There is no way to describe the Oris Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition watch without a history lesson, so here we are. As the name suggests, there had to be a Bahn in Waldenburg, and there was a rail work indeed, a 13km low-cost and efficient one that opened in 1880 to connect the beautiful Waldenburg valley villages, including Hölstein, the future home to the Oris factory. Oris founders, based in Le Locle, thought to settle their business in Hölstein in 1904 and used the “lifeline of the valley” to build their watch business on the principles of “reliability, quality and innovation“, shared by the Waldenburgerbahn operators. This year, Waldenburgerbahn, or WB, will be reopened after a CHF 300 million renovation and upgrade to the latest transport technology. To “capture affection and gratitude for the role played in our story by the Waldenburgerbahn“, the brand decided to create a particular watch with a design based on the classic Big Crown Pointer Date, the new Oris Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition.
The Big Crown watch was born in 1938 and has been an important part of the brand’s portfolio, growing to become an emblematic and essential collection. It was conceived as a pilot’s watch, with an oversized crown, to help those up in the air (those wearing gloves for protection from cold) to make necessary adjustments and corrections. The pointer-date function was already there in 1938, and I recommend looking up images of the original watch from 1938 to admire its design (there is a good one here). A timeless classic, to use a popular expression.
Just like the Big Crown ceased to exist for a while, Oris as a company, and many other watchmakers, had some rough times in the 1970s. Corporate history noted a problematic decade when Oris became part of ASUAG (which later merged into Swatch Group) and re-birth in 1982 when Dr. Rolf Portmann and Ulrich W. Herzog led a management buyout. A newly formed Oris SA chose to produce solely mechanical watches.
The Big Crown Pointer Date was soon re-introduced in 1984, thanks to Dr. Rolf Portmann, the company’s managing director. He had a strong feeling for the mechanical watch business even when the so-called quartz crisis was imminent. This re-launch, and the decision to break free from ASUAG, became extremely important for the company, proving right Rolf Portmann’s vision.
The Big Crown Pointer Date is a signature piece for Oris, and it is a consumer favourite, with numerous options and colours to satisfy the demand. There are references in steel and bronze, in 36, 38 and 40mm cases, with metal bracelets and leather straps, with burgundy, green, blue, brown, black, and grey dials. There is a white dial edition, too. All the watches bear a remarkable resemblance to the original Big Crown with a pointer date feature, which has become a trademark for Oris, just as the red winding rotor, introduced in 2002 and used in many of the brand’s automatic watches.
The Oris Waldenburgerbahn edition is a watch in a stainless steel case, 40mm in diameter, with a domed sapphire crystal. The dial is black, with large Arabic numerals, minutes railway track and all other inscriptions in white. The only bright element is the red tip of the central hand that points to the date. The bezel is fluted, a standard feature; it would have been nice to have it produced to recall the 1938 model. A dark brown sustainable deer leather strap with a quick strap change system by Cervo Volante, Oris’s partner, completes the look of this limited edition Oris. The caseback is engraved with a steam locomotive once running the Waldenburgerbahn, “the smallest train in Europe” and there is a limited edition number.
The movement that drives the Oris Waldenburgerbahn is the automatic Calibre 754, used across the collection since long ago. It has 38 hours of power reserve; this pointer-date movement is based on Sellita SW200, with earlier versions based on ETA 2824. Oris will produce 1,000 pieces only; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many will be bought by Oris employees and other gentlemen who used to ride the tram regularly.
The Oris Waldenburgerbahn Limited Edition is priced at CHF 2,100 and is available starting November 2022. For more details, please visit www.oris.ch.