If you’ve ever typed “Best Dress Watches” into your browser, chances are you’ve run across the Orient Bambino. It appears on just about every such video and list I’ve come across, especially in the Under-$200 field. Still, I resisted the purchasing urge for a long time. I work in construction, with next to no need for a dress watch. Thankfully, curiosity won out in the end. Here’s my review of the Orient Bambino Automatic.
Believe it or not, I used to write about baseball for a living. One of my favorite books on the subject is Robert Creamer’s Babe, a biography of the phenomenal George Herman Ruth. Popular in the Italian quarters of New York, he became known as “The Bambino.” You know who else loves baseball? The Japanese, who also happen to make some of the best watches on the planet. Now, I’m not saying that this watch is named after the Sultan of Swat. But isn’t it interesting how words travel? From the slugging son of a Baltimore bartender to an affectionate Italian honorific to the Japanese mechanical movement on my wrist – What a neat journey.
This is the Second Gen Bambino, marking a significant upgrade from the initial model. We’ll cover the specifics later but, if you’re already shopping for one, make sure you’re eyeing up the proper version. There is a third generation out there, but none that matched my particular taste. The movement is unchanged in the Gen 3’s, so all of the technical data should be the same as the watch reviewed here. On we go.
Let’s talk about the glass elephant in the room, and the most striking feature of the Bambino – Its domed crystal. Here’s a look:
Wait, that’s the Hagia Sophia. My mistake. Let’s try again.
See? Easy to confuse. This slightly-smaller wonder is made of hardened mineral crystal, raising the watch’s thickness to 11.8-millimeters. If you look side-on, you’ll see that this transparent window accounts for perhaps a third of its height. That means that Orient has managed to cram their mechanical movement into the remaining chassis while maintaining a relatively thin profile. It’s no Skagen, but the Bambino should have little issue slipping beneath the sleeve of your dinner jacket.
The rest of the watch’s exterior is composed of brushed stainless steel, measuring 40.5-millimeters across. I believe this excludes the crown, which has been left tastefully blank. Invicta could take a lesson from Orient when it comes to restraint in branding.
Let’s move on to the watch’s face. I opted for the white dial model, with silver indices and gorgeous blue hands. The applied Roman numerals are beautiful, matching the outer second markers to a tee. Both the Orient logo and “Automatic/Water Resistant” text appear to match my Mako 2, offering a nice consistency between pieces. I found this watch to be eminently easy to read, even at a relatively shallow angle. There’s no lume, of course, but you should have no trouble reading it by candlelight.
A quick note on the hands: Their attractive (maybe anodized?) blue surface catches the light in interesting ways. From an angle, they can appear almost black. But viewed head-on, they have this deep, attractive hue that really pops against the watch’s paper-white face. Well done, Orient.
Between its crystal, case, and protruding crown the Bambino earns a water-resistance rating of 30-meters. That’s enough to repel splashes in the sink, so long as the restroom attended is on hand with a towel. I’d advise against champagne showers or fully-clothed plunges into the pool, but it’ll be okay absorbing a few drops of rain until Claude the chauffeur comes around with his umbrella.
My single biggest issue with the Bambino has nothing to do with the case, crystal, or movement. It’s the strap. The leather is semi-stiff, with a faux crocodile pattern set into the brown surface. It’s certainly not the worst stock band I’ve come across, but there’s something disconcertingly incongruous about it. The 21-millimeter width feels just a touch over-done, especially since it doesn’t taper toward the obnoxiously-branded buckle.
Unfortunately, high-quality replacement straps in this size are fairly uncommon. Long Island Watches offers a few, but you’re going to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $45. That’s nearly a third of what I paid for the entire watch.
All told, I’m docking half a point for the strap’s construction and another half for its oddball size. The timepiece itself, however, is very well done.
4 stars out of 5
At the heart of the Bambino lies Orient’s Cal. F6722 movement. This is an upgrade from the first generation, now including such features as hacking and hand winding in addition to the original’s rotor-only power source. The second hand sweeps smoothly through its course, and the date window functions without issue. The crown’s winding mechanism has a slightly rough feel, and the rotor’s swing is readily detectable through the natural movements of your arm. There’s a slightly unrefined quality to it, but I have little doubt as to the mechanism’s robustness.
There is a rather strange phenomenon surrounding the hour hand, however. Whether by poor tuning or a trick of the domed glass, it sometimes appears to pass into the next hour before the minute hand has completed its full circuit. This is rather minor, and I think I may be seeing illusions due to the curved crystal.
From a timekeeping standpoint, the Bambino is a bit less functional than I’d like. It runs between nine and ten seconds fast per day, which isn’t great for a watch costing $150. Still, this is light years ahead of the horrendous Seiko 5 SNK809, and within shouting distance of the Mako 2. The hackable movement makes this fairly easy to correct, so I’m not going to knock it too hard. As I’ve said in the past, if a watch is going to be off, I’d much rather have it run a little fast. Yes, this would be an almost unforgivable annoyance in an everyday tool. But given its role as a dress piece, this is a rare instance in which I’m willing to overlook a stumble of function for an elegance of form.
4 stars out of 5
Here’s where things get complicated. This is a watch that, while not demanding to be treated delicately, will certainly benefit from gentle use. I wouldn’t dream of wearing it for daily chores, let alone on my jobsite. This is a cushy-duty, corner office sort of piece, with all the limitations and foibles you’d expect.
First up is the crystal. As I’ve learned with my Mako 2, Orient’s hardened mineral glass isn’t the most scratch-resistant of materials. And boy, there’s a lot more exposed area on the Bambino. When it’s on my wrist, I’m constantly aware of where the watch is in relation to the nearest hard surface. Not a big deal when you’re draped in silk and suede, but a mild source of stress around even something as innocuous as a grocery cart or a refrigerator door.
There’s also the water resistance. 30-meters is fine, but I would avoid submersion if possible. The leather band, too, will benefit from added care. Its glossy surface repels drops here and there, but prolonged exposure could aggravate what I already see as this watch’s biggest flaw.
Orient offers a one-year warranty, though I’m not sure how you’ll fair with Amazon’s return policy. If you’re concerned about longevity, I’d advise purchasing through a retailer like Long Island Watches.
3.5 stars out of 5
For all my quibbles, I’m completely fine with the $150 I paid for this watch. It’s got looks, style, and enough timekeeping prowess to keep me satisfied. There are plenty of significantly pricier pieces out there with less to offer, especially from the fashion brands. While I’d appreciate a better band and crystal material, I think this is actually one of the better bargains available.
That’s assuming, of course, you have sufficient opportunity to wear it. But even if the chance arises only a few times a year, there are advantages here. Unlike a cheaper quartz, you’ll never have to worry about a dead battery on a day when you’re trying to look your best. Wind it up, set the date and time, and you’ll be good to go. As pointed out to me by a fellow reviewer, dress watches are one of the few areas in which mechanicals may hold an edge over quartz.
4.5 stars out of 5
The Bambino is very clearly designed and marketed as a dress watch, with its massive glass and thin profile. But I’ve found it to be an equally relaxing companion for casual meals, long stretches on the couch, or extended writing sessions. It’s a thing that speaks of unhurried elegance, far from the laser-like precision of an atomically-synced quartz or the work-first ethos of a G-Shock.
There’s also a little something extra here, hidden beneath the classical face and delicate hands. Whenever I strap on the Bambino, I feel as though I’m wearing something my great-grandfather could have worn. Heck, maybe the Babe himself sported something like this while tooling around in his Lincoln. There’s a strange comfort in that, and its only grown as my time with the watch has increased.
What I’m saying is this – If you’re looking for an attractive, interesting dress watch, then the Bambino is for you. And for weirdos like me who read history books and watch black and white movies between baseball games and episodes of Star Trek, there’s a certain classical charm that’s not to be ignored. I’d recommend it, if only for the imagined connection to the past.
Where to Buy
Long Island Watch (Best consistent price)