Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

Angus Davies reviews the Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition.

The Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition blends period styling with the convenience of a modern-day automatic watch movement.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

There is something quite delightful when cleaning beneath the settee cushions only to find a small collection of coins. I have also experienced the same pleasure when tidying my wardrobe only to find a long lost and very loved garment.

Until recently, ‘Oris believed that its first pilot’s watch was the Big Crown of 1938’, however, recent research in the company’s archives unearthed details of a hidden treasure, a watch made for aviators in the early 1910s.

This watch was not only the first Oris pilot’s wristwatch, but it was also one of the brand’s first ever wristwatches. Circa 1917 it featured a brass case, big crown, aluminium dial and loop lugs soldered to the case.

Earlier this year, Oris unveiled a limited edition timepiece which pays tribute to this 1917 pilot’s wristwatch.

The dial

The Arabic numerals gracing the dial appear to be influenced by La Belle Époque period with their wonderfully formed, stylised font. In dim light they emit a green glow, proving eminently legible at all times.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

The blued poire squélette hour and minute hands also evince a green hue at night. They have a beautiful period feel, articulating time superbly.

Encircling the dial area is a chemin de fer which collaborates with the minute hand to successfully impart the time.

The ‘Oris’ name is presented in a period font and nestles against a delightfully grained surface. The hour track sits on high, while the central area sits on a lower plane.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

The ‘bubble-curved’ sapphire crystal does slightly distort the numerals when the dial is viewed at an angle. However, this does nothing to detract from the joy of ownership and merely adds to the pleasure of wearing the watch. Moreover, viewing the dial directly from above confers a clear view.

Despite its high quotient of period styling, practicality has not been compromised as the dial proves simple to interpret.

The case

The stainless steel case proves highly deceptive. Quite simply, despite measuring 40mm in diameter, it appears smaller, resembling a 38mm timepiece, especially when worn.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

I wore the watch over a few days and found the brown leather cuff strap granted a very agreeable wrist-feel.

The multi-piece case is highly polished and glints coquettishly, exuding much charm. It resembles a pebble in shape with numerous curved contours dancing with the light. The lugs are more substantial than the wire loops found on the 1917 original, but continue to evince a welcome degree of visual lightness.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

Oris was keen to emulate the original pilot’s watch, choosing to fit a button at 2 o’clock to allow the time to be adjusted via the crown. In effect the aforementioned is a releasable lock. While this may seem stylish it does prove, at first, a little fiddly to manipulate but with increased familiarity it does become easier.

The solid caseback is adorned with the ‘OWC’ trademark which stood for the ‘Oris Watch Company’ and was used as a quality stamp on the maison’s 18-carat gold watches of yesteryear.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

The onion-shaped Big Crown proves simple to wind, courtesy of its scale. This is a detail which the watch shares in common with pilot’s watches of the 1930s, however, unlike these later watches, which appeared a tad utilitarian, the Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition has a genteel, dressier appearance.

Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

A problem with some pilots’ watches is that the crown is too big, leading to the adjacent skin being gouged. Thankfully this issue is unlikely to afflict the wearer of the Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition. Indeed, during my tenure with the watch there were no abrasions to the skin.

The movement

The watch is equipped with a modern, self-winding movement, the Calibre 732. This movement is based on the Sellita SW 200-1. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz), the movement contains 26 jewels and the power reserve is 38 hours.

The Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition effectively marries period styling with modern convenience, obviating the daily ritual of winding which would have been necessary with the early 20th century watch which inspired this latter-day model.

Closing remarks

The original Oris pilot’s watch was made around 1917 and was one of the first wristwatches made by the company. Since this time Oris has proved adept at crafting interesting wristwatches at affordable and competitive prices. The Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition proves no exception with its modest asking price of £1,950.

In celebrating its past, Oris, once again, has delivered another fascinating timepiece. It has created a ‘vintage’ watch that captures the essence of the 1917 original but proffers convenience with a modern self-winding movement.

The aesthetics are sublime with period Arabic numerals, a glorious grained dial and elegant poire squélette hands. The case is pebble-shaped with beautifully contoured surfaces.

Despite this watch possessing an abundance of period style there are few compromises and, in particular, wearer comfort is superb. Indeed, there is a welcome absence of skin chafing unlike with some pilots’ watches equipped with big crowns.

By researching its archives Oris has discovered hidden treasure and now, by capturing the essence of the 1917 model, it has produced a magnificent ticking gem.

Technical specifications

• Model: Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition

• Case: Stainless steel; diameter 40mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.

• Functions: Hours; minutes.

• Movement: Calibre 732 (based on Sellita SW 200-1); self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 26 jewels; power reserve 38 hours.

• Strap: Brown leather cuff strap with stainless steel pin buckle.

• Price: £1,950 (RRP as at 15.6.2017)

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