Orient Star Retro-Future Bicycle Watch

The New Orient "Defender" Field Watch Hands-On Review

A couple of months ago, we reported here the announcement
of a new generation of Orient field watches
, replacing the older
ET0N series of models (widely known as the "Defender"). Since the
announcement, we have seen plenty of interest and questions rising in various
forums concerning the new models. Well, good news everyone – we had the chance
to spend some time and review the new watch, and you can now read all about it!

The version we received for review is the all-black model, ref. RN-AK0403N.
Its steel case is 42.4mm wide (without the crown), 49.4mm long (lug to lug) and
12.2mm thick. It comes on a 22mm wide nylon, NATO-style strap. Inside is
Orient's caliber F6B22 automatic, which hand-winds and hacks, and features a
central second hand, date wheel, and sub-dials for the day and 24-hour display.

How It Looks

The watch (we'll just call it "Defender", as many Orient fans
might do) has a very utilitarian, even military appearance, particularly in
this version with its stealthy black plated case and green NATO strap. The case
is lightly brushed all around, thus avoiding any flashy elements and adding to
the stealthy appearance.

The Defender's dial is its foremost characteristic. Not identical, but
similarly styled to the previous generation field-watch, you get the 24 hours
display at 5 o'clock, and the weekday at 10. There's absolutely no symmetry on
the dial but somehow it works, with the Orient logo at "1:30"
balancing the dial.

In this version, the dial is not completely black, but rather a very
dark shade of matte grey. This provides good contrast to the crème colored hour
markers and white minute track. The minute and hour hands are matching, painted
white with crème lume. A touch of red is provided by the tip of the second hand
as well as the 24 hour hand.

Asymmetrical dials are very much a matter of personal taste and one's
sense of "what a watch dial should look like". While not everyone
might like the dial arrangement, it is what it is – this is what the Defender's
all about. I actually like it: the colors work, and I find that it is well
balanced. Plus – it makes the watch more interesting, which to me is important
and is what I generally look for in Orient's watches.

How It Feels

The Defender feels solid and well built. While "field watch"
is very much a stylistic statement, many people would likely think of it as
implying tool-watch robustness and durability.

Now, while we had no intention of running our loan-unit through rigorous
field tests, it does seem to possess at least some basic tool-watch
characteristics: water resistance to 100m is useful, and being mostly devoid of
high-polished surfaces, it does not look like a watch that cannot take a few
bumps and scratches here and there. However if your future activity outlook
includes more than the average share of scratches, you might well want to
consider one of the other, non-black-plated versions. Black plating will not
look good when the bare metal begins to show through the deeper scratches.

The main down-side as far as durability is concerned is the mineral
glass, which I'm sure many field-watch enthusiasts would rather see replaced by
a sapphire crystal (the case-back is solid anyway). While this type of mineral
glass is generally quite hard, it is not as scratch-resistant as sapphire. It's
likely that some owners would wish to upgrade it to sapphire at some point (or
once it gets scratched).

How It Wears

Many purists would argue that true field-watches are lightweight and come
in small sizes, 38mm or less, like the old Seiko SUS or the Hamilton Khaki
Field Mechanical.  

Clearly the Orient Defender does not follow this school of thought, and
takes on more modern sport watch dimensions. As such, it is very wearable and
comfortable: the lugs, not too long, curve nicely to ensure a snug fit on most
wrists average-sized and above, and the heft of the watch too feels just right,
not too light and not too heavy.

While the standard nylon strap is quite comfortable and of decent
quality, we also tried the watch on a two-part cordura & leather strap.
There's something about military-themed watches that makes them real strap
monsters, and the Defender is no exception. The version we got here looks great
on the crème strap that matches the markers; it seems it would go just as well
with black, darker brown, natural leather, vintage/distressed leather, and so

How It Functions

First up in field-watch functional requirements is its legibility. As
the pictures show, legibility on the Defender is as good as it gets. Hands and
markers are broad and contrasting against the dial, the sub-dials are very
subtle and do not interfere with reading the time, and lume is ample.

The signed crown is screw-down, and works well. It is fairly large and
grippy, making winding and setting the time (and date, and day…) quick and

We have measured a deviation of +6 seconds per day on our unit – as usual
with Orient this is well within the -15, +25 specs, and it's worth noting that
most new Orients we've played with recently seem to be very consistently within
a range of +4 to +6 seconds. That's not exceptional, but still pretty good for
a mechanical watch at this price range.

The Bottom Line

This Defender, and other members of this new family of Orient
field-watches, is officially around 300 USD on bracelet or black coating, and a
little less for the no-coating / no-bracelet versions. It's currently available
on some online stores at around 220-240 USD, which is fair enough (and as
discounts off ticket price go, is quite minimal, indicating high demand).

The blog's verdict: For the price you get a well-made, sporty watch with
field / military inspiration and a design that is not derivative but rather
very much Orient. If you're looking for a tool-watch and have had enough of
divers, and if you like your dial a little more interesting than just plain
time and date, and mineral glass is not a deal breaker for you, then you should
definitely check out the Orient Defender.

The blog would to thank Orient – Epson Europe for providing us this Orient
ref. RN-AK0403N for review.