Watch Out! The Orient Star Retrograde Review

In the world of mechanical watches, names like Seiko and Rolex are the brands everybody knows. The proliferation of micro-brands using standard Sellita or ETA movements means there’s not a huge opportunity to differentiate watches sold by lesser known brands, unless the ‘standard’ movements they tend to use are being heavily modified; it's strictly the look of the watch that sets it apart.

The Orient brand is one exception. As a Japanese company, they started out competing with Seiko and Citizen in the Asian watch market. Now owned but Seiko, they operate as an independent watch company, complete with original designs and in-house movements that are amazing value for money. The watch enthusiast looking for something a little more than the average can find what he's looking for here.

Orient markets their standard watch line both in the American and Asian markets, but the Orient Star - a higher priced line - seems to be focused primarily on the Asian markets, and they are a bit harder to find in the US except through gray market dealerships.

I purchased my Orient Star Retrograde from Creation Watches, which is based in Singapore. Their excellent free shipping meant a Friday order arrived on Monday afternoon - which blew my mind! Depending on the price point of your order with Creations Watches, you may or may not receive a branded watch box.

My Retrograde came in a very nice Orient box, and was well packed. Opening it was a treat! 

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The watch is placed on a black velvet style pillow that comes out very easily, and since it was a new watch was wrapped in plastic, tagged, etc. 

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The watch overall is about 39.5mm in diameter, and a slightly deep 14.25mm. The dial is a champagne colored off-white, with guilloche styling on the main and sub dials. Each sub dial sports a different pattern. The subdials on this watch are:

  • 12 o'clock power reserve
  • 9 o'clock date
  • 6 o'clock retrograde day

Hour indices are very pronounced and sit quite proud of the dial, while each sub dial is slightly recessed.

The day dial also sports a polished edging to set it apart from the main dial, while the date and power reserve have a very tiny metal band outlining their edges.

The hands are very angular, polished on one side and matte on the other which is intended to aid readability.

The sub dial hands are not consistently styled, sometimes it feels rather like the Retrograde day hand is pulled from a different watch altogether! The power reserve and date hands, while not identical, are similarly styled with a triangular look which is congruent with the hour and minute hands. The retrograde hand has a more smoothly tapered design, and it could be shorter - it obliterates the text on the subdial. There is a lack of consistency here; each subdial kind of doing its own thing in terms of where it lands on the indexes. Not a complaint, just an observation - an easy opportunity for perfection.

The retrograde function is quite fun - rather than a circular dial, the retrograde hand will snap back to the first index after it reaches the last one. So, at the end of Sunday, it snaps back to Monday. This is a run and uncommon complication that is one of the main things that drew me to this watch.

The lume is small and does not have a lot of staying power; for a dress watch it's probably not even necessary.

The dial is overall very readable, though the small text of the date may be hard to read with a quick glance, and at times the minute hand can make it hard to read the date at all, but that is to be expected.

The movement is an Orient 40A50, 22 jewel movement that is both hacking and hand winding capable. On mine, using a timegrapher app on my phone, it gains about 5 seconds per day - which is not bad given the price. Conveniently, I can look at the official time app on my phone once a day, pull the stem out for about five seconds, push it back in and I’m basically in sync! The watch is incredibly quiet too...put your ear to it, and you won’t hear much; the rotor is also very quiet. The movement is decorated with Cotes de Geneve, a nice touch for a watch at this price point.

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The automatic winding seems very efficient, I have no trouble keeping the power reserve at maximum in the normal course of a day, even with my fairly sedentary job. A quick wind on weekends is indeed all that is needed to keep it running. Winding the watch is a joy, with just a small amount of resistance, and it really is quite fun to watch the power reserve move.

The case is polished stainless on top, and brushed on the sides. The lugs are beautifully shaped and meld in nicely with the bracelet, which combines brushed and polished portions of the links in a very tasteful way. Overall the watch comes together as a splendid unit, elegant in appearance and classic in design. The sapphire crystal is domes ever so slightly, and has held up to my wear and tear without fail so far.

Overall, this is an excellent watch for anyone who is looking for an interesting automatic. The retrograde function is not too common, especially at this price point, and the in-house movement is a treat as well. The build quality is really quite fine - probably not Seiko Presage quality, but close. Overall, I definitely recommend this Orient Star Retrograde.

Book Review - Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

Available on Amazon (affiliate link below):

Sarah gave me this book for our fifth wedding anniversary, and I was very excited to read it. It looks like just the sort of thing that would capture my attention.

I actually polished this book off in one day! There is a new generation of history books that is really unlike histories of the past. Books like Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, the Killing series by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, and others provide a window view into the people that are part of the story. You can read about what worries them, how the world looks to them, and how it all fits into the historical activity going on at the moment. History is brought to life! For any larger scope this narrative style would evolve into a massive book that probably would lack important details, but for a specific historic topic it provides powerful insight and imagery.

The premise of this tale, then, is that a fledgling United States, with a depleted treasury due to the Revolution and several years under the Articles of Confederation, needs to trade abroad in order to build up the economy. The difficulty is that four Muslim nations, absolved by their religion to attack whom they please on the high seas, are capturing merchant vessels, keeping the ships and cargoes, and enslaving the crews.

Large powers such as Britain and France have been paying off these pirate nations for years, ensuring a relatively uninterrupted set of ocean trade routes; but the pirates' demands are so heinous that the United States government cannot reliably pay. The only other solution is war.

Thomas Jefferson had argued for a naval power capable of dealing with threats to merchant shipping, and with the outrages visited upon the United States by the pirates, he was able to persuade Congress to raise funds for warships. 

Eventually, through a combination of bold naval maneuvering and political wrangling, peace is won in the region; but only for a time.

This book dives into the real-life characters who were a part little-known part of American history; it reads like a swashbuckling adventure, made all the more exciting by the fact the events are real. Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger present a readable and engaging slice of history. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in US or naval history.

In my reading pile is George Washington's Secret Six, by the same authors. I am now even more excited to dive into that story.