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Review | Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter


ORIS always know how to make a statement with their watches; to start that customer experience and as part of their professional range, the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter is packaged in a rugged (branded) pelican case. A brilliant piece of design, watertight and secure, used here to showcase a unique and very special watch - a technical instrument created for pilots, mountaineers, explorers and research scientists, who work at altitude.

Adjacent to the watch there is a prominent numbered metal plaque. It provides the basic specification of the watch and its serial number and it’s riveted to the case like a piece of military-grade hardware. The inside of the lid continues the theme, displaying a picture of a fighter jet and on removing this from its elastic keepers, reveals that it’s actually an additional booklet specific to the ProPilot Altimeter. The guarantee card (2-years as standard, which can be extended by a further year - free of charge - by registering with MyOris, online) is in the substantial box the pelican case is packaged in and on pulling a red ribbon tab at the base, the main user manual for the watch is revealed.

Oris released their first pilots watch (the Big Crown Pointer Date) in 1938 and have been steadily producing a fine range of watches for pilots ever since. Their watches are generally not obvious in their luxury appeal and in many ways this makes them even more attractive. Finely detailed, with good specifications and extremely well-made. It’s usual to find a couple of standout pieces as each range is introduced, too. From the BC4, which resembled a cockpit instrument to the Big Crown ProPilot Calibre 111 which, as part of the current range, has an in-house movement featuring an incredible 10 day power reserve.

Case Design and Finish

The first thing that strikes you with the ProPilot Altimeter as you remove it from the pelican case is, unsurprisingly, it's weight and size. The feeling of quality is immediately apparent. A robust behemoth of a watch which makes its presence felt.

The case is machined from stainless steel and measures a not-inconsiderable 47mm across. It's a full 17mm thick too, so will certainly make a statement on all but the largest of wrists. It's not this size for aesthetics however, or to meet any current trends in watch design. It's borne by necessity. How else do you fit a mechanical movement to measure time and a mechanical altimeter into one watch case. It's a rhetorical question of course as there really is no other way this would be possible.

Indeed, due to the depth of the case, Oris has seen sense to forgo a transparent case back to display its trademark red rotor, as this would add a further 2mm or so to the thickness of the case. It's an unfortunate trade-off perhaps, but certainly a sensible one.

What we do find on the stainless steel screwdown caseback is an engraved feet to metres (read meters) conversion scale (not particularly useful perhaps, but certainly a nice detail in keeping with the aviation theme), some further text making reference to the watch specification, serial number and of course, the Oris brand shield at its centre. Nothing to get too excited about as a design as it’s certainly not elaborate, but the text is clearly engraved non-the-less.

Turning to the side, the left is bereft of crown. A solid slab of steel, lending an industrial-machined look, with a sumptuous brushed sheen and, on the right hand side, two screwdown "big" crowns. One, naturally, adjusts the date and time, cleanly decorated with a black engraved ORIS and the other (sitting at 4), larger still, and bearing ALT SET in red. This is the altimeter setting (which we'll discuss in detail further on). Both are prominent, easy to operate (even when wearing gloves) and have a beveled coin-edge which is designed beautifully, to match the bezel around the edge of the dial and caseback. We’re told that it’s inspired and influenced by the turbines of jet engines - it’s a wonderful link to aircraft and it’s so cohesively integrated into this impeccably finished piece.

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