The Oris Divers Sixty-Five was one of our favorite watches of last year. Many across the watch world fell in love with its unabashed old-school mentality with modern-day quality, myself included. It’s a piece that seems to be destined for collectible status in the future. Now, for 2016, Oris appears to have made an instant classic even more impressive with the stunning Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition.
This isn’t Oris’ first foray into releasing special editions based on important historical figures, as we’ve previously covered their John Coltrane Limited Edition, but continues that piece’s trend of relatively simple yet breathtaking design. It’s also based on another worthy individual in Carl Brashear, the first African-American Master Diver in the U.S. Navy, as well as its first amputee diver. Brashear was a pioneer not just against racial prejudice, but in recovery from disability, and was the inspiration for the 2000 film “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
The case design here is pure Divers Sixty-Five, slim and relatively unadorned with long tapered lugs and narrow bezel, but reimagines that shape in striking bronze, adding raised markers to the new bronze bezel insert, and upsizes the whole package from 40 to a more modern 42mm. These two changes actually have a way of offsetting each other, as the change from a black to a case-material bezel takes away the all-dial appearance of the Divers Sixty-Five and would help the watch to wear slightly smaller than its size. Around back, the caseback remains stainless steel, but receives a special diving helmet engraving along with an edition number and an inspirational quote from Brashear himself- “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down”. The Carl Brashear Limited Edition boasts the same 100 meter water resistance as the original Divers Sixty-Five, which may be a deal-breaker for some but would be adequate for swimming and general daily use.
The dial is unique to the Carl Brashear Limited Edition, and dramatically changes the look of the watch. In place of the original’s graphic, mid-century chic numerals is a set of more traditional diver’s indices (triangle at 12, horizontal bars at 3 and 9, small circular markers everywhere else but 6) in SuperLuminova-filled applied rose gold, surrounded by a bold, gilt minutes track. The handset is given the same rose gold treatment, but retains the same style as its Divers Sixty-Five predecessor. Moving on to the base dial itself, the dial color has been changed from gloss black to a deep midnight blue, appearing almost black in some lights. It’s a subtle, attractive nod to the piece’s inspiration, like the the “Blue Train” minute track on the John Coltrane Limited Edition, and one that works here wonderfully.
Inside the Carl Brashear Limited Edition beats the same Oris Cal. 733 as the Divers Sixty-Five. While essentially an in-house modified Sellita SW200, the Cal. 733 remains a reliable choice that offers 28,800 bph smoothness. In place of the Divers Sixty-Five’s buttery soft rubber tropic band is a bespoke brown leather strap with a signed bronze buckle. While not the most obvious choice for a diver, the leather complements both the dark blue of the dial and the bronze case well. In addition, since both bronze and leather gather unique wear and patina over time, it’s a relationship that grows deeper and more complex over time.
Overall, the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition offers a unique and gorgeous new take on the brand’s already attractive diver, and the limited run of 2000 will be available for just under $2600 when they go on sale later this year.