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10/12/2022
 3 minutes

Oris: An Unsung Hero of Swiss Watchmaking

By Hyla Bauer
Oris–2-1
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Oris, a Swiss brand with a storied history, is one of the watch community’s unsung heroes. Why? The brand consistently produces excellent-quality watches at great prices. However, people who don’t know the brand might not be familiar with Oris’ charm.

Founded in 1904, Oris was the 10th-largest watch manufacturer in the late 1960s. The brand is a bit smaller these days, but business is still booming. Why? Because Oris makes great watches, with less-hefty price tags than some comparable brands. Oris is well known for superb, great-looking pilot, diving, and chronograph watches with excellent movements.

Oris History: Swiss Roots

A quick look at the brand’s history will show that from the get-go, Oris’ mission was to produce quality timepieces at fair prices. Founders Paul Cattin and Georges Christian based their business in Hölstein, Switzerland, where Oris is located to this day. Cattin and Christian hired local watchmakers and craftspeople to work in their ateliers and named the brand Oris after a nearby creek, therefore solidifying the brand’s attachment to Hölstein.

The 1980s – No More Quartz at Oris

The quartz crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s devastated Swiss brands, as new, cheaper watches emerged from Japan. These battery-powered timepieces nearly wiped out the demand for mechanical Swiss watches. During the height of the quartz crisis, Dr. Rolf Portmann and Ulrich Herzog bought the company, determined to renew Oris’ dedication to Swiss craftsmanship by putting an end to the manufacturing of quartz watches at Oris. It was quite the daring move at the time.

Oris is known for offering high-quality watches at modest prices.

Oris’ Strongest Feature: Great Watches At Great Prices

With steady price increases across most Swiss brands in recent years, how do Oris watches stay affordable? The brand has chosen wisely in terms of how to manufacture great watches without compromising on quality. Oris designs in-house movement modules for complications, and enhances the functionality of base movements sourced from tried-and-true ETA and Sellita.

Oris reduces manufacturing costs by outsourcing finely-crafted base movements while adding its own proprietary complication modules. This keeps movement production costs low, helping Oris fund its own add-on modules, which are designed in-house. The Oris Pointer Date, for example, features the Oris Caliber 354, which utilizes a Sellita SW200-1 as its base, to which Oris adds a module to operate the date hand. The result is the Oris caliber 754.

Let’s take a look at some of the noteworthy movement complications in the Oris lineup.

Oris’ Most Interesting Complication Watches

ProDiver

A great version of the ProDiver is the Pointer Moon watch. As its name suggests, this watch displays the moon phase, a useful complication. But what’s really cool about this timepiece is that it also shows the tidal range, and was the world’s first mechanical watch to feature these two complications.

The Oris ProDiver Pointer Moon

ProPilot

An outstanding model in the ProPilot collection is the Big Crown Altimeter, which displays the altitude on its dial. The Big Crown Altimeter was the first automatic-winding watch with a mechanical altimeter, making it a horological first.

The Oris ProPilot Big Crown Altimeter

Aquis

While the Oris’ Altimeter measures the heights of the sky, Oris also makes a watch that measures the depths of the sea. The Aquis Depth Gauge features a patented design that measures depth using a small hole built into the watch at 12 o’clock. The hole lets water into the timepiece, which then enters into the channel milled around the outer edge of the watch’s crystal. This creates a watermark that corresponds to the gauge on the dial.

The Oris Aquis Depth Gauge

Big Crown

The Big Crown Pointer Date is a perennial Oris favorite. Instead of the standard date aperture, the Pointer Date uses a fourth hand that touches the days of the month around the dial. The other three hands are, of course, the hour, minute, and second hands. The Pointer Date has been in the Oris collection since 1938, a clear indication of its lasting popularity.

The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date

Whatever Oris model you choose, rest assured that these watches are built to last and offer both intriguing and practical complications. In terms of price, they’re some of the best watches around.


About the Author

Hyla Bauer

Hyla Bauer's passion for watches was born the first time she traveled to Switzerland for the Basel and Geneva watch shows. For her, a watch is one of the most intimate and precious things a person can wear. They are precious, built to last, and have a personal meaning for their owners.

Read more

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