I like Oris. As a company, I appreciate the products they manufacture and I like the way they go about selling them and marketing to watch buyers. They boast great quality timepieces at prices that are more than fair. For the most part, their innovations comes in the form of functional improvements (see the Aquis Depth Gauge and ProPilot Altimeter) instead of in crafting materials or in-house movements (although we’re starting to see Oris work their magic here, too). Underscoring all of this is a passion for mechanical watches as the brand produces them exclusively.
The brand’s diving line has always resonated with me–so much so that, until last year, I ignored everything else. The ProPilot series caught my attention with the announcement of the Altimeter, but the size was far too intimidating and unrealistic for my wrist. Oris watches carry an aire of badassness and I just don’t have the requisite build to sport a 46mm watch. But the ProPilot Date is modest and straight to the point with just enough personality to stand out from other competitively priced pilot’s watches.
Flight-inspired watches have a tendency toward large wrist presence in the name of historical accuracy and/or a true need for uncompromising legibility. I previously reviewed the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter, a massive mechanical feat to say the least, and the simpler Date model exhibits the same finishing and details just at a more palatable size. At 41mm wide, the knurling around the bezel, reminiscent of jet turbines, appears more prominent in the design. The unguarded screw-down crown is, well, big (7mm in diameter and 4mm thick) and the matching turbine-themed knurling makes it superbly operational. Lug-to-lug, the stainless steel case clocks in at 49mm and it’s about 12.5mm thick.
Don’t let its modest size fool you. This ProPilot is meant to play the role of a tool watch just as well as any of its bigger siblings, which is why you won’t see polishing or gloss beyond the double-domed sapphire crystal. However, Oris did complete the case with a screw-down exhibition case back, showing off the brand’s signature red rotor. As you can tell from the back of the case, it’s water resistant to 100 meters.
In my worldview, there are two kinds of pilot’s watches. First are the mesmerizingly complicated pieces from brands like Citizen and G-Shock–oversized, innovative and highly functional, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these are the real brands that today’s pilots wear most often. Then you have the historic pilot watches, the ones every aviator had to wear before quartz watches came into the picture. I’m talking about military-inspired watches like the Longines CAFs or Stowa Fliegers with strikingly simple dials boasting wide-open real estate, Arabic numerals and high-contrast hands and dial combinations.
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Date is of the second type, but it’s not yet another watch designed to mimic the legendary flieger. Yes, it has Arabic numerals and an uncluttered, ultra-legible dial, but that’s where the similarities end. The font used for the hour markers is more contemporary and the SuperLumiNova-coated hands are stark white and less sword-shaped and more like those on a flight instrument panel but without being childishly obvious in their likeness.
Oris is exceptional at prioritizing the legibility of dial elements, making the most often-used functions the easiest to read at a glance. Day or night, the current time is the easiest thing to read from the watch due to the high-contrast and luminous design. The seconds hand, mostly all black save for the red tinted tip, disappears completely from the dial along with the oversized date so as not to distract from the watches purpose as a time-telling instrument. If you need seconds precision or to read the current date, they’re both there, but they refuse to be eyesores and I applaud Oris for how they repeatedly prove they can take a multi-functional watch like the Depth Gauge or the Altimeter and make it look uncluttered. Even with a simple model like the ProPilot Date, they demonstrate this discipline to keep things elegant.
My only complaint here is, despite the antireflective coating on the crystal’s underside, the face is prone to reflections.
Beating inside the ProPilot Date is Oris caliber 751, which is based on the Selitta 220, a 26-jewel movement with 38 hours of power reserve on a full wind. Aside from the red rotor visible through the back of the case, you won’t find much decoration as the movement carries no frills in terms of complication or decoration, further reinforcing the pragmatism of the timepiece.
On the Wrist
Considering its case size and contemporary preferences, buyers might find the ProPilot lacking wrist presence, but it’s comparable in size to Stowa’s classic offerings and it’s appropriate for a range of wrist sizes. It’s not the size but instead the details that do all of the talking–the legibility, the functional screw-down crown and the heavy duty textile strap prove its destiny as a perfect casual everyday piece, if not a downright tool watch.
Looks-wise, the strap is perfect, but it’s stiff out of the box and its deployant digs into your wrist and prevents the watch case from nestling comfortably on the center of wrist. It’s fitted with a deployant buckle to preserve the integrity of the strap and to make fine adjustments possible, but operating the buckle and sizing the strap aren’t as easy as they seem. The strap doesn’t have holes for the buckle to hook into; instead, the buckle features a sort of clamp similar to that on a steel mesh bracelet, and maneuvering the strap through the clamp to adjust the length is challenging.
Alternatively, you can pick up the ProPilot Date on an olive textile, black leather strap or, for a little bit more money, a stainless steel bracelet. Given its 20mm lug width, you can pick up any aftermarket shoes you like, which is surprisingly my recommendation here. Usually I sing the praises of Oris straps and buckles, but not in this case.
Price & Availability
This watch retails for $1,550 on textile or leather and $1,800 on a stainless steel bracelet. While I have the utmost confidence in the quality and comfort of the steel bracelet, the $1,800 price tag feels steep to me and I prefer a watch like this on textile or leather anyway. Pilot watches around $1,500 are immediately to be compared with Sinn’s offerings, which include watches like the 103 that are some of the best-priced pilot watches out there–plus you get a chronograph. So I can understand some hesitation in getting on board with this particular three-hander from Oris.
But it’s a really nice watch, made and designed well. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot proves that pilot watches don’t have to be fliegers and they don’t have to be huge. If you’re interested in an aviation-inspired watch that embodies all the right characteristics but still stands out as original, then the ProPilot Date is a well-done example worth your consideration. oris.ch