Swiss brand Oris initiates 2023 with glad tidings and announces the advent of its tenth in-house developed movement, writing a new chapter in the life of its iconic Big Crown Pointer Date. The new calibre 473, based on the automatic calibre 400 introduced in 2020, boasts the same performance and resilience but is hand-wound and comes with an extra function. What makes it even better news for fans of the Hölstein-based brand is that the movement makes its debut inside a Big Crown Pointer Date, an iconic model on Oris’s flightpath since 1938. Flaunting an almost perfect 38mm case size and a heavenly blue dial colour, this manual-winding Big Crown Pointer Date is destined for greatness.
Ulrich Herzog, the chairman of Oris, does not mince words when he describes the brand’s mission to “offer serious mechanical watches at fair prices in an industry that sometimes forgets that there are numerous people who would like to own a mechanical watch, but who still have to work hard for their money.” Here, here. More power to the people! Since the management buyout of the company in 1982, Oris has accumulated an attractive portfolio of accessibly priced, robust sports, dive and pilot’s watches.
As with so many watch brands, there is a ‘before and after quartz crisis’ story to be told. Founded in 1904 in the Swiss hamlet of Hölstein, Oris created more than 270 calibres during its heyday before cheap precision quartz movements decimated the industry. Herzog, the man who has run the company for almost 35 years, played a decisive role in revitalising mechanical watches in the early 1980s.
By 2014, Oris had resumed movement creation with the production of manual-winding calibre 110 and its formidable 10-day power reserve from a single barrel, followed six years later by the groundbreaking calibre 400, a powerful, anti-magnetic automatic movement with a five-day power reserve and a ten-year warranty. Marking the first line of automatic movements developed in more than 40 years, the calibre 400 series was touted as the new standard in Swiss-made automatics.
Renowned for its pragmatic approach to production, it’s worth understanding how Oris employs the term in-house when describing its movements. Like calibres 110 and 400, the latest calibre 473 is a proprietary manufacture movement developed in-house but produced by a network of suppliers with state-of-the-art industrial techniques. In-house, as Herzog explains, “means establishing specifications and the engineering concept, and financing tooling development and prototyping. Know-how is in-house, manufacturing is by third parties, and we share assembly.”
Designed from the ground up by Oris’s watchmakers, the new calibre 473 took four years to develop. Like the calibre 400 series, it is resilient, accurate, equipped with elevated levels of anti-magnetism and comes with a 10-year warranty. Built on the same base as the Oris calibre 403 automatic fitted inside the Big Crown Pointer Date released in 2021, the hand-wound movement powers the hours, minutes, small seconds, pointer date and an extra feature: a power reserve indicator on the reverse. Given the robust 5-day power reserve, the indicator makes a lot of sense. Featured on the bridge over the barrel, the patented power reserve indicator has markings at 0, 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 and is read with a blued hand. Well within COSC tolerances, the accuracy of the movement is rated at -3/+5 seconds a day.
Long life to the Big Crown Pointer Date
Reinstating a manual-winding movement inside an icon like the Big Crown Pointer Date is a clever move and takes us back in time to the early flying career of this watch. The Big Crown, which started life as a pilot’s watch in 1938, featured an oversized crown to help pilots adjust the time without having to take off their gloves. One of the most popular models is the Big Crown Pointer Date. Its original date complication (patented in 1915 by A. Hammerly) uses a central pointer hand instead of the familiar date window. Reintroduced into the brand’s collection in 1984, the Big Crown saved the company from extinction during the quartz era.
Family traits of the Big Crown Pointer Date include the oversized crown at 3 o’clock, large Arabic numerals, a central hand with a red tip to point to the date on the peripheral track and, up until 2021, a modified Sellita SW 200-1 automatic movement for the date complication. All this changed two years ago when the Big Crown Pointer Date – a Hölstein Limited Edition – was fitted with the brand’s newly developed automatic calibre 403, an offshoot of the 400 with small seconds and pointer date function. (For the record, both models co-exist in the collection with a price difference of roughly CHF 1,000 between models with outsourced modified Sellita movements and in-house developed movements.)
In addition to the new automatic Oris movement, the Big Crown Pointer Date revealed a refreshed, more contemporary 50m water-resistant case design with a smaller (38mm), sharper case silhouette. With fewer vintage-inspired features, the 38mm Big Crown of 2021 exchanged the fluted bezel for a flat polished bezel, replaced the retro Arabic numerals for more contemporary ones, swapped the crescent-shaped hand for the date with an arrow-shaped one, and switched the classic cathedral hands for slimmer sword ones.
This new Big Crown Calibre 473 follows the design mandates of the 2021 model and comes in an almost perfect 38mm case size with brushed and polished surfaces. It’s odd, though, that the height of the case, which must be slimmer thanks to the manual-winding movement, is not mentioned in the press release. Another detail that differentiates this model from regular Big Crowns is the less pronounced dome of the sapphire crystal, giving the watch a flatter, more contemporary look.
Lovely dial colour
We’ve seen countless blue dials of late, but the colour chosen for this Big Crown Calibre 473 is particularly attractive, a watery blue shade that we’ll look at more closely with a Hands-On session. The printed Arabic numerals, hour markers and hands are all treated with Super-LumiNova. A small detail worth noting: the arrow indices on the peripheral minute track are yellow, while the numerals and hands are white. A red arrow-shaped pointer indicates the date on the periphery, and the small seconds counter is featured at 6 o’clock.
Although it features the BIG CROWN 5 DAYS inscription on the dial like its automatic siblings, the caseback reveals the manual-winding movement and the patented power reserve indicator on the bridge above the barrel.
New Fine Adjustment System
Once again, Cervo Volante is the name behind the textured brown strap crafted from sustainably sourced deer leather. Another piece of good news is the new fine adjustment system incorporated into the stainless steel butterfly folding clasp, allowing the wearer to adjust the strap when the wrist expands or contracts in different climates.
Availability & Price
The Oris Big Crown Calibre 473 is not a limited edition. It is available now and retails for CHF 4,200, which is CHF 900 more than the automatic calibre 403 version. For more information, please consult Oris.ch.