Saving the Reefs with Oris and the Aquis Staghorn Restoration Limited Edition

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The watch industry is a fascinating one, and most of the time it exists within a vacuum. But when the industry stands up and makes a real difference in the world at large, that’s when things become truly special. A recent press trip I was lucky enough to be part of with Oris in Key Largo, Florida was absolutely one of those times. This event was more than just a showcase for their new limited edition Aquis. This was a chance for Oris, their partners, and press to make a vital difference in the world by restoring and bringing attention to one of the Keys’ rapidly vanishing coral reefs.

Introducing the Oris Aquis Staghorn Restoration Limited Edition.

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. These unique and beautiful ecosystems form the richest, most diverse habitats on the planet, covering only 0.1 percent of the world’s surface while containing 25 percent or more of all marine species. 4,000 species of fish, 700 different types of coral and countless thousands of mollusks, echinoderms, cnidarians, tunicates and other marine life depend on these shallow havens. But worldwide these uniquely beautiful underwater gardens are dying.

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The corals themselves—the backbone of any reef—are nearly-microscopic organisms closely related to sea anemones. These tiny polyps colonize together to form spectacular skeletons housing thousands or even millions of individual organisms, each symbiotically linked to microscopic algae known as zooxanthellae. These zooxanthellae can produce almost 90 percent of the coral’s food supply, but are extremely fragile and susceptible to changes in ocean temperature and acidity.

When these algae die, the coral bleaches, turning white as it starves. With climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, invasive predators and good old fashioned physical damage from human sources to contend with, coral reefs have been bleaching and dying en masse for the past 40 years. The reefs around the Caribbean and the Florida Keys have been particularly hard hit, with up to 96 percent of the coral population dying off in the past few decades alone.

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Dire as this may sound, there is an effort to stop this, and it’s spearheaded by the aptly named Coral Restoration Foundation that is yielding real results. The Coral Restoration Foundation has pioneered the art of regrowing depleted coral reefs the same way one would regrow a forest: by planting. This simple solution is made possible by their “coral tree,” a hanging scaffold supported by a buoy that stretches roughly eight feet into the open ocean in a coral nursery.

 

On this tree are tied numerous coral samples (in this case, staghorn coral) that are harvested from the reef and are roughly the size of a man’s finger. Over the course of nine months, these coral samples grow to the size of a basketball and are then returned to the reef. There, the farmed coral is cemented to the seabed where it continues to grow and reproduce naturally. It’s a remarkably straightforward process, but it’s still one that requires marine biologists, trained scuba divers, boats, crew and a whole lot of funding.

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That’s where Oris comes in. The brand has long supported ocean conservation efforts and has now lent their financial muscle to the problem of saving the Keys’ vital ecosystems.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got the call to be a part of this entire process. I’d taken a raft of marine biology and oceanography courses while in college, and growing up along the California coast I’d explored our majestic kelp forests—but a coral reef? That was something else entirely.

My first question was if they were serious: the answer was yes. My second question was whether I needed to be SCUBA certified to dive: sadly, the answer was also yes. Nevertheless, from the moment I touched down in Miami it was clear that this trip was more than the average unveiling. First and foremost, I have Oris’ stellar US marketing/PR team to thank for this, along with the brand CEO Ulrich Herzog, who was there for the event and genuinely invested in the cause.

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The program kicked off with the reveal of Oris’ commemorative Aquis— the Staghorn Restoration Limited Edition—at the Coral Restoration Foundation headquarters. For the most part, this will be familiar to fans of Oris and the Aquis line, but it bears repeating. A 43.5mm case with chunky, semi-integrated lugs, the Staghorn bears a handsome and unmistakable outline. What’s more, the short, wide lugs make the watch wear far better than the dimensions suggest: even for a guy who generally tops out at 41mm, the Staghorn was extremely comfortable and not in the least bit overwhelming.

The real differences between this and the base Aquis are centered around the bezel, dial and case back. The bezel insert is unique to this edition, featuring a striking orange minute scale from 12 to three. This highly polished bezel is quite the eye-catcher, and the orange highlight trend continues to the dial. A color as bold as traffic-cone orange can be easy to overdo, but the Staghorn keeps the highlights balanced against a stunning deep blue sunburst dial and restrained to an orange seconds hand and a unique day-date complication.

The date window at six is pretty standard, just swapping the white text for orange. The day of the week, however, is a bit more interesting. There’s a series of seven windows positioned along their own track on the dial. These windows correspond to the seven days of the week, with an orange disc marking the current day. This, coupled with the striped black track, creates an attractive break in the sunburst and adds some real visual dynamism to the dial. Around back is a commemorative case back with a deeply embossed staghorn coral.

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The day of the dive itself was an eventful one. Leaving our protected harbor in Key Largo Bay meant sailing through steamy mangrove swamps and lathering ourselves in reef safe sunblock (which had the added benefit of making me look like Mr. Data getting ready for an afternoon swim) before leaving behind our placid lagoon and heading out into the open sea. “Beware,” said the stereotypical pirate voice in the back of my head, “There be squalls ahead.” Sure enough, this being the tropics we approached the coral nursery just a few minutes after hitting the daily 4 PM thunderstorm on the ocean. At this point, several of our intrepid journalists had begun losing their battle with seasickness. The moment the divers and our snorkeling contingent hit the water, however, everything changed. As I said before, I’m a California boy, and as such I’m used to a freezing cold Alaskan current in my ocean water.

Not so in the Keys. While the air temperature hovered at 85 degrees, the water was an equally toasty 83. No need to brace oneself here; jumping overboard is like stepping into the world’s largest bathtub. The scenery itself was equally fascinating: the divers at work harvesting the coral from the trees coupled with the inquisitive fish made for a swim I won’t soon forget.

Planting the coral.

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The second leg of the voyage to Pickle Reef brought about a second round of seasickness from our motley crew, but once again the sea offered a welcome respite. Pickle Reef itself was fascinating for several reasons. The majority of the reef was a bleached out, decaying skeleton of what once had been. In almost every direction, it was clear to see the threat these creatures are under. Where the Coral Restoration Foundation had done its work, on the other hand, it was teeming with life: healthy, robust staghorn corals surrounded by vibrant fish of every variety. The results of this work couldn’t have spoken louder through a megaphone.

Needless to say, there was a lot to sift through on the flight back to Los Angeles: the dive, the work these organizations are a part of, even the genuine friends I’d made in those three short days. All in all, the stunning Staghorn Restoration Limited Edition was merely the cherry on top of the cake—a fitting cherry for an incredible trip, nonetheless.


For those looking to help out the effort in some small way, or for those who just want to pick up their own example of this beautiful Oris, they’re currently available at just under $2,300. Be quick, however—they’re limited to 2,000 pieces, and they’re selling fast. Oris 

Images courtesy of Oris.

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Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.
seanpaullorentzen
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