If you spend enough time around entry level mechanical timepieces, chances are that you are familiar with the Orient Bambino. Prior to this review, I was vaguely aware of the watch. They show up on my Instagram feed and frequently are bright up in watch enthusiast circles. But what are we actually dealing with here from Orient Watches? Is the Bambino really a great watch worthy of the praise it gets? Should it be in your watch collection? Let’s find out.
There isn’t much middle ground on the Orient Bambino – people either love it or they hate it. I was very eager to see for myself what side of that love/hate fence I would land on after spending time with one from the iconic Japanese brand. So for this watch review I spent hands-on time with the Bambino V3 with the blue dial.
Comfortable 40.5mm Stainless Steel Case
While the case is 40.5mm, it wears quite a bit smaller. The Bambino design features a smooth bezel, which can often play visual tricks on the eye – in a good way! The shape and amount of convex curvature on the smooth stainless steel bezel determines how light and objects reflect off its surface. In the case of the Orient Bambino, the bezel is tight to the crystal and leaves just enough space to differentiate it from the actual case and caseback. It’s done quite well.
Lug to lug the watch is 44.3mm keeping the overall size tighter than the spec would indicate. This is a great example of not judging a wearing experience by case diameter alone. The Orient Bambino got the case shape right. Specs aside, I asked friends and coworkers to try one. Every one of them thought that the watch was sized right and was very comfortable. I agree. Designing a watch case that feels great on a wide variety of wrist shapes and sizes is not easy.
The Orient Bambino got the case shape right. Specs aside, I asked friends and coworkers to try one. Every one of them thought that the watch was sized right and was very comfortable. I agree. Designing a watch case that feels great on a wide variety of wrist shapes and sizes is not easy.
Part of the trick is the short lugs with a gentle slope. The angle of the lugs is flat enough to suit larger wrists yet curved enough to hug smaller wrists as well.
The case is 12mm high. Like the width, it doesn’t wear as high as the spec indicates. The domed mineral crystal really pops from a 45° angle. You won’t have any problem fitting the Orient Bambino under a shirt and jacket cuff. One downside is that some may find the crystal can be quite reflective in certain lights – I had a difficult time photographing the watch.
The crown could be a little larger. It’s only 5.3mm. The small size made it difficult to manipulate. What’s also interesting to note here is that water resistance can vary from model to model across the Bambino line. While this particular model that I’m reviewing has a water resistance rating of 30 meters, other models can feature up to 50 meters.
But truthfully, this is a dress watch and not a watch built for rugged functionality – you should not be subjecting to the elements. With it’s water resistance rating, you should be fine with hand washing and possibly getting caught in the rain. But under no circumstances should you submerge it.
A Variety Of Dial Options With Some Legibility Issues
One of the strengths of the Orient Bambino is the variety of dial colors available. You’d be hard pressed not to find a color that you like – from black dials, white dials, and even retro-inspired dials, there truly is an Orient Bambino for anyone interested in an affordable dress watch.
|Orient Bambino Version||What Makes It Different?|
|Bambino V1||Classic pointed dauphine hands, wedge markers – quintessential dress watch with a slight nostalgic lean|
|Bambino V2||Roman numeral markers with blue hands and a more detailed seconds track on the dial perimeter, which creates a very bold lean towards nostalgic watch designs|
|Bambino V3||Clean and modern – many right angles and no curves to create a strong and contemporary presentation|
|Bambino V4||Classic design with a slightly larger case, thinner hands, and very minimal markers – designed to create a clean presentation with more wrist presence than previous models|
|Bambino V5||A smaller case with antique-style leaf hands and embellished Arabic numerals to create stronger legibility and a more elegant presentation|
|Bambino Small Seconds||Features a small sub-seconds dial at 6 o’clock with a mixture of wedge markers and Arabic numerals|
|Bambino Open Heart||The dial features an open heart window, which allows you to see into the beating automatic movement|
The Bambino version that I have is a V3, which is classified best by its clean and modern presentation. I picked this up in blue and the blue is saturated and very deep. It was like looking down into a pristine lake. This was the highlight of the Bambino for me since it exceeded my expectations and really gave me the sense that it had a slight luxury watch vibe.
Orient missed it with the rest of the dial though. The issues all stem from the same overall problem that’s actually present on many of the Bambino models: the dial difficult to read. The dial, mineral crystal, hands, and indices are all so reflective that it really brings the legibility down.
The hands are also not the optimal length to work with the slope of the dome. Part of the charm with domed crystals is the distortion of the hands at an angle. There is no lume on the hands. The hands are also flat and polished, making them easy to lose in the dial. The hour markers have the same issue; they just blend into the background.
The date window is just ok. There is nothing significant about it. Color matching the date wheel to the dial would look spectacular but will never happen. With mechanical watches in this price point, it’s all about economies of scale with components to keep the cost down.
In-House Automatic Movement
The current generation of the Orient Bambino has their caliber F6724 automatic (except the Orient Small Seconds which features the in-house F6222 and the Orient Bambino Open Heart which features the F6T22). It hacks and hand winds. However, the rotor is loud and I haven’t found the power reserve to last more than 30 hours. The Bambino Version 3 does not have an exhibition caseback. There are versions of the Bambino with an open heart. I’m not usually a fan of the open heart, but it’s a great option here in case you want to see the automatic movement.
21mm Leather Strap
I’m always a little wary of watches with a lug width of 21mm. But I was pleasantly surprised that the strap didn’t feel too chunky. The leather is pretty cheap as expected. Don’t be thrown off – it’s perfectly serviceable for normal use. Everyone that tried it on thought that is was comfortable. The case shape combined with the comfortable strap makes the Orient Bambino very easy to wear.
The black leather strap slightly tapers down to 20mm at the buckle. It tucks nicely into a traditional buckle. If you don’t care for the stock strap on the Bambino, finding a 21mm shouldn’t be an issue since more and more 3rd party strap makers are offering them.
I like to fit watches to scenarios. Where is the watch appropriate to wear? What kind of person does it work best for? For the Orient Bambino it’s easy to place in two categories.
The first is a great entry level mechanical watch for a growing watch collection. It’s not necessarily a luxury watch, but it’s a timepiece that can scratch that itch as you start to discover what kind of watch enthusiast you’d like to be. It provides a little taste of Horology. If you break it or don’t like it after purchasing, it’s not a big deal at that price point. You will probably move on to something else anyway.
Don’t consider the Orient Bambino a long-term play. If you do like the overall presentation and feel of your Bambino, you could always explore the watch brand’s more upscale product offerings at Orient Star, which features stronger designs, better craftsmanship, sapphire crystals, and many more design options.
The other scenario that many of us can relate to is going on job interviews. I remember being a recent graduate and being stressed on what to wear and how to present myself as I went on job interviews. At a traditional face-to-face interview, you will often find yourself sitting across from the interviewer with your hands (and a watch) on a table.
The Orient Bambino is a great watch for interviewing at any company that has a business casual to formal suit culture. As you interview for your first few jobs, those are often the most difficult. The Bambino is a great addition to the post-graduate interview wardrobe.
Orient Bambino Alternatives
The Timex Marlin has grown very quickly in popularity over the past couple years as one of the most affordable mechanical watches available today. As such, they’re a viable alternative to the Bambino. Similarly, the Timex Marlin is available in a variety of dial and even case options. The main differentiator here is that the designs across Timex feel very grounded and much more subtle with how they approach their aesthetics. But then you also have very fun dial options like the Snoopy dials.
A mainstay of the classic dress watch world, the Tissot Visodate features a very similar approach to classic aesthetics as the Orient Bambino. The main differences are in the indices and the case shape. Specifically the case features slightly more prominent lugs, which will provide a larger wearing experience if you feel the Orient Bambino’s case dimensions may be too small. The other aspect worth noting is that the Bambino price is difficult to compete with, so the only really viable Visodate that could compete is the quartz version.
The Seiko Recraft series is designed to evoke retro vibes with the goal of creating something business casual but also fun. Many of the aspects which make the Orient Bambino special are also technically present conceptually here in the Recraft. Plus, as far as automatic watches go, one’s options are limited in the dress watch category – and since the Recraft features an automatic movement it’s a viable alternative to the Bambino.
Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.