In 2007, I joined my first tech startup. I didn’t really understand what “startup” meant at the time when it came to concepts like income and job security, and luckily I never had to. I was fortunate enough to be on board a rocket ship, and a little over a year later the company more than doubled in size and my paycheck was slightly less humorous. It was time, I thought, to cautiously celebrate my professional success with a proper watch.
Days of research put two watches in front of me: Tissot’s PRC200 chronograph and Orient’s Mako diver. The trappings of dials’ Swiss Made declarations were probably more important to me at the time than they should have been, but I nevertheless opted for a black Orient Mako. The PRC200’s yellow accents were too gaudy for my everyday tastes at the time. I wanted a versatile mechanical watch and the online watch community faithfully endorsed Orient–and the Mako in particular–as an overall good buy.
The Orient Mako celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2014, and now is the perfect occasion to reflect on my ownership of the timepiece over the last five years. Aside from being the first mechanical watch I bought with my own hard-earned cash, what makes this watch so special to budget-conscious collectors all over the world?
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It’s a Dependable Diver With Just the Right Amount of Character
It’s not outright pedestrian, but the Mako won’t draw a lot of attention. Its case measures 41.5mm. It’s 46mm lug-to-lug and only 13.5mm thick. The sizing is ideal for any modern wrist, lending the watch a sure presence but nothing distracting or uncomfortable. A mix of brushed and polished surfaces that don’t sharply transition, the case is fairly unimaginative in its finishing but unquestionably tasteful and hefty. With a flat mineral crystal, matte black dial, sword hands and an oyster bracelet, you can understand how this might be a watch that you’ve seen a thousand times.
It’s a basic dive watch in many respects, but closer inspection highlights its charm. First, is the screwdown pusher at two o’clock, visually lending an interesting silhouette to the case. Practically speaking, it’s annoying because it adjusts the day of the week which is unlikely to need adjustment with continuous wear and I’d rather have that pusher operate the date. However, in this instance, a pusher that operates the day is more interesting than no pusher at all.
Next up is the raised mineral crystal that will, with daily wear, accumulate scratches and chips that will make this watch age faster than one with a sapphire lens. Signs of wear make the Mako look even better because, although you can buy it today in 2014, it doesn’t look like it comes from today. It’s not quite vintage per se, but the sword hands, the cursive writing and the steel-bordered calendar apertures make the watch look more like it originated in the 1990s. And it’s proud of what it is. When you look around at your most affordable mechanical divers, you begin to see a lot of similarities not only within each others’ aesthetics but that these divers are lazily imitating iconic designs from Rolex and Omega.
Inside the Mako is a 40-year old in-house developed automatic movement, Orient caliber 46943. It lasts 40 hours on a full charge, and I’m still pleased with its accuracy running at about -5 seconds/day. It’s a mass-produced caliber, but it’s interesting in that it’s not an ETA 2824-2.
The Mako comes on a steel bracelet or rubber strap, but the bracelet is the way to go because the quality is superb for the price and the dolphin logo on the rubber strap is childish, betraying some of the seriousness of the Mako. Despite hollow end links, the solid and substantial oyster-style bracelet sets the bar extremely high for a sub-$500 diver. I have hairy wrists, and I have to say that most affordable divers have rusty bear traps in place of bracelets. The Mako’s is smooth. It’s picked up scratches and taken abuse over the years. Even the clasp, which I had my doubts about, is still in tact and operational.
With a 22mm lug width, you have a ton of aftermarket strap options. Throughout my period of ownership, I’ve had the Mako on rubber and NATOs in addition to its steel, but it definitely spends the most time on the bracelet. It goes with just about anything in your closet, so this more than succeeds as an ideal everyday watch. It’s been a desk diver for me, with occasional dips in the swimming pool but never into the ocean.
The Orient Mako is available in black, blue, blue/red (Pepsi), orange and (if you can find one) yellow dial variations.
What’s Not to Love?
The lume, for one. It doesn’t last beyond a few minutes and even its greatest intensity is hardly sufficient for legibility in low-light conditions. Lume tends to be important to a lot of collectors, but it’s never been more than a novelty to me, so it’s a limitation I’ve always been comfortable with.
The unidirectional bezel is difficult to turn. When I first purchased the watch, I never wanted to use a bezel for timing, but now I find myself using them quite a bit on my other divers. Twisting the Mako’s bezel a full turn is a challenge.
The Mako Redefines My Expectations of Price-to-Quality
On the steel bracelet, the Mako retails for $285. But OrientWatchUSA.com often has discount codes floating around that can net you a Mako for 30-50% off. Amazon.com sells them for about $150 at the time of this writing. Even the SKX007, one of my favorite watches of all time, doesn’t have as good of a whole package as the Mako does. While this should never deter a collector from picking one up, the SKX007–at the same price–comes on one of the most abominable jubilee bracelets of all time. A quick strap change and you can comfortably wear this classic diver, but the Orient Mako feels perfect right out of the box for only $150. You can’t beat that.
Then there’s the details that really make this unfair to other watch brands. The applied crest and hour markers on the dial combined with the signed crown are touches missing from watches retailing for ten times the price. Everything lines up–all the indices coincide with the markings on the bezel’s diving scale. The pip on the 60-click bezel points directly at the 12 o’clock hash mark.
Recently, a brand asked me to review one of its new dive watches, but I had to send it back unreviewed because I felt the quality wasn’t something I could stand behind personally. I don’t love every piece I review, but I try to look at watches that are interesting and of high enough quality that I’d recommend them to friends when suitable. Certain watches cemented the standards I have. When a brand introduces a sub-$500 diver to the market and it doesn’t at least meet the Orient Mako’s level of quality, then I could never consider recommending that watch to a friend. When a brand does that to you, you know they have a product worthy of a spot in your collection.
Although it came down to two watches and I chose the Orient, I now own both. They’re interesting in their own rights, but I mention having to make this decision because I was putting an affordable Japanese automatic head-to-head with a Swiss Made chronograph that retails for about double the Orient. I was ready to spend $500, but I was glad that I could spend much less and get so much more watch for the money.