Review: the Oris Big Crown Calibre 473

There’s a lot of talk among watch collectors of “signature watches.” Watches that essentially serve to define a brand, or even an entire category. The Omega Speedmaster, for example, is a perfect example of a signature watch. Can you even imagine Omega without it? You can’t – it’s integral to the whole operation. They have other collections, sure, but they live and die with the Speedmaster. 

Does Oris have a signature watch? I walk by an Oris authorized dealer in my neighborhood just about every day, and there’s a giant decal on the side of their building prominently featuring an Oris Aquis. For as long as I can remember, this authorized dealer has had this kind of marketing in this specific place, always featuring an Aquis. Is the Aquis Oris’s signature watch? I think for many collectors it might be. It’s a modern tool watch (with an integrated bracelet, well before the hype) that has specs making it competitive with virtually any well known diver, but thanks to the aforementioned bracelet it has something unique about it that can only be Oris. 

It’s possible that to an even wider swath of customers, the Divers 65 is the Oris signature watch. I can remember when this watch was first reissued in a modern context, and it was something of a phenomenon. It put Oris on the map for many enthusiasts entering the hobby at the beginning of a boom time for the entire industry, and remains a key watch in the vintage throwback category that virtually every brand has made an attempt to capitalize on over the last decade. It’s affordable, easy to wear, and has an aesthetic appeal that’s been proven over the course of sixty years. 


I would argue, though, that Oris does indeed have a signature watch, but it’s not either of those divers. Oris has a complication in its toolset that, while not exclusive to them, they absolutely own in the contemporary marketplace. It’s a watch that (most of the time) has a vintage inspired look to it that’s considerably different from the vintage inspired looks of watches throughout the rest of Oris’s collection, and certainly from other brands. The watches in the Big Crown Pointer Date family are, to me, the most Oris of all Oris watches.


Review: the Oris Big Crown Calibre 473

Stainless steel
Calibre 473
Yes, hands and markers
Water Resistance
50 meters
38 x 45.7mm
Lug Width
Screw down

The Big Crown Calibre 473 is the latest entry in a long line of watches Oris has produced with the pointer date complication. This method of reading the date, via a long hand that points (imagine that) to a date on the dial’s perimeter, is decidedly old fashioned. It’s most commonly seen these days (and in earlier times, as well) in more complicated calendar watches that give you the day of the week and month in small apertures near the center of the dial. Stripping a watch of full calendar functionality but leaving the pointer date allows for a clean, legible dial presentation that also enables the wearer to visualize, at a glance, how deep we are into a given month. In short, it’s completely charming. I won’t say I wish more brands did it, because then it would rob Oris of their place as King of the Pointer Date, but I’m glad they still make these when most brands have long since moved on from the practice. 

The centerpiece of the watch, and its namesake, is a new in-house movement based on the automatic Calibre 400. Calibre 473 offers all of the technical benefits of its automatic siblings, but removes the rotor, providing an unobstructed view of the movement itself, including a rear facing power reserve indicator. My experience of test driving the Calibre 473 revolved around the movement in a way that few of these test runs do, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. We’ll get to all of that. First, let’s talk about that dial. 

The robin’s egg blue tone of the dial is impossible not to compare to the iconic color known world over as the signature shade of a certain prominent American jeweler. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s in the same family, and has largely the same impact. It makes me think of  Spring, is inherently casual, and has a playfulness built into the color itself that I think is really appealing. Tiffany & Co. insanity over the last few years, with seemingly every brand using a similar light shade of blue in something, has gone a little out of control. But Oris’s decision to use it here doesn’t seem like a ploy or capitalizing on a trend. We’re arguably at the tail end of the trend, anyway, and the color works with every big design decision made throughout the watch. It’s a nice match for the strap, as well as the white numerals, and on down the list. 

The layout of Oris pointer date watches is straightforward. We have Arabic numerals at each hour except for 6:00, where you’ll find a (very) small running seconds display. A railroad style minutes track (a match for the subsidiary seconds dial, a nice touch) sits just outside the hour markers, and beyond that you have your date ring. The time is read via pencil style hands that are lumed through their bodies. Hour markers are lumed as well, but this isn’t a dive watch, and I found the lume to be somewhat lackluster. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker unless you really need crazy lume for regular night use. I found that the hands were reflective enough in low light situations to appear easily when you needed to see them. 

If I have one minor complaint with the dial, it’s the size of the subsidiary seconds subdial. It feels very small, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but it seems somewhat out of proportion with the rest of the dial. If it were any larger, it would likely cut into (or eliminate entirely) the 5:00 and 7:00 markers on either side, which is a practice many watch enthusiasts deride. Personally, I don’t mind it, and think that slicing off parts of a numeral for a subdial is a nice little homage to a particular style of pocket watch dial that I have a fondness for. The goal with this iteration of the Big Crown, though, is clearly to generate something a little more contemporary, so I understand the reasoning in keeping things tidy. 

Almost every other version of the Pointer Date in the Oris catalog is running on a Sellita movement, which uses a centrally mounted seconds hand. The style of these watches is much more vintage forward and ornate. The typeface used for the Arabic numerals is a little finer, less blocky. And these watches famously use cathedral style hands that immediately recall an earlier period of watch design. The Caliber 400 series movement in this watch and the very similar Big Crown Pointer Date Caliber 403 both utilize a subsidiary seconds hand, necessitating a rethink of certain design principles. It’s interesting to see how one relatively small change in movement architecture (to say nothing of the more significant changes and improvements to movement function) resulted in a significant change in the overall visual impression of the watch. 

The case of the Calibre 473 is uncomplicated and succeeds in fulfilling its primary purpose, which is to provide a showcase for the beautiful dial, and be unobtrusive on the wrist. The finishing is nice, made up of a mix of satin brushed and polished surfaces, but not out of this world. It’s right at the midpoint between “tool watch brutalism” and “OMG, this is way too fancy for Taco Bell.” Which is to say, it’s ideal as a nice daily watch for the average American human being. 

A big part of the case’s appeal is that it has a nearly perfect “just wear it and go” size. It measures 38mm in diameter, about 45.5mm from lug to lug, and is 12.5mm thick. More and more, I think that 38-40mm is the true sweet spot for most. On my 7.5 inch wrist, this watch has a nice presence with the lugs extending nearly to the edges of my wrist on either side, but not quite. For me, this is an ideal visual impression for this style of watch. It doesn’t quite disappear, but it’s also far from overpowering. 

The wearing experience is comfortable, but I found that it wears a bit taller than the 12.5mm measurement would indicate. This is largely down to the domed crystal, which bubbles up over a sloping (and polished) bezel. While the Calibre 473 was on loan, I found myself alternating between it and the similarly sized Grand Seiko SBGW283. The case of the Grand Seiko is just one millimeter smaller, but the Oris wears significantly larger because of the additional height. It’s honestly not even that much more height (about 2 millimeters) but the case, which provides 50 meters of water resistance, is built like a sports watch. It’s a useful lesson/reminder that a top down visual reference isn’t enough to get a good sense of how a watch wears. Case height, and how it’s pieced together, is equally important. 


Another factor that contributes to the Calibre 473’s wearability is a very well executed lug profile. The lugs are short and stubby, but curve down just enough to plant the case on the wrist, which is critical given the way this watch wears its height. It makes the watch feel more aerodynamic than it should. I also happen to really enjoy the way this case looks when viewed from the side – the lugs remind me a bit of those on the current iteration of the Zenith Chronomaster, which of course is based on one of the most enduring case designs in the history of watchmaking.

If you’re considering the Calibre 473, you’re likely doing so because of the movement for which the watch is named. This movement is a major accomplishment for Oris, coming on the ten year anniversary of the brand’s Movement Creation Program, which not only resulted in the Calibre 400 on which this movement is based, but movements like Calibre 115, a 10 day hand wound (and skeletonized) movement, plus calibers with similarly lengthy power reserves combined with calendar complications, additional time zones, and the like. While the movements in the 400 series actually lose half of the power reserve of those in the 100 series, it gains a lot in terms of reliability (a 10 year warranty) and stability ( -3/+5 seconds per day). 

The 400 series movements are truly impressive in terms of their raw specs and build quality, and it’s nice to have one in a hand wound format so that the entire caliber can be admired through the caseback. Pairing the hand wound version of the Calibre 400 to a watch with a pointer date feels like the right move, as both are throwbacks in similar ways. There’s something about a nice hand wound movement that is just incredibly satisfying for a watch collector that an automatic caliber can’t reproduce. Yes, it’s less convenient in an objective sense, but there really is something to be said for interacting with your watch on a regular basis. 

And to the credit of Oris, they’ve created a movement that frankly offers much of the convenience of an automatic given the long power reserve, at least once you get it fully loaded. If you’ve got some experience with hand winding a movement that has a more modest two or three day power reserve, it’s going to feel like it takes an eternity to get the Calibre 473 fully wound. Seriously, set aside several minutes, sit down, and get comfortable. I recommend flipping the watch over while winding and watching that power reserve indicator gradually move until it hits the five day mark.  

A power reserve of this length forces us to confront something of a rudimentary watchmaking question, which is when you should go about winding your hand wound movement back to full strength. The conventional wisdom is that if you intend to wear your hand wound watch on a daily or semi-regular basis, you should wind it each day that you wear it, preferably at the same time. The thinking here is that the movement’s timekeeping will be at its most stable and accurate when fully wound, so keeping it wound will result in predictable timekeeping that’s, hopefully, sufficiently accurate as well. 


But if you have a movement that’s good for five days on a full wind, doesn’t winding it everyday seem like overkill? You’re not really taking advantage of the opportunity to lay it down for nearly a week and pick it back up without a hitch. By that time, of course, you’ll need to wind it again anyway, which as noted above, takes a considerable amount of time. Giving it enough juice for an extra day or two, instead of three or four, takes less time, but in theory the movement isn’t going to be at its most stable during that period in its power reserve.

I’m betting that most readers don’t suffer from nearly the same compulsive need I have to top off the power of my hand wound movements as I wear them, so this might all be a moot point. While I had the Calibre 473 in for review, I was in the habit of winding it at the beginning of the day as I’d do with any hand wound watch in my own collection. Toward the end of my time with it, however, I decided I’d let the reserve trickle down, and see how the movement was actually performing in terms of its timekeeping. I found that from a full wind, once it got down to 24 hours left in the tank, it had gained about 15 seconds. That’s a little under 4 seconds per day, which is right in spec, and pretty good performance in my opinion, particularly considering the movement was likely getting less accurate as the days went by. I didn’t make note of accuracy or rate stability on a day to day basis while I was wearing it, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was within a second over the course of the first day of its power reserve. 

Something I’ll note about actually interacting with the movement is that, while there’s nothing objectionable about it, it doesn’t provide the same type of tactile satisfaction as classic hand wound movements that really crunch when you wind them. The winding feel is very smooth, and indistinguishable from manually winding an automatic movement. The crown also screws down, which is a little clumsy in my opinion for the purposes of hand winding. I’m grateful to have some additional water resistance and peace of mind thanks to the screw down crown, but it’s entirely unnecessary for how I would personally use and wear this watch. I’d much prefer to be able to hand wind this movement from crown position zero. This, after all, is the Big Crown Caliber 473, so it would be nice to take full advantage of the crown’s size by winding it when it’s flush to the case. 

It’s worth pointing out that the leather strap included with the watch, made by Cervo Volante, is very nice, and a full step or two above the usual leather straps that are included with watches around this price point. It’s soft and supple, and I happen to think it’s a great complement to the color tone of the dial. Usually, this is the point in the review where I complain about the butterfly deployant clasp, my eternal nemesis in the watch world. They always tend to be finicky, difficult to dial-in to the correct size, and excessively bulky. But I have to hand it to Oris here: the clasp is low profile enough to not add significant heft or bulk to the watch when worn while still feeling solidly made. If I owned the watch, I’d still swap it out for a simple pin buckle in a heartbeat, but this clasp didn’t fill me with rage as most of this variety inevitably do. 

The Big Crown Calibre 473 is quintessentially Oris – a true signature watch – in a number of ways. It puts a spotlight not only on a complication and style of watch that Oris really specializes in, but it highlights their movement making capabilities that have honestly been somewhat underreported over the last decade. Oris is primarily known as a maker of rock solid, value driven mechanical watches with off-the-shelf Sellita calibers that have been lightly modified. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it only tells part of the story. The 100 series movements released over the course of the last ten years have proven to be something of a warm up act for the 400 series calibers, which are genuinely impressive in their performance and speak to the brand’s resourcefulness as well as their long view of their place in the industry. Oris has obviously been around for well over one hundred years, so it’s not like they’re going anywhere, but that ten year service interval and warranty on the new calibers is a real flex. 

The retail price of the Big Crown Calibre 473 is $4,400, a figure that many in the watch enthusiast community will surely immediately bristle at. There’s no getting around that this is a big chunk of money, but I think when you stack this movement up spec for spec with watches at a comparable price point from brands like Tudor, the price doesn’t seem unreasonable. I sense that the issue most who object to the price have is that Oris offers a very similar watch in appearance and function for considerably less, but powered with a Sellita movement. The delta between the two price points is enough to cause most consumers to really reflect on what it is that they want out of a watch for the money they’re spending, and I imagine most Calibre 400 series customers are serious collectors of the hardcore movement nerd variety. 

There’s a bit of a paradox there, because after spending some time with the watch, I actually think it’s ideally suited to a new collector, or someone with a single watch, or a very small collection. I mean this in the best possible way, but the wearing experience is one I’d describe as completely neutral. You know you are wearing a nice watch when you strap on the Calibre 473, but it’s not a deeply unusual horological statement, or even particularly exciting. And yet it offers just enough by way of the movement to perhaps get someone interested in learning more about watchmaking. I can imagine someone getting sucked down the rabbit hole via this watch fairly easily, but it’s also the kind of watch that could just be worn day in and day out by someone who simply wants something nice for the office and his or her day to day life. 

The challenge for Oris, I think, will be convincing people who are hesitant about the jump in price that the Calibre 473 offers real value. But that’s always the challenge for watch brands, or any company for that matter. Getting people to spend more money on a thing than they did before for that same thing is kind of what all business is built on. Looking back at some of the previous watches in Oris’s Movement Creation Program is a reminder that when it comes to the Calibre 400 series of movements, we’re still in the early days. As those movements age, and Oris promises they’ll age gracefully, it will almost certainly be easier for people to jump into the brand at a higher price point. Until then, the early adopters have a very solid watch in the Calibre 473. 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.