Following the current trend, Oris has encased its design icon, the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date, in warm bronze — not only the case, but the bezel, the namesake big crown and even the dial. In this feature from our October 2020 issue, we tested the watch in real-life situations.
Bronze, a metallic compound based on a minimum of 60 percent copper, is one of the first alloys to be created and used by humans. These days it’s a popular material for watch cases, and just about every brand has bronze models in its portfolio.
But admittedly, you have to like how this material changes color to appreciate it. Bronze reacts when exposed to air. This causes its surface to oxidize over time but has no effect on the properties of the material such as durability and resistance to corrosion. The color change simply marks the passing of time. What other material could be better suited for products that reflect time’s passage? Especially when it’s a timepiece like the Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date, our test watch, which has a design that alludes to its past.
In 1938, Oris introduced a watch with an oversized crown that could be operated by pilots wearing gloves. It also featured large Arabic numerals and arrow-shaped markers to enhance legibility, a fluted crown and an arrow-shaped hand with a red tip to indicate the date. The Big Crown Pointer Date watch became an established part of the Oris history and was never taken out of production. For more than 80 years, it survived all the ups and downs, social upheavals, numerous trends and fads, and has been regarded as a trademark of the Oris brand. In fact, without this timelessly beautiful timepiece, Oris may not have achieved its current reputation as a high-quality, independent Swiss watch brand.
The Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date also played an important role in the revival of Oris following the Quartz Crisis in the late 1980s and the company’s decision at that time to build only mechanical watches in the future. The striking timepiece had a history and a purpose, and it kindles strong emotions both then and now.
Just about everything about this watch is rooted in its past – the material, the shape of the crystal and its date design. It’s an authentic Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date in every way.
The solid bronze dial is chemically treated and coated with a transparent matte varnish so that it doesn’t oxidize like the case. During our real-life test that spanned several months, the case transformed dramatically as its color changed from shiny golden to dark brown (see above), giving the watch a more rustic look and its own unique patina. And even though it doesn’t change over time, the dial finish makes each watch one-of-a-kind.
Only minor elements of the original model from 1938 have undergone changes. A complete hour track with Arabic numerals has replaced the arrow-shaped markers. Even though the minutes track looks vintage, it was not yet a part of the first Big Crown Pointer Date model. The small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, resulting from the historical “Pointer” Caliber 373 from 1938, became a central sweep seconds in the Caliber 754, which is based on the Sellita SW200-1. The characteristic “Pointer Date” hand is still the same as in the original 1938 Oris design. Its triangular tip with curved inner side nicely frames the date numerals arranged around the edge of the dial, which are somewhat smaller than they were on the original. The vintage-look cathedral hour and minutes hands dominate the dial face and are generously filled with luminous material. Under dark conditions, they glow a bright green along with the 12 hour markers inside the minutes track. The numerals glow somewhat weaker. The time is very easy to read under all conditions thanks to the bright luminescence at night and the authentic vintage design of the dial by day.
The case measures 40 mm across with a height of 12 mm and water resistance of 5 bar (50 meters). The domed crystal, grooved bezel and sloping curves of the midsection of the case underscore the historical appeal of the watch and give the iconic timepiece a convincing authenticity. Downward sloping lugs and the supple leather strap provide great wearing comfort. Like the bronze case, the strap rather quickly shows signs of wear — but this is surely an intentional part of the design. Oris has equipped the lugs with easily accessible levers that make the strap easy to remove and replace. The simple yet sturdy solid bronze pin buckle matches the overall style of the watch.
Simply said, the namesake “Big Crown,” originally designed with pilots in mind, is easy to use. The generous size and deep grooves make it easy to grasp, release from its screw-down locked position, and pull out for different operations of the movement, the Sellita-based Oris automatic Caliber 754 with pointer date, which begins to advance gradually about one-half hour before midnight and then jumps to the next position exactly at midnight. It works perfectly. The proportions of the hands are also perfect, as is the return of the crown to its locked position. Rate results are acceptable, ranging between +4 and +6 seconds per day. The automatic movement, which is visible through the transparent screw-down caseback, meets the manufacturer’s industrial standard, and shows its striking red oscillating weight. For $2,100, it’s the real deal.