Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches


Swiss independent luxury watch manufacturer

Oris was founded in 1904 by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in Hölstein, Switzerland. The brand is named after a nearby brook and within the first year, the company had 67 employees and a solid production of pocket watches. In 1906, the company opened a second factory in nearby Holderbank and by 1911, Oris was the largest employer in Hölstein with over 300 workers (and even built houses and apartments for staff). In 1925, the company began converting pocket watches into wristwatches and opened a dial factory in Biel/Bienne in 1936. By 1938, Oris was producing its own watch escapements and was a leading manufacturer of accurate pin lever escapements, but due to a controversial law in 1934 known as the Watch Statute, it was unable to produce superior lever escapements. The law was designed to protect and regulate the industry by not allowing companies to introduce new technologies without permission. It wasn't until 1966 that a hard fought legal battle finally allowed the company to produce lever escapements (the law was abolished entirely in 1971). Alarm clock production began during World War II as the company's distribution network suffered, and diversifying its portfolio proved successful. The revered 8-day power reserve clock debuted in 1949. Today, the independent company is among the most recognized, accessible Swiss luxury watch brands with Rolf Studer and Claudine Gertiser-Herzog acting as co-CEOs.

One of the brand’s most popular watches is the Big Crown pilot’s watch, first introduced in 1938. It featured an oversized crown for pilots with gloves and a Pointer Calendar using an independent hand to mark the date printed around the dial’s perimeter. This was the same year the company began production of escapements, making it a vertically integrated manufacture. Pointer Calendars are still produced today (following a reintroduction in 1984) and remain a signature complication for the brand. In 1952, the Calibre 601 was launched as the brand’s first in-house automatic and by 1967, the Calibre 652 became its first certified chronometer with a new lever escapement. In 2014, Oris launched the Calibre 110 with a 10-day power reserve and non-linear power reserve indicator, its first new in-house movement in 35 years. The Calibre 111 followed in 2015 with an added date complication and several others continued with additional complications. Also in 2014, Oris launched the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter, the world’s first automatic watch with a mechanical altimeter.

Other notable pieces include the Worldtimer with a patented function that adjusts the local time by one hour increments via two pushers on either side of the case. A patented Rotation Safety System launched in 2009 featuring a unidirectional diving bezel that could be locked into place. The Divers Sixty-Five Automatic is one of the brand’s most popular series today, closely based on a dive watch released in 1965 with bold, oversized numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9, and a date complication (moved from 3 to 6 o’clock).

Oris has made several key partnerships ranging from music to sports. In 1996, the Oris London Jazz Festival became its first major partnership and the brand’s introductory jazz piece was named after British saxophonist Andy Sheppard. In 2001, a collection debuted honoring legendary musician Miles Davis. Partnerships continued with the Williams Formula 1 team in 2003 and many collaborative pieces were produced, most notably the Oris Williams collection in 2015. In 2006, a limited edition titanium watch debuted to celebrate the young, rising Williams F1 Team driver Nico Rosberg. Also in 2006, Oris partnered with record-breaking freediver Carlos Coste who broke the world record by descending to a depth of 140 metres and returning on a single breath. A Carlos Coste Limited Edition Cenote Series was released in 2010 after he broke another record with a freedive to 150 metres. In 2009, Oris partnered with the Swiss Hunter Team, an independent aerial display team based in the Swiss town of Altenrhein. This resulted in a series of dedicated special edition watches.

Few vertically integrated Swiss brands offer such compelling and affordable dive, sport and dress watches as Oris. Not all of its pieces feature in-house movements, but watches such as the Divers Sixty-Five Automatic and Big Crown Pointer Date prove that quality, innovation and timeless designs are a winning formula.

History of Oris

Company founded by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in Hölstein, Switzerland
Oris opens an assembly plant and second factory in nearby Holderbank
Oris becomes the largest employer in Hölstein with over 300 workers, and builds houses and apartments for staff
Following a successful portfolio of pocket watches, the company produces its first wristwatches
Co-founder Georges Christian dies and Jacques-David LeCoultre (of future Jaeger-LeCoultre) becomes President of the Board of Directors
Oscar Herzog, Christian's brother-in-law, becomes General Manager (for the next 43 years)
Oris opens a dial factory in Biel/Bienne
The company begins producing its own watch escapements/introduces its first pilot's watches with a big crown and Pointer Calendar function
Oris diversifies its portfolio with alarm clocks following a sharp reduction in its distribution network
Oris is awarded for its pin lever movement's accuracy by the Bureau Officiel de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres in Le Locle
The Oris 8-day power reserve alarm clock debuts
The company's first automatic watch launches with the in-house Calibre 601
Oris launches its legendary diver's watch with a unidirectional rotating bezel, oversized luminescent numerals and 100-meter water resistance
Oris launches its first certified chronometer, the Calibre 652 with a lever escapement
The company's first chronograph launches, the Chronoris
Dr. Rolf Portmann and Ulrich W. Herzog lead a management buyout from ASUAG, forming independent entity Oris SA
Oris reintroduces Pointer Calendar watches first seen in its Big Crown series in the late 1930's
The company's first mechanical alarm wristwatch launches
The Players Watch launches, a football-inspired piece with four independent counters
The Calibre 581 automatic debuts with an in-house moon-phase module
The Worldtimer launches with a patented function allowing local time to be adjusted forwards or backwards in one-hour jumps via pushers
The Oris XXL launches as an oversized line of sports watches with three case size and movement options
Oris has close ties to jazz (following the Oris London Jazz Festival in 1996) and produces the Miles Davis collection
The red automatic Oris rotor becomes a standard symbol and company trademark
The classic Artelier collection debuts/Oris signs a deal with the Williams Formula 1 team and launches the first team watches
The Oris Centennial Set 1904 Limited Edition launches to celebrate the brand's 100th anniversary/the Quick Lock Crown system debuts
The BC4 Flight Timer launches with three time zones, one adjusted by a vertical crown at 2 o'clock
Ambassador and commercial diver Roman Frischknecht helps Oris develop the patented Rotation Safety System for ProDiver watch
The Big Crown X1 Calculator pilot's watch launches with a circular slide rule on the bezel
The Oris Artix GT Chronograph launches with a retrograde small seconds counter inspired by a race car's rev counter
The Aquis Depth Gauge and ProDiver Pointer Moon launch with industry-first features
Oris launches its first new in-house movement in 35 years, the Calibre 110 with a 10-day power reserve and non-linear power reserve indicator
The Calibre 111 launches, adding a date complication to the Calibre 110
Oris debuts its first bronze watch to honor the U.S. Navy's master diver Carl Brashear/Oris Calibre 112 launches
The Calibre 113 launches, the fourth new in-house movement with a new business calendar
Oris introduces a new logo with Hölstein and 1904/the Big Crown ProPilot Calibre 114 launches