As tag-lines go, this one says a lot: “Real watches for real people”. That’s the approach espoused by Oris that somewhat cuts against the idea that quality mechanical watches have to be hugely expensive, often in no small part due to sizable marketing budgets and celebrity endorsements. Naturally enough, this means Oris – which next year celebrates its 110th year – is often overlooked. And this despite the more recent years in its history, since 1982, when a management buy-out saw the company become privatelyowned by board members and management, seeing the development of consistently solid lines.
Most notable among these is its signature retro Big Crown collection, with its outsized winder (all the better to be handled wearing hefty flying gloves) and Oris pointer date innovation (dating to 1938). But as CEO Ulrich Herzog has pointed out, making a watch that looks convincingly from a bygone era – given consumers’ demands for modern performance – is often harder than it is to make an entirely new model. Many have since tried.
It does modern watches too, however. Its new Blue Eagles limited edition pilot’s watch – celebrating the 40th anniversary of the helicopter display team of the same name, which Oris sponsors – is a case in point. With its 24-hour scale display, DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating, second time zone and, most strikingly, its distinctive vertical crown, this is a limited edition one suspects Oris will have to quietly repeat.
Indeed, despite its connections too with diving and motor-racing (OK, so Oris’ idea of “real people” actually means “real people with rather unreal jobs”), the company is carving a strong case for it to be respected as a bone fide aviation watch brand. Not many, after all, also sponsor a team of vintage Hunter jets. Many of its latest limited edition pieces are for fly-boys actual and imaginary, including its dark grey-dial Swiss Hunter Team PS, and one commemorating the Royal Flying Doctor Service, complete with not one, but two big crowns. JS