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.
1906 to 1925 The company opens five additional factories in Switzerland.
1910 Oris, with 300 workers, is the largest employer in Hölstein.
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.
1952 Oris launches its first automatic watch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2002 The red winding rotor, used on most of the brand’s automatic watches, becomes a trademarked symbol of Oris.
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.
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. The brand has followed up Caliber 110 with new in-house movements in the years since, adding a new complication with each new generation.
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.)
This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated with additional material.