While there are several notable watchmakers based out of Japan, this post will cover one company in specific, The Orient Watch Company. While they may not be as well-known as some other notable Japanese watchmakers, it’s still a relatively large company with proven success over the years. The brand is owned by Seiko Epson, but designs and manufactures separately from Seiko.
Brief history of the Orient Watch Company
The history of Orient Watch Company goes back to 1901, when a watchmaker by the name of, Shogoro Yoshida, opened up the, “Yoshida Watch Shop” in Ueno, a district in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. They began by selling imported pocket watches, but as it became more successful the business expanded to produce gold wristwatch cases.
By 1912, he set up a factory, Toyo Tokei Manufacturing, to support the growth of his business and began producing clocks by 1920. Almost fifteen years later in 1934, the company began its production of wristwatches and a few years later, another factory was established at Hino, Tokyo, Japan. The company enjoyed large amounts of success at the Hino factory, but after World War II the Japanese economy suffered and the company closed its doors in 1949.
A year later, Yoshida revived his wristwatch manufacturing company under the name, Tama Keiki Company. The Tama Keiki Co. continued to manufacture watches at the Hino factory. It wasn’t until a year later, in 1951, that the name became what we know it as today, Orient Watch Company, Limited. In 1955, the company was able to expand their profile overseas after a memorandum trade agreement with China.
By the early 2000’s, Seiko Epson had become a major shareholder in Orient. In 2009, Seiko completed a takeover. Currently, Orient operates as an independent, but wholly-owned subsidiary of Seiko Epson, whom it is also a producer of several Seiko-brand watches.
As we can see from their humble begins back in 1901, Orient has a long history of producing quality products. The company is one of the few watch companies manufacturing mechanical movements in house and most of their production is done in Japan, as opposed to factories overseas.
In 1951, the same year that the company changed its name from Tama Keiki Co., to Orient Watch Company, the company began sales of the Orient Star watch. The Orient Star became the company’s most distinguished and well-known timepiece. The Orient Star differs from its regular Orient counterpart due to having nicer detailing, nicer bracelets and nicer movements.
This is by no means to say that the regular Orient line is poorly crafted, however. The Orient Star was created to compare in terms of accuracy and quality to some Swiss watch brands of the same price point.
While most of their product line has slimmed down to just variations of the Orient Star and the Orient, the company did have other notable watches throughout their history.
In 1960, the company began the sales of the Royal Orient. The Royal Orient was Orient’s challenger to the high-end Japanese watches their competitors were producing at the time. In 1967, the company created the “Fineness” model, which, during it’s time, was the world’s thinnest automatic wristwatch with a day and date calendar complication.
There is also Orient’s diver watch, the Orient Mako. Released in 2004, the Orient Mako was an inexpensive diver watch that featured caliber 46921. It lacked hacking and hand winding and was not ISO certified.
In April of 2016, Orient released the Orient Mako II. This was a much better watch than the previous version of the Orient Mako. The movement was upgraded to a caliber F6922, which is hackable and had hand winding capabilities with accuracy of ±15s per day.
Also, the dial was refreshed with a new design that featured Arabic numbers at the 12, 9 and 6 o’clock positions. Although, it isn’t ISO certified, the Orient Mako II was very well-received and is often considered to be one of the best affordable dive watches under $1,000.
In 2019, the Orient Kamasu and Kano were released. The Orient Kamasu is a diver that features an upgraded sapphire crystal to protect the newly designed dials. The watch does not feature Arabic numerals like its predecessors and has a bigger case. The Kano is designed simpler, but has a larger case and uses mineral glass as opposed to sapphire for the crystal. Both the Kamasu and Kano use the F6922 movement that was used in the Orient Mako II.
Back in the late 1960’s, watch production was becoming mechanized and the Orient Watch Company decided that they needed to produce a modern, but price efficient movement that was easy to mass produce. Deciding to forego creating a brand-new movement, they licensed the Seiko 7006, which was a new movement that had been designed for automated mass production.
In addition to the Seiko 7006, they also licensed the Magic Lever winding system from the Seiko 6600 family. Orient brought the components together from the 7006 and 6600 families and created the Orient 46 series. It also important to note that Orient never produced any quartz movements, despite the fact that during that time most of the industry was producing quartz movements. This is also why Seiko did not have any concerns about setting up Orient as a potential competitor for mainstream watch production.
The 46943 is the most common movement in the Orient 46 family. Orient has produced millions of these movements since its introduction in 1971. The Orient 46943 features 21 jewels, 40-hour power reserve, 21.6K bph, -25/+35 secs. However, the movement has no manual winding and does not hack and has had some accuracy issues.
The Orient caliber F6922 was introduced in the Mako II and was an upgrade to the previous Orient 46 Series 46943. The movement is a self-winding automatic movement with 22 jewels, 21.6 bph, a power reserve of 40+ hours, and is hand windable and hacking. Orient claims that the accuracy of the movement is within -15 seconds – +25 seconds per day. The deviations of the claims should be not be regarded within one day, but within a one-week period of results, according to Orient.
The movement has a power reserve of 40+ hours and winding the crown 30 times will wind the spring fully to achieve full power reserve. While we’re talking about power reserve, it should be noted that the power reserve indicator is a notable innovation from Orient. The complication is still featured on many of their midrange and beyond timepieces.
The Orient Watch Company is one of the largest producers of mechanical watches in japan and while their product line may not be as diverse as some of their competitors, they still produce quality watches that generally sell for less than competing products from their competitors. The watches are beautiful and price efficient and are often held in high regards by watch aficionados.