More Bang for your Buck

The Amer­i­can ty­coon War­ren Buf­fet once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” This ethos has been em­braced by Oris, a brand that since in­cep­tion has sought to make ex­cep­tional watches at com­pet­i­tive prices. Brand Pres­i­dent Ul­rich Her­zog tal

Plaza Watch International - - Interview - WORDS SI­MON DE BUR­TON

Oris is one of those rare watch brands that leave you won­der­ing why the prod­ucts of many of its ri­vals are so ex­pen­sive. There are no quartz move­ments in the range, and the fin­ish and de­sign of Oris pieces are in­vari­ably of a qual­ity that seems to ex­ceed their price.

Part of the rea­son for the Oris of­fer­ing be­ing such good value is that, un­like mak­ers which pride them­selves on their low vol­umes, the house has po­si­tioned it­self as a pro­ducer of watches on an in­dus­trial scale ever since it was founded in Hol­stein in 1904 by Paul Cat­tin and Ge­orges Christian.

Within six years, the company was em­ploy­ing 300 peo­ple and, by 1936, it had man­u­fac­tur­ing bases in Holder­bank, Como, Cour­ge­nay, Ziefen, Her­bertswil and Bi­enne. It even built homes for its work­ers and laid on a pri­vate bus ser­vice to get them to and from the fac­to­ries.

By the time of WWII, Oris – then in the hands of An­toine LeCoul­tre's grand­son, Jac­quesDavid – was churn­ing out an im­pres­sive 200,000 watches and clocks ev­ery year, a fig­ure that had risen to 1.2 mil­lion by the early 1970s.

A cer­tain de­gree of 're­group­ing' en­tailed as a re­sult of the quartz cri­sis and Oris, which had been ac­quired by what later be­came the Swatch Group, was bought-out in 1982 by its Gen­eral Man­ager, Dr Rolf Port­mann, and mar­ket­ing head, Ul­rich Her­zog.

To­day, Her­zog is the brand's Pres­i­dent and re­mains as en­thu­si­as­tic as ever that Oris should of­fer high qual­ity, value for money prod­ucts – which is why the firm has some­what thrown the cat among the pi­geons at this year's Baselworld by mark­ing its 110th an­niver­sary with a new watch fea­tur­ing an in-house move­ment with 10day power re­serve at an un­matched start­ing price of just CHF 5,500 in steel.

"We in­tro­duced our patented Depth Gauge dive watch at Baselworld in 2013, and it has be­come our am­bi­tion to have a new patent each year, " Her­zog told Plaza Watch.

“This is the first me­chan­i­cal move­ment Oris has de­vel­oped from the ground up for more than 35 years, and it com­bines a 10-day power re­serve with a patented, non-lin­ear power re­serve in­di­ca­tion – two com­pli­ca­tions which have never be­fore come to­gether. The re­sult is some­thing of a mile­stone in me­chan­i­cal watch mak­ing, with each move­ment be­ing hand as­sem­bled in our Hol­stein fac­tory.

"We've man­aged to de­velop the move­ment so that it op­er­ates with a sin­gle main­spring bar­rel – quite un­usual in a watch with such a long power re­serve – be­cause that en­abled us to keep the cal­i­bre to a rel­a­tively small size.

“The non-lin­ear power re­serve is also very spe­cial, too, be­cause the notches rep­re­sent­ing the days of power re­main­ing are closer to­gether at the top of the scale than they are at the bot­tom – so, as the hand pro­gresses clock­wise around the scale, it be­gins to move more quickly as the watch runs down.”

Her­zog ad­mits that the low price of the watch – which will be made in an edi­tion of 110 in steel and 110 in red gold cost­ing CHF 14,800 – is sur­pris­ingly af­ford­able for a piece with such im­pres­sive tech­ni­cal cre­den­tials, but is con­fi­dent that the value for money as­pect will be main­tained as fur­ther power re­serve mod­els with ad­di­tional com­pli­ca­tions are sub­se­quently added to the range.

“Value for money is very, very im­por­tant for us,” says Her­zog.

“We have al­ways had the abil­ity to think and work in an in­dus­trial way, and big­ger num­bers in­evitably make a watch more ac­ces­si­ble to a greater au­di­ence. That has been the Oris phi­los­o­phy for more than a cen­tury, and that's how we in­tend to keep it.”

“Value for money is very, very im­por­tant for us”

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