How to Do a Limited Edition Tribute the Right Way: Oris and the Hank Aaron Limited Edition

When you see press release after press release hit your inbox, with nearly every news item celebrating an anniversary, or honoring somebody who may or may not have anything at all to do with watches, it’s easy to become cynical. Watch companies, after all, exist in part to make money, and highlighting an association with the past, or a synergy with a partner, is relatively low hanging fruit to get your name, and watch, out there in front of the public, potentially grabbing fresh eyeballs that might not be familiar a brand’s particular story. Some brands navigate these waters with all the tact of a late night infomercial, but others have a knack for doing it gracefully, and authentically, and that was made evident over the course of the multi day launch event around the new Oris Hank Aaron Limited Edition in Atlanta. 


One of the first things to know about Oris is that VJ Geronimo, CEO of the Americas for the brand, is a massive baseball fan. I mean, he’s really into it. Find him on Instagram, and you’ll see that his profile picture has him in a Yankees cap, posed in what I assume is the home team’s dugout. Oris Day at Yankee Stadium (and other major league ballparks) is an annual event, and once you experience a game with Oris, it all just kind of makes sense. Baseball is an old fashioned, uniquely American tradition in the same way that watchmaking is loaded with history and predominantly Swiss. In a contemporary context, the things that bind them together are community and enthusiasm, and anyone who has interacted with the Oris team at Windup or any of the many events they run through their authorized dealer network all over the country knows that these are things they excel at. 

So, authenticity matters. It helps a brand relay a story in a way that resonates beyond the pages of a press release. In the case of the Hank Aaron Limited Edition, Oris took its launch as an opportunity to immerse members of the watch media in the world of Henry Aaron. He’s a revered figure in Atlanta, home of the team that he’s most closely associated with and played for for the vast majority of his career. While Aaron finished his playing days in Milwaukee, he returned to the Braves organization in 1977 as an executive, holding the position of vice president and director of player development, and was later the senior vice president and assistant to the Braves’ president. The point that was driven home over and over again during the festivities surrounding the launch of the new watch was that Aaron was a real presence in the organization in the decades following his playing career, serving as a mentor to young Braves players and members of the coaching staff. Everyone seemed to have a Hank Aaron story, and they all came back to his generosity, kindness, and humble nature. 

It might seem obvious, but if you’re going to make a watch in tribute to an individual, it should be someone who is really worthy of such a tribute. Oris has a knack for doing this, setting the tone a few years ago with a similar Roberto Clemente themed watch. Both Clemente and Aaron were known as much for their philanthropy and humanitarian efforts as they were as athletes, and this sticks to the larger themes Oris chooses to highlight as a brand. Their “Change for the Better” initiative runs through everything the brand does, and a focus on the environment and sustainability is central to even the smallest detail. With this new watch paying tribute to Aaron, Oris is donating proceeds from the sale of the watch to the Chasing the Dream Foundation, co-founded by Aaron and his widow, Billye Aaron, who was on hand for the big unveiling of the watch and spoke movingly about her late husband’s commitment to the work of the foundation he helped to create, which provides educational assistance to children in need.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the watch itself, and a brand’s ability to communicate a larger message through a small hunk of steel. A watch like the Hank Aaron Limited Edition requires just a little bit of knowledge on the part of the owner to fully appreciate, because the design details that link it to Aaron are extremely subtle. Oris seems genuinely interested in making sure potential owners know about the Chasing the Dream Foundation, and Aaron’s life and reputation across Major League Baseball, and letting the watch kind of speak for itself. But it helps that the watch is very nicely executed, with an appealing blue and red color palette that, yes, is inspired by Braves colors, but is also part of a long line of Big Crown Pointer Dates, a collection that has provided a versatile blank canvas for Oris over the years. Unlike some limited editions, this one has the outward appearance of being “just a watch,” one that could happily exist in the collection even without any special significance. But after learning more about Aaron’s life, and especially after seeing firsthand how much he meant to his Atlanta Braves community, it’s impossible not to get a little caught up in all of it, and wanting to support the causes that meant something to him. 

 One of the strange dichotomies of watch collecting is the often repeated idea that “watches tell stories,” and the notion that somehow brands that attempt to do this through a partnership with an individual, an organization, or a cause are either jumping on a trend, or trying to bag some quick cash. I’m sure those things happen, and will probably continue to happen, but it’s all the more reason to highlight the brands that do it right, and forge what appear to be authentic partnerships. Coming out of this recent experience with Oris, it’s clear to me that they’re telling the right stories about Hank Aaron with this watch, and that they are resonating. Oris

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.