Review: Oris Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy”

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Bronze watches have historically been something of a blindspot for me, personally. While bronze is one of the oldest metals to be used by human beings, the ubiquity of bronze watch cases is a relatively new development, and as I’ve seen them rise in popularity over the past several years, my response has been the equivalent of a shrug. Bronze, of course, ages somewhat rapidly, and develops a unique layer of patina as the case reacts with the atmosphere around it. As someone who has always put a premium on intricate case finishing in new watches, and immaculate preservation and originality (in every sense of the word) when it comes to vintage, bronze, for me, just never held a lot of interest. 

When Oris announced their Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy” watches at Watches & Wonders this year, it was immediately apparent that they’d hit on something that would at the very least capture the watch community’s attention for a moment, even if the watches themselves didn’t turn out to be instant classics. And in today’s watch climate, that’s honestly the best a brand can hope for. There is so much churn, and so many new watches to cover, capturing a watch news cycle (indeed, that’s a thing) is a victory. Besides, it takes time, years and years, for a watch to be considered a true classic. Show me a watch that someone (even me!) described as an instant classic, I’ll show you a watch that easily has as many detractors as enthusiastic supporters. 

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So why did the Cotton Candies get so much attention? It’s a combination of factors, to be sure, but the colorful, effervescent dials play a large role. You just don’t see a ton of watches with dials in pastel shades, and even fewer in a true pink. The bronze case and bracelet are doing some of the work here as well – watches in this material by now have a built in fanbase, and they’re particularly popular in well executed vintage inspired designs like the Divers Sixty-Five, a platform for Oris that at this point has fully matured into a pillar within their catalog.

Those are the reasons the Cotton Candy watches generated clicks and page views on release day, but if there’s a factor here that’s going to make them classics, or at least well regarded, enthusiast focused watches for years to come, it’s the case size. It’s not headline fodder, but a small adjustment to the Divers Sixty-Five case has given it truly universal and pleasing proportions, and once you wear it for a bit, it easily steals the thunder of the summer ready colorways and playful nickname. If we’re talking about anything related to these watches five, ten, or twenty years from now, let it be the perfectly sized 38mm case. 

$2750

Review: Oris Divers Sixty-Five “Cotton Candy”

Case
Bronze
Movement
Oris 733
Dial
Sky blue, Wild green, and Lipstick pink
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Bronze bracelet or leather strap
Water Resistance
100 meters
Dimensions
38 x 48mm
Thickness
12mm
Lug Width
19mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Price
$2750

Case 

My immediate thought when I put the Cotton Candy (the blue one) on my wrist for the first time was, surprisingly, “Well, I don’t even care that this is bronze.” That’s meant as a compliment, coming as it is from someone who has yet to be sold on the idea of a bronze watch, and would likely never consider actually owning one. But the size of this Divers Sixty-Five case makes what in my opinion is a less than ideal material for a watch case something of an afterthought. It’s amazingly comfortable, in perfect proportion, and I imagine that a case in these dimensions could be worn effortlessly by anyone, regardless of wrist size or gender. You may even choose to risk a nickel allergy reaction to enjoy this watch on the bracelet (the caseback is stainless steel, so this common issue is mitigated somewhat, and I personally experienced no allergic reactions to the bracelet, likely because of the chosen alloy).

Let’s talk dimensions. Since its introduction, the Divers Sixty-Five has come in a variety of case sizes, from an ultra compact 36mm all the way up to 43mm for chronograph equipped variants. If there’s a “standard” size in the Sixty-Five line it’s likely 40mm, and these watches wear extremely well in my experience and have a solid wrist presence. But the new Cotton Candy watches come in at 38mm, and it’s the perfect diameter for the Sixty-Five that we didn’t know we were missing out on. At just two millimeters smaller than what many will be used to in a Divers Sixty-Five, Oris has succeeded in making something that not only emulates the style of a vintage watch, but actually feels like one in a very real way. 

The 38mm case has a slim profile and finished simply, but nicely
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If you are used to modern watches, or have a large wrist and fear anything below 40mm, this would be a great case to try on to get a feel for what happens when you size down just a bit. The lug to lug length is about 48mm, which is on par with watches that are slightly bigger, and the result is a case that has great balance and feels and looks elegant, particularly on the extremely tapered bracelet. It’s just about 12mm thick (including the crystal) based on my measurements, and would easily slide under any cuff (although I can’t think of a watch less suited to wearing with a shirt that has cuffs).

The geometry of the case is extremely simple – you won’t find any beveling to speak of here, and the finishing is straightforward with polished case sides and brushing on the top of the lugs. The emphasis is definitely on the size of the case itself, and the relationship of the bronze to the color of the dial. The fact that the case is uncomplicated is itself a throwback to dive watches of the 60s, when mass produced dive watches that were targeted at practitioners of a burgeoning recreational sport ruled the day. The fact that there’s nothing exotic about the case enables Oris to successfully use it as a canvas for something more adventurous when it comes to dials, case materials, and combinations of the two, which is a theme we’ve seen play out through a stream of limited edition Divers Sixty-Five watches these last few years. 

When it comes to the use of bronze, I imagine most readers have likely made up their mind by this time on the virtues of the material in a sports watch. While I can’t deny that bronze watches can look great in photographs, it’s never been a look that I’ve personally found very appealing. A huge question mark with these watches (really, any bronze watch) is what will happen once it starts to patina. The fact that this is largely unknowable is why I tend to prefer the predictability of steel, a material that picks up scratches and dings but doesn’t change character dramatically over time. But it’s worth pointing out that the patination process will be different for everyone, as it’s so dependent on the environment you expose the watch to, and your own body chemistry. Not all bronze alloys are created equally, either. Some will remain relatively stable and resist patina, others change dramatically in no time at all. Anecdotal reports would seem to indicate the mix that Oris uses is somewhere in the middle – for a great rundown of how these cases patina in stages, check out this post from friend of the Worn & Wound pod, watchsymmetry. Thomas’s post is also a good reminder that patina on a bronze watch is not permanent, and can be “cleaned” with relative ease if the wearer chooses to do so. 

Dial

The Cotton Candy gets its name from the playful dial colors on offer from Oris, and I struggle to think of a more appropriate designation. Cotton candy, to me, brings to mind memories of childhood summers, state fairs, time with friends and family, and consuming pure sugar before the concept of carbohydrates had entered into my mind. There’s something inherently unserious about cotton candy (where most childhood comfort foods have been dressed up and fancified at some point, cotton candy is still just cotton candy) and that idea is nicely transposed to these dive watches, which Oris claims have a simple and noble goal: to bring a smile to the face of those who see them.

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Three options are available at launch, and I was fortunate to spend time with all of them. There are blue, green, and pink variants to choose from, and all are in soft, pastel shades. Pastel dials are extremely welcome, as most of the color we see in new watches tends to be of the bright and bold variety. It’s tougher to pull off a softer tone, and I imagine there is less built in appeal for watches in these colors, if only because they are less common and not as well understood. But visually I find them all very appealing and Oris has done a great job of creating a watch that feels meant to be worn at the pool, a beach, an outdoor concert, a vacation of any kind, or in any situation where relaxation and leisure are the highest priority. These aren’t tool watches, unless you need a tool for having fun and maintaining a blissed out vibe. 

The minute track, in white, blends in nicely with the pastel dials

The layout of these dials is going to be familiar to anyone who has spent much time looking at other variants of the Divers Sixty-Five. We have circular and rectangular hour markers, a date at 6:00, and a simple and legible handset. A nice detail here is that the hour markers and hands have bronze colored surrounds to match the case. Also, the dial text and open minute track are in white on all three watches, which has the effect of allowing the pastel colors to breathe a bit – if these details had been done in black, they’d be incredibly distracting. Normally you want a minute track to stand out and have some contrast within the dial for legibility, but the opposite has been achieved here and it’s a win in my estimation as it keeps the focus on the color choice. 

The hands and markers are, of course, filled with lume, and I imagine the choice to go full radium colored tint here will be a point of contention for many. The pastel dials coupled with the bronze of the case and the familiar faux aged lume color is a little jarring at first – we simply don’t see combinations like this and the choices here are a bit unusual. Over the course of my time with the watches, I eventually got used to what I was seeing, and grew to appreciate the use of faux-tina to connect the dial to the tone of the case. A question that can only be answered in time, though, is how these color combinations will look as the case begins to age. Surely a patinated case will appear much darker than it does in these photos, and while the case and markers “match” when the watch is fresh, they won’t over the course of time. It’s definitely something to keep in mind if the similarity in color between the case material and dial accents is part of the appeal of this watch to you. If that’s the case, you might want to bone up on how to remove patina from aged bronze.

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As far as a preference goes, after spending some time with each dial, I find myself in the blue camp, but this obviously comes down to something that’s completely subjective. I was quite surprised by how much I liked the pink dial, and found that in certain lighting conditions it could almost pass for red. Mostly I just admire Oris for being willing to experiment a bit here, and choose less than common dial colors in a format that should in theory have mass appeal. The easy thing to do would be to debut this new case size with a traditional blue or black dial, but they went in another, slightly riskier direction, and they deserve some credit for that. 

Movement 

The Cotton Candy is powered by the Oris 733 caliber, which is a modified Sellita SW 200-1. This is a perfectly fine choice for a watch like this, and in my brief time with these watches they all performed exactly as expected, with smooth winding and setting action, and no technical issues whatsoever. Regular readers know that Oris has introduced a new, in-house movement of their own design recently, the Caliber 400, and while some might have preferred that this watch carry the new movement, I think sticking with a Sellita based option to keep costs down is the right choice for a watch like this. At $2,750 at retail, these bronze Divers Sixty-Fives are more than fairly priced, and I can imagine a collector that’s curious about playing with an unusual color could take a flyer on one. The somewhat comparable Caliber 401 equipped Carl Brashear limited edition that was released in January went for over $4,000 (and that’s without a bracelet), so the price differential is meaningful. 

Straps and Wearability 

The Divers Sixty-Five bracelet is the secret weapon of the product line in my opinion. The Oyster-style bracelet has a pronounced taper and is incredibly lightweight, so it feels great on the wrist and has a satisfying and flattering drape. I’m a fan of bracelets in general, but go back and forth between the charming chintziness of vintage style bracelets and the tougher more technical bracelets on modern watches. Getting it right is a balancing act that’s tough to pull off. If you want modern conveniences like on the fly adjustment at the clasp, you’re looking at bracelets that are going to be thicker and heavier. To get the feel and charm of something vintage, you make certain sacrifices in overall build quality. It’s a challenge, and anyone who has struggled with bracelet comfort on a hot day or just can’t get the sizing right for lack of micro-adjustment or half links will understand. It can be enough to make you want to switch to nylon, permanently. 

The bracelet is a highlight of any Divers Sixty-Five
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The Divers Sixty-Five bracelet certainly veers more toward the vintage side of things (as it should) but it doesn’t feel cheap in any way. I imagine this might be what a completely fresh from the factory Submariner bracelet might have felt like in the 1970s. It feels solid, but has a lightness to it. You can tell that it’s well built and will hold together, but it doesn’t have the (likely unnecessary) bank vault precision in its tolerances. The clasp is impressively thin and narrow, and has plenty of old-school micro-adjustment capability through the use of a tool (a toothpick will do). This is just fine with me – on a watch like this I’d trade push button adjustment at the clasp for complete and total comfort ten times out of ten. 

The Cotton Candy is also available on a leather strap, and as with any vintage style diver, it will look great on leather, and the bronze color of the case ought to be plenty versatile for a variety of colors and textures. But if you’re thinking of buying this watch, not owning the bracelet is a mistake. The full bronze look certainly isn’t for everyone, but even if I ultimately found the visual impact to not be entirely to my taste, I don’t think I’d want to wear the watch any other way, as the bracelet is simply so comfortable and effortless. 

Conclusion

I’m not a bronze watch convert after experiencing the Cotton Candy, but Oris is most definitely onto something with this new case size. This watch, I think, should be viewed as a fun experiment, and not a statement of purpose from the brand in any way. The fact that the experiment is largely a success, however, makes me think that this watch could lead to all kinds of new things under the Divers Sixty-Five umbrella in the future. 

First and foremost, the case is a big winner. If they make this 38mm case in stainless steel, with traditional dial options, it would be an absolute homerun. What’s strange about the revelation of how great 38mm is though is that it’s a complete surprise. With the plentiful options already available, I don’t know of anyone who was really clamoring for a Sixty-Five in a 38mm size, as the 40mm case seemed to be fairly well liked, and a 42mm case is out there as well if you want something more modern looking. And yet here we are, with a new 38mm option that in my opinion is the best yet for the Sixty-Five. It feels like the right size for this watch and somehow more true to the spirit of its 60s inspiration than previous versions. And, speaking as someone with a larger than average wrist, it absolutely makes sense for those of us who might regularly wear watches that are considerably larger day to day. Try it out, and I think most will be convinced based on the overall comfort factor alone.

As far as the new colors go, we’ll see how these are adopted by Oris customers over time. The early buzz is positive, but I think the real test for the Cotton Candy will be in how these watches age. We’ll know soon enough, as Instagram is full of amatauer (and professional!) scientists who will advance the ageing process on these cases artificially. I’m very curious to see how these pastel dials look after the bronze surrounding them darkens up a bit and gains some of the irregularities that are commonly associated with bronze patina. 

Oris is a very customer focused brand – they take cues from their clients and are unusually accessible via social media and their large authorized dealer network compared to other comparably sized Swiss brands. It’s nice to see a brand like this do something out of the box like the Cotton Candy watches because it’s not only a reflection of their willingness to experiment and go against the grain a bit, but they must also have a sense that their customers want something like this too. It’s refreshing, particularly coming out of such a miserable time period that we’ve all been through, that the enthusiast community, at least in Oris’s eyes, is ready for something that’s a pure confection. We could all use more watches that are made to simply be fun. 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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