Orient Star Retro-Future Bicycle Watch

Orient's 2020 M-Force Watch Review

Orient introduced the first M-Force in 1997 (and you can read about that piece of history here).
The name was intended to indicate its "Mechanical Force" – being
driven by an automatic movement – as well as its being "Massive" and
boasting a "Maverick" design.

The latest generation of M-Force watches was introduced in September
2020, and while initial responses to the advertised images were mixed, there
was no denying the three "M's" have been met in full: Mechanical, of
course, it is; Massive it is as well, measuring 47mm in diameter (well almost…
but we'll get to that later); and its design can undoubtedly be described as Maverick.

To be honest, it took me a while to warm up to the design. As better
photographs of the watch began to surface in social media, I actually started
to like it. Eventually I decided to treat myself to a brand new M-Force.
Choosing one model to go for could have been a tough task, as each of the five
versions available has a certain unique appeal, but the task was made easier
thanks to my local AD – who offered a single choice. Very well then – a
stealthy reference RA-AC0L03B it is!


How It Looks

It was the Cartier brand who, many decades ago, coined the term
"tank case" to describe a certain type of square watch design,
usually attributed to rather delicate, elegant dress watches. Well, I am sorry
Cartier but that was no tank. THIS is a tank:

This watch looks tough, like an armored vehicle. And armored it is, with
its most prominent feature being that bulk of a crown guard. However what seems
like an overgrown piece of metal that throws the case off balance in photos,
makes more sense in real life, and on the wrist. It even adds a certain sense
of directional edge, and hence speed, to the otherwise very rounded design.

Other unique elements that stand out include the bezel-guard opposite
the crown, the unusual "technical" font on the bezel, and the nicely
cut out hands. Together, they give the M-Force a very technical, tool-watch
appearance, which is quite different from the brand's other diver-style models
like the Kamasu.

The particular version being reviewed also stands out with its stealthy
appearance created the matte-finished black plating on the case and bezel,
black silicon strap, and greyed-out hands, dial (and bezel) text, and even the
Orient logo.

A few elements in red stick out against this dark background: the tips
of the minute and second hands; the "Diver's 200m" writing and the
"O" in the Orient logo, on the dial; and the red ring adorning the
crown. This is just enough color for the watch not to look too boring or
austere, and certainly not in excess.

Upon closer examination, one can appreciate the decent quality and
cohesiveness of the execution. The case, bezel, dial and hands all feature a
very particular grainy texture that bonds them visually. The case feels very
smooth though, like a pebble. The only bright spots seem to be those flashes of
red paint.

Note that unlike most dive watches, there is no bezel insert here. The
bezel is a single piece of metal with the minute markers engraved into it. This
too is characteristic of most M-Force models since the very first 1997 release,
and definitely adds to the perceived robustness of the watch. Naturally this
also means you cannot just replace a scratched insert, and if needed – the entire
bezel will need replacing.

Overall, I like how this M-Force looks. It is bold, very confidently
designed, and manages to make use of just a few standout elements to achieve an
immediately recognizable identity.

This aligns well with the DNA of M-Force watches of previous
generations: most of them (with the possible exception of the 2016
"Bravo" model) weren't really streamlined designs, but rather unusual
creations always having some oddball feature or other, be it a strangely shaped
case, an irregular bezel, or something else.


How It Wears

It's an M-Force so it has got to wear big and imposing, right? Well, to
some extent it does. But as I hinted at the beginning of this review, it's not
the huge paperweight of a watch that the specs might make you think.

In fact, it weighs almost exactly the same as the elegant and most
un-tank-like Orient
Star Diver
! On the silicon strap, the M-Force weighs only 5 grams
more, at 132g vs the OS's 127. On a steel bracelet, the Orient Star's 2mm wider
lug width makes the broader bracelet even things out, and both weigh about the
same (205 / 206g).

Part of this is because official dimensions are a bit misleading. The
47mm figure is inclusive of the crown guards; take those away, and you get a
45mm wide case. However the bezel is only about 42mm wide. Thickness is a very
reasonable 13.2mm (compared with the OS diver's 14mm) and lug to lug is 52mm.

Not a small watch by any means, then, but not a hulking beast either. On
the wrist, it feels surprisingly light, very comfortable, and just like a
well-proportioned diver or sports watch.

The standard silicon strap is soft and supple, and adds to the comfort.
Inside it is not smooth but has a kind of grainy texture. The 20mm lug width
which might have seemed too small for a 47mm wide watch, makes more sense given
the actual dimensions and the thickness of the lugs.

That said, I think the strap supplied is about 10-15mm too long. This
watch wears perfectly on my 7.25" wrist, but I'm fairly certain it would
be just as perfect for 7" and very wearable for people with a 6.5"+
wrist who love big watches, and they would certainly feel the strap length make
it hang a bit funny. So maybe, if you're a smaller wrist person, get ready to
replace or cut the strap short – or just go for one of the bracelet models.


How It Functions

Now let us put the watch to work, and first thing is crown action.
Screwing and un-screwing is easy enough. The crown is large and grippy, and its
threading seems to have been well executed. When pulled out, it is obvious the
crown stem is thick and robust, and while the crown does wobble ever so
slightly, it is hardly noticeable.

Winding is easy, with a very slight feeling of grinding or roughness
(less so than on the Kamasu). Setting the time and date is effortless, and the
crown guards leave enough space for the crown to be held and turned at ease.

Operating the bezel is similarly easy, with just the right amount of
resistance. The bezel turns with a very satisfying clicking sound, and with
very little back-play that would be virtually unnoticeable unless you pay
special attention to it.

Legibility is excellent. The markers, which are embossed rather than
applied, are large and filled with lume, and contrast well and clearly against
the darker dial. The hands are dark grey on this version, but their tips are
clearly painted, lumed, and make reading the time as easy as can be.

In the dark, you get a fairly strong and long lasting visibility of the
luminous parts, including the bezel pip. I've seen stronger luminosity in various
hardcore dive watches, but the size of the markers and hands here make them easy
to discern in low light, nonetheless.

The movement here is Orient's in-house caliber F6727. This movement is
currently unique to the M-Force, and it seems to be based on the more widely
used F6722, having the same functionality, layout, jewel count etc. Possibly,
it is the same caliber only with some added shock protection, as has been
hinted by M-Force marketing presentations.

Performance is satisfactory: I have measured its accuracy over 72 hours
of normal usage, on and off the wrist, resulting in the watch gaining 10
seconds per day on average. As stated accuracy is +25/-15 seconds per day, this
is just fine, although not exceptional.

What the movement, and thus the watch, lacks, in comparison to most
other M-Force models of the past, is the power reserve indicator. Nowadays it
is only Orient Stars that get this feature. Is that a great loss? Sentimentally
speaking, a PR gauge would make it more of a classic-looking M-Force.
Practically speaking, it would be unnecessary, perhaps even a distraction. The
watch design seems coherent and sensible without it, and legibility is definitely
best just the way it is.

The M-Force is proud of being a very capable watch outside the comfort
zone of office wear. Front crystal is sapphire, and is further protected by the
being slightly recessed below the bezel, which in itself is protected by the
crown guard and the opposing bezel guard. Apparently, there is further
protection inside the watch, by a system of rings that absorb shocks between
the dial, movement and case.

Water resistance is an ISO-standard air-divers' 200 meters. I did not
take the watch for a deep dive, but it feels perfectly safe to bathe, swim, and
snorkel, which is what most of owners might ask of it.


The Bottom Line

Yes! Despite initial concerns I had prior to getting my hands on this
watch in person, the new M-Force is a great addition to the Orient line-up. It
might not fit exactly into the niche prescribed by M-Forces of old, but it does
offer a welcome upgrade to the brand's existing range of sports watches,
providing better specs and quality than Kamasu and Kanno, and sliding into the
price gap just below the Orient Star 200m diver.

Different M-Force models all currently seem to be selling at around
500-600 USD online, and from what I'm hearing – they're selling well. And this
makes sense, as you're getting a highly capable watch for the price.

As wearable as the M-Force is, its dimensions should still be taken into
consideration before buying. I'd say, this is probably less suitable for people
of wrists under 6.5" unless they really are fond of overhanging watches. Between
6.5-7" it would feel big but not ridiculous and more down to personal
taste – it really doesn't wear larger than most rounded smartwatches. If you
are 7"+ then it's a no-brainer.

Other than that, if you like how this watch looks in my photos, you
won't be disappointed seeing it in person. The new M-Force is an excellent
watch, and very much worth considering if you're looking for a tough sporty
watch that can go anywhere.


We'd be very happy to learn about your experience with the M-Force.
Have you a different dial version, or one of the bracelet models? Please share
your thoughts about it in comments below!