It has already been a very interesting year for Oris. In their 110th year as an active watch brand they released an in-house caliber with an incredible 10-day power reserve coupled with a non-linear power reserve, a first in the industry, which you can read about here. While this is a massive achievement for the brand, it’s also a sign of the mechanical watch industry getting back to a point of popularity where brands can get back to their roots. Oris is an old brand, one that for many years produced everything including escapements, in-house. The Cal. 110 is cornerstone in their rebuilding of that brand.
But, for most of us, Oris is a brand about accessibly priced Swiss-made mechanical watches. They are far from the least expensive watches out there, but more authentic and unique than many other retail brands they compete with. With far less marketing, no absurd ambassadors, and a focus on robustness, mechanical complications and design, they are one of the larger Swiss brands that caters to enthusiasts. A quick browse of their line will reveal a vast array of watches, from elegant dress pieces to tool divers to racing chronographs. Yet, despite covering the typical ground that a large watch brand does, you’ll find that the watches themselves have a personality that is distinct. From simple to downright quirky, Oris is one of the few brands that does things differently.
A great example of an Oris that is off the beaten path for a mainstream watch, yet full of unique value, is the one we’ll review today, the Oris Aquis Regulateur “Der Meistertaucher” (master diver). Residing in their “Aquis” line, one of 3 lines of divers Oris produces, this all titanium regulateur was released at BaselWorld 2013. Oris has a few “Der Meistertauchers”, a name they give the regulateurs, in their dive lines, and it’s a particularly unique approach to a dive watch. What makes the Aquis different is that it comes in at a modest-by-comparison 43mm, others measuring a whopping 49 and 46mm.
For those unfamiliar, a regulateur is a watch in which the primary functions are separated into distinct dials. Typically, the arrangement is to have a sub-seconds, sub-hours and central minutes (actually, only Meistersinger with their Singulator mix this up), allowing for a more precise read of the individual functions. Whether or not this is true in practice is up to the user, but what it does do is provide much greater emphasis on the minute hand, which has a logical place on a dive watch. Think of this as their alternate take on the oversized orange “Plongeur” hands seen so often.
Beyond practical applications, let’s face it, most of us are above ground, a regulateur is an interesting mechanical complication that is fairly rare, especially on an automatic. In order to achieve this, Oris developed a module that attaches to a Selitta SW-220, creating the Oris cal. 749. Apart from the movement, the Aquis regulateur features a 300m titanium case, double domed sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel and a solid Ti bracelet (and additional rubber strap, not shown). With an MSRP of $3,150, it’s many steps above the typical tool divers we discuss, but in-line with higher-end Swiss sport watches, and quite unique.
Oris Aquis Regulateur “Der Meistertaucher” Review
Movement: Oris 749 / Selitta SW-220
Strap: Titanium Bracelet + Rubber
Water Res.: 300m
Dimensions: 43 x 50mm
Lug Width: NA
Crown: 7 x 3 mm
Weight: 130g (sized for a 7″ wrist)
Nothing on the Aquis Regulateur feels like you’ve seen it a hundred times before, like so many other watches. The very geometry of the case itself is pleasantly different. Measuring 43 x 50 x 13.5mm, the case is large but manageable thanks to a modest lug-to-lug length. The short lugs are more than compensated for by being 7.5mm wide, creating very broad shoulders. The downside to this is that the lug width is 12mm, making it a proprietary fitting for Oris straps/bracelets. As a frequent strap changer, I usually stay away from lugs like this, though, as you’ll see later, I do happen to really like the accompanying bracelet for this watch.
From above, the dominant features are the bezel, the broad lugs, which cut away sharply and the crown guards on the right side of the case. Otherwise, the case sides appear to drop straight down. This is actually not what is going on, as a look from the side reveals that the case widens towards the bottom, and is slightly curved. This softens the overall look slightly, giving it a more nuanced feel.
The blunt crown guards that flank the large polished titanium screw-down crown are one of my favorite elements of the watch. Rather than being sculpted from the same block as the main case, they are a separate piece entirely that is bolted on. The material is slightly darker than the main case too. So on this side of the watch alone, you have brushed titanium case, which is medium grey, polished titanium crown and screws, which is lighter, and the crown guards, which are darker. This makes for a subtle, but dynamic play of tones that create an exciting and industrial palette. The crown itself has nice, wide grooves, making it very easy to grasp and turn when needed. On the opposite side, by 9, is an automatic HEV, for all your saturation diving needs.
The bezel edge over hangs the case slightly, and has wide deep teeth for great traction. It’s a 120 click uni-directional mechanism with a nice action. There is a touch of back play, though not enough to make a noticeable difference in the position of the bezel, and a solid amount of tension on the forward click. When turned, it has a light snap and lands on the spot.
The case back is very elegantly executed. The surface domes towards the display case back, which shows off Oris’ signature red rotor. What’s so well done here is that the removable portion of the case back is inset a few millimeters, but sits totally flush. There is a hair line where the two separate, but you can’t feel even the slightest change in elevation between the two, even if you run your finger right over it. Just great machining with high tolerance; the kind of details you want to find on a watch this price. Around the window are various details about the watch and 6 large circular indents, for removing the case back with an appropriate tool.
The case is pretty evenly finished all around with light brushing, though there are a few surprises here and there, such as with the crown guards. The bezel edge, HEV, and the angle portion of the lugs are also all polished to a mirror finish. This adds some nice contrast and a bit of a decorative glint, especially on the lugs. Generally speaking, the case is very well put together and machined; edges and transitions are crisp, moveable and added-on components have no unseemly gaps. Another beautiful execution is the constant slope from the brushed ceramic bezel into the domed sapphire crystal.
The Dial of the Aquis Regulateur “Der Meistertaucher” is a pleasant mix of bold graphic markings for at-a-glance readability, and smaller dashes and numerals for an overall technical feel. The regulateur functionality is strongly emphasized by really pushing the boldness of the minute hand, and down playing the hours and seconds. The main/minute index consists of large, applied lume markers that glow bright blue with steel surrounds. They each taper towards the center of the dial and bow slightly, for a soft form, which is part of the design vocabulary of all Aquis watches. Against the matte black surface, they stand out as needed.
Between each marker is a thin white line for the individual minutes, for precision reading. Off of the tip of each marker (unless cut off by a sub-dial or date window), towards the center of the dial, is a small numeral for reference. This is the type of detail that adds a technical feel, though is not very necessary for time-telling.
At 9 and 3 are sub-dials for the other standard time functions; seconds and hours respectively. Both are deeply debossed into the dial surface, creating a distinct break from the main surface. Both sub-dials feature an area of concentric circular graining, bordered by a flat area on which their respective indexes are printed. The seconds dial simply has lines at intervals of five, no numerals, no heavier weights. It’s basically just a reference to say the watch is active. The hour dial has numerals for the even hours and lines for the odd, for a clean and easy to read design. Oddly, both indexes are fully lumed, whereas I’d expect only the hours need to be.
A curious and enjoyable detail is that the sub-dials are different sizes, the hours’ being substantially larger. Logically, this create a hierarchy of information based on the scale of the dial: minutes > hours > seconds. Visually, this creates an asymmetry on an otherwise very balanced design. It’s not so great as to be weird looking, but it is quirky in a way I find very appealing. It also prevents the watch from looking like a bi-compax chronograph at a glance.
Writing on the dial is on par with most dive watches. There is a logo and “automatic” below twelve and “pressure resistant, 30BAR/300M” above 6. All are presented in a fairly small typeface, save the brand’s logo which is a bit larger and bolder. Within the seconds sub dial is a dark grey circle with “Ti” printed in it, referring to titanium construction. At 6 there is also a date window in lieu of a minutes numeral. The date is very discreet, with white text on a black surface. In terms of the window placement, typeface and color choice, this is an ideally executed date. It doesn’t disrupt or stand out, yet it’s easy to read and suits the design of the watch.
The bezel of the Aquis Regulateur has a pretty standard layout, and the same one used across the Aquis line. It features white lines for the first 15 minutes and then large, blocky numerals at intervals of ten with white lines at intervals of 5. The origin marker is the outline of a wide triangle with a lume dot. Overall the markers are clear and bold, making them easy to read. That said, I was very surprised to see that only the dot at the origin had lume filling. This seems a bit counterintuitive, especially given that the watch is so minutes focused.
The black ceramic insert is very nice, and a bit different from others I’ve seen. Typically, you find gloss or totally matte ceramic, but this has a more brushed finished. In turn, it looks a bit metallic and has a very nice sheen to it. Knowing that it is highly scratch resistant adds to the overall toughness of the watch.
While the dial and the case are both superb, chances are the first thing you’ll notice about the Aquis Regulateur is the seemingly floating minutes hand. The whole concept of the watch is to place more attention on the minutes hand, and they certainly achieved that goal. The hand itself is a large pointer arrow in read with lume filling. It appears to start half way between the center of the dial and the edge, but in reality there is a thin, matte black stem connecting it to the central pinion. It’s oversized, the only color on the dial, and extremely cool looking. You’re not going to glance at the watch and struggle to find it…not at all. In the dark, it also glows green, rather than blue, for a bit more distinction. The hour hand is then a small steel sword with lume filling and the seconds hand is a fully lumed stick. Once again, they create a hierarchy of forms.
The Aquis Regulateur “Der Meistertaucher” is powered by the Oris Cal. 749, which is a Selitta SW-220 with a regulateur module. It’s a 28-jewel automatic (there are two additional jewel over the 220) with hand winding, hacking seconds, date, regulateur function, 38hr power reserve and a frequency of 28,800 bph. Oddly, the SW-220 is a day-date movement, the day function having been removed entirely in this instance.
The 749 is sparse in terms of decoration, with the signature red rotor being all of the decorative effort. On one hand, I don’t think Oris is the type of brand that needs perlage and cote de geneve on their movements. They are more industrial and technical, so those typical forms of graining are a bit garish for them. As we saw on their in-house Cal. 110, simply brushing and beveling gets the job done. On the other hand, this movement looks a bit too dull. Some form of plating or brushing would have at least indicated that there was an effort put into aestheticizing the movement. As is, it looks like it is a base level movement.
Of course, the movement has been altered significantly by adding the regulator function, which is where the real value is here. You can’t see those components, but they did have to design and build something special for this purpose. These invisible parts are really the star of the show and a part of why this watch costs what it does. As said in the intro, regulateurs are uncommon, but automatic regulateurs are very rare; these divers and Bell&Ross’s regulateurs being the only that come to mind. More often you see them built off of Unitas or Peseux 7001 manual movements.
Straps and Wearability
The Aquis comes with a solid titanium bracelet and a rubber strap. I only had the opportunity to test the bracelet, but I think even if the rubber strap had been around, I would have not wanted to switch them. This bracelet is amazing. The proprietary lugs act as a built in end-link for the bracelet, so it comes off of the case in a very organic way. It also is essentially 26mm at the lug for a bold, chunky design, though it tapers quickly to 20mm at the clasp, for a comfortable fit. The links are all very thick and sculptural, with a faceted teardrop profile.
The central links are all brushed while the side links are polished, continuing the polished surface on the lugs. On one hand, I like to continuity in finishing this creates, on the other, it’s a bit blingy. While I didn’t feel like I was wear some diamond studded monstrosity, it definitely sparkles a bit in the light. They also pick up finger prints with no end. Perhaps only the inner beveled surface could have been polished while the rest was brushed or satin. The deployant clasp is also made of solid titanium, and is of the side button release variety. It also has a built in dive extension.
Of course, the proprietary lugs are a bit of a downer. Accessorizing watches with your own strap choices is part of the fun, and important for making a watch suit your specific style. They (all brand with lugs of this nature) essentially prevent this and tell you what your options are. I don’t like being told what to do (just ask my mom, former teachers, or any of my former bosses…) so this irks me. From a design perspective, it makes the bracelet fit ideally on the watch, so I understand that desire, but without a vast array of secondary straps to order from, it’s too limiting. That said, I loved this bracelet, but if I owned the watch, I would likely want to put leather on it from time-to-time or a NATO in the summer. I think all watches like this should come with a piece that allows you to attach your own straps, sort of like what Suppaparts makes for the eco-zilla and g-shock.
When you see this watch, it looks like a sizable amount of metal, especially with the bracelet, which has very thick, solid metal links. But, when you pick it up, you’ll be amazed at how light it is. Sized to fit a 7″ wrist, it came in around 130g; that’s nothing. The result is one of, if not “the”, most comfortable to wear divers I’ve ever put on. You get that rugged chunky look, but none of the fatigue. Typically, when I wear a heavy watch on a bracelet, I need to take it off here and there to let my wrist relax for a bit. That simply wasn’t the case with this. I could wear it all day, like it was a normal sized casual watch.
It also fits very nicely for a larger watch. 43mm is a healthy “large” size that will fit most wrists, and the 50mm lug-to-lug is very tolerable. The whole watch sits nicely in the center of my wrist, and feels thin thanks to the domed case back and crystal. And…just to reiterate, it’s so damn light, you’ll forget it’s on.
Aesthetically, I happen to quite enjoy it as well. It has the look of a very modern dive watch, but one that is sophisticated and restrained; nothing is too loud, nothing is too weird. The accent of the large red minute hand is a pleasant shock of color, but not one that dominates the watch. In reality, one gets pulled in by the array of markers, lines, numerals and sub-dials. This watch definitely is easy to get lost in during the day. As far as pairing with clothing, this is a very versatile watch. I’ve worn it with very casual attire and felt comfortable, also with a blazer and it looked great. It’s essentially neutral color-wise, so you can match it with anything.
There is a lot to like about the Oris Aquis Regulateur “Der Meistertaucher”. The comfort of the all titanium construction, the precise and well executed dial, the regulateur function to name a few. But, what really makes me like this watch is simply that it is different from the heard. It looks, feels and functions in its own way, a way that is distinctly Oris. No, it doesn’t reinvent the dive watch, far from it, but it doesn’t try to ape others’ designs either. And, it maintains a clean, handsome look.
The proprietary lugs and lack of lume on the bezel keep this from being a near perfect example of a modern dive watch. Sure, there are strong positives that could balance these issues out, such as the sheer comfort and fit of the watch, and the unique movement, but at $3,150, I don’t want to settle on issues. These might not be issues for you, so make your own judgement, but I’ve got to be honest.
And, of course, the price is high. For most of us, this is a watch you’d need to save for or sell off other watches for, so it has to be well worth it. As for whether or not the price is justified…that’s a tricky question. Everything about the watch exudes quality, so no issues there. It has a unique movement, albeit one that is under decorated, so that adds cost, but value as well. Are there watches out there that cost less but offer more? Yes. Are there watches out there that offer less and cost more? Tons… At a certain point, the playing field gets sort of flattened, and it’s hard to decipher one thing from another. In the end, it comes down to individual taste, and whether or not you are getting over charged, which is not the case here. What is also clear is that for a Swiss made retail titanium dive watch, this is certainly on par with the competition, and the only regulateur.
by Zach Weiss