“Hands-On” Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter [live pics, price]

We are testing, how the world’s first automatic watch with a mechanical altimeter presents itself on a wrist.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Recently, Oris gave many reasons for the interest in their watches. After releasing a model with a depth gauge (Aquis Depth Gauge) and one with 10-day power reserve (Calibre 110), the Swiss decided to show the way and manufacture the first timepiece with an automatic movement and a mechanical altimeter. The ready-made model had been a guest on my wrist for a few days.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

The pilots of small planes will take the most pleasure from wearing Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter and tracking the altimeter indicator. In Jumbo Jet planes, where the cabin air pressure is controlled, the watch will not work correctly. The module implemented in the Altimeter model will also prove itself on mountain trials, but the reading shown on the dial is going to change very slowly along with a change of altitude.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

How does the new Oris work?

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Time and date can be adjusted using the ORIS engraved crown located at 2 o’clock. Once it’s unscrewed and pulled out to the second position we can modify the date, whereas, in the third position, when the central second hand is stopped, we can set the time. For this feature, the Sellita SW200 based Cal. 733 movement with 38-hour power reserve is responsible, fitted in a little recess in the middle of the timepiece, under its dial. Of course, in the case there is space for an aneroid – device which takes care for altimeter’s readings. The aneroid barometer is an airtight box, filed with thinned air. During fluctuation of atmospheric pressure the box squashes inward slightly or flexes outward, moving the pointer of the altimeter within a special scale.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

The second crown (at 4 o’clock) is used to operate the altimeter. It’s a bit bigger from the one described before, with ALT SET engraving filled with red lacquer, on its upper surface. While unscrewing the crown, a red ring can be seen, informing about the watch being in the measurement-taking mode as well as warning us about the fact that the timepiece is not waterproof in this moment. The process of unscrewing the crown is nothing else but letting the air into the case, allowing it to affect the aneroid. Pulling the crown to the second position allows calibrating the device, while screwing it back in stops the measurement and restores water resistance, which in this case equals 100m.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

While working on the watch, Oris engineers had to challenge the problem with moisture and pollution getting into the case while taking measurements, in other words, while the crown is unscrewed. This has been solved thanks to PTFE membrane. I can confirm that there were no unwanted specks on the dial when I was using it.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Reading the measurements of altitude is done by observing a carbon indicator ended with a yellow pointer (it moves between the “central” dial, where we read the time, and the outer ring with the altimeter’s scale. The timepiece will be available in two versions: with metric (up to 4,500m) and imperial (up to 15,000 ft.) scales. Its solid, screw in, stainless steel caseback has been engraved with feet/meter conversion scale.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Oris and the world of aviation

Oris has grouped his watches into four main collections: Culture, Diving, Motor Sport and Aviation. Within the last one we can find known and loved Big Crown watch family. In 2014 this group was expanded by the ProPilot selection, including Altimeter.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

In the timepiece itself, we can find many interesting references to the world of aviation. Starting with the bezel whose incrustation resembles jet turbines, through use of the same pattern on the crowns’ edges and the caseback, finishing with the clasp buckle, which opens the same way as an aircraft safety belt buckle does. The mentioned buckle managed to depilate a fair part of my wrist in the first two days of wearing it…

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

For tests, I have received the version on a grey-coloured textile strap. There are black and green variants also available. It is possible to order one on a leather strap or stainless steel bracelet with a clasp buckle as well.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Despite its 47mm diameter and stainless steel case, its weight isn’t noticeable, making it comfortable to wear. A fair height of the case makes it impossible to hide it under the cuff, but it’s definitely a sports watch, so a jumper or a t-shirt would be a good choice.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

I like the path chosen by Oris. The brand more and more often introduces mechanical solutions into its watches, making it stand out against a backdrop of the competition. And all this, let’s add, at a reasonable price. For the Altimeter we need to pay over 2,500Euro. Considering that Génie 02 – a manual timekeeper with a mechanical altimeter by a young company Breva – costs over 100,000CHF; the choice for many lovers of this complication would be easy.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Watch provided by Janeba Time, official Oris distributor in Poland.

Photo: Adam Gawenda and Tomasz Kiełtyka
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter