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Cheaper Orange Monster, As Good in Many Ways
on April 3, 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, the "entry level" Orient, does many things well and is a wonderful introduction to the brand.
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.
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 3 weeks of testing, my Mako keeps time to within +5 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 two screw down crowns (one for time setting, one 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). Lume is on the dial numbers, the hour and minute hands, and at the 12 o'clock position of the bezel. The lume is decent, but not as good as say the Seiko Monster series - it will last for maybe 4-6 hours of light after sustained exposure to bright light. Warranty is one year through the manufacturer. Packaging is mundane, the manual barely adequate. The watch will probably need a lube and tune up once every 3-5 years, my estimate.
The watch is attractive and understated in style, especially with its black face. 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 watch case is 41 mm, and the face of the watch itself is the standard 30mm diameter. On my 7.5 inch wrist, this sizing is adequate, but if the watch were slightly bigger it would probably look nicer, at least according to current fashion. (The newer and pricier Mako II aka "Hogrider" is indeed bigger by 5 mm but for roughly 33% higher cost). 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...)
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. One issue: 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. You can also download the correct manual from the manufacturer's website.
As a stylish "beater", this would be a good choice, 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, the orange color is highly visible, but the watch feels a tad less sturdy than the more expensive and less accurate Seiko Orange Monster, and it also lacks the ISO Diver certification of the Seiko, which sets standards for visibility, durability, etc. This is not to say the Mako does not meet these standards, merely that it has not been officially certified as such.
The Orient Mako is a great watch, and hopefully at its low price point and high quality will help Orient establish itself firmly in the US market. Try one and see!