Orient Star Retro-Future Bicycle Watch

A Brief History of Orient Star

The Orient Star brand was born 70 years ago, in 1951 – just one year
after the birth of Orient itself. We are now entering the 70th
anniversary of Orient Star, a milestone that has already provided us one major
launch (the
new Orient Star Skeleton and 70 hour movement
) and is expected to
yield more releases and announcements.

This, then, is a good reason to take a quick look at the history of
Orient Star. We're not going to go into the details of specific models in this
review, but more to understand the roots and DNA of the brand.


The DNA of Orient Star

Orient takes pride in the heritage of its Orient Star line. Despite
producing some quartz models for women, the brand is positioned primarily as a
manufacturer of mechanical watches since its first model until today.

The nature of mechanical watches, as items that are passed on from
generation to generation and transcend temporary trends, is important in the
narrative of the brand. It is also a significant element linking its very first
model with the latest, as despite advancements in watchmaking technologies, the
fundamental concepts of mechanical watches have remained unchanged.

Looking at some of the marketing content and stories released by Orient,
it seems they also see the concept of "joy" as key. They describe it
as an attempt to provide owners with the joy of being fascinated by the
mechanics, of connecting with the past, and naturally – of wearing the watch. I
see this concept as true to the end product: Particularly as opposed to the
seriousness with which many European watchmakers perceive themselves, there is
something lighter, and often fun, in Orient's watch designs (not just the
Orient Star models, by the way).


A Brief History of Orient Star

The Following "lineage tree" of Orient Star appears in the
company's Japanese website – I've taken the liberty of translating it…

The earliest models on the tree show the very quick evolution from the
1951 Orient Star design, which visually is very much "early 20th
century", to the 1957 "Dynamic" model that presents the kind of
dress-watch esthetics that are acceptable even today.

The rest of the diagram ignores some really beautiful Orient Star models, as it seems
to focus less on looks and more on substance, that is, mechanical innovations
that the brand sees at important steps in its history.

Such important steps include, of course, the introduction of series 46
calibers, the ancestor of modern Orient movements that continued to evolve into
the 46-F6, F7 and F8 movements. Though that has not been unique to Orient Star,
of course.

We can see some familiar elements of Orient Star watches mechanics that
also have a significant implication on their design: such are the Power Reserve
indicator, introduced in 1996, and the Semi-Skeleton
introduced in 2003.

The original diagram had only reached 2017. As I've already broken the
shame barrier by translating it, I saw no reason why I could not just extend it
to 2021. So, here goes – my interpretation of what Orient Star's lineage tree
would look like, had it been drawn today.

Orient Star Within The Orient Range

Today Orient Star represents the top of the Orient line in terms of
quality and pricing. It is worth noting that this was not always the case.

Royal Orient became part of the brand's portfolio in the late 1950s,
taking over the top of the range, before itself being overtaken in the early
sixties by the even more expensive and luxurious Grand Prix line.

Later in the 1960s and 1970s it seems that the Orient Star name disappeared,
in favor of such marks as Orient Deluxe and specific high-end models like the
Fineness and the Tenbeat.

The 1980s appear as a period in time where the Orient range was less
exciting and quartz became a more prominent part of the brand's offering.
Luckily, the 1990s marked the return of the mechanical movement to center
stage, along with the reappearance of Orient Star, which from then on kept its
place as a higher-end sub-brand that is characterized by excellent quality and finishing, with only the occasional Royal Orient releases
overshadowing it.