Pilot watches and Oris go hand in hand. The latest Big Crown ProPilot model is dedicated to an aeromedical rescue organisation operating out of Botswana known as the Okavango Air Rescue. Following in the footsteps of the Rega Fleet and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia limited editions, Oris wants to raise awareness of this exemplary and humanitarian enterprise that is coming up for its tenth anniversary this year. Decked out in safari colours, the 41mm Big Crown ProPilot Okavango Air Rescue combines an attractive safari green dial with the utilitarian attributes of a pilot watch.
Picture this. You are on a safari in Botswana, crouched in the tall grass, waiting to take the perfect wildlife photograph of an impala drinking in a stream when you hear a herd of elephants approaching. Instead of following the guide’s advice of staying calm, your instincts get the better of you and you make a beeline for the jeep but trip and break your ankle. It’s worse than you thought, and the bone is protruding from your skin. You are miles from the nearest village and further still form proper hospital care. Luckily, before embarking on the safari, you had heard about the Okavango Air Rescue, a highly specialised aeromedical service with medical equipment and an emergency doctor on board. In the distance, you can hear the whirring blades of a helicopter approaching…Help is on its way!
Okavango Air Rescue
The Okavanga Air Rescue (O.A.R.) was founded in 2011 by Swiss entrepreneur Christian Gross and Dr Misha Kruck, a German doctor with experience at the International Red Cross and Rega, the Swiss air rescue service. Together they moved to Botswana and set up a private service with helicopters and fixed-wing aeroplanes to fly in medical care to locals and tourists in remote, off-the-beaten-path areas.
One of the most spectacular sites for wildlife tourism is the Okavanga Delta, a vast flat area the size of Switzerland listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its grasslands, marshes and lagoons, the delta attracts one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife, including the Big Five: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros. Before the O.A.R. took flight, the area had no airborne medical evacuation service and people requiring medical assistance had to wait for a plane from South Africa. Flying two PC-12 fixed-wing aircraft and two Bell Jetranger 206 III helicopters with medical equipment and an emergency doctor on board, the O.A.R. survives on contributions. Visitors to Botswana are encouraged to become patrons, a similar system developed by Switzerland’s Rega air rescue service. The minimum contribution to become a patron is $15 per month and guarantees evacuation out of the bush at no extra cost. With headquarters in Maun, the O.A.R. has rescued more than 1,500 critical patients and attended more than 20,000 patients in its polyclinic during its ten years of life.
Out of Africa
Earlier this year, we reviewed the Big Crown ProPilot Rega Fleet model dedicated to the Swiss air rescue service that Dr Kruck worked with before her African adventure. The Okavango Air Rescue Limited Edition is much simpler and, in my opinion, more attractive. With its combination of a rugged 100m water-resistant steel case and eye-catching yet uncluttered dial, it takes me back to scenes from the film Out of Africa as Robert Redford flies over the Kenyan landscape in his yellow Gipsy Moth biplane.
What really sets this model apart is the lush, grassy green textured dial that evokes the grasslands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The textured background, something we associate with upmarket Grand Seiko models (certainly not executed with the same degree of craftsmanship as the GS), definitely adds depth and character to the watch. As a pilot’s watch, legibility is top-notch. The applied Arabic numerals and hour markers, as well as the hour and minute hands, are all treated with Super-LumINova that glows blue in the dark. The black central seconds hand has a red tip to indicate the applied markers on the periphery of the dial. Although the date window at 3 o’clock is discreet with a black background, I understand why the designers decided against a pointer date, which would have added more inscriptions on the dial and ruined the accomplished and very pleasant Safari vibe.
Another winning detail of the watch is the matching Safari green textile strap with a central white stripe made exclusively for Oris by Erika’s Originals.
The caseback features an engraved Okavango Air Rescue aeroplane flying above the islands of the Okavanga Delta with the limited edition number XXXX/2011. Beneath the caseback is calibre Oris 751, a Sellita SW 220-1 with a specific decoration and the brand’s signature red rotor. This movement is a larger version of the tried-and-tested SW 200-1, itself an ETA clone. Otherwise, it retains the same specifications with a frequency of 4Hz and a 38h power reserve.
Availability and Price
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Okavango Limited Edition is delivered in a leather travel pouch with an additional brown leather strap. It is limited to 2,011 pieces (marking the foundation year of O.A.R.) and retails for CHF 2,300.
For more information, please visit Oris.