How many designs from the 1930s can you think of that are still in use today? While the era produced stunning pieces of architecture and design, and many breakthroughs in cars and airplanes, even the very best creations of that era tend to look dated nearly 100 years later. There are, of course, a few exceptions. A handful of watch designs from the 1930s have aged better than just about anything else from the era, and remain as handsome in 2022 as they were back then. Among these is the Oris Big Crown Pointer Date, a pilot’s watch created in 1938 which has remained in production ever since.
Like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso and Patek Philippe Calatrava, both of which were also born in the 1930s, the Oris Big Crown came along at a time when tastes and technologies were changing rapidly, and watchmakers were experimenting with bold new designs to meet this demand. Unlike some of its more famous contemporaries, however, the Oris Big Crown has managed to fly under the radar for much of the last century, remaining a favourite for those in the know, but relatively unknown elsewhere. Fortunately, thanks to several impressive new editions and an accessible price point, the Big Crown is finally ready to take its place among the titans of the classic watch canon.
A smart, stylish design
The Big Crown was created in 1938 at the end of a decade when sports watches had become increasingly popular. Designed for use by pilots in the era of Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, the Big Crown’s signature feature was an oversized winding crown that could be operated with gloves on (essential in the unheated cockpits of the day). Despite its high-flying bona fides, however, the Big Crown was designed to perform just as well on land as it did in the sky. With its large Arabic numerals, a fluted bezel, and a crescent-tipped hand indicating the date, it’s easy to see why.
Going for bronze
New for 2022 is a quartet of Big Crowns offering something completely new: a 40mm case made from bronze. With a solid bronze case, bezel, crown, and articulated bracelet, and with four dial colour options — green, brown, Bordeaux, and blue — these Big Crowns mark an important milestone for the model. Featuring Oris’s Calibre 754 automatic movement visible through a transparent case back, the new Big Crown Bronze editions will subtly discolour and patinate over time, making each one unique to its wearer. ($3,100)
New colours for a new decade
Like every classic timepiece, the Big Crown owes part of its longevity to its adaptability. Oris proved just how versatile this piece is when it began releasing a slew of colourful new dial options in recent years, from battleship grey to pistachio green to burgundy. With three case sizes to choose from (36mm, 38mm, and 40mm) the robust selection of dials makes the Big Crown more colourful and more versatile than ever. (From $2,100)
Oris has been crafting mechanical watches in Switzerland since 1904, putting it among the elite few watch brands with more than a century of heritage to their credit. Like all historic watchmakers, they’ve endeavoured throughout the decades to create ever more accurate movements for their timepieces, and one of the latest Big Crown editions shows just how far they’ve come. The new 38 mm model carries Oris’ new Calibre 403, one of the brand’s recently launched series of high-performance in-house engineered automatic movements. With a small seconds dial and the signature pointer date, the Calibre 403 first appeared in the 250-piece Hölstein Edition in 2021, but this is the first time it has been available in the mainline collection.
As with every movement in the Calibre 400 Series, the Calibre 403 has a five-day power reserve, anti-magnetic properties, and an impressive 10-year warranty. ($4,100)