Why This Swiss Watch Brand Refuses to Get Into The Smartwatch Game
Founded in 1904, Oris is one of but a few Swiss watchmakers that produces only mechanical watches, and it currently faces a conundrum that many other brands do: Is it wiser to level with the competition or swim against the tide? In a world of smartphones and smartwatches, does it do a brand good to stick to its guns rather than go with the flow? Only time will tell.
So far, however, Oris has had history on its side. In the ’70s and ’80s, when Swiss watchmakers were confronted with a similar threat with the influx of quartz technology—a period the watch industry likes to call the Quartz Revolution or the Quartz Crisis—Oris, already a major player in Swiss watchmaking, refused to halt production, even as its peers struggled to keep afloat. Today, as the smartwatch is made to appeal to even the haughtiest of watch snobs, and as technological innovation continues to flourish to ever more impressive heights, now might be considered the second coming of the Quartz Crisis.
But while staying relevant in an ever-shifting world is key, Oris remains adamant about continuing to make only watches with a mechanical movement, instead of joining the smartwatch category. Says David Weber, the regional manager for Oris in the Asia Pacific region, “Our expertise, knowledge, and passion is with mechanical watches. This is what we know, and this is what we’re good at.” Having crafted mechanical watches for over 111 years, this is a brand that knows where its strengths lie. “Our mechanical watches have functions that are made for daily use, not to be hidden in a safe,” Weber offers. “The Oris wearer looks for genuine values, [typically] uses tools and instruments in his or her daily life, and is price-conscious, but willing to spend for luxury goods.”
Based in Holstein, Switzerland, the company’s headquarters is located in a small, picturesque Swiss village with a bakery and a school in its vicinity. There’s a charm to its desire to remain true to its roots of artisan craftsmanship, but it’s worthy to note that Oris also exerts efforts to innovate. Every piece, movement, and component of a watch is manufactured according to specification, and the brand’s quality control department checks thoroughly to ensure that a watch complies with Swiss watchmaking standards.
With four main collections featuring collaborations with high-profile entities such as the United States Marines and the automobile brand Audi Sport (Oris is the official partner of the Audi Sport racing teams), the brand creates functional, collectible pieces for both the regular wearer and the watch enthusiast.
“Everything starts with ideas that we collect from our ambassadors,” explains Weber. “We then start evaluating the possibilities, always keeping in mind our belief in useful functions that make sense.” The brand’s Aviation watches, which now include the iconic Big Crown collection, took into consideration the suggestion of pilots who found the original Aviation models’ crowns too small for quick and hassle-free time adjustment.
Oris’ other pieces are designed for the wearer’s convenience: the latest Aquis Depth Gauge, a mechanical diving watch for pro divers, incorporates a depth indicator, while the ProPilot Altimeter, a mechanical aviator timepiece, contains an altitude indicator. Another line, the Force Recon, was crafted especially for the U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaisance, an elite U.S. Special Forces command unit. “The competitive environment and a commitment to quality and success have always resonated with our brand,” Weber says. The high-performance, state-of-the-art wristwatch is designed to withstand demanding conditions and puts on display the watchmaker’s ability to innovate.
The smartwatch may match—or perhaps even surpass, in some cases—the level of accuracy and convenience offered by the mechanical watch, but there’s still much to be said about the intricacy and craftsmanship of Swiss-made mechanical timepieces. “[They are] a thing of beauty forever,” Weber says proudly.
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