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Orient has a rich history of watchmaking, and they’ve been in the game long enough to know how to make a great affordable watch. It’s often said that Orient is the new Seiko as the latter appears to be pushing their watches further into the realm of more expensive timepieces whereas Orient (for now), is staying rooted in the more affordable spectrum. Yes, they have their premium line of watches, but their less expensive models haven’t been cast aside – yet at least.
Speaking of affordable, this brings me to the Defender MKI, a watch that made a big splash in the market as it took the tried and tested field watch formula and flipped it on its head. Unfortunately, I never got hands-on with the MKI (Gen 1) Defender, so I can’t comment on how much or how little it’s improved, but things have certainly changed in terms of it’s overall aesthetic and in its core.
- Diameter: 42.4mm
- Thickness: 12.2mm
- Lug-to-lug: 49.5mm
- Lug width: 22mm
- Case Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Mineral
- Dial: Khaki
- Movement: Cal.F6B22
- Power reserve: Approximately 40 hours / tested at 44hrs 38mins
- Accuracy: -15/+25 seconds per day
- Jewels: 22
- Water resistance: 100m
- Weight: 82g
- Strap: Calf skin Leather
- Warranty: 2 years
- Price: $330 (~£250)
- Buy here: https://amzn.to/3gfoSyO
Let’s begin by taking a quick look at everything that is the same as the MKI and first up the crystal, it’s still mineral, it would have been nice to see a Sapphire upgrade, but that isn’t the case. What is pleasing is that Orient has kept the generous amount of AR coating as it helps with the legibility in bright environments.
The case finish remains identical as before too, which is brilliant. The crown is also very similar as both are screw-down though the MKII has had some visual tweaks. The MKI and MKII also both have 100m of water resistance and the same dial features (sub-dials) albeit in a different configuration. The case profile and style appear to be very similar too, which is a great thing as it’s an attractive shape.
So, what’s changed? Well for starters, the case diameter has increased by 0.4mm making it 42.4mm, the thickness has also altered and is now 0.2mm greater at 12.2mm. The lug-to-lug has also seen a significant increase from 48mm to a longer 49.5mm; an odd move really as this does somewhat alienate those of us with slimmer wrists, though we may not have been the target demographic in the first place. On my six-inch (15.24cm) wrist the MKII does wear big and the lugs tend to overhang slightly, though it’s still a comfortable watch to wear thanks to profile and design characteristics of the case. The lugs, for instance, flow down in a manner which helps the strap curve with the shape of my wrist. The screw-down caseback also isn’t a detriment to comfort as although it does somewhat extend beyond the bottom of the case – it doesn’t make the watch sit atop my wrist as some others have. The weight is nice too, striking a pleasant balance between solid feeling and lightweight. Of course, comfort is purely subjective, and it more than likely will wear different on you.
While we’re on how the watch wears let’s discuss the strap and if I’m speaking honestly, I prefer the style of the one found on the MKI, though I can’t comment on if it’s any good. The MKII’s strap, however, I can, and it’s a mixed bag. Aesthetically it just doesn’t work for me; the style looks more like what you would see on a casual dress watch rather than a field watch. The colour of the strap works fantastically with the Khaki dial though, but as mentioned the style just clashes. I’m also not a fan of the finish of the strap, it’s a little shiny looking and also feels a bit odd, not plasticky as such, it feels like it has some sort of wax coating on it. It’s a touch rigid too as it’s taking a fair while to break in and soften, though, given more time, this will improve dramatically. I did also note some heavy creasing where I have been wearing it, so you may want to invest in a leather care kit to keep it looking fresh.
The inner part of the strap feels great; it’s calfskin leather which is soft, smooth and feels great against your skin. The build and hardware are great as well, the stitching is uniform, clean and well done. The keepers follow suit too as they are cleanly cut and well made. The buckle is a highlight also; it’s solid, it’s signed and matches the finish of the case – thank you Orient. It’s a real bugbear when the buckle is mismatched to the case, but that’s probably just me.
Another sizeable departure from the MKI is the dial arrangement; the core features are the same, though Orient has opted to move things around. On the MKI the day sub-dial was on the right-hand side and was larger, now this is on the left and smaller. The 24-hour sub-dial is now the larger sub-dial whereas on the MKI it was smaller. Essentially, they’ve swapped places and size. The date window has also moved from the MKI’s six o’clock position to the three o’clock. And finally, the applied logo has moved diagonally upwards and across, and now sits between the five and ten minute markers. The minute track has also changed as the MKI had two sets – which looked a little cluttered and now on the MKII, there is one minute track which looks cleaner. The indices are somewhat different too as they feature a more prominent black border. You’ll also note that Orient has removed the frame bordering the date window. The final thing to change is the hands; on the MKI they looked more like hands you’d find on a pilots watch, and now they’re partially skeletonised and feature broad counterbalances. The second’s hand has been visually tweaked too as it’s now red, as is the hand on the 24-hour sub-dial. I’m all for adding colour, but here, it doesn’t mesh that well, and I prefer the all-white look of the MKI, it just suits the style better or maybe it’s that the red clashes too much with this Khaki dial? As a whole, though I like most of the changes and Orient has gone a long way to making the MKII more balanced and pleasing if you will.
As previously mentioned, the case hasn’t altered that much say for the size. This is a good thing as most like how the sandblasted finish works with this style of watch, and I agree, it works well, and it’s been done to a high standard. The build is top-notch too as the watch head feels dense and solid but not bulky. The side profile looks clean, by that I mean no major gaps can be seen, this not only looks good but is testament to their capabilities. I’m also a fan of how the bezel and side of the crystal are set to the same angle – it’s a nice little attention to detail. The layers at the side also helps break up the vertical profile as it’s not one continuous slab though horizontally there’s not much going on; honestly, that is usually par for the course with field watches. I also really appreciate how the lugs perfectly flow with the side of the case; it’s so pleasing and lends itself to a lovely profile. The lugs also curve down nicely, which adds a touch of elegance to this otherwise robust-looking watch.
The crown has seen an update too, it’s position has moved in line with the date window and now is signed with a satin-brushed finish. The crown is still a touch shiny when compared to the case, and it does somewhat stand out a little too much for my taste. On the plus side the grip is brilliant and makes using it a breeze.
The caseback has also been altered yet down-graded in my opinion. The MKI’s had a bit more flair and design about it, whereas the MKII’s is a bit plain, though if one thing was to be altered negatively, I’m glad it’s the caseback as you don’t see it all that often anyway.
One more area that’s had a substantial upgrade is in the heart – the movement. Inside the MKI was the 46B40 which has 21 jewels and is 21600bph with a forty-hour power reserve. Now the MKII has the newer, better Cal.F6B22. This also is 21600bph but has an extra Jewel and now features hacking, hand-winding and a quick set date function – pretty much all the things missing from the MKI. I’m pleased Orient listened to feedback as this new movement is a step in the right direction and a real upgrade. First of all the power reserve, quoted at 40 hours and tested at 44 hours 38 minutes, it’s not revolutionary, but still pretty impressive given the complexity of the movement and price point. The hacking and hand-winding is a great addition too as it’s now way easier to set the time and get the watch going if you’ve not used it in a few days. The winding feels smooth with a reassuringly solid feel and has no horrible feedback either. To wind the watch you unscrew the crown, and upon this action, the manual winding is made available. One pull allows you to set the day and date, and two pulls will let you adjust the time. All in all, it’s an easy movement to use once you know how and it feels great. Time-keeping is pretty solid too, the accuracy is quoted between -15 to +25 seconds per day and I would say it’s within tolerance, though I can’t be certain by exactly how much. One slight drawback I’ve found is that there is some slight noise from the rotor, it’s not Miyota 8000 series bad, but it can be heard occasionally.
Finally, to the lume and it’s strong, gets very bright and lasts a long time. You’ll find it generously applied on all the indices and the hands in a slightly off-white colour which suits the style well. I’m not sure as to the exact compound used though it does look a bit similar to Seiko’s lumibrite.
As a whole I do like this watch, it’s dense – but in a good way, is very well put together and honestly feels like it would last a long time. The rest of the upgrades, improvements and changes – for the most part, are highly welcomed too, and I like pretty much all of them. The movement upgrade is a real step in the right direction as the MKII is right there with the best in class. There are some things on this particular model that I’m not a personal fan of. This is notably the strap and also the touches of red that clash with the colour scheme. The size increase is a bit of a let down too as it means those of us with wrists six inches or slimmer won’t be able to fully enjoy it – unless you aren’t phased by the slight overhang from the lugs and oversized look. I wish Orient would cater to those of use with slimmer wrists and make a 38mm or even a 40mm with shorter lugs, that may not be possible given all the features, but I and I’m sure many others would love this watch to come in a more compact size.
All in all, I’m very impressed with what you get for the money, and there’s little I’d change. Orient have essentially taken an already strong formula and added in extra goodness to make it even better, and at this price point, it’s quite hard to beat.