Oris celebrates 110 years as a Swiss watch manufacturer this year. Its story begins in 1904 when Paul Cattin and Georges Christian established a watch factory in Hölstein, Switzerland. As an integrated manufacturer, Oris not only produced their own movements, but it even built its own electroplating factory to control all aspects of the design and manufacturing of its products. For the next sixty years, Oris enjoyed tremendous growth, and with a staff of about 800 it was one of the ten biggest watchmakers in Switzerland. In 1970, ASUAG (now the Swatch Group) acquired Oris and relegated the brand to producing strictly low-end watches. During the quartz crisis, Oris still suffered layoffs and branch closings like so many other Swiss watch firms despite its efforts to produce cheap quartz watches.
What’s really fascinating about Oris’s history is its turnaround. Inspired to triumph as an independent brand, Oris staged a management buy-out in 1982 that liberated it from ASUAG and marked its redemption. Surging demand for mechanical watches from the Japanese set the stage for the brand to become the success it is today. Responding to demand for alternatives to the cheap LCD screens that were flooding the wrist watch market, Oris discovered its niche as a fine craftsman of affordable, and exclusively mechanical, watches and to a large degree Oris continues to maintain the same positioning today across its Diving, Motor Sport, Aviation and Culture collections.
Its Diving collection is popular among collectors looking for high-quality and believable dive watches that also resemble refined timepieces fit for everyday wear. Oris manufactures an interesting spectrum of styles within the range, from extraordinarily bold and oversized diving instruments to everyday desk divers with underwater credibility. What all the models in the collection share is true Oris character that you won’t find duplicated in watches from any other brands. Another aspect of the brand to appreciate is how Oris pays close attention to what I call the “whole watch.” From the design of the case to the ease of using its clasp, Oris believes that form must follow function, and as a result they produce a solid watch.
Today, we’re going to take a look at one of Oris’s more mainstream divers, the Aquis Date, which is a subtle rendition of Oris’s trademark deep sea aesthetic and an illustration of the brand’s craftsmanship, affordability and attention to detail. Consider the Aquis a sister to the beloved TT1 divers, and we’ll inevitably make some comparisons along the way.
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Case & Dial
When it comes to the Aquis diver, the brushed 43mm stainless steel case does all the talking. It’s not a small watch by any means, but it’s also not as intimidating as it sounds. With a thickness of 12mm and a lug-to-lug distance of 50mm, it wears more modestly on the wrist than its specs might suggest. Its case width clocks in 1mm smaller than its sister, the TT1, making the Aquis the most approachable model in the Diving collection; however, the case continues to exhibit the heft, unusual geometry and utilitarian focus that the TT1 taught us to expect from Oris.
The secret ingredient to the wearability of this 43mm case is its shape. Hold the watch at eye level and you’ll notice how the sides of the case aren’t straight. As you move from the case back to the bezel, the case angles inward, making the diameter of the case back greater than the diameter of the bezel. So the 43mm is what’s against your wrist while the slightly smaller bezel makes it look like you’re wearing a 42mm watch. This effect was far more extreme on the TT1, which had a 44mm case back and a more rounded, donut-shaped side that would transition to a 42mm bezel. The subtlety of the Aquis’s transition considerably mutes some of Oris’s deep sea character, although it likely makes the watch appeal to a broader audience.
Oris bezels are meant to be used and case architecture not only moderates the wrist presence but ensures the bezels can be operated with unparalleled ease and certainty. See, the unidirectional bezel is slightly larger in diameter than the case where the side and the bezel meet, so the bezel protrudes beyond the diameter of the case making the coin edge bezel easy to grip. Like the steel case, the ceramic bezel insert is brushed. I appreciate the look because it’s true to the watch’s intentions as a diving instrument and also because so many divers employ highly polished ceramic bezel inserts that it’s refreshing to see something a little different. I was disappointed that the bezel seemed a half-click or so off-center in the sample I received, which is unusual in my experience with the Aquis, the TT1 and Oris in general. If you’re a stickler for keeping your pip lined up at 12 o’clock, then you’re unlikely to overlook this flaw, so try to buy the watch in-person if you can or purchase from a retailer you trust to get a perfectly aligned one.
Brushed surfaces dominate the case, but there are polished moments that contribute to a handsome look and an everyday purpose, if only for a short while before the watch re-establishes its role as a diving instrument. While the bezel insert is is brushed, the coin edge is highly polished. The top of the thick and angular lugs are polished, which connects elegantly with the optional stainless steel brushed and polished bracelet but perhaps abruptly with the rubber strap. The signed crown, also polished, is protected by a crown guard attached to the case by two polished screws. The crown and its guard add a new rugged asymmetry to the case that we didn’t see with the TT1, and operating the crown is as easy and enjoyable as turning the bezel.
The dial on the Aquis Date is simple, but there’s actually quite a bit to love about it. It’s is functional, clean and, most importantly, original. So many similarly priced divers feature borrowed or derivative designs that lazily resemble iconic dive watches, and you won’t find that here. Unlike the dial on the TT1 which had a sporty wave pattern on the dial, the Aquis has a matte black dial that lets the hands and indices stand out. Around the dial are applied and SuperLumiNova-painted markers sandwiched between two thin, proud and slightly curved edges of polished steel. Oris didn’t reinvent the wheel on the hands, which are executed in the same style as the sword-style hands on the TT1. The Aquis Date features 300m water resistance and that fact is proudly stated on the dial, except it’s noted as “Pressure Resistant” just above the 6 o’clock date window. Not only is the placement of the date window tastefully symmetrical, but it also uses a black background that blends seamlessly with the dial.
The slightly domed and anti-reflective sapphire crystal is an upgrade from the TT1. I remember experiencing considerable distortion of the dial when viewing the time at an angle, but this lens provides no obstruction or distortion whatsoever.
The stainless steel screwdown and exhibition case back resembles a port hole on a ship, but instead of the sea through the sapphire crystal you’re looking straight at the signature red rotor on the Oris caliber 733. Oris no longer manufactures its own movements, so inside they’re utilizing the Selitta SW-200-1 as the base caliber. The SW-200 is essentially a clone of the ETA 2824-2 and is every bit as reliable. It’s a 26-jewel movement with 38-hour power reserve.
Style & Comfort
You can pick up an Aquis in several color and strap combinations. Style-wise, it’s a casual watch, especially on the rubber strap, but the optional stainless steel bracelet carries significant polish to upgrade its elegance a notch or two. It’s critically important to keep in mind that just like the TT1 the Oris Aquis uses an integrated lug system, so aftermarket straps really aren’t possible unless you get something custom made. If you don’t love the rubber strap or the steel bracelet then this watch isn’t for you. However, if you know what you’re getting into when you buy the Aquis, I’m almost certain you’ll love the strap like I do and be happy with your purchase.
The Aquis really shines when it comes to its vanilla-scented Italian rubber strap and exceptional clasp, and these components are what lend meaning to the term “whole watch.” Branded with “ORIS” on both ends, it’s soft and melts on the wrist and makes this such an easy watch to wear. When it comes to achieving a perfect fit, the Aquis has the TT1 beat by a mile with an impressive and original clasp system. No longer do you have to take a pair of scissors and carefully, irreversibly (and nervously) trim the rubber strap to size. The deployant clasp treats the rubber strap just like a leather band, and the wetsuit extension acts like a micro-adjustment feature that ensures you will obtain a comfortable fit. Straps and especially clasps often take a backseat to the dial and case, but the Aquis doesn’t compromise the quality here whatsoever.
The Final Word
The Oris Aquis Date retails for $1,800 on a black rubber strap. Automatic divers in this range are a dime a dozen among so many watch brands and most are unfortunately uninspired. Dive watches mean so much to us in terms of adventure and exploration; although hardly an of us will step foot into water deeper than our waists, few watches can make us truly feel like we’re ready for anything without producing a watch that is chunky or ugly. The Oris Aquis checks both boxes as a good-looking and rugged diver, but you might be turned off by its limiting integrated lug design and possibly its misaligned bezel. Its size and architecture make it a slightly safer choice than the TT1, but the Aquis is not without underwater cred. Overall, it’s well-made and attractive watch with a sensible but tool-inspired design for a reasonable price.
- Model: Oris Aquis Date (01 733 7653 4154-07 4 26 34EB)
- Dimensions: 43mm x 50mm x 12mm
- Case: 43mm stainless steel
- Dial: Black
- Bezel: Unidirectional ceramic
- Crystal: Sapphire, domed
- Case back: Screwdown sapphire exhibition case back
- Strap: Black rubber
- Movement: Caliber 733 (SW-200)
- Water Resistance: 300m
- Retail Price: $1,800