Orient Ray II Review (FA002004B9): Balancing The Pros and Cons

By: Baird Brown

Orient has always been kind of a conundrum to me. Even before they became the hot fashion brand of good-looking millennials (at Orient USA, that is), it always seemed a little bit chaotic. It’s a Japanese company whose American arm really has nothing to do with the main company, and outside of the nicer Orient Star watches, the entry level offerings are all pretty much the exact same watch with different dials and names. Their brand identity seems lost on our shores in the US.

However, they’re extremely inexpensive for what they are, and we all have that churn in our bellies (at some point in our lives) for an affordable dive watch. This isn’t my first rodeo with Orient, but I decided to give the Orient Ray II (the sequel to the Ray) a chance to see if anything is any better this go around.

As most of you know from Google searching, this affordable dive watch is the second generation to the original Ray, which is really just a Mako with a different dial and hands. Right out of the box you’ll notice that the Orient Ray’s new case no longer has that quirky screw-down pusher at the 2 o’clock position that was sort of Orient’s signature for a while.

That’s because after many years, Orient has finally developed a new in-house movement that negates the need for the pusher to correct the day of the week. Now it’s done with the crown, like most modern watches. We’ll get to the Orient Ray II’s new movement later, but first let’s take a deeper look at the watch and what makes it different from the previous generation.

Case Quality and Size on the New Orient Ray II

The Ray II carries over the proportions from the original Ray and in my opinion the size of the case is perfect. At 41.5mm across and 47 lug-to-lug, this watch is a carryover from a time when this was considered a big watch. I’d like to see more dive watches this size from big name companies if I’m honest. The Orient Ray II’s proportions make for a handsome package with little negative space and, at 13mm, can be both a dive watch and double as a dressier option.

The facing surface of the watch is nicely brushed while the sides are beautifully polished. The lugs angle down ever-so-slightly to curve over your wrist, and the edges are soft and slightly rounded. Orient’s classic dolphin logo adorns the case back and a mineral crystal provides a crystal-clear view of the dial. If Orient does anything right, they sure as hell can make a handsome watch at first glance.

A polished bezel sits on top of the case with an aluminum insert and a small luminescent pip at the 12 position. While the Ray II does add a 120 click bezel over its predecessor, they didn’t do anything to improve the grip. Even though the bezel has a coin edge, it’s slightly smaller than the outside diameter of the case, and it isn’t very tall, which can lead to some extremely frustrating fumbling while trying to turn it. This is also a point of uneven quality with these watches. Some bezels turn great right out of the box, and some are almost completely seized. Luckily, mine was in good working order.


 
 

However, the crown was a different story. The Ray II has a beautiful engraving of their logo on what might be one of the worst crowns on a dive watch. It’s way too small, polished, and has almost no grip. Couple that with the shoulder guards and you’re going to be using fingernails to try to screw this thing down to the case. It’s hopeless!

Focusing On The Dial

Under the glass is a dial that many would call “submariner style,” thanks to the round indices with chromed edges. I actually prefer this ornamentation compared to some of the other Orient dials. While it does look a little more like a submariner, it still retains the Japanese look with the trapezoidal indices at the quarter hour marks.

This gives the Orient Ray II’s dial a much dressier feel than some of the typical Japanese watches. The matte black dial is surrounded by a chapter ring that gives it depth and the overall feel that the watch costs a lot more than what you paid for it. As most people know by now, I love printed dials and this one is no exception. The actual logo is applied above the printed name and still has that dot of red in the shield.

I love that, even if it’s a little hard to see. Orient has always done beautiful work with the day-date window, which is separated between the two and framed in chrome. The hands are chromed sword hands with the hour hand almost looking like an arrow, and the blood tipped second hand has a lumed end on this model. They’re perfectly sized and easy to read at almost any time of the day.

Speaking of lume, it’s great! I don’t say that very often unless it’s a Seiko, but the Orient Ray II has a great lume that shines green and bright and puts some watches that cost seven times as much to shame. Very well done.

Did The Ray II Bracelet Improve At All?

The bracelet on the Ray II dive watch is pretty much what you would expect from a sub $200 watch and it hasn’t changed much over the years. Overall, it’s ok but not great. Parts of it are solid while parts of it are hollow, namely the 22mm end links (giving the bracelet that great rattle like the front end of a Subaru with nearly 300K miles of off-road driving).

It tapers some but not enough in my opinion. Going from 22 to 20mm really isn’t enough. Plus, is it a tool watch or a dress watch? The bracelet feels far to large to be elegant, and the watch is far too elegant to have a bracelet that large.

Luckily, the Orient Ray II’s bracelet comes off and you have a ton of options to replace it. Strapcode even offers a more solid and robust bracelet for it (like they do the SKX) with screws instead of pins. It also looks great on a NATO strap or a more refined leather strap. The clasp, however, is very sharp and responsive which should leave you with little doubt that it would ever open by accident.

Is The New Movement Upgrade Worth It?:

Now the movement in the Orient Ray II is by far the biggest improvement of the watch and is the best bang for the buck in watches! The new F6522 caliber is a 22 Jewel movement that hacks and hand winds. I know you can find a watch with a NH35 Seiko that does the same thing for less, but it won’t be in a Seiko. This is a hacking and hand wound movement that is IN HOUSE for less than $200! Orient claims that the 40-hour power reserve movement should run about -15 to +25 a day.

That’s a better figure than the 7S26. That’s a better figure than the NH and 4R Seikos! Every watch is different, and time will tell on whether it really is more accurate than its Seiko brethren. It really is a stellar movement in a watch at this price. Did I mention you get all this for less than $200!?

Final Thoughts on the Orient Ray II:

Orient makes a great looking affordable dive watch – of that there is no doubt. However, while it’s looks make it a great watch for the uninitiated, we are initiated. The crown is dreadful, and while it may loosen up in time, it could be a turnoff for collectors who let their watches sit from time to time. Also, with the little grip it has, I can’t see that getting better as your fingers wear the metal off over time. Likewise, the bezel is a toss-up. It’s either going to be impossible or it’s just going to be ok.

While there are some serious functional faults in the Orient Ray II, the price vs what you get is still incredible. It’s a lot sharper in person than it ever will be in any photo, and the black version is just stunning and will go with almost anything you have. The Ray II is a step in the right direction but it’s not perfect.

It still cuts corners to come in at the price which is $170.00 on orientwatchusa.com, but it still may be the best value for a name brand, all in-house watch out there. The movement really sets it apart from the competition and the older models. Although, I do miss the quirky 2 o’clock pusher.

Like I said, this isn’t my first dog and pony show with Orient Watches. An Orient Mako was one of my first serious watches, and I bought it around the same time I bought my Seiko SKX007. The watch looked great, and it wore great, but it wasn’t perfect. The bezel all but seized most of the time and had to constantly be flossed to remove any obstructions. The crown was nearly impossible to grip. The crystal sits a half a millimeter above the bezel and chips with about every run in with the edge of a table. And I just couldn’t get past that tinny sounding bracelet with the hollow end link and giant clasp.


I, personally, think that the Orient Ray II is better looking than a SKX007 (please direct all your hate mail to Baird “so called” Brown C/O TBWS). But, even now, while it offers a lot of things that make a great first watch and even a great looking watch, its functionality is just hit or miss. I bought that first Orient about 8 years ago after having bought the SKX a year prior. I sold that Orient about 7 years ago. I still have the SKX007.


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