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Learn More About Orient TriStar Watches

Posted on September 18 2020

What are Orient Tri-Star or 3-Star Watches?


Orient’s Tri-Star, or 3 Star range, is a budget line of automatic watches. They are designed to be affordable and reliable. The three pillars of the collection are simple. The watches are to be well designed, of good quality and be modestly priced. All watches in the range are powered by automatic movements.

 

 

Orient TriStar Watch
The History of the Tri-Star Range

The TriStar collection has been produced since the 1970s - making the range nearly 50 years old. The 3 star logo had been used on Orient watches since the 1950s, but as a specifically defined collection, the story begins a couple of decades later.

The 1970s were a difficult time for the watch industry, as quartz technology began to compete with, and supersede traditional mechanical watches. Many brands crumbled, particularly in Switzerland. Japan, the home of Orient, was not immune to these changes.

The default option for watch producers had been to embrace the new battery-powered movements. Why not? They were cheaper and more accurate than their mechanical counterparts. At this point, Orient had been designing and producing their own in-house movements for the best part of two decades.

Orient approached the problem differently.
The choice wasn’t between adopting quartz technology or dying as a business. The aim of the company was to retain its brand identity and its watchmaking knowledge.

They set themselves the task of creating mechanical watches that could compete at the same price-point as the new battery-powered models. They believed that there was a global demand for very affordable mechanical watches. Specifically, in the developing world where batteries were neither cheap and easy to come by, they saw the need for reliable mechanical watches. They would be priced cheaply and not incur the additional cost of regular battery changes.

This brings us back to the ethos of this collection. Affordable watches that maintain a high level of quality and are attractively designed - signified by three stars on the dial. On the whole, the collection is focused on dress and casual watches, most designs being relatively simple - although there are a number of colourful models.

Which companies are the Orient 3 Star watches competing against?

 

Orient was not alone in wanting to maintain its watchmaking heritage. Many of the Swiss luxury brands were able to weather the quartz storm, although some were eventually sold to Swatch, one of the big beneficiaries of the quartz revolution.

At the centre of the quartz watch industry was fellow Japanese brand Seiko, who had released the first quartz watch. Like Orient, Seiko continued to produce mechanical watches. Their Seiko 5 line is a direct competitor to the TriStar watches. Like Orient’s collection, the Seiko 5 line aims to meet minimum standards for affordable watches with automatic movements at their core (more here).

In Russia, Vostok has also consistently produced affordable mechanical watches. For different reasons, Russian watchmakers have put affordability and reliability at the centre of their collections. In the case of the Vostok, producing unsophisticated, bomb-proof divers watches (more here and here).

Where can I buy Orient TriStar watches?


For most of us, the internet is going to be the best place to buy Orient watches. In the UK you won’t find this Japanese brand on the high street the way that you can Seiko and Citizen. Amazon and Ebay will often be the ideal place to hunt for these gems, and in the US Jomashop is an additional option.

What are the Best Orient Tristar watches?


Below I present a selection of my favourite Orient 3-Star watches. As you’ll see, there’s a consistency to the collection often with only relatively minor differences between models. As ever, I encourage you to dig a little deeper and find your own favourites.

 

 

The first watch on the list perfectly captures the ethos of the collection and will look very familiar as you get to know the TriStar watches a little better. It’s modestly sized, has a round case and a slightly retro design. It’s a style that appears regularly in the range.

This particular watch is available in a few variations, with the black and silver models working best for me. Stainless steel is preferable to the gold-coloured case too.

The case is reasonably slim at 11mm, and with a 39mm diameter and a strap at a touch under 20mm, this is a comfortable dress watch - designed to slip nicely under a shirt cuff.

It’s what I’d class as a typical 3 Star watch. Classic, but with a touch of colouring - there's a nice use of red and gold here.

  • RA-AB0017B19B
  • 39mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 19mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Orient TriStar RA-AB0007B19B

 

This next model is in many ways a beefed up and more contemporary version of the first watch. At 43mm it’s noticeably larger, although it still has a slim profile. The bracelet is a little wider too, so the overall feel is of a more substantial watch.

Married with the increase in size is the use of bold numerals rather than the plain indices. This updates the design and adds an almost military aesthetic. This is increased with the simplification of the colours.

But all the expected features are there. The reliable Japanese automatic movement, the mineral crystal, basic water resistance and a price tag of under £100. It’s possibly my current favourite in the collection.

  • RA-AB0007B19B
  • 43mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Orient TriStar FAB-0B001D9

 

Although this watch is housed in a similar case, again 43mm, the effect is rather different. The slim hands and Roman numerals at 12 and 6, add a degree of sophistication. The overall effect creates a contemporary dress watch.

The specifications are already familiar - they’re pretty standard across the range. With this collection, it's the individual designs that will influence your purchase rather than a preference for particular features.

The blue dial adds a little flair to the design, which works well, given that Roman numerals can appear a little stuffy on modern watches. That larger case, the substantial bracelet and the coloured dial ensure the watch can pull off the classic styling without appearing out of date.

  • FAB-0B001D9
  • 43mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Orient TriStar FAB-0B004W9

 

At the risk of repeating myself, this is another classic dress watch. Like the last two watches, the specs are pretty much identical. The differences are all in the dial and hands.

With this model, Orient has chosen the full compliment of numerals, rather than the partial numbers of the previous two and the indices of the opening watch. Between them, there’s a variety of styles, in what are essentially very similar watches.

This is an understated design, with the only real colour coming from the blue hands. The leather strap adds a contrast to the stainless steel and ensures the 43mm case doesn’t become cumbersome.

It’s not as eye-catching as some of the other models in the series, but this subtly will be an attractive trait in its own right.

  • FAB-0B004W9
  • 43mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 

Orient TriStar RA-AK0506S

 

This next model mixes things up a little more. The case is smaller and more in keeping with the older Tri-Star models. And the dial is busier. Rather than the simplicity of the previous watch, we have two sub-dials, roman numerals and a small date window squeezed in.

It just about works.

Normally I’d say that there’s a little too much going on, but Orient does manage to pull this off. There’s a couple of design points I can’t quite make my mind up about. Specifically, the logo off to one side and the date window cutting into the number 3. But the overall package is a success.

What's more, it stands out from the other models so caters to different tastes. The day as a sub-dial rather than as a text window is a complication that some will adore - as is the 24hr sub-dial.

  • RA-AK0506S
  • 39.5mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement - Orient F6B22
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 

Orient TriStar RA-AB0F11C19A

 

The final watch to make this shortlist is a beauty. And again, it’s all about the dial.

It’s 40mm, my perfect size, and has 20mm lugs. The movement is Orient’s own F4902 Calibre and there’s a mineral crystal. All on a watch that retails for a little over £100. For me though, it’s the dial that makes this watch.

There’s a very nice silver variation, but the bold yellow option is my personal pick. The simple indices win every time in a comparison with roman numerals and this simplicity is the watches strength.

I have a preference for symmetry in a dial and other than the date window, this is a tidy, well-balanced example. It’s a great watch to round out the list.

  • RA-AB0F11G19A
  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement - F4902
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

Conclusion

 

Part of the fun of affordable watches is finding the gems. The well-designed watches that provide great value for money. There are only a few brands in the world that produce their own in-house movements for watches that are very affordable.

Orient is one of that small group.

The Tri-Star, or 3 Star series, has a lengthy history and a proven record. If you like affordable mechanical watches, then you need to take a closer look at this collection.

Add your own thoughts below.

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