Oris Shines With New Big Crown ProPilot Big Date Bronze

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One of the very first ‘good’ watches I bought new back in the late 1990s was an Oris Big Crown Commander. Dark blue dial, polished stainless case, coin-edge bezel, ETA movement visible through the sapphire back, elegant date pointer hand. It was a lovely thing and firmly on my list of ‘why on earth did you sell that, you absolute muppet?’ watches. I’ve looked for another without any luck for years.  So it’s fair to say I have a soft spot for Oris. They’re resolutely independent – always a good thing – and like doing things their own way; characteristics to admire in an often ‘me too’ industry.

All the more reason to be delighted to see them produce their Big Crown ProPilot Big Date with a bronze case.  Whilst far from their first bronze offering, this is the first time the ProPilot has appeared in the metal.  The plan is for the watch to become part of the permanent Oris line-up.

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So what do you get?  A multi-piece, 41mm bronze case with the characteristic Oris display back in stainless steel. The lugs are a strap-friendly 20mm, and as they’re relatively short and sculpted down, there’s no sense that this is a watch that will dominate your wrist. It’s good to see they’ve kept the angled coin-edge knurling on the bezel too; it stops the whole thing looking slabby. And, of course, there’s the trademark Big Crown that I remember from my old watch although it’s shrunk a bit over the years.

The dial is a paragon of read-at-a-glance legibility, as it should be on a pilot watch. Even if you never use it for flying (and avionics take care of most cockpit timing tasks anyway nowadays), a watch you need to squint at is a friend to no one. The ProPilot couldn’t be clearer unless it actually tapped you on the shoulder and told you the time. The clarity comes from good, old-fashioned white-on-black contrast applied numerals helped along by a matte texture, reflection-swallowing dial. The coated anti-reflective double-domed sapphire keeps any external distractions down nicely. 

Although it’s most definitely a pilot watch, it’s a different sort of pilot watch. Those applied numerals may be clear and easy, but they’re not the oversize, squared-off numbers one often sees. Instead they have a designed elegance about them. And the lighthouse hands are a change from the usual swords. The whole plot will be easy to read at night too; the hour markers and hands are white Super LumiNova filled.

Behind the dial is the 26 jewel Oris cal. 751 automatic movement, beating at 28,800vph/4Hz. The oversize date is instantaneously correctable and the movement hacks. There’s only a 38 hour power reserve, but how much of a chore is winding a watch after a couple of wristless days anyway? With this movement (based on the Sellita SW220-1) it’s a pleasure doing it – there’s a rather lovely mechanical lightness to the feel of winding the SW220-1. As ever with a ‘stock’ movement, there’s plenty of good news in terms of reliability, ease of servicing and pretty much guaranteed parts availability for as long as you need them.  

The straps on these are great – a robust fabric (Oris calls it ‘Ventile’) that’ll stretch for a couple of weeks and then stabilise to your wrist. But the best bit is the fastening. Rather than a prong buckle, Oris have used their ‘lift’ clasp, but this time in bronze. You just lift the leading edge of it and you can take your watch off easily. If you’ve not seen one of these, imagine an aircraft lap-strap belt buckle and you’ll be there.

The price is CHF 1,950, or just over $2,000 dollars.  Given the standard ProPilot comes over the line at not much less, it’s a decent price for a rather different sort of bronze-cased pilot watch. Oris

Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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