Swiss watch brand Oris is no novice to the “Vintage Eye” series. With previous releases like the ever-popular Diver Sixty-Five; the Big Crown 1917 with its distinctive pocketwatch style; and last year’s ChronOris Date, the century-plus-old Holstein-based watchmaker has long been taking part in the ongoing retro-look watch trend, with models resurrected from its rich archives. This week we turn our attention to another one of its recent popular releases, the Big Crown Pointer Date.
The model has been a longtime fixture in Oris’s boutiques, first developed in 1938 as one of the earliest timepieces specifically catering to pilots of the era with its enlarged crown (or Big Crown, if you will) designed to match aviators’ oversized in-flight gloves (1954 vintage version pictured above). In addition to this critical feature, the brand added an analog date pointer to further differentiate the piece, which has since become a hallmark of its design. Continuing the long history of the series, today’s modern iteration borrows its design cues not only from those original pilots’ watches, but also largely from Oris’s 1980s transitional period during which the Big Crown Pointer Date was the only mechanical piece the company produced during the heat of the Quartz Crisis. This brought about the coin-edged bezel, tapered lugs, and cleaner, more modern dial that distinguished it from those in the decades prior.
Last year, the Big Crown Pointer Date received renewed attention for the 80th Anniversary Edition model released with a 40-mm bronze case and green dial, (pictured above) which has become the expansive series’ de facto flagship. There are now both bronze- and steel-cased options; various dial colors including green, brown, black, navy, and white; and two sizes at either 40-mm or 36-mm available, each centered around a similar Big Crown Pointer Date design. With simple tapered lugs, a tight crown, and its now-emblematic coin-edged bezel, the vintage-inspired dial is presented with a sturdy and balanced outline. On the outer edge of the dial are the analog date markers, most frequently indicated by a red crescent tipped hand, though occasionally the design shifts to a white triangle-tipped pointer. Deeper on the dial is a railroad-track minute counter with distinguished marks for each hour, which in turn highlight the large printed Arabic hour numerals. At the center of the face are two historical cathedral-style hands with accompanying simple seconds and date pointers.
Each model uses the automatic Oris 754 movement, based upon the Sellita SW 200-1, capable of a 38-hour power reserve and visible through a sapphire caseback. The Big Crown Pointer Date options can vary widely in price, though they typically can be found between $1,200 to $2,000, depending on the dealer and the specific model.
To start with the differences between the modern iteration of the design and the historical stylistic elements of the series, you’ll first notice the lack of a subdial for running seconds and a tight (normal sized?) crown, together resulting in a cleaner and less cluttered overall design. In addition to this, the brand has added some other features which allude to vintage traits, though some weren’t exactly popular throughout the 80-year run of this particular series. Most notable among these is the coin-edge bezel, which, while a popular feature in some early pilots’ watches like those by Tutima in the 1940s, weren’t seen on an Oris watch until much later. Another example are the cathedral hands, which existed in some earlier Big Crown collections, but not in the early days of the Big Crown Pointer Date.
Similarities between the vintage and contemporary designs can be seen on the dial — in the analog date markings, Arabic numerals for hours, railroad track minutes, and red-tipped date hand. Together these traits give the watch a very attractive design, one uncommon at this price point, and in combination with the modern additions give the piece a balanced and distinguished look.
The Big Crown Pointer Date is, as mentioned, a venerable and long-running series, so it’s unsurprising that the modern version of the watch doesn’t adhere to just one of its many vintage designs. Still, we can see through the design clear historical references, and some loose — though possibly not exactly accurate — allusions to the distant past which give the watch an excellent vintage feel. This all comes with a reminder that many historical Oris watches were not widely beloved in their time, and even today the collectors’ market for the brand’s vintage pieces, while not non-existent, is still a fairly small niche for collectors. To the brand’s credit, it continues to effectively update these vintage designs in a manner that few other companies achieve, and further presents them in affordable versions to ensure their popular appeal.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Eberhard Contograf to its historical predecessor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.