Watches: Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

By Thierry Ané on July 4, 2014

Since its creation, Oris has been famous for industrially manufacturing no-nonsense timepieces at a very competitive price point. Reliability and accuracy have always been among the brand’s most fundamental values. Until Baselworld 2013 though, the creation of complex and innovative movements was not. At last year’s fair, the brand surprised everyone with the introduction of the Aquis Depth Gauge, a stunning diver’s watch equipped with a mechanical depth gauge! To fully appreciate the achievement, let me remind you that IWC’s Aquatimer Deep Three, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic and Blancpain's X Fathoms are the only alternatives in the watch world right now.

A year after unveiling what could be considered as the ultimate type of diver’s watch, namely a mechanical depth gauge model, Oris has turned its attention to the world of aviation and introduces an extremely innovative pilot’s watch with a mechanical altimeter and barometer. Extremely useful for pilots these functions are nonetheless absent of practically all so-called pilot’s watches. As a matter of fact, Bréva Genève was the first brand to offer a mechanical altimeter on the manually-wound Genie 01 last year and the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter presented by Oris this month qualifies as the world’s first automatic timepiece with a mechanical altimeter!

Inside this watch ticks the self-winding 733 movement based on a Sellita SW200 calibre and fitted with an integrated mechanical barometric altimeter module. The altimeter is calibrated and set with the crown located at 4 o’clock. As long as it is screwed-down the altimeter is inactive and the watch is water resistant to a depth of 100 meters. Unscrewing this crown allows air to enter the case. A red ring at the base of the crown tells you that the watch is no longer water resistant but ready for altitude and pressure measurements.

Before the altimeter can indicate the correct height, you will need to calibrate the system by setting the pressure at sea level (know as "QNH" by pilots), shown on a scale between the centre of the dial and the flange. Once this is done, the altitude is shown with a yellow indicator, while the current pressure is shown with a red indicator. Depending on the version you choose, the scale on the outer flange is graduated up to 15,000 feet or 4,500 meters. If you start ascending or descending, the altimeter will move to indicate the current altitude. Once the altimeter is no longer required, the crown has to be screwed-down again to ensure its water tightness.

For maximum legibility, this new model is presented in an imposing 47 mm stainless steel case fitted with a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. It features a stainless steel case back, two screw-down crowns and the brand’s recognisable coin-edge bezel. The dial is black with printed Arabic numerals and indices made with the same white SuperLuminova as the hours and minutes hands. The altimeter and barometer functions are located on the outer chapter ring and flange. The watch is mounted on a stainless steel bracelet or fitted with a grey, khaki, or black textile strap. All versions are secured by a stainless steel folding buckle.

In my opinion, a mechanical altimeter is the most natural complication for a pilot’s watch in the same way as a mechanical depth gauge represents the most logical complication for a diver’s watch. Yet, these functions are surprisingly rare in the watch world. Oris can pride itself of being the only brand on the market with both a depth gauge and an altimeter in its collections: a tremendous achievement, particularly so if you consider the price at which these complex functions are offered. The Aquis Depth Gauge retails for only CHF 3,000 and the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter will only costs CHF 3,300 on a textile strap and CHF 3,500 with a steel bracelet. Two amazing models at an incredible price: what do you wait for to add them to your collection?