Oris’s Aquis collection of professional-grade divers’ watches has grown to encompass a variety of limited editions devoted to marine conservation and preservation causes (i.e., 2017’s Hammerhead), a handful of small complications like big dates and small seconds, and notably, an innovative mechanical depth gauge. At last year’s Baselworld, the Holstein-based brand added a chronograph to the lineup. It was a timepiece that instantly caught my eye and one that I knew I would want to review. Here are my impressions of the Oris Aquis Chronograph.
To begin, as per usual, with the case, it needs to be stated up front: this is a monster of a timepiece from a size standpoint, and in profile, it suitably brings to mind a submersible of some kind. At 45.5 mm in diameter, it’s got the heft you’d expect of a steel watch of this girth; the wrist presence is impressive and not at all subtle. And yet, it never strained against any of my shirt cuffs and never felt like it was dragging my forearm down; maybe it’s the rubber strap, maybe it’s how that curved convex caseback nestles oh-so-naturally into the subtle indentation of the wrist, but once you start wearing this watch, it begins to feel like a part of you.
The unidirectional rotating divers’ bezel ratchets smoothly and audibly to set dive times (or any types of timing intervals, really) and is extremely easy to grip — though admittedly I did not attempt to do so whilst wearing diving gloves or any other type of thick gloves. The black unidirectional rotating bezel insert has a gleaming, polished finish that makes it appear as if it’s an extension of the subtly convex sapphire crystal (and also, in some lighting conditions, can look like a dark blue extension of the dial). Indices for the first 15 minutes of dive time, Arabic numerals at the 10’s, and indices at the 5’s are all etched in white into the insert, which is made of ceramic. Orientation in the dark depths is provided by the inverted triangle at 12 o’clock and its Super-LumiNova-coated dot. Only at the tail end of my review period did it occur to me that perhaps a more matte finish to the bezel would have been more preferable, and perhaps more utilitarian for a diver. At this point, we don’t know, but I appreciated the touch of luxury that the polished finish lent the piece.
The attractive, maritime blue dial manages to look complex and busy while still being eminently legible in all conditions. Super-LumiNova coats the large, wedge-shaped hour hand, the long, tapered, lance-like minute hand, and the applied hour markers (with a single dot at 6 o’clock, and a double dot at 12 o’clock). The contrast with the dark blue dial is stark; and as we know, legibility is goal number one of a professional dive watch.
The subdials are slightly recessed from the main dial, in a slightly less vibrant shade of blue, and with white0numbered and marked scales surrounding a snailed center. Stacked at 12, 9, and 6 o’clock, they convey the readouts of chronograph’s elapsed minutes (up to 30), the running seconds (with an unusual two-sided hand), and elapsed hours (up to 12); a thin rectangular date window is ensconced inside the borders of the hours subdial.
Operating the chronograph is a tactile joy. The pushers are rounded and respond instantly to soft but deliberate pressure from a fingertip. The central chronograph hand is also tipped with lume, so it’s easy to see in the dark as it races around the dial. The screw-down crown — which helps ensure this titanic timepiece’s impressive water-resistance to 500 meters also known as 50 bar; both are indicated on the dial) — pulls out to two positions, the first to quick-advance the date, the second to set the hours and minutes. Like the bezel, the crown, which is graced with an Oris logo on the top, is notched for easy gripping.
Behind the solid steel caseback, which is screwed down and engraved with Oris’s classical crest and a meters-to-feet conversion table, beats the movement, Oris Caliber 774, which uses a Sellita SW500 as its base and features the typical Oris refinements, including the hallmark red winding rotor, though it is, of course, hidden from view in this particular case configuration. The automatic winding movement has 25 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency, and a 48-hour power reserve.
Suitably, the watch comes on a very sporty strap, made of black rubber and attached to the lugs by screws. The closure is a steel folding clasp and it includes a diver’s extension that allows the wearer to tighten or loosen the watch by nearly half an inch. This was the first time I had worn a watch with such an extension for an extended period and it was much appreciated; this would in most instances be a watch suited for thicker wrists than mine, so to make it fit securely I had to not only take the buckle tab to the last hole, I also had to close the divers’ extension to the very last notch. That said, I had no complaints whatsoever about the fit of the watch once I had it adjusted in this manner. As I alluded to above, this is a watch that doesn’t necessarily grow on you but certainly feels like it’s growing with you once you’ve had it strapped on for a few days.
The Oris Aquis Chronograph (which is available in five styles, with this blue-dialed look being far and away my favorite) carries a retail price of $3,700. It’s a lot of watch for under four grand, but of course, we’ve come to expect such value propositions from Oris.