With a bronze-cased limited edition dedicated to a pioneering US Navy diver, has Oris done it again?
It seems like every couple of weeks these days that we find ourselves writing the words “snappy new diver’s watch from Oris”. First there was the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge, notable for its bullet-proof construction and ingenious solution to the problem of mechanically measuring depth. Then there was the Oris Divers’ 65, a slightly-less bulletproof but excellently well-judged piece of retro revivalism that, while it may owe its very existence to the work done by the Tudor Heritage Black Bay, stands on its own merits as a quirky, cool everyday watch.
A few months later Oris said, “hey, what that needs is a rich blue dial”, and made the Divers’ 65 even nicer. Did they then rest? Did they heck. They produced the calendar-equipped Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II, which is genuinely better than it sounds, with another dose of that blue and yellow colour scheme.
Now we are treated to the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition, a bronze-cased beauty that yet again finds that sweet spot between half-hearted bandwagon-jumping and total vintage pastiche.
Like the 65, it’s only water-resistant to 100m, which is a little bit of a disappointment when you’re honouring the work of a celebrated diver (more about whom in a minute) but we’ll get over it; the extra water-resistance would pump up the really quite reasonable price (CHF 2,600; no confirmed UK price as yet) for a start. 2,000 pieces will be made .
It’s Oris’ first bronze watch, and such is the brand’s excitement to be working with the metal that it has provided imagery of the watch showing how it might patinate over time – the gradual ageing and discolouration of bronze being its chief appeal to watch lovers. Now it is true that there has been a wave of bronzes lately, from Panerai, Pinion, Squale, Zenith, Bell & Ross and more, which does mean this release has a hint of “bandwagon” about it, but frankly, who cares?
Under the skin, it’s Oris’ Cal. 733, a three-hander with date at 6 o’clock that began life as a Sellita SW200. All your standard dive watch features are there; unirotational bezel with 60-minute scale and luminous dot zero; domed crystal with antireflective coating on the inside; ever so classic dot-and-lozenge hour markers with rose gold plating and superluminova. Only the leather strap (and aforementioned aversion to truly deep waters) tell you that this is really a dive watch for hanging out near the sea, rather than plunging into it. For the dial, Oris has returned to the faded dark blue treatment that it gave the Divers 65, and quite simply, it’s great.
So: just who was Carl Brashear, you ask? Kentucky-born Brashear was the first African-American to become a US Navy Master Diver (a title rather than a military rank that observes that the individual concerned is capable of overseeing pretty much all manner of underwater activity, from training and salvage to demolition, “special warfare operations”, search and rescue and the excellent-sounding “littoral combat”).
Brashear’s achievement came not only in the face of staggering racism and hostility, but with the considerable (one would think) disadvantage to a diver of having his left leg amputated below the knee. In an operation in 1966 to retrieve a B28 nuclear bomb, which was lost off the coast of Spain after a mid-air refuelling collision, Brashear was severely injured, resulting in the eventual amputation of his left leg below the knee. Four years later, he achieved the certification of Master Diver. He served in the Navy until 1979, when he retired after more than 30 years of service, and died in 2006 aged 75. Brashear’s story was told in the film Men of Honor, with Cuba Gooding Jr playing the role of Brashear.
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