In the context of timepieces “cheap” usually isn’t a word you want associated with a nice object meant to be worn on your wrist. I don’t use the term lightly because this IS a product even those with extremely expensive timepieces can really appreciate. The new for 2018 Japanese Orient Bambino Small Seconds (SS) is only cheap in price – but certainly not quality or character. Let’s take a look at how Orient took what we feel is the best budget dress watch around (aBlogtoWatch article here) and made it a whole lot better.
Japan’s Orient has been around since 1950, but is more recently part of the larger Seiko conglomerate of brands. More specifically, it is part of the Epson family of brands, which includes Seiko and Grand Seiko. Orient’s strengths are in its ability to render European-style classic watch designs in extremely good packages for the money. The Bambino SS models (at debut there are five different versions as the references RA-AP0001S10A, RA-AP0002S10A, RA-AP0003S10A, RA-AP0004S10A, and RA-AP0005B10A) are priced at either $305 or $325 USD per watch – and in my experience I’ve not seen anything else as nice out there. I’m actually impressed that this isn’t just a Bambino with an upgraded movement, but a Bambino that in my opinion feels upgraded in a lot of areas.
From a design perspective the Orient Bambino was always supposed to be a rather sober-looking dress watch. Nothing has changed in that department. Each of the models still have a vintage-style formal watch design, with an emphasis on asserting a very traditional design versus something modern or contemporary. With vintage-style watches being so in – especially in the context of dress watches, the look of these Orient Bambino watches is going to impress and satisfy a lot of customers out there. More so, I think the upgrades in the Orient Bambino SS are significant enough for existing Bambino customers to really consider upgrading. More practical is simply being able to get a new Bambino in a color scheme that you don’t already have.
Let’s jump straight to the topic of the movement inside of the case. Most previous Bambino watches had rather primitive automatic movements that didn’t have a hacking seconds feature or even allow for hand-winding of the mainspring. A few years ago Orient changed all that with the release of the in-house made caliber F6724 automatic – which finally offers a modern movement for Orient timepieces. It was not until now that one of these newer movements showed up in a Bambino collection product that I’ve reviewed. Inside the Bambino SS is a variant of the F6724 which is the new caliber F6222. This automatic movement includes a subsidiary seconds dial over 6 o’clock – making for a really classy look which I think lends itself well to any dress watch design. The F6222 automatic finally offers both automatic and manual winding, as well as a hacking seconds feature (the seconds hand stops when you pull out the crown). The made-in-Japan movement operates at frequency of 21,600 bph (3Hz) with a power reserve of approximately two days. It also includes the date.
You can view the movement through the rear of the case – which is a nice feature. No, the movement doesn’t have fancy decoration on it, but for that you’ll have to spend many thousands of dollars more. This is about value for the money. Let me also add, that for the money, I’ve seen worse looking movements than the decent (in an industrial sort of way) caliber F6222 in watches even more expensive than this. Orient even goes so far as to put a pretty image on the automatic rotor. In all, for the roughly $300 price, I think the movement in the Orient Bambino SS is totally acceptable.
It feels to me as though Orient really upped its game on the case finishing. While most of the Bambino case is polished, the side flanks are brushed, giving the watch a very authentic high-end look. You even have an Orient logo in the crown, which most Seiko watches don’t even offer at this price point. I’ve worn my fair share of Bambino watches in the past, and I still find it awkward (although in a good way) that you can manually wind the movement via the crown. It feels almost as though the Bambino is finally all grown up.
On the wrist the Orient Bambino SS maintains the collection’s winning size of 40.5mm wide and 12mm thick. It’s a tad on the larger side as a traditional dress watch, but the design makes the size work perfectly for it. Going smaller would have actually made the design feel old, while going too large would have prevented the Bambino SS from performing its primary function of being a useful dress watch that you can wear to business or formal occasions.
Orient really nailed the dial design on the Bambino Small Seconds in my opinion. Most important is the domed face, which is an extremely uncommon feature on modern watches. The doming effect helps the watch dial play with light in a very flattering way, and also adds a welcome sense of depth. Orient opted for a new dial look that includes applied baton hour markers mixed with Arabic hour numerals. The applied elements are polished, but the finishing is dull enough so that they don’t reflect too much light (a positive thing). The hand designs are interesting as well. It takes a while to notice the character of the hands, since at first glance they just look like traditional dauphine-style hands. Upon closer examination, you may notice that as the hands taper in size, the outer line isn’t straight, but rather gently curved. It is a very subtle design element, but it makes a big difference in helping this otherwise familiar design seem a bit more distinctive. In all, a serious aficionado such as myself is able to notice and appreciate just how much time and effort Orient put into creating the Bambino Small Seconds watch collection.
Inserting the date window on the dial will be one of those things that some watch collectors will take issue with. Though most of Orient’s intended buyers probably prefer the addition of a date window. To the collectors out there who don’t like date windows because they affect dial symmetry, let me just say this. First of all, nothing on the dial is removed in order to make room for the date window. Second, the date is as small as can be and its frame is very discreet. Orient currently offers the Bambino SS dial in white, black, and champagne colors between three different case finishing tones.
It isn’t difficult to imagine other color variations of the Bambino Small Seconds that would be pleasant for Orient to offer. Where is my yellow gold-tone case with matching hands and hour markers paired with the black dial? The answer is, “not here yet” I’m sure. Speaking of the black dial, that model Bambino SS is the most difficult to read because in some light, the hands can blend in a bit with the dial (though I’ve seen a lot worse). Pretty much all the other Bambino SS models have superior legibility – with the yellow gold-tone or rose gold-tone with white dial Bambino SS pieces being perhaps the most legible of the lot.
The Orient Bambino watch case is water-resistant to 30m and has a box-style mineral crystal over the dial. Attached to the cases are surprisingly comfortable and not too-stiff leather straps in either black or various shades of brown. The leather straps are fine, but they won’t last very long. More so, the faux alligator look won’t appeal to everyone. If you are someone who is interested in getting the most out of your watch purchases, my recommendation is that among the first things you do after getting a Bambino SS is to swap out the factory strap with something nicer. FYI, the strap width is the uncommon 21mm wide measurement (something to know when looking for a replacement strap).
Novice or on-a-budget watch lovers will find a lot to enjoy about the Orient Bambino Small Seconds watch from both a value, aesthetic, and utility standpoint. Legibility is generally quite good, and I have to repeat again that in my opinion these watches feel more expensive than they actually are. You can tell that this is a product Orient enjoyed making, and even though it has a simple, highly conservative look, the Bambino makes up for it by being appropriate for so many wearing situations and for so many different types of people. Once again, Orient offers five different versions of the Bambino SS to start with (RA-AP0001S10A rose gold-tone case with white dial, RA-AP0002S10A natural steel case with white dial, RA-AP0003S10A natural steel case with champagne dial, RA-AP0004S10A yellow gold-tone case with white dial, and RA-AP0005B10A natural steel case with black dial) in 2018. Prices for each are either $305 USD or $325 USD depending on the version. orientwatchusa.com
>Model: Bambino Small Seconds (SS)
>Price: $305–325 USD
>Size: 40.5mm wide, 12mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Certainly, when I want to look my best in formal or business attire on a budget that won’t make others blush.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone who might make at least occasional use of a dress watch and doesn’t already have a decent “go to” piece. The fair price and versatile style of the Bambino SS make it very universal.
>Best characteristic of watch: Orient once again asserts that they are the masters of the budget dress watch in the Bambino SS models. The dials are a great look and the case finishing makes the collection feel a lot more mature. That combined with the finally modern movement made these timepieces hard to resist.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Typical of watches at this price, the straps aren’t the most amazing in terms of quality and will be replaced by many owners eventually. To attract even more watch nerds, Orient might wish to ditch the date window on at least one future model.