Oris Big Crown Propilot ALTIMETER

More than 75 years after Oris made its first pilot’s watch, the company is proud to announce the launch of the most innovative pilot’s watch in its history – the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter, the world’s first automatic mechanical watch with a mechanical Altimeter.
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter features an extremely useful complication. Useful for mountaineers, hikers, climbers, skiers, and of course pilots. However this watch will be tell you the correct height when you’re in an airliner, because you’ll be in a …
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter 47mm is not just a tool watch exclusively for pilots of private aircraft’s, but serious mountain climbers, skiers and explorers too. The innovative combination of an altimeter in an automatic watch is a feature made to be used by people who are very passionate about their hobby or job, but without costing the price of a small house.

The ProPilot Altimeter is an unsurprising watch coming from Oris – a brand that has made a name for itself by making mechanical watches, with useful complications, at an affordable price point. And this watch also acts as a spiritual sequel to the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge watch: but, instead of measuring depth diving under water – the altitude flying up and into the air.
It accomplishes two vital things that Pilots will need, packed into something that can be worn on the wrist in the form of a gargantuan watch – the time and altitude.
While this watch is part of the ProPilot collection, bearing a great deal in common with its smaller siblings; with the highly legible dial, knurled bezel edge inspired by jet engines, and general design blueprint, I can see it being worn by more than just pilots.
The revolutionary mechanical altimeter is a complication that very few people will get to actually see in action. The altitude graduation on the bezel goes up to 15,000 feet in 100 feet increments (or 4,500m with markers every 25 meters) which I can see being of use for not just pilots of small planes (as commercial planes have pressurised cabins while flying at around 40,000 feet); but, for mountain climbers, skiers, explorers, or even research scientists who work at altitude.
As a guy who enjoys maintain climbing a great deal, and would love to get a pilots licence, I can see that having an altimeter function on a watch as not an expensive toy but a tool that I could really utilise. Using an altimeter in combination with an OS map would bring a whole new perspective to navigating a mountain range. The fact that it’s not electronic so has no batteries to run out of juice, with it having a mechanical barometer, is all to the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter’s great advantage.

But it’s important to take into consideration the scale of mountains. That the altimeter will not be able to give a reliable reading past where the markings end. To put this into perspective the top 10 highest mountains in Europe range from 4,646m to 5,642m in height meaning the scale on the watch will be short of 1Km or so just in Europe on land alone – and that’s before we consider the vast magnitude of all the mountains in Asia, the Americas, and the rest of the world, with 14 mountains over 8000 meters!
At 47mm wide and with two crowns protruding from its casing, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter watch is by no means an insignificant watch. It possesses with it a good amount of heft thanks to its beefy brushed stainless steel construction, that assures the wearer of its tool watch identity.
Oris’s goal when making watches is not so much to make prestigious watches from exotic materials with complications that will never get used. But rather to build exceptionally good quality mechanical watches, with useful functions, at an affordable price point.
The general stylisation of the ProPilot Altimeter is consistent with the other watches in the ProPilot family – but is significantly larger. Its matt black dial with markings and Arabic numerals imbued with the white Superluminova variant BG W9 maintains excellent legibility. The red tipped seconds hand enables it to melt away when not required and helps to maintain a very clear dial design despite all the tasks it must accomplish. And the coin edge pattern on the bezel inspired by jet engines is also shared between these watches.
The reverse of the watch features a special engraved solid case back that converts meters into feet on a circular scale. A welcome addition, but I question how useful a conversion table is on the underside of a watch?

On this watch, we do not get to see Oris’s famed red rotor through an exhibition back. But as doing this would likely add an additional mill or two to the depth of the casing, it would push its thickness to nearly 20mm thick – making the watch just too gargantuan to realistically wear.
Where this watch is so utterly unique, is no doubtably the ability to calculate its altitude relative to sea level – which is one of the 6 most fundamental cockpit instruments that a pilot requires to fly a plane.

This function is controlled by the additional crown set by the 4 o’clock. When it’s screwed in the watch is rated as water-resistant to 100m; and, requires unscrewing in order to measure air pressure. Once out and activated, the red mark reminds the wearer that it shouldn’t be subjected to water that may get inside of the altimeter mechanism. But Oris has managed to add a PTFE vapour barrier to prevent ambient moisture from compromising its internals.
When handling this ProPilot Altimeter watch I was a little surprised by the amount of force required to push this venting crown back into the sealed position, which is something to consider when you get your hands on one.
A red marker indicates atmospheric air pressure and the yellow points (on the opposing side) to altitude. Pulling out this crown into its second position will allow it to be set to a known pressure (by getting the red hand to line up with the red triangle by the 6 marker), or a known altitude (by turning the crown until the yellow marker matches the current altitude around the outer bezel of the watch).

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