Today for “Watch A Day” I’m wearing one of my favorite casual watches, the blue Orient Ray diving watch. It’s a favorite among watch enthusiasts and a great buy for under $300. Nothing frumpy or fancy here (apart from Orient’s goofy logo), just functionality, reliability, and good looks.
Orient is not a well-known brand to the masses, but that’s a real shame. The company has solid history along with Seiko and Citizen, developing and manufacturing movements and watches in Tokyo as long as their better-known competition. Orient focused on mechanical watches during the 1970s, purchasing the rights to Seiko’s Cal. 7006 and Magic Lever winding system to create their own low-priced mass-produced movement, Cal. 46. This workhorse remains in production to this day and has proved itself bulletproof and accurate.
The consolidation of Japanese industry in the 1980s resulted in Seiko merging their Suwa Seikosha watchmaking operation with their electronic equipment subsidiary, Epson, to create Seiko Epson. This operates as an independent company within Seiko Group, and between 2001 and 2009 it consolidated control over Orient. Thus, Orient operates as an independent competitor to Seiko even though both remain under the Seiko Group banner.
Unlike Seiko and Citizen, who have moved mass production to China and Southeast Asia, Orient manufactures their movements and watches in Japan. This, combined with low pricing and reliability, has made the brand a favorite of budget-minded enthusiasts. Orient’s line of dive watches is especially loved, with classic but distinct styling in the Triton, Mako, and Ray lines.
My “Blue Ray” features a lovely deep blue dial and bezel insert and generous lume on the hands and markers. The day/date movement is as superfluous in a diver as that extra pusher, but it’s acceptable in a daily-wear watch. Being a diver, it is sealed to 200 meters and features a screw-down crown and screw collet on the pusher at 2:00. The crown has guards on the sides but the pusher does not.
My Ray has Orient’s excellent rubber diving strap, which is supple and comfortable. It has accordion-style ridges to fit snugly in the water and is extra long to fit over a wetsuit. The plan clasp is solid and workmanlike, though it’s disappointing that there’s no marking on it at all. The strap feature’s two dolphins, as does the back of the case, signifying its purpose.
The Ray is obviously a mass-produced watch, with rounded edges on the solid case and bezel. But it’s a good one. My only real complaint is the Orient name, which sounds off by modern standards, and their overly-ornate logo. It’s too bad they don’t use the simpler Star logo on more watches.
Orient finally moved away from the extra-pusher Cal. 46943 and now sells the similar but better-looking Ray II. This new model has the updated Cal. F6922 which hacks and hand-winds and no longer needs that pusher to set the day. Apart from that, the watch is very similar. I strongly recommend Orient as an everyday-wear alternative to Seiko’s divers or other more expensive options. But tomorrow’s watch is probably an even better value, though it costs more than twice as much!