A Happy Mistake: Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

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Sometimes, your own history can surprise you. “Until recently,” reads the statement introducing this fine watch you see above, “Oris believed that its first pilot’s watch was the Big Crown of 1938. But a recent discovery made it clear history had a different story to tell.”

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Oris has sat upon the same location in Hölstein for over a century. Researchers dove into the company’s archives and found something unusual: as it turns out, they found an Oris pocketwatch engraved with one of Louis Blériot’s airplanes. Blériot was the first man to fly across the English Channel, in 1909—nearly three decades earlier. From the same time period, these researchers also found Oris’s first wristwatch dedicated to aviation. It was made exactly 100 years ago.

It’s rare for a company to fess up to a thing like this. (Let’s be fair—113 years does lead to a fair bit of clutter.) But since nothing can’t be spun with a bit of positivity, Oris’s early watch made for good inspiration in the guise of the Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition, introduced just now at Baselworld, limited to—what else?—1,917 pieces.

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Inspiration—hell, one would be fooled to believe that this Baselworld beauty was ripped straight from these archives. Like many watches from the first two decades of the 20th century, it is essentially a pocketwatch with wire lugs welded in. Big crown, big numbers, big friendly round case. This 1917 Edition may very well be the most faithful reissue of a watch we’ve seen in ages—even the vintage Oris logo is reproduced, a lovely little touch. The case is 40mm wide, made of polished stainless steel, and waterproof to 5 bar, and the hands and vintage-esque numbers are both brushed with Super-LumiNova. The back is inscribed with a stylized OWC “Poinçon de Maître,” which once served as Oris’s stamp of quality.

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The old Oris gets a new movement, though—the debut of what it’s calling the Calibre 732, a modification of the Sellita SW 200-1 movement, that requires the pushing of a button at 2 to engage the crown for setting the time. This odd quirk is also taken from the 1917 watch: how’s that for authentic? Oris has been using Sellita movements for a long time now, alongside ETA and in-house movements: will you mind? Maybe. But when it looks this vintage? Hopefully not.

In addition to the watch, you also receive two leather straps, one a riveted strap, and one cuff-style, as was the style at the time. Both fit in the travel pouch provided just for this purpose. For 2,400 Swiss Francs, or about the same in US dollars, it’s a beautiful piece.

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Oris is a brand that’s been touting its airplane credentials for a while now: witness the Big Crown Propilots, or the Air Racing Edition, or the Royal Flying Doctor Service Limited Edition. This 1917 Edition is probably the brand’s strongest tribute yet, to the brave early days of taking to the skies in rickety, canvas-wrapped machinery, when you’d steel yourself for such foolhardiness with a shot of brandy at the officer’s lounge. Blériot would be proud.


For more info, check out Oris.ch

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Hailing from the middle coast of Austin, Texas, Blake Z. Rong is a freelance writer, researcher, one-time podcast host, and occasional automotive journalist. When he was 13, he took apart a quartz watch and forgot how to put it back together again. His love for watches has lingered ever since. He can usually be found on his motorcycle speeding across Texas Hill Country.
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  • Elijs Dima

    Neat, but probably not gonna become nearly as widely-praised as the Divers65 was when that got announced…

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