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Dueling Makos - Does Size Matter?
on April 4, 2010
The Orient Mako has a great reputation among watch fans and it deserves to be a more widely known brand to the public at large. This watch, a redesign of the "entry level" Orient diver is meant to be a larger more fashionable design, and is a handsome watch. However, it has a few issues when compared to its cheaper first generation cousin (which is sold for 30% less list price, far more discounted) as of this writing.)
Orient is a small Japanese company that is partially owned by Seiko. They've been around for more than 50 years, and their claim to fame is that they are a mechanical watch producer that designs and makes 100% of their movements in-house. The in-house designation is significant as it means the company does more than just buy off the shelf designs but rather is directly involved in creating and tuning the mechanical heart of their product. Rolex is know for their in-house work, but even such costly brands as Omega, TAG Heuer, and Breitling have most of their movements made for them by other companies (ETA for the most part). To have a finely crafted automatic watch in this price range that has been designed and manufactured by the seller is rare to say the least. The watches are also hand made, and in Japan as well.
As mentioned this is an automatic watch. The watch cannot be hand wound so you need to shake it to start it, and then it winds itself as you move your arm during the day - no batteries needed. The timekeeping is a tad less precise than a quartz, and for this movement (Orient's 469) the manufacturer states you can normally expect to lose up to to 20 seconds slow or fast each day. (More on this later.) Two related points: if you want to keep reasonably accurate time, you need to reset your watch every week or so, and if you are utterly sedentary during the day (i.e. drive to work, sit at a desk, drive home, sit in front of the TV) the watch may not get enough winding to stay working. You hardly need to run a marathon, maybe 15 minutes of walking total throughout the day will probably keep your watch (and yourself!) functioning well. The power reserve for this movement is roughly 40 hours, which I believe is accurate based on my own tests. (This is the time the watch will take to stop after you take it off when it is fully wound up.) The watch has a day and date complication, with weekday available in Spanish and English. The date complication is not "quick adjusting" so the day and date should not be adjusted from the hours of 9 PM to 4 AM as the gears are in the process of slowly rotating both day and date dials in that time frame. The Mako II uses the exact same movement as the original Mako, no changes here.
Minor annoyance for precisonists: the second hand cannot be "hacked" - that is, when you set the time by pulling the crown out, the second hand continues to turn. That means getting an exact time sync is a challenge, as you will be always be fast or slow by however many seconds the third hand is away from 12 o'clock when you push the crown in. Unless you are leading a commando team on a raid, this probably will not be a major issue, but more expensive Swiss movements like those by ETA do offer the hacking feature as do some pricier Seikos. This and the accuracy issue is the biggest negative differences between quartz ownership and owning an automatic.
As to accuracy --- Orient avoids building your hopes up as the manual tells you to expect +25 to -15 seconds of time loss of gain per day. However, over 2 weeks of testing, my Mako II keeps time to within -4 seconds per day. This is phenomenal and is within the realm of COSC standards (the expensive and prestigious Swiss timekeeping standard that watches that cost twenty or more times as much as the Mako are tested to). For a watch costing less than a cell phone to meet this standard over time is pretty amazing! You may or may not get this accuracy - anecdotally, many other web reviewers seem to have encountered this level of accuracy in their tests, so I think Orient is on to something here...
As for durability --- the face of the watch is mineral crystal, not sapphire. The bracelet is solid filled links, and feels and looks costly. The watch itself is water resistant to 200 meters, and features one screw down crown for time and date setting, and a non-screw down pusher for setting the weekday. The bezel is steel, and turns relatively easily; it is scalloped, not coin-edged (i.e. needs your thumb not your fingernail to turn). The Mako II has redesigned graphics for the numerals on the bezel, but has the same solid feel as the original. Lume is on the dial numbers, the hour and minute hands, and (new for the Mako II) on the second hand. The 12 o'clock position of the bezel however has no lume on it, unlike the Mako I.
The lume is decent, but not as good as say the Seiko Monster series, and also a bit worse than the Mako I - it seems to last for maybe 3-4 hours of light after sustained exposure to bright light. Warranty is one year through the manufacturer. Packaging is mundane, the manual supplied was for the wrong watch (an Orient tradition). Orient almost always ships the wrong manual with the watch. None of the watches in the manual I got looked like the actual model, and some features had to be puzzled out, but as I own other Orients, there was nothing too radical here. You can also download the correct manual from the manufacturer's website. As with all autos, the watch will probably need a lube and tune up once every 3-5 years, my estimate.
The watch is attractive and bolder in style, than Mako I. It is 46mm rather than 41 mm (at least in case size, see below) and has larger pointy arrow hands instead of mid-sized "swords" as Mako I had. There are no Arabic numerals on the face at all, all abstract rectangular hash marks ala the Seiko Monster divers. The watch can look dressy especially with its black face, or with a blue face, as the rather gaudy bright blue of the Mako I option set has been replaced with a richer more subdued color.
Unlike other inexpensive mechanical watches in its price range (cough, Invicta) the Mako does not strive to slavishly imitate the Rolex Submariner, but instead has its own aesthetic going on. The neatest thing about this (or any other good automatic) is watching the sweep of the second hand. The watch mainspring beats 6 times per second (21,600 bph), and the second hand has 6 distinct stops between each marked second on the face. This slow majestic sweep is far more elegant that the clunk-ka-chunk precise once per second movement of a quartz analog. The back of the watch is a solid screw-down design, enhancing durability but without showing the movement inside as "exhibtion" casebacks would. (This is the one point I prefer about the Invicta 8926, though arguably looking at the blah Citizen Miyota movement on the 8926 has pretty limited appeal...)
Now the bad points, in order of importance:
A) In most round watches, the lugs are like 4 little teeth that project from the top and bottom of the watch. The band hooks directly into the lugs and the appearance is that the band feeds directly into the circular face of the watch. To me, this is a classic and elegant design. (Think Rolex Submariner for the appearance I am talking of.... or the Mako I!). The Mako II however has a squared off flap of metal between the lugs on the top and bottom of the watch, and the band connects to this base rather than directly to the lugs. As a result, instead of band connecting to circle, you have a big hulking rectangle that the circular face sits in which the band connects to. This, to me, is uglier and looks like poor design. Other watches with large faces have managed to avoid the Big Ugly Rectangle, so I don't know what the designers of the Mako II were thinking. Even if you want a big watch, most watch wearers want a bigger FACE, not a bigger CASE. The case of the Mako II is 5 mm bigger than the Mako I, but the FACE is only about 2mm bigger. If you want to impress folks with the big ugly case of your watch, you will love this design, but I don't know who will be impressed by a large steel rectangle. I think the Mako II is a wash in terms of aesthetics compared to the Mako I - I like the slightly bigger face, the redesigned hands, and the slightly bigger size, but the Vast Rectangle of Unimaginative Design is a problem to me.
B) For a redesign, the Mako II is a bit of an airhead. No added functional features like a new movement (one featuring say hacking and / or hand winding) or a new complication like say a power reserve level indicator (as Orient offers on many other watches, some even cheaper than this one.) We have a cosmetic facelift, less water resistance (see below), less lume, the same movement (admittedly an excellent one), and a 30% price increase. It's like when GM tacks a new body on the same old frame with the usual mechanicals and jacks the price up. I would have liked to see more usable value added to the model considering the price difference.
C) The watch is less water resistant than Mako I. The lack of a screw down crown for the day pusher in theory means the watch will fail more easily if used in diving at a higher depth than Mako I. This is for the 3% of you who actually might use this watch for diving. If you just go swimming with it, you'll be just fine.
Upshot: The watch itself is superbly made. Everything feels solid, from the bracelet to the crown to the bezel. There is an Orient logo on the face and on the bracelet that is not problematic due to its subtlety. This doesn't look like a Rolex, but the level of quality is immensely impressive given the price and few observers will think this is a cheap watch by just looking at it. The watch follows the current fashion of larger men's watches, but as I mention, most of this added size is in the larger case.
All in all, for a dressy though sporty office watch, you can't go wrong with the Mako II in black or blue. As a stylish "beater", this would also be a good choice in any color, as it is sturdy, handsome, and yet inexpensive enough that if you somehow did damage it, you wouldn't be crying the same tears that you would if you mashed up your $4,000 Omega Planet Ocean. If you were actually using this for diving, you would probably want either to get a Mako I or more probably something with ISO Diver certification like the more expensive and less accurate Seiko Orange Monster.
The Orient Mako II is a handsome watch, superbly made, and all in all, is still a fine value. However, Mako I is an even better value, and its aesthetics may offset the smaller size to some purchasers. Compare carefully between the two, and hopefully the comparatively low price points and high quality of either model you pick will help Orient establish itself firmly in the US market. Try one and see!