Although it is probably far more useful to mountaineers, hikers, climbers, skiers and other adventurous kinds than modern-day airline pilots flying in a pressure-controlled environment, the Oris ProPilot Altimeter remains a rarity, as it is one of the very few mechanical altimeter watches available. In fact, it is the only one with an automatic movement! First presented as a Big Crown ProPilot in 2014, this year, the Altimeter watch gets upgraded and comes in a slimmer, high-tech case.
Oris wanted the new ProPilot Altimeter case made from innovative lightweight and solid materials and turned to a Zurich-based company, 9T Labs. 9T Labs has experience in the air, space and auto industries, but Oris was the first watch company to use the 9T Labs technology. The company specialises in designing and developing manufacturing solutions for more robust and lighter parts made at lower cost and with minimum environmental impact. Their partnership resulted in a lightweight 47mm carbon fibre ProPilot Altimeter case produced via a breakthrough all-in-one manufacturing process. It is light as plastic and stronger than metal, highlighting the technical spirit of this ProPilot instrument. It is 1mm slimmer than the original, too, which is a welcome plus.
Time, date, air pressure and altitude reading are easy and using the watch functions is a no-brainer, too, as the watch is designed to be very practical. The Altimeter operation is done via the crown at 4 o’clock (the crown at 2 is for the time-setting and date adjustment). To activate the altimeter, you unscrew the crown into position 1 when the red ring, indicating activated status, appears.
To set, you must pull the crown into position 2 and rotate it until the known reference air pressure is aligned with the red triangle at 6 o’clock. The yellow indicator, made from laminated carbon fibre, will show your current altitude, displayed in either metric or Imperial units on the dial’s periphery (two configurations will be available). Push the crown back to position one, and you are all set to read the changes from the outer dial ring. At this point, with the crown out, the watch is not water-resistant but protected from moisture getting in by a vapour barrier. With the crown secured in its place, the watch is water-resistant to 100m.
The mechanics of the ProPilot Altimeter are easy to understand. The timekeeping is managed by the automatic Oris 793 movement with 56 hours of power reserve. The module responsible for the altimeter function uses an aneroid capsule system, a rather old technology. The capsule expands and contracts when there is a change in pressure (air enters the case through the crown opening) and causes the altimeter hand to move. The new Oris Altimeter has improved its range and can now tell you when you climb to 6,000 metres (19,700 feet), a step up from the previous Big Crown model.
The new Oris ProPilot Altimeter comes with a green textile strap lined with brown leather and a grey PVD-plated titanium folding clasp featuring a fine adjustment system. The watch is now available, and the price is CHF 6,200, double what you would have paid for a stainless steel Oris Altimeter in 2014 with a 4,500m ceiling.
For more information, please visit www.oris.ch.