On January 19, 2021 (the day Carl Brashear would have turned 90), Oris introduced the third watch made in partnership with the Carl Brashear Foundation, and the first powered by the brand’s in-house Calibre 401 with small seconds and five-day power reserve (the second execution from its new family of in-house automatic movements).
The Carl Brashear Cal. 401 Limited Edition is named for Carl Maxie Brashear (January 19, 1931 – July 25, 2006), who enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 on February 25, 1948, shortly after the Navy had been desegregated by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. When Brashear witnessed a diving exercise off the coast of Florida, he realized that he wanted to become a Navy diver. His persistence paid off: In 1954, Brashear overcame all obstacles and successfully completed U.S. Navy diving and salvage training, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the school, and the first African-American U.S. Navy diver. But, as fate would have it, more challenges laid ahead: In early 1966, while on a salvage and rescue mission, Brashear experienced a diving accident while trying to retrieve a bomb from a downed B-52 bomber. As a result of this accident, he lost a leg from the knee down, after which the Navy sought to retire Brashear from active duty. He refused to submit to the decision. Instead, he secretly returned to diving and produced evidence that he could still excel, despite his injury, making him the U.S. Navy’s only amputee diver. As his son and Command Chief Warrant Officer with the 80th Training Command Phillip M. Brashear (July 4, 1962) recalls: “This was the pivotal moment that would make him an American military hero and give him world fame as he regained his Navy diving privileges as an amputee.” In 1970, despite this accident, Carl Brashear was able to achieve the accomplishment of becoming the first African-American master diver in the U.S. Navy. In 1979, by the time of his retirement, Brashear had achieved the highest possible rate — master chief petty officer — for Navy enlisted personnel.
In 2000, Brashear’s life became the subject of the Hollywood movie “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the leading role as Carl Brashear. Also in the movie were Robert De Niro and a host of other Hollywood notables
Funds raised by sales of Oris Carl Brashear watches have supported countless veterans and vulnerable people, giving them hope and helping them achieve their goals. “Carl’s is an extraordinary legacy, and we’re incredibly proud to share in it and support the foundation,” says Rolf Studer, Oris Co-CEO. The foundation is run by Phillip M. Brashear, its goal is “to give back to society, especially the veterans, the afflicted, and the youth in the form of presentations and monetary awards. Carl Brashear showed the world that Racism, Illiteracy, Poverty, Physical Disability, and Substance Abuse cannot defeat the Human Spirit.”
The new dive watch comes with a 40-mm bronze case, a material chosen to symbolize not just the Mark V diving helmets (made of spun copper) that were used by the U.S. Navy from 1916 to 1984, but also “because it’s a metal that will tell its own story,” according to Oris (bronze is a natural material that patinates as it reacts with oxygen and moisture to create an individual look). Behind the stainless steel caseback is the automatic Oris Calibre 401, which is based on the brand’s Calibre 400 that was launched last year. The watch features a blue dial, inspired by naval tradition, a uni-directional rotating bronze bezel with a diving scale in relief, and a custom-designed, hand-crafted, woven elastic nylon webbing strap produced for this watch by Erika op den Kelder from Erika’s Originals: “I have run into Rolf Studer from Oris several times [at] watch events and he sent me an email about a year ago saying he would like to discuss something with me. Later that month I met the design team in Hölstein. We quickly agreed that the Trident MN would be a perfect fit for the new Carl Brashear, with a special centerline color to match the dial that is exclusively for Oris and especially for this watch.”
The Oris Carl Brashear Cal. 401 (Ref. 01 401 7764 3185-Set) is limited to 2,000 pieces and retails for $4,200.