Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date Review

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Twenty-fourteen was a big year for Oris. First they unveiled their mighty in-house 10-day caliber, showing that they were going to start to focus more on manufacturing movements in the coming years, an exciting development. Then, shortly after, at Basel they revealed a new line, the Big Crown ProPilots. Of what we saw in Basel last year, these watches were amongst our favorites. They were simple, clean pilot’s watches with cool case details and a modern, but restrained design. Nothing too wild, but they resonated with our tastes and general interests in military and tool watches. Plus, how often does a brand make a pilot watch that doesn’t look like every other pilot watch out there?

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At Basel they showed us three models, the GMT Chronograph, the big day/date and the date. Subsequently, they released the crown jewel of the collection, the uniquely Oris, ProPilot Altimeter. Altogether, it’s a logical quartet of watches, giving a nice range in size, complication and price. But while the GMT chrono and Altimeter have fun bells and whistles, the one that really called out to me was the basic date model. It’s restrained and no-nonsense, but moreover, it’s nicely sized at 41mm, while the others range from 44 to 47mm.

As I’m always on the hunt for well-sized watches; watches that pay more attention to proportions than trends, the ProPilot date struck a chord. The case is compact, but big enough to have presence. The dial is super legible with larger than average numerals that somehow don’t crowd. All around, it’s just a good new pilot offering for those who are a fan of the genre. As this is Oris, the watch is Swiss-made with and features the Oris 751, which is a modified Sellita SW220-1 with their signature red rotor and extra large date text. Coming in at $1,550 as shown on a textile strap, the price is on the high side, though admittedly lower than I expected. As you’ll see, the quality is there and any Swiss brand available at retail will demand a higher price.

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$1550

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
Oris 751/ SW220-1
Dial
Matte Black
Lume
BGW9
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Nylon
Water Resistance
100M
Dimensions
41 x 49mm
Thickness
12.3mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
7
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1550

Case

If I were to make one general complaint about pilot’s watches, it’s that after seeing many the cases all seem the same, and can get a bit boring. Well, Oris seems to have thought the same thing and really pushed to make something interesting with the ProPilot. It speaks to pilot watches, but has unique details and perfect machining. Measuring 41 x 49 x 12.3mm, the ProPilot date is a good middle size that should work for both small and large wrists.

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Looking at the case from above, you have fairly classic pilots lines, though with a touch more fluidity, making it feel more modern. The 20mm lugs are thick and contour gently into the case with a smooth transition. The real eye grabber though, and the most unique design element on the watch and series, is clearly the bezel. It’s a non-rotating bezel, with a machined insert that has a twisting turbine pattern. This simple element, which granted is decorative, changes everything. It at once refers to coin edged military watches from the early 20th century, as well modern aviation with the jet reference. It’s eye-catching, expertly executed, but doesn’t overtake the watch either; the whole package is still very clean and reserved.

Looking at the case form the side, you can appreciate the construction and machining more. The turbine insert actually sits below the edge of the lugs, so you have this cool little detail where the lugs and bezel meet. The shape from the side continues the smooth modern feel, as it gently curves down to contour to the wrist. The sides are very lightly brushed, giving the watch a satin sheen, but in a moment of machined beauty, the bottom edge is bevel and high polished, giving a touch of contrast.

At 3, as the name would suggest, is a big crown. A really big crown, in fact, measuring 7 x 4mm, it is both wide and tall. Though large, it suits the watch and doesn’t look out of place. It’s also well detailed with grooves along its side that upon reaching the beveled end, twist ever so slightly, continuing the turbine theme. The slight twist is actually very noticeable when you touch the crown, as it feels like it’s grabbing your skin a bit (not in a bad way). The crown does screw in, helping with the 100m water resistance.

Flipping the watch over, you have a screw-down display case back. The edge of the case back also has the turbine texture, tying everything together. Inside, you can see the Sellita SW220-1, which is basically undecorated save the signature Oris red high-mech rotor. I’m not sure what material the red is, probably an enamel. It’s cool looking though the rest of the movement seems rather plain, making we wonder if a solid case back with some art might have been a better option.

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Dial

The dial of the ProPilot date is one of the more straightforward I’ve seen on a pilot. Yes, they are all to-the-point by nature, but this one seems even more so. The primary index consists of large BGW9 lumed numerals in white. The typeface chosen is fairly thin and wide, making the numbers extremely legible. There is a slightly larger than normal date window at 3 showing a white date on a black surface. Though the date doesn’t match the numerals in typeface or size, it doesn’t look out of place either.

Around the edge of the dial is a minutes/seconds index of thin white lines and larger lumed rectangles at intervals of 5. Above 12 is a small chevron shape, referring to the triangles typically found on pilot’s watches as well as Oris’ BC3 and BC4 watches. And that’s that for index. Nothing fussy, nothing particularly stylized, no textures or elevation changes… Just some big numbers and some dashes. While that might sound boring, it works. The proportions are right, the typeface is attractive and it’s readable from miles away. The only other details are the Oris logo below 12 and block text reading “Big Crown ProPilot” above 6, both in a reserved fashion.

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The hour and minute hands of the ProPilot are something between alpha hands and swords. They are both white with lume filling, and taper to a near point as they move away from the center. These are actually taken from their BC4 watches, but work well on this dial. The seconds hand is then an all black stick with a red tip. I like how down-played the seconds hand is as the touch of red is nice, but not overwhelming, and at a glance the minute and hour are incredible clear. At night, the hour and minute hands glow brightest on the dial, with the numbers following. Because the number are thin, the lume is a bit lackluster in that area.

If you look at the Oris aviation collection together, the source of the dial design becomes clear. The ProPilot line sits between their Big Crowns, classic aviation, and their BC3 Advanced series, which are tough and tactical, with a touch of their BC4’s, their big square instrument watches. The ProPilots being a spiritual update of the BigCrown and perhaps a replacement for the latter two, which have been around for some time with little update. The case of the ProPilots speaks more to the Big Crowns, while the dial seems adapted from the BC3’s with the hands of the BC4’s. All together, the 4 lines create a nice harmony, though they might also compete with one another.

Straps and Wearability

The version of the ProPilot date we received features their olive textile/nylon strap. The watch is also available with either grey or black textile, black leather or a bracelet, with costs varying. Pilot’s watches always end up on olive nylon straps one way or another, and it’s the least expensive option, so I wanted to try that one out. The strap looks great on the watch. The material has a heavy weave, so it’s got a toothy texture that is rugged. The tone is a perfect olive, neither too drab nor too green. The strap itself tapers, has black calf leather lining and is padded, giving it a solid, well constructed feel.

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Completing it is a very unique deployant clasp. The first curious thing is that it doesn’t pop through sizing holes on the strap… there are none in fact. Rather the material feeds through a little clamp, allowing you to adjust it by tiny increments. While this works, it also is a bit difficult to do, as the material doesn’t want to feed through, and it crimps the strap, so if you need to resize for some reason or sell the watch, the strap will be a bit damaged. The other unique aspect is how it closes. The buckle is a latch that you lift up to disengage (it even says lift on it!), making it feel like a seat belt or harness.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the strap looks good on the watch, is well made and has a clever buckle, it’s very uncomfortable, bordering on unusable. The issue is with the deployant. As with other deployants, there is a long hinge that is inside that allows the strap to open, and get off your wrist, without ever fully coming apart…standard on all bracelets too… The problem is that here, it rides up the side of your wrist, and doesn’t contour properly. So it both jabs into you, and actually pushes against the strap, making it wear off center. The issue could actually be that by sizing the sides of the straps in a typical fashion, the deployant buckle is centered, while the mechanism is too far over. So the whole thing should have been shifted. I think a better solution would have actually been a butterfly version for symmetry, though that’s a whole different design.

Luckily, straps are meant for changing, so I tried it out on a Di-Modell Chronissimo, which fit like it was custom tailored for the watch. The notched design matched up perfectly with the lugs, continuing the flow of the case into the strap. The rugged, over finished padding complimented the more masculine elements of the case, while the black leather and off-white stitch brought out the dial. Naturally, any other 20mm strap could work too, but this is the kind of watch the Chronissimo is meant for.

Regardless, once on your wrist, this watch really comes together. On my 7″ wrist, I felt the size was near perfect for something with a bit more presence. I do like 38 and 39mm pilot’s I’ve tried too, which feel nimble and discreet. This is more like a sensible large. The dial is big, clear and incredibly easy to read from every angle. The case is then surprisingly elegant. The turbine details are at once aggressive and beautiful, adding an industrial flair. The smooth curves and modern lines actually downplay the size a bit too, certainly making the watch look a bit thinner.

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While the watch is clearly sporty by nature as most pilots are, it’s also very refined. As such, I feel like this one is very versatile depending on your strap option. On a bracelet or a leather strap, this would fit in at the office with ease. Put a nylon strap or a rubber and use it in more active situations. Wear it with a blazer, wear it with a leather jacket, wear it with shorts and a t-shirt. No matter what it will look at home.

Conclusion

The Oris BigCrown ProPilot is one of the better pilot’s watches I have had the chance to try out… well in terms on non-piloting needs. Like all of Oris’ watches, it’s beautifully made, well designed and different, but not shocking. The most notable detail is the turbine patterning on the bezel, crown and case back, which give the watch just enough personality. It’s not an attention grabbing watch, it’s not a loud watch, it’s just a good watch that interprets the pilots vocabulary in a new and modern way. A way that makes it attractive and very nice to wear.

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The issues I found with the strap are unfortunate, so I would recommend going for the leather or bracelet options, or just swapping it out immediately. It was just too uncomfortable and awkward to wear for a prolonged amount of time. Otherwise, I really have no gripes with this watch. Of course, it’s also pricy. On nylon it’s $1,550 MSRP. In reality, you might get it from less, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that’s the price. Well, it makes sense… this is a genuine Swiss-made watch with a Swiss automatic movement that is available at retail. Oris is also an opening price point luxury brand whose watches are generally in the $2K+ range, so this is close to their entry point.

Is it worth it? Well, that’s always the toughest question. It’s a very enjoyable and well-made watch, so I know if you bought it you wouldn’t regret it. While it’s more than say a Hamilton, I think it’s closer in quality to Sinn, whose watches start only a little below this in price. Compare it up to Bell&Ross, Breitling or Tag Heuer, and it’s a great value. Either way, I think it’s a great new line for Oris to carry, one that alongside their 10-day movement and tough-as-nails divers, show that the brand is doing some great stuff. We’re looking forward to seeing what they have in store for 2015.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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22 responses to “Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date Review”

  1. 200 Fathoms says:

    I LOVE this watch. The size, the hands, the typeface for the numerals, the details on the case. The whole thing just comes together perfectly.

  2. Thomas says:

    That bezel and crown knurling is just phenomenal.

  3. The bezel turned me off when I first saw photos of this last year, but seeing it again now, I think it’s a great detail. I want to want this, but at $1550 I think I lean towards Sinn or Damasko right now. Though, if I get to handle one of these, then I could be swayed. It is a very nicely detailed watch.

  4. Will__Gibb says:

    I’m sure its more for the sake of the photograph, but I thought that was obvious.

  5. Jesper_SB says:

    Nice detailing but IMO overpriced for what you actually get.

  6. kennykid says:

    It’s a shame about the strap, it looks really good and the tight weave really compliments the bezel. Might have to peek at the other models. Great review.

  7. paulielab says:

    I’m wearing the same watch right now! I’m very happy with it. I do think he’s a little drastic about the strap. I’ve never found it uncomfortable. Oris definitely makes some great watches….

  8. Sagi says:

    That Chronissimo strap should be shipped with the watch, Perfect!

  9. 200 Fathoms says:

    ??

  10. Just you, right now 🙂
    That’s wear watches naturally rest on my wrist… further up feels really weird.

  11. Kodachromeguy says:

    If you want a slightly smaller watch, Oris has a 38mm “Swiss Hunter Team”. The case has the same gorgeous turbine-type ribbing. The face is different with 3 – 6 -9 -12 only.

  12. blowfish says:

    Zach, in the specs, I suppose the dimensions should be 41×49 (and not 41×59) ??

  13. r_s_g says:

    I just had the opportunity to try this on with the stainless bracelet. I didn’t have a chance to handle the model with the canvas strap, but the bracelet is really excellent.

  14. Ron Mexico says:

    Really love the detail on the crown and bezel.

  15. Coop says:

    I just ordered one–thanks to your review and awesome pics. NOTE: If you’re reading this and interested in the watch; you can find it for about half of the MSRP with a quick Google search.

  16. Andrew Camus says:

    Great review, need to see an HD youtube video. Will one be coming?

  17. Aaron says:

    I don’t suppose you have any pics of this on a Natural Model 2 strap, pretty please???

  18. Waikato7 says:

    I really like this. Considering buying myself one for Christmas.

  19. justinslc says:

    I read this review prior to ordering this watch, and was concerned about the comfort of the nylon strap and deployant clasp. After more than a week of wear, I haven’t had any issues. My wrist size is 7.5″, slightly bigger than the reviewer, so maybe that moves the clasp into a more comfortable position.