TIMEPIECE TIMELINE:

25 Key Moments in the History of Oris Watches


The Swiss watch brand Oris is well-known for the use of a red winding rotor, which became a trademark of the brand in 2002. It’s a symbol, the brand says, of the passion with which it manufactures mechanical wristwatches. At the same time, it’s a good way to catch the attention of the beholder and a good conversation starter. What else can you tell your watch friends? Discover these 25 milestone moments in the history of Oris watches, from its founding in 1904 to the present day, and you’ll have plenty to discuss.

1904 Oris is founded in Hölstein,  Switzerland, by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, both from Le Locle. They name the company after a nearby brook.

Oris founder Paul Cattin - 1904
Oris founders Paul Cattin (above) and Georges Christian (below)
Oris founder Georges Christian - 1904

1906 to 1925 The company opens five additional factories in Switzerland.

1910 Oris, with 300 workers, is the largest employer in Hölstein.

Oris factories - 1929
A painting from 1929 shows Oris factories in six Swiss towns.

1927 When Georges Christian dies, Oris is bought by a group of his family’s friends. The watchmaker Jacques-David LeCoultre, grandson of the famed Antoine LeCoultre, becomes president. He is also managing director of LeCoultre and, after that company merges with Edmond Jaeger in 1937, of Jaeger-LeCoultre.

1928 Oscar Herzog, brother-in-law of Georges Christian (and not related to Oris’s current executive chairman, Ulrich Herzog) becomes managing director.

1939 to 1945 During World War II, Oris is better known for its alarm clocks than its wristwatches.

Oris Alarm Clock 1940s
An Oris alarm clock from the 1940s

1952 Oris launches its first automatic watch.

Oris first automatic watch - 1952
The first Oris automatic

1956 Oscar Herzog hires Rolf Portmann and assigns him the task of working to overturn a Swiss law that is preventing Oris from switching from making pin-lever escapements to making more expensive Swiss lever ones. The law, called the Watch Statute, passed in 1934, says no watch company can make such a change without the government’s permission. Oris has been denied permission repeatedly.

1966 After a decade of campaigning to have the Watch Statute reversed, Portmann succeeds, and Oris is allowed to make Swiss lever escapement watches. Its first is the automatic Caliber 645.

1968 Oris is awarded its first chronometer certificate, by the Observatoire Astronomique et Chronométrique in Neuchâtel, for Caliber 652.
1969 Oris reaches the peak of its production, making 1.2 million watches. The company employs 800 people and is one of the 10 largest watch companies in the world.

1970 The company is sold to the Swiss holding company ASUAG (later to merge with another holding company, SSIH, to form what is now the Swatch Group). That same year, Oris introduces its first chronograph, the Chronoris, which is also the first auto-racing-related Oris watch. Later, auto-themed watches would become a pillar of the brand.

Oris Chronoris watch
The Chronoris, Oris’s first chronograph

1982 Rolf Portmann and Ulrich Herzog buy Oris.

1984 The company introduces a watch with center-mounted calendar pointer, based on an Oris watch from 1938. The calendar pointer would become one of the brand’s best-known features.

Mid-’80s Herzog starts shifting Oris’s production away from quartz watches and back to mechanical ones.

1988 Oris launches alarm wristwatches incorporating old A. Schild movements that Herzog has bought.

Oris Alarm Watch - 1988
Oris alarm watch from 1988

1992 The company shifts its production entirely to mechanical watches.

1996 Oris launches a watch in conjunction with saxophonist Andy Sheppard. It is the first watch in the brand’s series of jazz watches. In subsequent years, the company would introduce watches bearing the names of jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and others.

Oris Andy Sheppard jazz watch
The Andy Sheppard watch, the first of the Oris jazz watches

1997 The company launches the WorldTimer, containing Caliber 690, which lets the wearer adjust the time forward or backward in one-hour jumps using pushers on the side of the case. The watch also has a patented system in which the date jumps backward if the local time is moved back over midnight.

Oris World Timer - 1997

2002 The red winding rotor, used on most of the brand’s automatic watches, becomes a trademarked symbol of Oris.

Oris Red Rotor - 2002

2006 A watch bearing the name of freediver Carlos Coste is introduced. Called the Carlos Coste Limited Edition Chronograph, it’s the first watch in Oris’s Divers collection.

2008 The company launches its BC4 Flight Timer, which tells the time in three time zones, one of which is adjusted using a vertical crown at 2 o’clock.

2013 Oris introduces the Aquis Depth Gauge, which indicates depth by means of a circular channel surrounding the dial. Oris holds a patent on the device: it is the first time such a gauge has been used in a wristwatch.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge - front

2014 Oris announces that it has launched its first entirely in-house developed movement in 35 years, called Caliber 110 (named for the brand’s 110th anniversary). The new, manual-wound movement, with a 10-day power reserve from a single barrel, makes its debut in the Oris 110 Years Limited Edition watch, available in either a steel ($6,500) or rose-gold ($17,500) case and limited to 110 pieces of each.

Oris 110th Anniversary watch

2015: Oris releases the first version of the popular Diver Sixty-Five, a modern reissue of a classic Oris dive watch released 50 years ago. The 1965 model had a chromium-plated brass case and plexiglas crystal, a bidirectional rotating bezel, and a black plastic strap, while the new version has a more contemporary 40-mm case in corrosion-resistant stainless steel; a scratch-resistant, nonreflective sapphire crystal with a “bubble-curved” shape; and a safer (for diving) unidirectional bezel. The bezel is enhanced with a black aluminum inlay, and the hands and indices (filled with tritium on the original model) are filled with a type of Super-LumiNova called “Light Old Radium” with a beige glow. The steel caseback is engraved with the same historical Oris emblem found on the original’s. (For a hands-on review of the Oris Diver Sixty-Five, click here.)

Oris Diver Sixty-Five - front

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated with additional material.

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13 Responses to “25 Key Moments in the History of Oris Watches”

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  1. Martin Fiddler

    A great article. You could also have mentioned their unique big crown pro pilot altimeter watch, also unique and patented.

    Reply
  2. Oris are a great brand and have a huge following and the owners of Oris tend to have a great passion for the brand.
    I’ve always had Oris watches, recently bought my first non Oris, a Longines Hydro Conquest. The Oris world timers showed real ingenuity

    Reply
  3. Murray Kriner

    Just purchased one your fine timepieces after reading a remarkable article about the companies return to entirely mechanical movements after the many difficulties with quartz design. The silver/blue, and black banded wrist watch after my issues with my other time pieces. So happy to return to an Analog watch.

    Reply
  4. Rainmaker

    My very first mechanical watch was an Oris BC Pointer Date purchased 24 years ago. So Oris will always have a place in my heart. I am glad they are now making their own in-house movement.

    Reply
  5. Debora D

    Just bought my fist mechanical by Oris. The classic two tone with date. I pondered a long time over the choice. Was down to a Ball, Longines and Oris. I’m very happy with my choice. Especially after reading this rich history.

    Reply
  6. William S. Lerner

    I have three Oris watches. I think that they are a great, nimble company with a rich history. I also think they make incredible dive watches, at incredibly reasonable prices. Their attention to detail is better that any watch in each category. It is absurd that they are not getting the attention they truly deserve! I also wrote a full review on Ablogtowatch.

    Reply
  7. Joel Pynson

    Dear Norma
    Thanks for this paper on Oris. There is however a couple nformations that are missing concerning the company’s history :
    – first, Oris was a Manufacture, producing its own movements
    – in the 30’s Oris made nice jumping hours wrist and pocket watches, under the name Novoris
    – in the 40’s Oris made more than Alarm clocks : there were numerous wristwatches, including waterproof watches
    – the quality of the pin lever watches from Oris was so good than in 1953, 113 on them got a chronometer certificate from the Le Locle Office (94 of them with a special mention)
    – 1960 : first calendar watches
    – 1968 : first diver watch, waterproof to 100m
    – 1969 : diver watch, waterproof to 600m, with red dial and red bezel
    – 1973 : watch with a case made in plastic and fiber glass
    – 1977 : quartz watches
    – 1981 : end of movements production
    Sources : Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie and Revue Internationale d’Horlogerie
    Kind Regards
    Joel

    Reply
  8. A caliber 690 pre-red rotor Worldtimer is one of my favorite timepieces in my collection. Thank you for your notations above because I now have a 5-year time span of when mine was manufactured, between 1997 and when the red rotor became the hallmark in 2002. Mine is gold platet with cream-colored dial. It is 95% plus in condition. It took a couple of years to find, and the movement has been recently rebuilt at the Oris preferred service center… Something I felt it deserved because as with most of my watches, I intend to keep it for a lifetime.

    Reply
  9. George Michael. vlassis

    hi again George from Sydney Australia. Very reliable watches. looking to buy two pieces. soon any recommendations what to expect from oris.watch.what.to.by.??..Thanks again

    Reply
    • William S. Lerner

      Hi,

      I am a huge fan of the brand, as you read.

      I love the Prodiver Chronograph. It is 51mm and tank. It is the first watch I reach for on a casual day. Because of the rubber bezel and the Ceramic inlay, it is scratch resistant, and tough as nails. It is also a lightweight for it’s size because of the titanium construction.

      -The Royal Flying Doctor, is a great choice. It has offset crowns, and a rotating internal bezel. It also displays the day and date. You can get it on a strap or a steel bracelet.

      -I also love the Big Crown Timer and Calculator, with the grey plated cases.

      Buy as many as you can!!! And, everyone at the company is nice, dedicated, and it is run like a family business. Truly the best reasonably priced brand, with outstanding quality.

      Reply
      • MrTissot

        It is still in privately owned hands. Not owned by LVMH, Richemont or Swatch Group.

        Reply
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