PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 20 Apr, 2015.
G. Gerlach have only really been on the watch making scene for around 3 years, but have already made quite a name for themselves in the affordable market. All of their models are around the £200 price range, and are all very well regarded as being excellent value for money. Is the Orzel 85A any different?
It’ll cost you 1359 Polish Zloty / £245, and you get a solid Seiko automatic movement, blasted case, sapphire crystal, and a 2 year warranty to name a few features.
The ORP Orzel was the lead ship of her class of submarines in the Polish Navy during World War II, and the word Orzel means Eagle. ORP stands for Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, or Warship of the Republic of Poland. Now you know your Polish, let’s take a look at the watch to see if it is good value at £245.
The case is a decent size, measuring in at 43mm in diameter, with a 52mm lug to lug length, and a height of 13mm. My wrist is sized between 7-7.5 inches, and I feel it fits me very well. I actually think it wears a little smaller than the 43mm diameter should, which is good. Perhaps this is due to the curved coined edge bezel and angled rehaut. It is quite high, so it is a little difficult to fit under a shirt cuff. Although the design of the watch is the sort that it’s unlikely to be worn with smart wear.
The case is a pleasant sandblasted finish, and is made of 316L stainless steel. I do like how a sandblasted finish is a little bit different, and you don’t really see it around that much. In this, I feel the Orzel 85A provides a nice alternative to the majority of other dive / pilot watches.
The water resistance rating is 200m, which is perfectly suitable for regular scuba diving, which would be suitable for the majority of us, bar the professional divers out there.
The case has a domed sapphire crystal, which has a lovely blue anti-reflective coating on the underside. The AR is effective, albeit a bit of a pain to photograph. You can tell it’s a decent thick crystal, as it sounds a decent thud when you tap it.
The Orzel has a screw-in bulbous onion shape crown. The grip is thin and light, yet is very precise and works perfectly due to the size and shape of the crown. It has the G. Gerlach logo extremely lightly etched on the end, which actually almost lines up nicely with the case when screwed in.
The screw-in caseback features a graphic of the Orzel submarine that featured in World War II. surrounding this is some watch specifics, mostly in Polish. Again, like the crown, it is etched a little too lightly. I believe it could be due to the case being sandblasted rather than the more usual polished or brushed finish.
A key design cue of the Orzel is the coined edge bezel. Each groove is accurate, smooth and not too heavy on the eye. This is the kind of things that would split opinions on a watch, so you either like it, or you really hate the watch because of this. I’ve never been too fussed on this style of edging, but I’m surprisingly pleased with how it looks. The watch does get a lot of comments too, so it’s obviously popular with others.
The case has Orzel 85A etched on the left side, much deeper and more impressively done than the caseback and crown. It suits the watch well and has been tastefully done, unlike how Invicta do it sometimes.
The Orzel has reasonably long, curvy lugs. They’re drilled through, so changing the strap is easy and you’re unlikely to damage the case whilst doing so.
The case is simple in its shape and design, but it’s very well machined. The sandblasted finish is completely flawless across its entirety. This is the sort of thing that G. Gerlach have become well know for: solid, reliable manufacturing.
There’s two main parts to the dial that are key features. Firstly, there’s the blue (or black) sunburst effect, where the colour lightens in the centre. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this (Lew and Huey Orthos) but it seems to be rather popular. Indeed, it’s more interesting than a plan blue or black dial – but I feel that it’s something that you’ve got to like to go to with it.
Second, it has a distinct linear guilloche texture to it – think Melbourne Watch Co’s Flinders. These lines are impeccably chased into the dial, even at extreme close ups. The logo within the top half, and the “85A” in the bottom half are both on their own mini platforms to ensure the printing is on a flat surface. This is done with brilliant accuracy, as you can’t even tell due to the printing being so precisely done within them.
The hour and minute hands are simple – but I think they’ve been styled to mimic a submarine or a torpedo. If this is the case, then it’s very clever and ties them into the theme of the watch nicely. They both have lume filled centres, which matches the hour markers as being the only aspects visible in the dark. The seconds hand is a simple thin steel hand, with a triangular counterweight.
All the hands are made with precision, and finished very well with no tool marks or bad manufacturing evident. They’re all polished, so they catch the light nicely, and match the hour markers.
The hour markers are quite petite, being discs for the majority – apart from batons for 12, 3, 6 and 9. Matching the hands, they have a lumed centre and a polished steel border. They’re all formed with the precision we’ve come to expect from G. Gerlach.
The dial has a set of red crosshairs on it, which mimic a periscope on a submarine. Another nice nod to the Orzel submarine.
One thing that has impressed me is the strength of lume on the Orzel. The hands and hour markers all glow very well after having a brief charge, and it also lasts a reasonable amount of time.
There’s a pretty large rehaut on the Orzel, which I feel joins the dial with the case and creates a large viewing area. It has a minute track neatly printed on.
All of the printing on the dial is precise. Even when the text is extremely thin, it’s still printed cleanly and without any smudging.
The dial as a whole is flawlessly implemented. The only thing that concerns me is that the sunburst effect won’t be to everyone’s taste.
The strap is a very thick, soft leather measuring 22mm wide for the entire length – from the lugs to the buckle.
For many, a decent strap can really make a watch stand out, and I feel that this is the case with the Orzel. The strap is very impressive – not only in thickness but also in how it feels and looks. It’s extremely soft to the touch, and is very comfortable on the wrist too. All stitching is thick, extremely well stitched and gives the feeling of very good quality and craftsmanship.
The strap only has one keeper loop, but it’s as wide as two put together, which I guess is the reason why there’s only one. It’s the same decent leather as the strap, secured with two decent stitches. Because it’s so wide, I haven’t found it an issue with having the long end of the strap flapping around which can be annoying. The colour is a deep oak reddy brown, which sets the blue of the dial off nicely.
The Pre-V tang buckle is brushed, so it doesn’t match the case perfectly, but to be honest it can get away with it due to them never really being right next to each to be able to tell the difference. It has the G. Gerlach logo etched on the right side, providing a pleasant design feature, keeping it interesting. The tang is an angular shape, fitting the deepness of the holes well and should make the strap last a while before they get all mangled up.
There is just one thing to mention, which of course is inevitable. The length at which you put the buckle on the strap whilst wearing the watch leaves a crease on the leather pretty quickly. This is most probably due to the thickness and softness of the strap. Of course, this happens with every leather strap but I did notice it happen quite quickly with the Orzel.
Still, even with this tiny issue it’s a real beauty of a strap.
The movement used in the G. Gerlach ORP Orzel is the Seiko NH35A, a movement we’ve seen a few times recently, namely in the Melbourne Parkville and the Gruppo Gamma A-41. It’s become known to be an excellent movement. Based on a classic Seiko workhorse moment, it has been upgraded and has the added features of a hacking seconds and hand winding capability.
It boasts a pretty standard line up of specs, namely 24 jewels, runs at 21.6k bph (6 ticks per second), and has a 41 hour power reserve. The rotor winds the mainspring up when it spins in both directions – clockwise and anti-clockwise, which is good as it winds up at every opportunity. If you’re interested in how it looks in the flesh, have a look at my Gruppo Gamma A-41 review.
Accuracy-wise, the NH35A is well known as being excellent straight out of the factory, and the one we have here is no different. It’s losing no more than 10 seconds a day which is what affordable mechanical movements should really be aiming for.
For me, I think it’s a great choice. You’ve got the Seiko history and experience, combined with their ability to make outstanding workhorse movements that go on for decades without requiring a service. I think the movement in the Orzel 85A will go on for a very long time with no problems whatsoever.
There’s not a lot out there that looks similar to the Orzel. It’s a sort of cross between a diver and a big pilot / B-Uhr watch. If you want something on the cheap that looks sort of like it, then you could go for the Parnis Big Pilot, which will cost you about ~£70.
Alternatively, you could go for another diver watch, but one that looks different. There’s so many in this price range. How about the Orzel’s brother, the Otago?
I must say, the Orzel 85A has received a surprising amount of comments. It’s obvious that people really like how it’s styled, and it’s plain to see that it’s a solid, well made timepiece too. Specs-wise, there’s not much better you can go for the price: solid Seiko automatic movement, sapphire crystal, lovely thick leather strap, and sturdy build quality to boot.
As ever, it’s a question of whether or not you like the style of the watch. The two main culprits I can see are the coin edged bezel and the sunburst effect on the dial. But if you do like these, then it’s definitely a great buy.