Oris Big Crown Pointer Date 80th Anniversary Edition
Celebrating an Oris icon
The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date has always been a style statement and a useful instrument. For its 80th anniversary, Oris announces a special bronze edition.
In 1938, Oris introduced a pioneering watch for pilots. It had an oversized crown so that glove-wearing airmen could easily adjust it, and an unusual complication – a date indicated by a central pointer hand.
The aim behind it was to create a beautiful, high-quality, reasonably priced timekeeper that would be reliable and easy to use, even in hostile conditions. Little could the independent Swiss watchmaker have known at the time that eight decades later, the Big Crown Pointer Date would not only continue to fulfil that ambition, but also that it would have become one of the most recognisable of
all watch designs, an icon for the generations.
‘Designs come and go, but the Big Crown Pointer Date has endured and keeps getting stronger,’ says Oris’s Honorary Chairman, Dr Rolf Portmann, who shares his experiences of the Big Crown. ‘It’s become an Oris signature and a symbol of how strong the company’s heritage and brand are.’
To mark the 80th anniversary of this landmark watch, Oris has created the Big Crown Pointer Date 80th Anniversary Edition, a special piece with a 40mm case, fluted bezel and oversized crown cast in bronze, and a striking green dial.
Oris has chosen bronze for the case material in part because of its current popularity, but also because it’s a utilitarian material that tells the story of Oris’s industrial approach to watchmaking. Bronze patinates naturally as it oxidises, so that each watch will take on a unique finish over time. The deep green of the dial also has a natural feel, complementing the bronze case. The combination of materials and colours is symbolic of the watch’s design heritage, Oris’s rich mechanical watchmaking history, and the company’s natural location in Switzerland’s beautiful Waldenburg Valley.
A design for the ages
The original Oris Big Crown Pointer Date was a landmark watch. In the 80 years since its launch, it has played a pivotal role in Oris’s remarkable story
No watch tells the historic tale of independent Swiss watchmaker Oris quite like the iconic Big Crown Pointer Date. It’s a potent symbol of Oris’s philosophy, and some say that without it Oris might not enjoy its current status as a leader in Swiss Made mechanical watches.
Since Oris was founded in 1904, its philosophy has always been to create watches that make sense, that serve a real purpose and that can be industrially produced to the highest standards and sold at reasonable prices. Introduced in 1938, the Big Crown Pointer Date fulfilled that timeless brief.
In the years since, it has remained in constant production, surviving wars, the advent of quartz and countless passing fashions to become Oris’s signature design.
Back in the 1930s, Oris was a fast-growing company, with seven production sites in and around the picturesque Swiss village of Hölstein, where the company is still based today. The Big Crown Pointer Date was a milestone watch for the company, introducing the pointer date function into the collection and offering pilots a genuinely useful tool.
Production of the Big Crown Pointer Date continued into the 1960s, when Oris swelled to become one of the world’s 10 largest watch brands, employing 800 people and producing 1.2 million watches and clocks a year.
The 1970s and 1980s were devastating forthe watch industry, which suffered 60,000 job losses and the closure of 1,000 companies as the impact of cheap quartz movements took its toll on traditional watchmaking.
Oris suffered too, but by the mid-1980s it was resurgent. The Big Crown Pointer Date had been a collection mainstay throughout what became known as the Quartz Crisis, and when Oris came to look for a watch that would reignite interest in the company, there was only one choice – the Big Crown Pointer Date. The eternal value of its design and functionality made it the perfect vehicle. And it worked, going on to become the centrepiece of the Oris collection.
‘In the late 1980s, the Big Crown Pointer Date was put centre stage as a symbol of Oris’s heritage and longevity,’ says Oris’s co-CEO Rolf Studer (see page 8). ‘It played a pivotal role in helping Oris rebuild after the troubles of the Quartz Crisis. It sums up the Oris story.’
The face of time
Dr Rolf Portmann, Oris’s Honorary Chairman, joined the company in 1956. Here he looks back on more than six decades of Oris history
What were your first impressions of Oris?
My first impression was that it was a huge business. It had around 800 employees at the time and produced nearly everything that went into making a mechanical watch. The company was based in Hölstein, but in total we had seven facilities in towns in the area and we were hugely focused on manufacturing. We even made our own machines and tools. It was an exciting time to be involved.
How has the company changed?
What’s wonderful about Oris is that it’s still independent and still based on the same site in Hölstein where it was founded in 1904. In the 1960s Oris was best in its class, and it still is. The company’s roots are still there as are the founding principles – mechanical watchmaking, the combination of industrial production methods and hand craftsmanship, Swiss Made quality and fair pricing. But now the focus is on product development, building markets and collaborating with Swiss production partners and subsidiaries.
Which moments in Oris history stand out for you?
The work we did to overturn the Swiss Watch Statute in the 1960s was a huge milestone. It’s rarely talked about now, but at the time, it meant Oris – and many other Swiss brands – was released from some archaic rules and freed to innovate and make better watches. Without that moment, Swiss watch history would be very different. The other would be the management buyout Ulrich W. Herzog and I staged in late 1982. At the time, Oris’s then owners ASUAG behaved as if they were happy to let it die, but together we created a new company that meant we could rebuild and continue Oris’s wonderful story.
It’s 80 years since the launch of the Big Crown Pointer Date – does it surprise you it’s still going strong in 2018?
Honestly? Yes. It’s very surprising – how can you ever predict a design will last 80 years? Designs come and go, but the Big
Crown Pointer Date has endured and keeps getting stronger. I think that’s because of the fundamental merits of its design, which is practical and functional, but also beautiful. It’s become an Oris signature and a symbol of how strong the company’s heritage and brand are.
Your career spans an extraordinary period in watchmaking history – what do you think is the secret to the industry’s longevity?
Despite new technologies, people have never lost their appetite or wonder for time or the mechanical objects that measure it. Mechanical watches have a connection with the past, and I think people appreciate that. Not all change is good.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing watchmaking today?
The industry has to continue to adapt so that its story remains relevant. Digitalisation, computerisation and connectivity are all very powerful and there are lots of benefits to them – but they can’t replace hand craftsmanship or the special relationship we have with autonomous mechanical watches. A mechanical watch gives us confidence in our own independence. The industry must never lose sight of that.
How important is the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date?
It’s a hugely important watch – it’s one of our signature pieces and the pointer date is one of our signature complications. And think of all that’s changed in the 80 years since it was launched. What a fantastic achievement.
What does it say about Oris’s watchmaking philosophy?
Oris has always made watches that are superior to other watches in its segment. That’s hard to communicate, because we naturally assume that if something is more expensive it’s better. Oris has always been counter-cultural like that. The Big Crown Pointer Date is a quality Swiss mechanical timepiece with a beautiful, useful complication for sensible watch buyers. In that way, it sums up the Oris story.
What makes it stand out as a design?
Like so many Oris watches, it offers functional innovation. Its function is just one of the design elements that give it such a distinctive look. On top of that, there’s the fluted bezel, those beautiful numerals – especially the number 4 and of course, the oversized crown. It also stands out because of what it takes away as well as what it adds – its shows the date without a date window. A lot of watch lovers don’t like date windows because they can upset the balance of a watch’s design. These things all contribute to its success.
What do you mean by functional innovation?
Every watch we design has to be functional, and everything we add to a
watch has to serve a purpose. If somethingis superfluous, we remove it. We’re always trying to make our watches better, creating a perpetual cycle of functional innovation. That applies to every detail. For example, the tip of the Pointer Date hand was an arrow initially, then it became a half moon, and now it’s a blend of the two. The current design frames the date, making it as easy to read off at a glance as possible. Design evolution is a sign of a confident independent company that can listen to its customers and go its own way.
Why use bronze for the anniversary model?
Bronze is a beautiful material with charming natural properties. We’ve used it in a few of our watches over the last few years and it’s proved hugely popular with our customers. But more than that, it’s a utilitarian material that fits our approach to watchmaking and serves as a nod to our industrial heritage.
How do you explain the Big Crown Pointer Date’s longevity?
For a watch to remain relevant for 80 years, it has to stand for something. But it also has to respond to the times. Oris has often adapted the design to suit consumer tastes, but never lost its core. I also think it remains popular because people think today’s watches have become too expensive. The anniversary piece is a modern watch but also a symbol of a more reasonable time.
What next for the Big Crown Pointer Date?
The Big Crown will keep telling the Oris story. It will remain a signature piece. Interest in the Big Crown shows excitement about Oris, and it also shows interest in the mechanical watch industry, both of which point to a great future for Oris and for high-quality traditional watches.
Oris Big Crown Pointer Date 80th Anniversary Edition
On the 80th anniversary of theOris Big Crown Pointer Date, Oris is proud to present a special edition in bronze with a green dial
Case Multi-piece bronze case
Size 40.00 mm (1.575 inches)
Luminous Material Indices and numerals printed with Super-LumiNova C1/C3, hour and minute hands filled with Super-LumiNova C1/C3
Top Glass Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating inside
Case Back Stainless steel, screwed, see through mineral glass
Operating Devices Bronze screw-in security crown
Strap/Bracelet Dark brown leather strap made with sustainably sourced and produced materials, bronze buckle
Water Resistance 5 bar
Number Oris 754
Functions Centre hands for hours, minutes and seconds, date center hand, instantaneous date, date corrector, fine timing device and stop-second
Winding Automatic winding, bi-directionally rotating red rotor