Ac­ces­si­ble prices, retro style and a fo­cus on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues – all good rea­sons why Oris watches are worth splash­ing out on

Ac­ces­si­ble prices, retro styling and sup­port for en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues have shored up Oris watches’ sharper, more mod­ern iden­tity

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - WORDS CHRISHALL

One hun­dred and four­teen years old this year, Oris was once one of the big­gest watch pro­duc­ers in the world. Founded in Hol­stein, near Basel, by the 1930s it had grown to en­com­pass a net­work of fac­to­ries across Switzer­land. At its peak in 1969 – be­fore cheap quartz bat­tery watches came into vogue – Oris em­ployed 900 peo­ple, mak­ing 1.2 mil­lion watches a year.

An in­dus­try-wide cri­sis in the 1970s was caused by the Euro­pean mar­ket be­ing flooded with cheap quartz-bat­tery im­ports; this took the com­pany down to a few dozen em­ploy­ees. That was fol­lowed by an ill­fated amal­ga­ma­tion, then by a man­age­ment buy­out. But dur­ing the 1980s and 90s, Oris be­gan to en­joy a slow re­vival.

Oris re­mains a bit of an out­sider, but is not es­o­teric; its watches are the kind of unas­sum­ing, down-to-earth creations that suit al­most any­one, and with pro­duc­tion still in the tens of thou­sands, it’s not ex­actly an ar­ti­san busi­ness ei­ther. But in the last 20 years it has found it­self tak­ing a back seat to the likes of Longines and TAG Heuer when it comes to brand recog­ni­tion.

To look at its re­cent creations on pa­per, Oris might seem un­fairly over­looked. It has suc­cess­fully man­u­fac­tured a me­chan­i­cal depth-gauge dive watch; a me­chan­i­cal al­time­ter for pi­lots or moun­taineers; quick-set world-time watches; and a re­turn to in-house move­ment mak­ing for its 110th an­niver­sary, with a ten-day power re­serve mech­a­nism.

But it has only been with a much less com­pli­cated, retro-styled dive watch that Oris has found an iden­tity that trans­lates. The Divers Sixty-Five is a re­work­ing of – you guessed it – a dive watch from 1965. It has been a break-out hit since 2015, spawn­ing nearly 50 vari­a­tions, en­com­pass­ing dif­fer­ent dial colours, typography and sizes, plus the on-trend ad­di­tion of a lim­ited edi­tion in a bronze case. There was even a model pro­duced last year ded­i­cated to Movem­ber, and while that may make you cringe, the brand’s com­mit­ment to good causes is im­pres­sive. At the core of the com­pany’s agenda – mir­ror­ing its fo­cus on dive watches, both in the form of the Divers Sixty-Five and the re­cently re­designed, chunkier and more se­ri­ous Aquis – are ini­tia­tives geared around en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness and con­ser­va­tion.

Since 2010 Oris has part­nered with the Aus­tralian Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety to work on pre­serv­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef; in 2016 it part­nered with a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion called Pe­la­gios Kakunja to track ham­mer­head sharks; last year it an­nounced work with the Co­ral Restora­tion Foun­da­tion to pre­serve en­dan­gered co­ral (the as­so­ci­ated watch even comes in a box made partly from al­gae, in the name of re­duc­ing its use of plas­tics). This year, Oris re­leased the Aquis “Source of Life”, a watch that sounds like it should come with some sort of elixir for im­mor­tal­ity, but in­stead “in­vites us to think philo­soph­i­cally about how we care for the world’s wa­ter sources”.

Such philo­soph­i­cal pon­der­ings might sound a bit wor­thy, but even if the cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity doesn’t float your boat (pun in­tended), the watches are at­trac­tive in their own right, and priced com­pet­i­tively; £1,150 up­wards for the Divers Sixty-Five and £2,020 for the Aquis Ham­mer­head lim­ited edi­tion. Both use au­to­matic Sel­lita move­ments: re­li­able, ro­bust work­horses, and not to be sniffed at, but not the kind of thing you will wax lyri­cal about to a fel­low watch con­nois­seur. That’s not the Oris way – it uses the right tools for the job, and brings it in at a price that’s less eye-wa­ter­ing than most main­stream Swiss brands.

In many ways, Oris is the ul­ti­mate watch com­pany for mil­len­ni­als, bring­ing to­gether re­al­is­tic pric­ing, sus­tain­abil­ity, well-judged retro-flavoured de­sign and a no­table ab­sence of “lux­ury brand” pom­pos­ity or ar­ro­gance. But if the “mil­len­nial” word turns you off, there’s ma­tu­rity to the Oris cat­a­logue that eases any feel­ings of hip­ster­ish cash-ins. If there’s a crit­i­cism to be made of their cur­rent of­fer, it’s that some of the ranges haven’t kept up with the brand’s sud­den lurch into trendi­ness and now look a lit­tle stale by com­par­i­son, but Oris knows very well that the watches that make head­lines aren’t al­ways the ones that sell out.

In many ways, Oris is the ul­ti­mate watch com­pany for mil­len­ni­als

LEFT AND ABOVE: Oris Ham­mer­head lim­ited edi­tion

FROM TOP: Oris Divers Sixty-Five; Oris Staghorn Restora­tion Lim­ited Edi­tion

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