Orient Polaris GMT Review:
The Best Affordable GMT Watch?

By: Kaz Mirza

We have a bit of a love affair with Orient GMTs over here at Two Broke Watch Snobs – as you can tell from our Affordable GMT Podcast Episode as well as our the previous Orient Star GMT WZ001DJ Review. So when I had the opportunity to spend time with The Orient Polaris GMT DJ05003W I only had one thing to say: “Don’t threaten me with a good time!”

A week later the watch was on my doorstep and I was able to finally set eyes on it in person. I was inspecting the dial and the case construction – as well as testing how well the movement wound. It wasn’t about until I was 20 minutes into my inspection that I remembered something important: the Orient Polaris is a GMT watch. Out of the packaging I didn’t even notice it had a GMT hand, which is odd since traditionally the GMT hand is what people rave about and focus on with other dual time Watches. But here with the Polaris, it’s obviously not the most forward-facing element. That’s not to say there are any legibility issues, it just made me realize two things: (1) dollar-for-dollar the Polaris is one of the most affordable mechanical GMTs out there and (2) it’s designed in such a way that it really stands apart from most other GMTs. But does all that really make the watch worth buying? Is it really even worth your consideration if you’re in the market for an affordable GMT? Let’s find out.

The Case:

I think people don’t necessarily realize how big these Orient GMTs can be. We saw it with the WZ0071DJ and we’re also seeing it here with the Orient Polaris. However the Polaris’ case is much more finessed and wearable than the WZ0071DJ. The reasoning behind this comes from what I believe to be one of the piece’s most unique GMT qualities; it’s a dress watch. This isn’t quite normal or typical in what we’d see from traditional GMTs – they tend to be more utilitarian and functional. But as we’ll see in the other elements, the Polaris doesn’t want to cause confusion or try and ride the line between: it’s a dress watch first and a GMT second.

At 42mm in case diameter and 48mm lug to lug, the Polaris GMT has really solid wrist presence. However instead of possibly wearing on the thicker side, the watch measures in at approximately 11.9mm thick – super wearable! It should easily fit under a shirt sleeve/cuff if that’s a concern of yours, but shirt cuff circumference is one of those mystifying facets of men’s fashion that are as much a mystery to me as where sausages comes from.

The case shape itself is quite classic and subtle, which is great because this classic take allows the dial to shine (more on the dial to come…). The lugs have a slight curvature to them for wrist-wearability. The fixed bezel has a beveled angle to it – and it’s also slightly inset into the case as opposed to butting up right against it. The design cue is a nice touch and adds an interesting visual *flow* to the case.

Further nudging the Polaris GMT into the dress watch category is the fact that the entire watch is polished quite well – they’re no brushed surfaces on the watch. What I think is done really well with the case polishing is the fact that it’s not uber reflective, which is a faux pas that many dress watches commit. It can often make the watch feel a bit chintzy or too flashy when you can basically see a 1:1 reflection off the case. That’s luckily not the case with the Orient Polaris.


 
 

The Dial:

The dial is where all the action’s at on this GMT. The outer most perimeter of the dial is where the Orient Polaris displays its 24-Hour GMT chapter ring. It’s slightly beveled and features a really clean appearance. Just a step down from there we find the hour and minute indicators. Much like the GMT chapter ring above, the minute ticks are very simple and clean. However the hour markers are quite striking but still subtle. They’re polished and they catch the light in a way that creates great legibility. In addition, their wedge shape helps direct your eye towards the center of the Orient Polaris’ dial. It’s also hard to see it at first, but the area behind the minute and hour indicators features a very fine concentric circle detailing/texture (a bit like a vinyl record).

Moving a bit closer to the center yields even more impressive features. The first thing that stands out is this really incredible guilloché detailing, which is pretty uncommon in a watch as affordable as this Orient. In fact, there’s two types of guilloché here. The greater part of the dial’s interior features a uniform, repeating guilloché pattern that almost resembles woven fabric. The second guilloché feature is on the very cool power reserve. Here the texture is concentric is contrast to the other uniform pattern. The power reserve also features the same font as the chapter ring, which helps to tie in all the Orient GMT Polaris’ visual features.

Directly to the left of the power reserve we find the Orient Polaris’ branding. It looks like the “Orient Automatic” portion is printed on the dial while the actual Orient Watch logo is applied. Moving further down the dial now to the 6 o’clock position we find a logo that I honestly haven’t seen on any other watch except the Orient Polaris GMT (if anyone has info on that please let me know in the comments below!). Also occupying this space is the text for “Water Resist” and “GMT.” Moving up now to the 3 o’clock position is the date window. I love this date window because it’s really well balanced in my opinion. It’s not like someone randomly punch a date window on the dial and called it a day. The Orient Polaris’ date window is wrapped in the same polished material that the markers are made of, which helps to really keep the GMT watch grounded while supporting all this visual balance going on.

The Hands:

The hands are an interesting point of departure between the #watchfam, so dear reader I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts below on the matter. First off – they’re blue. Like, super blue – especially in contrast to the beautiful pearl and white sheen behind them. The interesting thing to note here is that it’s clear Orient wanted the Polaris GMT to look like dress watches that had blue steel hands. The only issue is that traditionally blue steel hands (and screws) attain their characteristic blue hue from a heat source. This causes a chemical reaction in the material that turns the metal blue. The process is honestly complicated and time-consuming, and one can achieve different hues of blue from differences in techniques and such. So that’s why we often see brands cut corners or try to go for a more time-conscious process.

I believe that’s what we’re seeing here on the Orient Polaris GMT. The specific blue hue of these hands is very deep and quite uniform, but it doesn’t look quite like traditional thermal blue watch hands. It’s possible they’re chemical dyed. The watch has 5 hands (hour, minute, GMT, second sweep, and power reserve) and all of them feature this blue color. Some people aren’t quite attracted to this feature – and some are totally into it. Me, personally? I think it totally works. Regardless of the fact that the hands most likely aren’t thermal blue, within the specific subjective design of this watch, the blue hands works simply because of how nicely they contrast against the dial.

The style of hands are very classic – except the GMT hand. This is also where the Orient Polaris again shows its odd position as a dressy GMT. Traditionally GMT hand styles are utilitarian and functional, presenting something that’s clear and legible (usually it’s just a big, straight-angled pointer triangle). But here on the Polaris it’s stylized. The pointer triangle is still preserved but instead of hard right angles we have slightly exaggerated curves – almost like a spear tip; in a sense it feels like a more subdued version of the GMT hand on the Hamilton Jazzmaster GMT.

The Strap:

Strap’s bad, guys. Real bad.

But honestly, this is something we’ve talked about before we Orient. Straps and bracelets can often be a huge financial drain to do “well.” So often Orient will offer a really incredible timepiece with an in-house movement and all that jazz, but then they’ll throw it on some dog leather. But if the choice is to have an incredible watch be [$Y] amount on a crummy strap or [$y] x 2 for a good strap, I’d rather pay less and just throw my own strap on there.

The stock Polaris Strap is made of a leather material and features a faux-type of crocodile texture. But the quality obviously isn’t quite there and I can already notice some of the material chipping/wearing away in the piece I’m reviewing. It also features a deployant style clasp, which I’m honestly not a fan of. But I will admit that the deployant itself seems to be of passable-quality (“Passable-Quality” being my old high-school nickname…). But the long and short of it is that you’ll need to most likely source some straps of your own if you buy the Orient Polaris.

The lug width is approximately 22mm, which is a welcome relief. Other Orient watch models (especially of the JDM variety) tend to be odd lug widths like 19mm or 21mm, which can make finding straps a bit tough. But with the Orient Polaris GMT at 22mm, you should have no issue.

The Movement:

The watch is powered by the Orient 40P51, an in-house caliber that hacks, hand winds, and features an automatic rotor. All in all it’s a solid movement that’s quite identical to the 40P53 found in the Orient Star WZ0071DJ. Orient caliber designations can be interesting in that they tend to vary only slightly from model to model. Visually, the main difference between the 40P51 in the Polaris and the Orient Star’s 40P53 is the rotor. The 40P53 features the OS branding as well as some slightly more refined detailing. The rotor on the 40P51 features the standard Orient Logo, but the quality and detail aren’t quite what we see on some more expensive OS models. The 40P51/3 are distinguished specifically by the power reserve and independently set GMT hand.

Final Thoughts:

The GMT tends to be a bit of an anomaly in the #watchfam. Where the dive watch has been ironically welcomed into the arms of the modern “Desk Diver,” the GMT watch still seems positioned in the mind of the watch collector as a tool. I’ve had plenty of conversations with people who’ve said something along the lines of “Oh, man – yea. [xyz] GMT watch is awesome. But I have no reason to buy a GMT.” Dude, who the frick needs a reason to buy a GMT watch?? I didn’t buy my Seiko Sumo because I needed a robust tool to study the intricate mating rituals of the Madagascan albino narwhal – I needed a watch for a Disney cruise so I didn’t feel bad about dripping free ice-cream on my SNK (+ points for “Ice-Cream Resistance” testing – COSC, I’m looking at you).

Due to this odd clinging predilection of the GMT watch as functional piece – the ideal GMT tends to look like a tool watch in people’s minds – utilitarian, no frills, super legible, sometimes with country capitals all over the chapter ring. But the reality these days is that watch collecting for the majority of people is a niche novelty, and we don’t really need a reason to want a specific type of watch. That’s why the Orient Polaris GMT is especially noteworthy to me – the dang thing is obviously a dress watch that happens to have a GMT complication. So we can interpret this in two ways (1) this is Orient’s response to the need for a clean, modern GMT watch for a jet-setting business person or (2) Orient understood that people just want a cool affordable GMT watch… hell, maybe both options are correct.

Regardless, the Orient Polaris is an incredible modern GMT that honestly would be welcome in any watch collector’s box. Is it the best affordable GMT? That’s honestly speculative and relative, but I can definitely say that this watch will give any other affordable GMT under $1000 a serious run for it’s money. It features an in-house movement, sapphire crystal, beautiful dial guilloché detailing, and a lot more.

The Orient Polaris GMT MSRPs at $575 USD. But the prices tend to fluctuate pretty significantly – especially between this White Dial version (DJ05003W)* and the Black Dial (DJ05002B)*. So be sure to check out the most up to date pricing.

Note: A Huge “Thank You!” to @ckingfournier for making this review possible.F


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