at the 3 o’clock position. Peering into the cut-offs does remind you of the piston-rods in muscle cars. Another element of the watch worth mentioning is the screw-down crown. It is a shame that it is not bigger. It would provide the necessary space to put an etching on it such as the Orient Star logo to make it even more special.

The crystal is curved from top to bottom. It is not set flushed to the edge of the casing. Approximately 0.2 mm of the glass is exposed beyond the protection of the steel casing. This means the glass can suffer damage from a glancing side hit from a hard object. At certain viewing angles, the dial looks different as light gets refracted by the curved glass.

One area of confusion about this watch is the crystal that protects the front of the watch. In Orient USA, it was mentioned that it is Sapphire crystal but some other publications mentioned it to be mineral crystal. Which one is correct? So I did the tongue test on the glass. It tasted warm and non-glass-like. The test confirms it to be artificial crystal similar to Seiko’s Hardlex crystal. Not surprised since Orient is part of the Seiko Empire. I can only suspect the reason why Orient does not use the word Hardlex but “scratch resistant mineral crystal” instead is for market differentiation purposes.

The bracelet that came with the watch is truly unique. The pins that connect the links are located in unique tube-like structures that are not hidden from view. The pins are set in place purely from friction and the method of adjusting the bracelet is simply pushing out the pins to take out or add links. This design reminds me of a vintage whitewall Goodyear tire.

The bracelet does not taper but has a constant width of 22 mm from the lugs right down to the clasp. The clasp is a double push button system with machined bridge connecting the two halves of the bracelet. There are also two micro-adjustment holes for finer bracelet sizing possibility. On the clasp is the brand “Orient Star” sand blasted in the center.

The watch uses the in-house Orient Caliber 46S50. This is an automatic 23 jewel with a beat speed of 21,600 BPH. However, it does not have manual winding capability. Meanwhile, the mainsprings are capable of storing 40 hours worth of potential energy. The energy storage is shown in a 40-hour power reserve indicator located at the 12 o’clock position.

This watch is capable of withstanding 100 meters of water resistance. The screwed-down crown gives additional protection when submerged in water.

The case-back is a steel plate locked into place with four screws at the four corners of the watch. In the middle of the case-back is a rectangle glass piece (same crystal material as the front) that allows you to see the movement. I was made to understand that this window was supposed to represent the rear windscreen. However, it did not trigger such an association with me especially for a 1950s car theme (in fact, it looks more like a 1920s rear windscreen to me). If I could give a design input, perhaps a front grill style would be more suitable i.e. the movement can be seen through the grills.

Key information about the watch such as its serial number is located below the rectangle glass piece. Above the see-through panel is the brand sandblasted into the stainless steel plate.

There are no obvious issues wearing the watch. The slight curved shape at both ends of the square watch case near the lugs help sit the watch more snugly on a wrist. The non-tapered bracelet is also properly sized for the casing and the transition from casing the bracelet is smooth.

For a non-diving watch this size, it is heavy. The thick casing and bracelet tip the scale of this watch at 170 gm (or 6 oz). Nevertheless, if the watch is sized properly for your wrist, the weight would not be a problem. It would be an inconvenient if you like to wear your watch loosely.

Overall, a comfortable watch to wear.

If you want something fun and uniquely designed, check out the the Retro-Future series of watches from Orient.


The price set for this watch is on the high side. Orient US put the MSRP at USD1,250 whereas the sales price in Kuala Lumpur was RM2,950. I was able to get mine at RM2,200.

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