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The 5 Best Oris Swiss Watches - A Buyers Guide

Posted on August 19 2021

The Best Oris Watches

With independence comes freedom.

That's the driving force of Swiss heritage brand Oris. This family-owned company forges its own path. In their own words, they design watches for their customers, not for shareholders.

They have a simple philosophy - "Things must make sense".

It's a compelling brand ethos and works well in practice.

Oris can look backwards by referencing over a hundred years of watchmaking history. But they also manage to look forward by creating cutting-edge designs and complications.

It's a mixture of freedom and common sense.

This approach has produced some unexpected results too. As you'll see, Oris has an ongoing relationship with Jazz musicians. But they are also involved in the world of motor racing, aviation and watersports.

I wanted to learn more about the brand. How it brings together these principles. How it can focus solely on mechanical watches whilst also valuing innovation and sustainability.

So let's have a quick look at their history and philosophy. Then we'll see the watches created in this environment and I'll highlight the five best.

A Brief History of Oris Watches


The Oris story is one of extremes.

From humble beginnings, the brand rose to be one of the worlds largest watch companies. Only to shrink back down to a few dozen employees decades later.

It's a fascinating tale, but I'd like to keep it brief. I'll outline the major developments in the brand's hundred-year history. Trust me, it'll make you view their watches in a new light.

The story began in a familiar fashion.

A couple of watchmakers formed a small enterprise in the Swiss town of Hölstein. In what could be seen as a statement of intent, they didn't take the typical route of starting a small workshop attached to a residential property.

Instead, they bought a recently closed watch factory.

Oris, named after a local stream, quickly expanded. Within a couple of years, they opened a second factory nearby.

Already the largest employer in Hölstein, by the mid-1920s Oris had factories in a further five locations. At this point, the company also began building houses and apartments for its staff.

The story gets really interesting in the 1930s. The Swiss government introduced the weird 'Watch Statute' law. This stopped watch companies from using new technology without their permission.

How did this affect Oris?

They were stuck with the technology that they were using when the law came into force. They couldn't legally catch up with their competitors.

But this is what I like about Oris. They later spent a decade challenging the law. In 1966 they made history by having the Watch Statute overturned.

By that time they'd survived the war, partly by building alarm clocks. They'd also released their first automatic model and in 1965, their iconic divers watch.

This was Oris at its peak.

By the end of the decade, they had more than 800 staff producing over a million watches a year. They were one of the world's biggest watch companies.

But the quartz crisis hit Oris particularly hard. The company shrank to just a few dozen staff. The brand limped on until the 1980s when thankfully there was a management buyout.

Then we start to see the Oris that we know today.

A decision to only produce mechanical watches was taken. This was then implemented with flair and ambition. Great watches followed. Chronographs, the Pointer Calendar and their own calibres.



Remember I mentioned Oris' links to Jazz?

That started in the mid-1990s when the brand partnered with the London Jazz Festival. The first jazz watch was created with British saxophonist Andy Sheppard.

They followed that with a Miles Davis collection.

New and innovative models followed thick and fast. And Oris had a clear vision that was boiled down to four worlds - Diving, Culture, Aviation and Motor Sports.

So they reissued the Diver from 1965, built Williams F1 Team watches, continued the Jazz theme and released stunning pilots watches.

And that brings us up to date. 120 years of watchmaking history.

Where are Oris Watches Made?


Oris watches are Swiss-Made.

Oris was founded in Hölstein, a village in the North-west of Switzerland. Oris is still based in the village and has its headquarters and factory there.

Are Oris Watches Good Quality?


The answer is yes. Oris is a well-established Swiss brand that makes its watches in Switzerland.

They have those important words - Swiss-made - at the foot of the dial.

There are a couple of reasons why Oris make such good quality watches at an affordable price. Firstly, their mission is to make watches for their customers benefit, not for shareholders.

Secondly, the company prides itself on watchmaking innovation. They have produced a number of watchmaking firsts. Recently this has included the Worldtimer, the Quick-Lock Crown system and a watch that uses a vertical crown at 2 o’clock.

Importantly, Oris produces its own in-house mechanical movements.

The Five Best Oris Watches


Oris has a big catalogue of watches. It's almost too big, with many models having several variations.

I've distilled the list down to the best five.

Most of the watches I've featured are available in alternative colours or with a different strap option. Some have a choice of case sizes.

But these are my favourite models and I'm confident that they show the brand at its best.

Oris Divers Sixty-Five Watch

Oris describes this watch as “a revival of an iconic diver’s watch that first appeared in the Oris collection 50 years ago”.

It's the standout watch in the current Oris line-up.

First released in 2015, the Divers Sixty-Five is an updated version of the brand's iconic dive watch from that year.

So it's not an exact reproduction.

This is 40mm wide. That's an ideal size for today's buyers and larger than the original 1960s edition. The original watch had a coated brass case and that is obviously replaced by full stainless steel.

But this watch still successfully recreates the vintage appeal of the earlier model. There is a vintage-inspired bubble-curved glass made of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. And off-white lume that suggests age and patina.

The result is a stunning watch, that whilst not in the affordable category, is still very accessible.

The design itself is deceptively simple. There’s nothing ornate in the styling. It's all the small things that have been done well that makes this watch a winner.

That includes the movement. The Swiss Sellita SW200 has been modified by Oris in-house.

With 100M of water resistance, you can't take the Oris Sixty-Five diving. But honestly, would you want to? It's a great place to start with the brand.

Oris Divers Sixty-Five

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


Oris Big Crown Date Watch

The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date is a colourful and elegant watch.

As the name suggests, there are two distinguishing features. A large, screw-down crown and a fourth hand that points to the date. These, along with the vintage-inspired design, make this a wonderful watch.

Like other Oris models, this watch is available in a couple of sizes. Of the two sizes, I prefer the 40mm over the 36mm. And of the colour palettes, this deep red version is my pick.

There's a lot going on under the domed sapphire crystal of this watch.

The dial is busy and includes an additional date scale. The date is indicated by the fourth hand - with a red accent to help legibility.

Paired with cathedral style hands, the dial is full of vintage charm. The case, however, is a little bit more modern and the two work well together.

Like the Divers Sixty-Five, the automatic movement is an Oris Calibre. You can see it through the exhibition back and it features Oris' signature red rotor.

This is a beautiful watch that once again references the brand's history. It's busy, full of colour and ideal if you want the full vintage aesthetic.

Oris Big Crown Pointer Date

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Oris Aquis Date Dive Watch

The Aquis Date is Oris' modern alternative to the Divers Sixty-Five.

Although the two watches are near in size and use the same movement, they're very different watches. Aside from the styling, the Aquis differs in that it is a legitimate diver's watch. It has 300M of water resistance.

I like that the size is a touch under 40mm. As I mentioned here, sub-40mm dive watches are very comfortable and practical. So it's nice to see Oris offer a smaller watch.

Smaller, not small.

This is still a substantial watch and the case is modern, chunky and has prominent crown guards.

The colour of this model - a deep green dial and bezel - is reminiscent of a Rolex Hulk. It's a tried and tested dive watch colour palette and again, it works here.

The design is clean and sporty. There is only minimal text on the dial and the date window has been positioned at 6 o'clock. It's subtle and gives the dial a pleasing symmetry.

This is the modern Oris. The cutting edge brand offering high-performance Swiss watches at a price point lower than some of the bigger names.

And remember. You can see the bright red rotor through the case back again.

Oris Aquis Date

  • 39.5mm Diameter
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance


Oris Propilot Watch

The Big Crown ProPilot is an aviation watch that has an obvious military vibe. It's less colourful and complicated than some of the brand's other models but succeeds through its simplicity.

Whilst some of the ProPilot collection feature more than three hands - there's a GMT model and an Altimeter - this spartan design works best for me.

There's very little to discuss style-wise.

It has three hands and a date window in the traditional 3 o'clock position. The case is straightforward except for the attractive coin-edge style bezel.

And the dial? It's very easy to read, as both pilot and military watches should be. The numerals and date are noticeably large.

At 41mm wide the case is on the smaller side for a pilot watch. Again, that's a plus for me. It makes the watch very wearable.

Once more the Oris-modified Sellita movement is visible through an exhibition back and the rotor is red.

This is an uncomplicated watch. A simple military design with a strong aviation theme. This is a good watch if you like restrained designs.

Oris Big Crown Propilot Big Date

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


Oris James Morrison Jazz Watch

This limited edition piece continues Oris' relationship with Jazz music. That association began with the Andy Sheppard model and the Miles Davis collection that came later.

This minimalist watch is inspired by James Morrison, a Jazz trumpet player.

It's another straightforward watch that has a touch of Bauhaus design to it. It's minimalist but hints more at German influence than Scandinavian.

Known as the Academy of Music model, this watch is all about the dial. The deep blue face has a gradient effect, at times looking either black or brighter blue. It changes depending on the light.

The dial is spartan. It only has plain numerals and a little text. The gold hands and matching hour markers is a nice touch. They compliment the blue.

It's another smaller watch. This time with a 38mm case. There is no bezel, so the dial makes full use of the case width. I like 38mm watches and currently wear the Bulova Hack.

This is a refined watch.

The nice curves and leather strap give this a formal edge. But the gradient dial adds colour and sophistication.

Again, the AoM is an automatic. The difference being that you can't see the movement. Instead, the watch has a quirky trumpet motif.

It's a fun watch that blends utlilitarian simplicity with a touch of artistic flair.

Oris James Morrison Limited Edition

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Oris is a fascinating brand.

They have more than a century of history. Over the last couple of decades, they've deliberately returned to their roots.

Having begun as a small independent watch brand in a Swiss village, they grew to be one of the ten biggest watch companies in the world.

But they're now back in that same village, once more as an independent company.

They've used their backstory well, mining their own back catalogue for inspiration. But they've also continued to innovate.

Crucially, they've been clear that they'd have 'four Oris worlds'. Those collections are a practical mix of arts, culture and sports.

I've been surprised by how much I like this brand. Some of their watches are stunning.

And it seems that other watch geeks share my passion too. So I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Pop them in a comment below.

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