Hands-On: The Oris Big Crown 1917

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When asked about what the biggest trends are from this year’s Baselworld fair, I’ve basically been giving the same answer to everyone: all vintage everything. Basically any brand with heritage to draw from (and even some without) created old-school watches in smaller sizes and with period details to draw in the real fans. Oris went way back though, looking to its very first pilot’s watch to inspire the Big Crown 1917.

oris big crown 1917 limited edition

This is definitely the most overtly old-school watch Oris has created in a long time.

Arthur first introduced you to this watch during Baselworld itself. To quickly recap the basics, this 40mm stainless steel pilot’s watch is inspired by an archival piece dating to 1917. It’s the kind of pilot’s watch that pre-dates the flieger-style watches, with their black dials and bold, geometric hands. In fact, the only thing about it that will immediately scream "pilot’s watch" to most people is that onion-shaped crown that gives this watch its name.

The dial of this watch is, without question, its greatest attribute. The silver finish has a really nice grain texture to it, and a subtle step down to the central section with the old-school Oris signature. Around the outer edge is a simple black chapter ring, inside of which sit 12 SuperLuminova-filled Arabic numerals with small, sharp serifs. Complementing those numerals are blued cathedral-style hands with matching faux-aged SuperLuminova. Unlike some of the vintage-inspired watches that throw back to the 1960s and 70s and still look relatively modern, this one has an almost antique quality to it. However, it’s been executed very well and I don’t think the overall effect strays into costume territory at all.

oris big crown 1917 limited edition dial

The silver dial has a rich texture and the chapter ring and numerals are extremely crisp and clear.

Turn the watch over and you’ll see the solid caseback bearing the "OWC" logo in the center. This was usually reserved for Oris’s 18k gold watches, but they’ve brought it back here as a nod to the past and the special quality of this piece. You’ll also see the limited edition number, with each piece being individually numbered out of 1917 (obviously a nod to the inspiration watch’s birth year).

Underneath the caseback is the Oris caliber 732, which is an automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve, based on the Sellita SW 200-1. However, you’ll notice a little button set into the case just above the onion-shaped crown. The movement has been modified to require that you push this button in order to set the time. Honestly, I feel like this would just be kind of annoying, practically speaking, but it was a feature of the 1917 watch and Oris has decided to keep it for this tribute. 

oris big crown 1917 limited edition caseback

The OWC signature on the back is a nod to how Oris used to mark its highest-end pieces.

Included with the watch is a special cuff-style strap in soft brown leather. To be honest, this was the biggest surprise for me with this watch. I didn’t expect to like this strap, but the cuff is thin enough as to not look too in-your-face, and it makes the watch extremely comfortable. The 40mm diameter is also perfect for this watch – it wears small-ish, which will appeal to those interested in a watch like this, no doubt, but ensures that you know you’re dealing with a modern watch.

oris big crown 1917 limited edition strap

The cuff-style strap really surprised me – it’s awesome!

Overall, I really have to give it to Oris with this one. Just like with the various iterations of the Divers Sixty-Five, the brand has threaded the vintage/modern needle, creating a watch that looks like it’s from the past while still appealing to contemporary customers. This one is definitely the most overtly faux-vintage model yet, but it displays Oris’s compelling interest in its own heritage and its savvy in reminding collectors of past success.

The Oris Big Crown 1917 Limited Edition is priced at $2,600 and comes with two leather straps and a leather travel pouch. It is a numbered limited edition of 1,917 pieces. For more, visit Oris online.

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