110 years of movement manufacturingBASELWORLD 2014: The Oris Calibre 110
Oris introduces a 10-day power reserve movement with a non-linear power reserve indication to mark the company’s 110-year anniversary and 110 years of movement manufacturing.
The Oris story begins in the quiet Swiss town of Hölstein in the Jura Mountains, some 110 years ago. Two watchmakers, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, arrived in the town looking to set up their own watch company. They purchased a recently closed watch factory and called it Oris, a name they took from a neighbouring stream.
Their dream was to produce the best possible watches at the best possible price. They employed talented watchmakers and skilled craftsmen, and adopted industrial processes in order to deliver their vision. They wanted to pioneer and innovate, to create reliable timepieces that would bring many years of pleasure.
The company grew fast, quickly establishing a reputation for producing watches that delivered exceptional quality and value. By 1910 Oris employed 300 people, and by 1936 it had factories in Holderbank, Como, Courgenay, Ziefen, Herbertswil and Bienne to accommodate its rapid expansion. Oris built houses for its employees and ran bus services into work to transport those who lived as far away as Basel, 25km to the north.
From the outset, Cattin and Christian made it their mission to master the many complex manufacturing stages of the watchmaking process, and to make Oris a company capable of developing its own pocket watch movements.
A new Chapter
In the late 1920s, the company was bought by a group of investors after the last of the two founders died. It was led by Jacques-David LeCoultre, Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson and the man who merged with Edmond Jaeger to form Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.
By the time war broke out in Europe, Oris had established itself as one of the leaders in quality Swiss timepieces. During the war, with its distribution network stymied, Oris turned to producing clocks, which led to the ground-breaking 8-day power reserve model launched in 1949. At that stage, the company produced more than 200,000 watches and clocks a year.
The post-war Boom
After the war, the company continued on an upward curve. By 1970, it was one of the world’s 10 largest watch companies, employing more than 800 people and producing 1.2 million watches and clocks a year. The continous development of new manufacture movements was key for the company’s development.
That same year, Oris was sold to the General Watch Company, a subsidiary of ASUAG Group, which would eventually become the Swatch Group. But the boom was not to last as the Quartz Crisis kicked in, almost killing off the traditional Swiss watch industry. The influx of cheap quartz watches from the Far East decimated the global mechanical watch market.
The Rescue Mission
As the crisis deepened during the 1970s, an estimated 900 Swiss watchmaking companies went bankrupt, and two thirds of the work force were laid off. Oris was greatly affected by the downturn, but continued to pursue its vision, despite the circumstances. In 1982, the company’s General Manager Dr Rolf Portmann and Head of Marketing Ulrich W. Herzog staged a management buy-out and broke away from the group, and Oris Watch Co SA became Oris SA. Although to the outside world nothing had changed, Oris was now an independent company free to plot its own course into the future.
Portmann and Herzog were entrepreneurs and set about revitalising their company. Herzog travelled the world observing emerging trends and discovered that in influential markets like Japan mechanical watches were resurgent. He convinced his colleagues to drop the quartz strategy that had been forced upon the company by the group, and within a few years Oris has made its last quartz watch, focussing instead on mechanical innovations.
A Watch Company Reborn
Today, over 30 years since the buyout, Oris is thriving. Dr Portmann remains as Honorary Chairman, and the company is run by Herzog, now Executive Chairman. Oris is fully independent and one of the few Swiss watch companies that only makes mechanical watches, and the only one that places such a strong emphasis on presenting consumers with a product that offers genuine value.
Oris is recognised by the Red Rotor, which symbolises a passion for traditional watchmaking, and is universally acknowledged for its commitment to producing quality mechanical watches at sensible prices.
The brand strapline is real watches for real people, which serves as a mantra to the designers and watchmakers who work in the same Hölstein factory where the company was first established 110 years ago.
A History of Mechanical Innovation
Throughout its 110-year history Oris has pioneered mechanical movement innovations. Between 1904 and 1981, the company developed 229 in-house calibres.
In 1938, Oris developed Calibre 373, the pointer calendar, which became a signature for the company. In 1982, following the management buy-out, Dr Portmann and Herzog reintroduced the pointer calendar and used it as the symbol of Oris’s revival.
In 1968, Calibre 652 became the first pin-lever escapement movement to be certified by the prestigious Observatoire Astronomique et Chronométrique in Neuchâtel. Two years later, in 1970, Oris produced its first chronograph, the hand-wound Calibre 725.
In 1982, Oris decided to cease development of its own calibres, and to focus instead on module development. These modules were designed and developed in-house, while assembly was outsourced to third parties like ETA and later to Sellita, ensuring the Oris philosophy, a constant since 1904, was preserved.
A series of groundbreaking module developments began in 1988 with Calibre 418. It featured a mechanical alarm with a pure, sonorous tone that took months of painstaking development to perfect.
Oris followed this in 1993 with a range of upgraded movements with in-house developed features, including small seconds, date windows and a pointer date. In 1995, Oris took another step forward by producing its first regulator movement, Calibre 649. One of Oris’s most ambitious movements was Calibre 581, a complication that first appeared in 1996. It had subdials for pointer day, pointer date and second time zone indications, plus a moonphase and a central seconds hand. In 1999 came the first Pointer Day, Calibre 645.
Going backwards to change the World
Then in 1997, Oris developed Calibre 690, a worldtimer based on ETA 2836-2. Oris’s in-house module was a revolution, never seen before in the watch industry. It allowed the wearer to adjust local time in one-hour jumps, using plus and minus push buttons on the side of the case. More than that, it could also adjust the date backwards if the time zone adjustment took the wearer back a day. This function has been imitated since by other brands, but Oris was first.
A Tradition Revived
After Calibre 690, Oris turned its attention to case designs and material innovations. Then in 2009, after a steady stream of technical innovations, Oris introduced its first 24-hour pilot’s watch, powered by Calibre 653, which had a 24-hour dial. A year later, Oris presented its first retrograde date, Calibre 735.
In 2013, Oris moved the game on again with the launch of Calibre 761, known as the Pointer Moon. It became the world’s first mechanical watch capable of showing both the lunar cycle and the tidal range, essential indications for divers.
Oris Calibre 110 – A World first Combination
In its 110-year history Oris has proved time and again that it is one of the world’s most innovative watch brands. It was the founding partners’ dream to produce high-quality watches at an excellent value for the money, and that spirit continues to inspire and motivate the company today. Not only that, but Oris has always maintained a tradition of developing useful watches with functions that serve a practical benefit for their owners.
To mark its 110th anniversary, Oris is proud to announce Oris Calibre 110, the first mechanical movement developed from the ground up by Oris for 35 years. A hand-wound calibre, it features a 10-day power reserve and a patented non-linear power reserve indication.
These two complications have never come together before. Uniting them provided an exceptional challenge for Oris’s in-house team of watchmakers and designers, who worked with Swiss technical specialists and with L’École Téchnique Le Locle on the project over a period of 10 years.
The result is a milestone in mechanical watchmaking. It has been achieved using a combination of industrial techniques and engineering. Each calibre will be hand-assembled and tested in Oris’s Hölstein factory by our expert watchmakers, some of whom have worked with us for over 40 years.
One Barrel, but more than one Idea
Unlike many movements with comparable power reserves, Oris Calibre 110 uses a single-barrelled system. Inside this barrel is a mainspring that would stretch to 1.8 metres if unravelled. Reducing this in size so it fits into a single barrel, without making the calibre over-sized, demonstrates exceptional technical know-how. The watch has been tested to ensure the power is delivered evenly throughout its 10-day cycle.
But for Oris, a 10-day power reserve in itself was not enough, which is why Calibre 110 also has an Oris-patented non-linear power reserve indication. The display at 3 o’clock on the dial indicates the amount of power remaining in the barrel from 10 days down to zero. At the top of the scale, the notches representing the days are close together; at the bottom they are further apart. As the power is released, the hand moves clockwise around the scale, slowly at first, and then more quickly as the notches become more spread out. This gives the wearer a far clearer indication of how much power is left in the watch as the moment to wind it approaches.
An Industrial Solution to a fine Watchmaking Problem
Oris has taken a deliberately industrial approach to producing this unique movement. While Calibre 110’s edges are all hand-bevelled and hand-polished, the bridges’ large surfaces retain their untouched industrial beauty. Calibre 110 is a fine-watchmaking movement produced using honest, industrial principles, and fits with the Oris philosophy of making sensibly priced luxury Swiss watches.
More than that, it demonstrates Oris’s exceptional know-how and horological ambition, both of which are the fruit of 110 years of mechanical watchmaking experience.
The Calibre 110 will appear in a new watch, the Oris 110 Years Limited Edition, from CHF 5,500 in steel, and CHF 14,800 in solid 18-carat rose gold. There will be 110 pieces in 18 carat rose gold and 110 pieces in stainless steel. These will be delivered in April, 2014.