“So, where to begin with the new Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton, eh?”
The tl;dr is this. Orient Star’s latest Classic Semi Skeleton is a charmingly refreshing take on a model that, in my personal opinion, has always been technically competent but never quite hitting all the right buttons to make one want one. Until now, that is.
But first, some context. The refreshed Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton range comes as part of the brand’s 70th anniversary and its 2021 autumn/winter lineup. Within the updated collection, there are three models. Technical specifications are the same across. The only differences here are aesthetics.
Side note, there are also three new models for the ladies with one being almost a carbon copy of the timepiece we’re looking at today. Head on over here if you’re keen on that one.
In any case, back to this particular Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton, the attractively-named (or coded?) RE-AT0203L. Now, as mentioned, there are three models separated only by their looks. This one right here features what Orient Star calls a “pale aqua” or light blue shade on the dial. A shade that looks way more attractive in the flesh than it does in photos, believe me. However, it can also prove to be a factor in its downfall, which we’ll dive into later on.
The other two are “champagne gold” and “forest green”. All three shades are said to be inspired by the “sun shining on water, plants and forests”, respectively.
“And what about the dial?”
Ah, yes. The dial. Specifically, that shade of blue. I’m sorry, y’all. I tried and tried but it’s actually pretty tough to capture this blue on camera in all its glory. It may look decent here but in real life, the light, slightly matte (and flat) baby blue is a sight to behold. I’m not one to buy into marketing gimmicks but when Orient Star said that this shade is meant to invoke the colours of sunrays shining across the surface of water, it’s legit. “Pale aqua” is a very, very apt name for this one.
Dial colour aside, what else is up? Well, as expected of an Orient Star, we get a power reserve readout at the 12 o’clock mark which tops out at ’50’, indicating the 50-hour power reserve of this timepiece. At first, it took me some time to get used to its presence, if I’m honest. Being a sucker for clean, uncluttered dials, I initially felt that the power reserve gauge would prove detrimental. Thankfully, I was wrong. Not only did I get used to it, one cannot argue that this is indeed one of the more useful complications. Particularly since I had three watches in rotation throughout this review period.
Rather than keeping track and making sure the watch had enough juice all the time, the power reserve gauge made it as simple as picking it up, checking it and winding it if necessary. During the same week, one morning, I picked up what was to be a watch I wanted to wear only to realize it had died in the middle of the night.
Case proven, then. The power reserve display has a solid reason to exist.
“Was that supposed to be the downside?”
No, not yet. Upon closer inspection, the dial has an outer and inner track. The printed Orient Star logo, ‘Automatic’ text and power reserve gauge are located within the inner ring while the hour markers stay on the outside. Now, this looks and sounds like nothing worth writing about but I wholly believe that this small detail makes all the difference. Segmenting the dial out into two makes it look smaller and balanced. Without it, the matte shade of baby blue combined with a fair bit of real estate on the dial may have resulted in a sparser looking watch.
Moving on, the open window or the “semi skeleton” aspect of the watch sits at the 9 o’clock mark. The aperture gives us a clear view of the escapement doing its thing. Again, for someone who prefers a clean dial, I did not expect to like this design cue as much as I did by the end of my time with it.
Bored at the office? Just look down and stare at (part of) the intricacies of a mechanical movement and I’m reminded once again why I (we) like watches. Specifically, mechanical watches in this case. There’s something oddly comforting about wearing a piece of accessory/jewelry (let’s face it, our phones tell the time more accurately) that’s alive. A kind of beating heart, if you will.
“Uhm, the semi skeleton look is good. Shade of blue is good. What downside?”
Legibility. I know a dress(ish) watch isn’t supposed to prioritize legibility. Watches like these are worn as part of an outfit or when telling the time down to the minute isn’t exactly all that important. But come on, guys. This particular variant of the Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton suffers from a dial that balances simplicity and flair. I say suffer because the shade of grey employed for the printed Roman hour markers and spade hour/leaf minute hands make telling the time almost impossible under harsh lighting. Plus, it doesn’t help that there’s no AR coating at all so at certain angles, the reflection on the domed crystal makes telling the time and photographing the watch a bit of a headache.
The saving grace here comes in the form of the polished hour markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The blued seconds hand is also a nice touch. While this isn’t a deal breaker, strictly speaking, it is a rather noticeable flaw.
I’m nitpicking here but another small point that irks me is how empty the flange looks. Relative to the depth of the dial from the mineral crystal, there’s just this unoccupied, flat space that’s a constant niggle. Backtracking a bit to the Roman numerals, I’m not exactly a fan of them in general. However, myself and our contributing editor noted that as far as making them inconspicuous, Orient Star has really succeeded here. At a quick glance, it looks like printed baton markers.
Oh, and before I forget to mention. There’s not a single trace of lume to be found on the Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton.
“Okay, dial talk over. How’s the rest of the watch?”
The stainless steel case features an entirely polished finish. Completely understandable given the target audience and I’m sure a brushed surface is just going to make it look needlessly busy. In terms of measurements, the case has a diameter of 40.4 mm (excluding the non-screw down crown) and a height of 13.1 mm. The lug to lug length is 46.3 mm and the whole thing (including the strap) weighs just 75 g. Lug width is 20 mm across. Mind you, these numbers were taken with my own pair of calipers.
Moving on, it’s not everyday you get a watch at this price point that features a rhinestone embedded in its “trapezoidal” crown. No signed crowns here but you read that right. Orient Star has one-upped the competition by placing matching rhinestones in the crown for each variant. Here, it’s a blue one. On the forest green model, it’s green and on the champagne variant, there’s a light grey one instead.
Elsewhere, the shape of the case itself is fairly straightforward. The lugs curve ever so slightly downwards to aid wearability. However, when you look at the profile, things get a little bit more interesting. The bezel, which seems rather insignificant when viewed head on, really adds to the overall height and it gets capped off with just the right hint of a domed mineral crystal.
Turning the watch around, we get an exhibition caseback that allows us a clear view of the decorated Calibre F6R42. The screwed down caseback features the common lines of basic information and while that’s business as usual, there’s one element I never got used to throughout the entire review period.
“Oh? And that’s… ?”
The amount of steel that’s relative to the size of the exhibition window. It’s hard to tell from the photos alone but there’s something off-putting about how small the window looks given the width of the solid portion of the caseback.
Thankfully, the movement itself looks brilliant. From the gold accents on the skeletonized rotor to the perlage motif on the plates and back to the Tokyo stripes on said rotor, it’s a spectacle. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve removed this watch under the sun, turned it around and began swirling it just to see the light play off the different surfaces. It’s not a weird thing to do, trust me.
“Okay, so it looks good, front and back. How does it wear?”
For that, we’ll have to bring the blue calf leather strap into the spotlight. It’s a pretty standard leather strap, if I’m honest. Orient Star claims that it’s a “French tailored-edge” strap. All I know is that when it first arrived, it was stiff. Like proper digs-into-your-wrist stiff. Don’t get me wrong, it looks brilliant. And the accompanying polished trifold deployant buckle with push-button release is pretty solid hardware. Plus, it’s laser-etched with the brand’s title.
Now, while it may be pretty uncomfortable at the start, it took less than a working week of daily wear for the strap to break in. At that point, it’s a complete 180. The strap is very comfortable – noticeably more than any of the stock straps found on its nearest competitors.
I also have to mention the reversed strap setup here that comes with most deployant clasps. This is a tricky subject as some purists may prefer the traditional pin buckle setup and strap direction over this reversed strap deployant combination. The apparent logic behind the latter is to prolong the life of the leather strap since there’s a lot more slack in how much it stretches each time you put on and take off the watch. Personally, I like it.
All in all, the wearability of the new Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton is pretty good if you ask me. For reference, my wrist measures in at a twig-like 6 inches. A (mildly curved) lug to lug of 46.3 mm paired to a (once broken in) soft, pliable calf leather strap means this is a timepiece that while dressy in nature, wouldn’t look out of place with a polo shirt and shorts.
“What about the technical bits and bobs?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Orient Star’s in-house Calibre F6R42 is a looker. In fact, Orient Star (and to an extent, Orient) has always been criminally underrated in terms of the recognition it gets when it comes to the manufacturing of mechanical movements.
The Calibre F6R42 is no exception. Aside from the decoration, this 22-jeweled movement has a power reserve of 50 hours and beats at a rate of 3 Hz. No date complication here as mentioned but a power reserve display is present. The movement also features hacking and hand-winding. We’ve got a water resistance of 50 m. Plenty enough for a dress watch, if you ask me.
With all that said, the most impressive and genuinely surprising part of the F6R42 isn’t its looks or initial spec numbers. No. The most mind-boggling part of it is the tested accuracy. Orient Star quotes a rating of +25/-15 secs per day which is more than acceptable for the price point.
We’ve tested the watch with timing apps and at the risk of sounding clickbaity, you won’t believe what figure we arrived at. This particular unit clocked in an accuracy rating of -0.56 secs per day.
“Final thoughts on the Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton, then?”
To sum up the new Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton is not that hard. As I’ve said at the start, it’s a refreshing timepiece and it does rank pretty high up on my ‘want’ list. But that’s where it stays, the ‘want’ list. It’s not a watch for everyone and certainly not one for someone who insists on a one-watch collection.
It’s a watch that someone might add to their already extensive collection for fun. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a fun watch in the collection, one that you won’t need to justify. One that doesn’t need to fill a gap in the watch box. Making an even stronger case for it is the fact that it wears so light and it’s surprisingly easy to slide under a shirt cuff despite its thickness.
If I wanted a semi skeleton watch just for the sake of it, I know where I’m putting my money. Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. While official Malaysian prices remain unknown, the pale aqua and forest green Orient Star Classic Semi Skeleton both carry a MSRP of $540 (RM2,277). The champagne gold model goes for $560 (RM2,362).