Oris’ partnership with the iconic Swiss Air-Rescue Rega continues with a third limited-edition watch that flies even higher than before.
If it wasn’t for aviation, it’s possible the Swiss watch industry would never have taken off. Early pilots discovered a watch was a vital tool and turned to makers of Swiss pocket watches for tools they could refer to while helming their makeshift contraptions.
Oris, for its part, was making watches for those pioneer aviators as early as 1910. It has catalogs from the time in its archives showing pocket watches with cases decorated with Blériot-style aircraft. It was aviation that pushed Oris to develop its first wristwatches in 1917, and then in 1938, the Big Crown, a watch with an oversized crown created for gloved airmen. The model has been in constant production ever since and has become Oris’ signature design, fueling its reputation as the creator of ultra-reliable, ultra-precise tool watches for adventurous people.
Through the decades, Oris Rega Fleet Limited Edition has partnered with many leading organizations, military units and display teams linked to the world of aviation. These have made the company one of the first names in high-functioning pilot’s watches. Innovations such as the Worldtimer (with its push buttons that move the hour hand forwards and backwards in one-hour jumps) and the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter have brought useful functions to the wrists of pilots (and plenty who aspire to be pilots) all over the world.
In 2016, Oris entered one of its proudest partnerships with Swiss Air-Rescue Rega. Rega has been offering an aeromedical service for almost seven decades and is recognized worldwide for its excellence and professionalism. Oris created a watch for Rega that year and again in 2018. Now, the company is delighted to announce a third piece. But this one’s different. Built to Rega’s specifications it’s a landmark collection of 21 limited-edition watches, one for each of its aircraft.
Rega, one of Switzerland’s proudest and most trusted organizations, was founded in 1952. It’s now patronized by almost half the Swiss population and is among the world’s most recognizable air rescue services, symbolized by its iconic red helicopters and crew members in their red uniforms.
Today, it serves as an integral part of the Swiss healthcare system, with 13 helicopter bases and a fleet of state-of-the-art aircraft. From these bases, Rega operates 18 rescue helicopters and can reach anywhere in the area it covers within 15 minutes of an emergency call. Each base has a crew of pilot, paramedic, and emergency flight physician ready to go, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
While it’s famous for its high-altitude mountain rescues, Rega’s service covers all medical emergencies, from road accidents to sudden illness, such as a cardiac arrest. Last year, Rega also repatriated more than 750 patients back home to Switzerland, either by one of its three ambulance jets, or scheduled passenger aircraft. Rega says its mission is to “provide assistance wherever a person’s life or health can be preserved or protected through our intervention.”
During the pandemic, the organization’s role has become even more significant. In 2020, it organized more than 16,000 missions and brought medical assistance by air to 11,000 people in distress. Thanks to previous investments made in patient isolation units, it also repatriated 140 Covid-19 patients on board its ambulance jets.
To this day, Oris Rega Fleet Limited Edition remains a privately run, non-profit organization funded by a patronage system, whereby private individuals make regular contributions to the running of the service. At last count, it had more than 3.6 million patrons.
Oris is extremely proud to partner Rega and to have worked with its teams to produce 21 limited-edition watches, each a series of 100 pieces carrying a caseback engraved with one of the service’s 21 aircraft: Airbus Helicopters H145, AgustaWestland Da Vinci, and Bombardier Challenger 650.
Before designing the Big Crown ProPilot Rega Fleet L.E., Oris turned to Rega’s staff and invited them to take part in a series of workshops where they asked them a simple question: what do you need in a wristwatch?
They told Oris a number of things: they liked watches that had clean, ultra-legible dials that they can read in a split second; they wanted a watch that wouldn’t reflect light – no glare; and they needed a watch with two tools – a GMT function for recording logbook times and a pulsometer that could serve as back-up to electronic machines that measure patients’ heart rates. That the watch should be robust, accurate and entirely reliable was a given.
So Oris built them the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Rega Fleet L.E. Its black dial has high-contrast white hands and numerals filled with high-grade Super-LumiNova. Its stainless steel case and Oris-patented ‘Lift’ clasp are coated in anti-reflective gunmetal grey PVD. It has a clearly indicated second time zone. And engraved into its bi-directional rotating bezel are a red triangle for timing the “golden hour” (the first hour after injury during which a patient’s chances of recovery are highest), and a pulsometer scale, read off with a white- tipped central seconds hand. Oris then added leather and rubber straps with its quick-change system.
But there was more. One pilot had an idea to link watches to individual aircraft to reflect the close bond crews and patients often develop with them. So Oris created 21 different casebacks, each engraved with the outline of a Rega aircraft and its registrations. Only 100 of each will be made, making this the broadest but also most limited collection of pilot’s watches the brand has ever conceived.
For these special watches, Oris also created a water-resistant red Ventile pouch, complete with a second quick-change strap in hygienic, easy-clean red rubber and a tool for changing the clasp. The pouch has several elastic straps for tweezers, plasters, and bandages so it can be upgraded to a pocket first aid kit. As a package, it’s the most collaborative watch Oris has ever made.