In terms of getting the most amount of watch for the least amount of money, it takes a lot to beat Oris. These days, the brand may be enjoying more attention for its extensive range of dive models, specifically the thoroughly-modern Aquis and the retro-inspired Divers Sixty-Five collections; however, if there is just one name from the past we can point to (pun totally intended) and say without it we might not have modern Oris watches at all, it is the Big Crown Pointer Date.
The original version was introduced in 1938 as one of the earliest examples of a dedicated pilot’s watch, and Oris has had a model with the somewhat unorthodox take on the date complication in their portfolio ever since. The latest generation was launched in 2018 to celebrate its 80th anniversary, a range taking in both 36mm and 40mm sizes, all with a host of styling cues designed to give you that warm glow of nostalgia.
The Modern Oris Big Crown Pointer Date
We are used to vintage reissues from manufacturers these days, with many of the big names in the industry dusting off pieces from the archives and adopting classic elements to include on a new release. With Oris’s contribution, they have borrowed from both the initial Big Crown Pointer Date watches from the 30s as well as from those of the dark days of the 1980s, when that period’s version was the only mechanical watch in the company’s lineup amid a sea of quartz movements.
But rather than being a mishmash of disparate features vying for attention, it all comes together into one superbly-shaped combination of the best of both worlds. In addition to the analog date pointer itself, we get the titular oversized crown, included so that early aviators could use it while wearing their similarly enormous gloves in the era’s freezing airplane cockpits. Additionally, the dial numeral font is historically correct, as are the large, beige LuminNova-filled cathedral hands and the domed crystal – although it is made from sapphire on the modern versions rather than acrylic.
From the later iterations, Oris has taken the attractive coin-edged bezel and the tapered, curved lugs that hug the wrist, with a brushed finish on top and polished sides for contrast. This combination of features leaves us with a watch capable of serving as both formal and casual wear, while not looking out of place in either role, along with a calendar complication that you will find almost nowhere else.
The Pointer Date Complication
A timepiece that also tells you the date is an extremely useful thing to have. The most widely-used implementation of a date complication – one that is employed by many mechanical watch brands – is to have a numeral visible through a small window in the dial, most commonly at the three o’clock location. First invented by Rolex in 1945, this method gives an easily-read date indication but has long been criticized for throwing off overall symmetry, especially if covered by a magnifying lens.
The Oris Pointer Date method prints an outer 1-31 scale around the periphery of the dial above the indexes, and adds an extra hand (often finished with a different color tip to help distinguish it from the time-telling hands), which points to the correct date. In that way, the balance of the design remains largely unaffected, and it gives the whole watch a clean legibility that is ideal for pilots. Why more brands don’t have watches with pointer date complications in their catalog is a bit of a mystery, but it has become a signature move for Oris, and one that certainly draws attention from many-a watch nerd.
The movement in charge is the same for both sizes of the watch, the Sellita SW 200-1, an automatic caliber reworked to add the Pointer Date feature and named the Oris 754. It has a 38-hour power reserve, a frequency of 28,800vph, and it comes complete with the brand’s trademark red winding rotor, which is visible through the display caseback.
The latest generation of the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date is available in 21 different configurations, all in either stainless steel or bronze, and finished off with a variety of different bracelets and straps. These run alongside the older iteration, which is still in production, for a total of 35 different variations.
The newer range has been issued with an inventive variety of dial colors that have really captured the imagination. Alongside more traditional black and white dials, we get the not-often-seen shades of slate blue, a delicate faded green, and a rich oxblood red. However, not all the colors are offered on both sizes of the watch – the oxblood dial, for instance, is only on the larger sizes for the moment, while conversely, the light green is only found on the smaller version. Whether that will change in the future, only time will tell.
The 36mm watches are the ones with the real vintage feel, since a 40mm piece would be unthinkably large in the 1930s, even for a pilot’s model. Consequently, it is the smaller versions of the Pointer Date that generally receive the more traditional dial colors. Another interesting little detail is the tip of the pointer hand, which is painted in either red or white, depending on what will provide the best contrast with the color of the dial. The bands are a choice between an intricate seven-link steel bracelet or one of several different types of brown or black leather straps, all tanned using an environmentally-friendly natural vegetable process.
However, as always with Oris, the most pleasant surprise comes when finding out the price. You can have this extremely handsome, heritage-rich model powered by a high quality Swiss movement for as little as $1,600 at retail, and even less on the secondary market. As an everyday watch that can be worn just about anywhere, it offers an almost unbeatable bang for your buck with the added bonus of a unique take on the classic date complication.