Friday, June 1, 2018

Orient FDD03003Y0 Monarch Mechanical Watch (similar to: FDD03001W0 & FDD03002B0) - A Delightfully Cheap and Impressive Dress Watch, A Review (plus Video)

I have been eyeing the Orient Monarch series of watches for a number of years. Introduced in late 2015, the vintage-inspired watch was an addition to Orient's already extensive dress watch repertoire.  However, there is a slight twist in that it is powered by a mechanical winding only engine. Coupled with a domed crystal, old font markings and power reserve indicator, the watch has that old-school appeal reminiscent of the dress watches of the pre-war era.

Unfortunately, the pricing in Malaysia is rather too rich when compared to prices from internet merchants. The MSRP in Malaysia is RM1,350.00 (with GST). The best discount I could find was RM945.00. Instead,  I was able to get via Amazon.com an example for just USD193.12 (or RM 814.31) inclusive of courier and import taxes. Aramex is the courier used.

There are three examples in the Monarch line; the white dial reference FDD03003Y0, the black dial reference FDD03002B0 and the gold plated casing reference FDD03001W0. Out of the three, my favourite is the white dial and stainless steel casing FDD03003Y0. This is the example that I bought through Amazon.com.


FDD03001W0
FDD03002B0
FDD03003Y0

Orient is part of the giant Seiko Epson Group. Like its more renowned sister, Seiko, Orient is independent enough to manufacture every part of its watch on their own. This makes Orient one of the few watchmakers in the world that can fulfil the A to Z of watch manufacturing in-house. The brand was officially established on 13 July 1950 in Tokyo.

Not a lot of people know this but Orient watches present an incredible value-for-money preposition. Exceptional design, quality manufacturing and impeccable reliability; all done in-house and made in Japan. With this backdrop, one would expect the price of its watches would be on the high side but in reality, it is one of the most affordable priced branded mechanical watches with such pedigree anywhere in the world. Moreover, this watch is a 'Made In Japan' product.

Unfortunately, the brand's lack of market awareness is primarily due to the minimal promotional efforts (especially in Malaysia). The principal distributor, A.D. Time Sdn Bhd does not appear to have the financial clout like that of Thong Sia Sdn Bhd for Seiko. The network is so much smaller. Its a pity because, Orient does have some excellent watches (check out the Orient watches in the collection: http://easternwatch.blogspot.my/search/label/Orient).

The Watch



The Monarch that I got has a polished stainless steel case. It has a diameter of 40 mm (excluding the crown) with a thickness of 13 mm from the top of the dome crystal to the bottom surface of the case-back. Its lug-to-lug length is 45 mm. Meanwhile, lug width is 18 mm. Mineral crystal class is used to protect the dial as well as for the display case-back. The dial window is domed which exudes a 'pricey' ambiance to the whole package.

Officially, the colour of the dial is given as 'eggshell' white. However, I have never seen an eggshell with such colour before (I guess, in this part of the world most eggshells have a distinct earth brown tinge in various tones. To me visually, it looks porcelain white. This is another design aspect that enhances the elegance without to much investment.

On the dial I can three distinct time scales. The outermost is military-style Arabic numerals in 5-minute increments from '05' to '60'. This The middle scale is a railroad track with minute markers and the innermost is an hour marker with large exaggerated Arabic numerals in a classic font. I believe the choice of scales was to create a vintage feel to the watch face.

Just below 12 o’clock is a power reserve indicator designed in the same theme as the time scales with the railroad track with 10-hour markers as well as Arabic numerals of '0', '20' and '40' signifying the level of power available in the main spring. I love a power reserve indicator as it gives me a quick check on the available energy in the springs without needing to guess. It is also therapeutic to see the needle move as you wind the crown.

All texts and logo are located in the bottom quadrant. The classic Orient logo and crest with the word “Mechanical” in italic can be clearly seen. A much smaller text right at the bottom rim of the watch contains production codes about the watch and is extremely small to see.

The four hands on the watch (including the power reserve hand) are a set of Breguet hands, painted blue to mimic the effects of blue-flamed tempered steel. The contrast is vivid which give a nice visual cue on the dial.

No luminous paint provided on the markers as well as on the hands.



Protecting the dial is a domed mineral crystal. There has been some confusion about the material of the crystal. A number of notable blogs and reviewers have concluded that it is 'sapphire'. It is not sapphire but just a special mineral crystal specially made by Orient. This special concoction by Orient has stronger properties than normal mineral crystal. If the glass is sapphire, Orient will make it known on the case-back.

There is a small fixed bezel surrounding the crystal which creates a feeling of depth beyond the main watch casing. A ring-like structure that is polished, its simplicity does not distract the eyes from the dial.


Like most typical wristwatches, the onion crown is located at the 3 o'clock position. It has a small tube at its base that makes it sit slightly away from the casing. It is very vintage in appearance and also makes it easier grip for winding especially when the watch is strapped on the wrist.

The watch has a display case-back. The case-back in screwed-down and has information about the watch etched on the metal bits. At the edge of the display window, Orient decided to put a flute ring around it. Not sure why Orient decided to put the fluted ring here instead of the fixed bezel at the dial side. To me, the main bezel should have this design instead.



Through the display window, you will be able to see purely winding mechanical Orient 48C40 caliber. This movement has 21 jewels and move at a beat rate of 21,600BPH or 3 Hertz. It has 'hacking' capability and features a power reserve complication. The 48C40 was used throughout Orient’s pocket watch range (see Orient Pocket Watch). It is a basic but wholly effective workhorse from Orient, solidly built and reliable. It is rated with a daily accuracy of between +25 seconds to -15 seconds. Unfortunately, Orient did not do any embellishment on the caliber to make it interesting for viewing. It is a pity because there are a lot of metal plates on the movement that can be beautified.


The overall watch casing has a water rating of 5 ATM or 50 meters.



The watch some standard with a plain black calfskin strap with a slight taper that ends at a simple polished buckle. With a 18 mm lug width, the Monarch can accommodate most aftermarket straps, so the options are endless. Also note the vintage thin styled lugs that minimises any visual distraction apart from the watch face itself.


Below is the detailed instruction manual for the watch.




The Packaging

The packaging comes in two pieces. The first is the outer box is a simple white cardboard box with the brand printed at the top surface in silver. Inside this box is the main watch-box as well as the manual and guarantee documents.

The main watch-box is something new to me. Instead of a dark coloured box that hinges at the back, it has a large metal plate on the top surface of the watch-box with the brand and logo etched on it. At the four corners are metal studs. Rather impressive for an affordable watch.


The Wearing Experience

For a manual winding watch, the Monarch is considered thick. The lack of a rotor should have shaved a couple of mm from the height compared to an automatic watch. Nevertheless, not a problem to wear as it fits nicely on my wrist and slips easily under shirt cuffs.

The letter strap is stiff straight out of the box but it should be supple after wearing it for a few days. I am singularly attracted to the refraction of light when viewing the dome crystal at specific angles.

It is also easy to turn the crown while the watch is still attached to the wrist. The placement of the crown slightly away from the watch casing makes it easier to manipulate it.



Here are some photos as well a video of the watch on my wrist




Conclusion

The price point is the most astonishing aspect of this watch. Looking at the specifications, you would not have thought it could ever be sold at such a low price. Despite that, Orient is profitable considering it is made in Japan where cost of production is not that cheap.

Orient chose power reserve over date to put on this watch. I could not have agreed more on this decision. Comparing the two complications, I find the power reserve to be more useful than a date function. I wish more watch makers of mechanical watches make power reserve as a standard complication on their designs.


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