Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Altimeter is a modern pilot's watch

Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Altimeter is a modern pilot's watch

18 October 2015 | Oris , Aviator Watches

If you are in search of something different, of a "non-ordinary" brand, and are looking for original features, you might end up choosing an Oris watch. Let me explain this further: Oris is more than well known for its divers watches (one of them will be reviewed quite soon and it's worth the wait), but moving a step back in time, my feeling was that the brand was all about reliable and affordable watches for the tech-addict. Divers watches, however, are a niche and, although the brand has always sported a wide product offering, those watches' awareness was far beyond others' models appeal, in my opinion.

A lot has changed in the last three years, with the unveiling for example of a new (hand-wound) caliber, that might easily become a benchmark and is already a call for real watch enthusiasts. Nevertheless, some boring styles from the past have left room for a cooler, modern and original design (all across the product offering). The result being that a brand,  recognized by many as simply "reliable" and with a good "price to quality" ratio (I still remember this sentence from a colleague when I was working in an automotive company some years ago), is now appealing also thanks to its style, rather than just to its technical sheet. Keeping the Oris Calibre 111, that is actually equipped with the mechanical movement cited above and is my Grail Oris, aside for a moment, let's take a look at the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Altimeter.

Regardless of Oris' heritage and connection with the world of aviation, which dates back at least 80 years, the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Altimeter is mainly a modern three-hands automatic timepiece featuring a mechanical altimeter. It works quite simply, as it is based on the well-known equation that correlates atmospheric pressure and altitude.

From an aesthetical standpoint, the reading of the altitude is completely split by the hour reading, so that you can easily read at a glance all the information you need. This result is obtained via a perfect separation between the main dial and the outer ring, where air pressure and altitude scales are printed, with a gauge and two moving hands placed between them. If you're eager to measure the altitude on your Sunday outdoor trekking, first unscrew the crown to position 1, wait for a red ring to appear, then rotate it again up to position 2: to set up the device for measurement, rotate the crown until the red triangle aligns with the red hand positioned at the reference pressure provided by a given reference value, otherwise use the yellow altimeter indicator if you are provided with a certain reference altitude.

Once the set-up procedure is finished, turn the crown back to position 1, so that your mechanical altimeter is ready to work and track the current altitude. I'm sure that more than one reader, and I would probably do the same, is about to ask which is the rate precision of the device, but I have no information about this and it might be further investigated, although watches’ brands usually (this should be confirmed by reading the booklet that comes with the watch) inform customers not to use it as a professional altimeter.

Moreover, if you're a frequent flyer as I am, be aware that it might not be giving the exact altitude while you're in the jet stream, in other words in a pressurized aircraft's cabin (as is the case for any watch with an altimeter, be it mechanical or not).Thumbs up to Oris for a nice idea about the strap (not the only option though but for sure the most appropriate for this watch), which is a small masterpiece. Oris has in fact equipped the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot Altimeter with a miniature aircraft-like seat-belt that is safe, nicely finished and opens with the same feeling you get once you unclasp your seat belt after landing.

On the wrist this 47mm wide watch is glorious, big, bold and well balanced (aesthetically I mean), yet not as heavy as it is supposed to be, in spite of its stainless steel case, but has a small flaw, related to its comfort. I tried to adjust the textile strap into the folding clasp more than once, something that, alone, is not an easy and quick operation, and I tried many different adjustments to make it fit around my wrist snugly.

The main "issue" is that when you succeed in wearing it correctly, soon the case back starts to scratch your wrist, something that might become a problem on a daily basis, which is how often you would expect to wear this watch. In spite of this flaw, the price point of 3500€ is right considering the finishes, very good indeed, the technical package and the overall design that is aesthetically unrivalled and technically speaking hard to find elsewhere (perhaps you might find some similarities on the first side by taking a look at the Citizen Promaster Altichron but the comparison is not like for like), and is all about mechanics and not even a piece of quartz; it speaks more with features and less with marketing and if you're about to choose it, I suggest you try the full stainless steel version. 


(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)

Gaetano C. @Horbiter®

@Gaetano Cimmino

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  1. user Lorenzo scrive:

    Per chi si stesse chiedendo come mai l'altimetro vada regolato prima di ogni volo, la risposta è semplicissima, perché la pressione varia ogni giorno e anche ogni ora. Come avviene per l'altimetro dell'aereo basta inserire la quota della pista di partenza (che è sempre nota) e leggere poi sull'orologio la QFE se invece si vola per flight level allora vuol dire che state usando un aereo con cabina pressurizzata e quindi l'orologio sarebbe alquanto inutile. Se invece attraversate una zona lontana dalla pista di partenza potete chiedere via radio il valore di pressione medio relativo alla zona per ottenere il qnh.

    • horbiter scrive:

      Grazie Lorenzo! ciao, Gaetano

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