Introducing the Oris Art Blakey Limited Edition

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Last week, at the Birdland Jazz Club, Oris’ top brass unveiled their latest in an ongoing series of watches inspired by great jazz musicians. This particular watch, made in honor of the great drummer and bandleader Art Blakey, is a sophisticated and stylish exercise in retro-cool design, completely befitting of its jazz inspired origins, but, quite simply, good looking enough to pull off even if you’re not remotely a jazz enthusiast. That said, understanding the story and the music behind the watch contributes greatly to one’s appreciation of it.

Oris Art Blakey Limited Edition 

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Silver white opaline 
  • Dimensions: 38mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire  
  • Water Resistance: 3 bar  
  • Crown: Push/pull  
  • Movement: Oris 733, base SW 200-1
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather strap
  • Price: $2100
  • Reference Number: 01 733 7762 4081-Set
  • Expected Release: Available now

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Over cocktails and a lengthy set of Art Blakey’s favorite compositions performed by a tight band assembled just for this occasion, Oris’ guests were able to take in the new watch and experience it largely as, I imagine, the designers intended. The Art Blakey Limited Edition is a simple, art deco influenced piece of vintage-inspired design. A time-only watch equipped with a simple automatic movement, this is a watch with no distractions whatsoever. The dial is clean and spare, silver in tone with minute and applied hour markers along its perimeter. Those applied markers, seen everywhere except 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00, provide a gratifying symmetry to the dial, and represent one of the small tributes to Blakey himself, as each is fashioned in the shape of a bass drum claw. The other obvious jazz-inspired design touch, an etched case-back made to resemble a hi-hat cymbal, is similarly well-executed, but this watch is all about capturing an attitude and a vibe, not the accumulation of jazz-related Easter eggs. 

Takashi Blakey saying a few words with Oris co-CEO Rolf Studer

At 38mm in diameter, the Art Blakey Limited Edition is sized just right for a watch of this type, and wears easily on the wrist thanks to its gently curved lugs. My favorite little detail that I think Oris really nailed, is the handset. Both the minute and hour hands are long and thin, lending plenty of elegance to the watch. The thinnest sliver of Super-Luminova is applied to each hand, giving the wearer just the hint of additional legibility they need. It would have been easy to use a larger more contemporary hand-set here, so I think Oris deserves credit for understanding the DNA of this piece and letting the vintage influence come to the surface. 

Takashi Buhaina Blakey, one of Art Blakey’s sons, was on hand at the Birdland unveiling of his father’s limited edition watch, and toward the end of the evening, he relayed a story to the crowd that gets to the heart of why Oris would choose to honor his father. At a concert during an African tour later in the drummer’s career, Blakey asked the promoter of the show why only white attendees were lined up for the concert. When he was told that his black fans couldn’t afford tickets to see him play, Blakey promptly offered to purchase tickets for those fans out of his own pocket, and demanded they be allowed into the venue. Blakey passed away in 1990, but you get the sense from stories like that why his memory continues to live on among jazz fans.

The Art Blakey Limited Edition, priced at $2100, is available now from Oris. Only 1000 collectors sets will be made. 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.
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