Introducing

The Oris Aquis Calibre 400

Oris Aquis Calibre 400

Introduction.


If you had to guess from the wealth of high end Swiss watch brands which one had just produced a brand new manufacture automatic movement with 5 day power reserve, anti-magnetic to 2250 gauss, 10 years service life and 10 years warranty I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be Oris. However, if you were told that this class leading proprietary movement was to be housed in a case by an exponent of trusted 300m dive watches with ceramic bezels and beautiful detailing, I’m pretty sure you’d soon get to Oris.

The exceptional all new Calibre 400 from Oris

First, a bit of history that both backs up the initial and subsequent statements above. Up until the Calibre 400, Oris were no longer at the forefront of the manufacture brands, having become incredibly successful in the £1000 to £2000 price range, mainly with the contemporary Aquis Diver and the re-issue of the Sixty Five diver. However, prior to that, between their inception over 115 years ago, to the quartz crisis in the 1970s, Oris were a well-respected Swiss manufacture.

Oris was founded in 1904 by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, two watchmakers from what was considered the Swiss centre of excellence for horology at the time, Le Locle. So, it was a brave move to buy the old Lohner & Co. watch factory in the German speaking town of Holstein, near to Basel. This remains home to the brand nearly 120 years later. The name Oris was derived from the brook that ran close to the factory. Their business model utilised the up to date industrial techniques of the time with the historical art of craftmanship, to create beautiful pocket and wrist watches with accurate and reliable movements. This business structure was successful and by 1910 Oris was the largest company in the region. At its peak Oris employed over 800 staff creating over 1.2 million watches per year.

A hint at the possibility of an astounding manufacture high-volume movement came in the shape of the in-house Calibre 110 in 2014 to celebrate, yes you’ve got it, Oris’ 110th anniversary. This incredibly classy timepiece had a hand wound movement with a phenomenal power reserve of 10 days.

An exemplar of movement design and finishing. The Calibre 110.

This underdog bolt-out-of-the-blue statement of intent was the equivalent of your local retired people’s walking club scaling Kilimanjaro. Oris added to their armoury of in-house movements year by year until their 115th anniversary in 2019 with Calibres 111 (with date display), 112 (with second timezone and moonphase displays), 113 (with day of the week and week of the year displays), 114 (with GMT function) and 115 (skeletonised dial).

Artelier Calibre 111

Artelier Calibre 112

Artelier Calibre 113

Big Crown Pro Pilot Calibre 114

Pro Pilot X Calibre 115

Hopefully, this mini preamble will enhance our appreciation this underdog of the Swiss watch world and why we shouldn’t actually be surprised that they’ve just created one of the most highly specified 3 hand movements of all time.

Specifications.


•  Up to 2250 gauss anti-magnetism. For a mechanical watch to be rated as “anti-magnetic”, as required by the ISO 764, it only has to withstand 60 gauss! To give this some perspective, the magnetic clasp on a handbag, wallet or tablet case is in the region of 120 gauss. A fridge magnet is about 10 gauss. A magnetic door latch is about 850 gauss. A loudspeaker is in the region of 1500 gauss. At the extremes of magnetism, an MRI scanner is 15000 gauss. So, don’t take the Aquis 400 in there. All other eventualities should be covered

• 120 hour power reserve. The industry standard is circa 40 hours. This not only increases the practicality of the watch, because the owner will not have to wind and set within 5 days of putting the watch down (therefore, reducing the amount of stress of the screw down crown threads), but this also negates the reduction in long term accuracy due to the fact that regulation is affected as the mainspring(s) wind down to near zero.

• 10 year warranty. The industry standard is 2 years. This was the headline grabber for me. Oris is immediately stating that they have full confidence in the reliability of their brand-new high-end movement. Some brands such as Rolex, Tudor and Breitling make a big deal about 5 year warranties from their in-house movements. The Calibre 400 doubles that.

• 10 year recommended service intervals. The industry standard is 4 years. This adds further peace of mind and practicality to the Calibre 400 and also means that you will not be without your gorgeous gradient blue Aquis as frequently.

So, how have Oris achieved this magnificent fete of horological engineering?:

Oris’ engineers recognised straight away that the potential purchaser of the Aquis Calibre 400 is most likely to be a learned collector. Someone who appreciates what it actually takes to create such a masterpiece of micro-engineering, and that “firsts” in the current world of horology are very rare. A collector is most likely to have multiple timepieces in permanent rotation. Therefore, two, or even three, days power reserve would not be enough. Twin barrels, running in series, each with an extended mainspring provide a power reserve of five days. Oris have also experimented with the profile of the cog teeth to create a silhouette that increases efficiency of energy transmission, contributing to the massive 120 hour autonomy.

Through extensive modelling and a subsequent stringent testing regime, Oris has the confidence in their new movement to offer a simply staggering 10 year warranty. One example of the innovation within the Calibre 400 to allow for this is replacing the fragile ball bearing system, at the heart of the rotor based automatic winding system, with a low-friction slide bearing system. The fundamentals involve a metal stud that runs through a lubricated sleeve. Benefits include high efficiency plus less wear and tear, resulting in a greater reliability.

To create a movement able to reliably withstand 2250 gauss of magnetism Oris used over 30 non-ferrous components, including the balance wheel and anchor both manufactured from silicon. During testing the Calibre 400 deviated less than 10 seconds in a 24 hour period with constant exposure to a frightening 2250 gauss.

I hate to come across all millennial like, but the Calibre 400 is absolutely epic.

It’s not a bad looker too.

The in-house calibre is also meticulously finished, in an industrial way. Granted it would never receive the Geneva Seal (even if Oris were located there) but you instantly get the impression that attention has been given to every single facet, edge, wheel and ruby. Without unrealistic manual labour expenditure at this price point Oris have still created a very attractive movement that can be viewed through a sapphire exhibition case back. It is not COSC certified but Oris are quoting -3 to +5 seconds per day, which is within COSC. The only problem with this is that there is no guarantee of that regulation. However, this is the most important development for Oris in many, many years and will garner much more interest than the Calibre 110 and its derivatives. So, I would be confident that your Oris Aquis Calibre 400 is within COSC standards. The watch I was generously loaned by Andrew Michaels Jewellers achieved a static regulation of -2 seconds per day.

300 meters water resistant is maintained through the use of a screw down crown with twin gaskets and a screw down case back.

The Aquis Calibre 400 is what is commonly known as a sleeper due to the fact that there is very little exterior indication that the watch houses one of the most important movements in recent times. The only real elevation over a standard Aquis is that iridescent royal blue to cyan blue gradient dial. Oris have created some stunning dials for the Aquis in the past but they must have been holding onto this one for a special occasion. It is captivating in any light conditions. Although direct sunshine truly brings out the best visual feast. It’s the kind of blue we dream about when we book our holiday to the Bahamas to witness the sunshine cascading down on the turquoise shores.

The uni-directional, professional spec., diver’s bezel utilises a ceramic insert that flawlessly ties in with the royal blue of the dial, as if it is extending out beyond the applied hour markers.

Under water and after dark legibility is guaranteed due to strong lume in a blue Superluminova© reminiscent of the eye catching dial.

Available on surgical grade stainless steel bracelet, with impeccable contrasting satin and mirror polished links, or synthetic rubber strap on folding clasp. The former with a diver’s extension and the latter with an on-the-fly incremental adjustment. Oris have designed a very clever, concealed mechanism to allow for these to be inter-changed by the customer, with no need to return to an authorised dealer.

Transform your Aquis Calibre 400 with the optional black synthetic strap.

The release clip for the bracelet is located under the end link

This is easily opened……………

……….to allow for the bracelet to be removed.

Conclusion.


We were all left in a state of wonderment when Oris teased us with an announcement that they had created a world class manufacture movement. I have to admit I was sceptical. Not that I’m not a big fan of Oris, on the contrary. But brands often have a tendency to get ahead of themselves in pre-release advertising verbiage, where a poetic license doesn’t even come close to bridging the gap between hyperbole and reality. I was delighted when the Calibre 400 lived up to the brand’s publicity based hysteria. Hopefully, after the inane ramblings of a horolophile you can appreciate Oris’ integrity in this courageous move and why you should most definitely want to own a new Aquis Calibre 400.

When you buy a luxury timepiece you are hoping to invest in many aspects of this indulgence. A fairly accurate watch can be purchased for less than a 4K Blu-ray disc. However, that is all it will be, fairly accurate. It will lack charm, sophistication, reliability, after-sales, robustness and any kind of emotional attachment. So, what should you expect from a wrist watch that costs more than the equipment to do that 4K Blu-ray disc justice? Desirability is a given but this is subjective so I would argue that care-free peace-of-mind is the most important quality you should demand. This will proffer itself in the form of long-term accuracy, reliability under extraneous circumstances, a lack of concern for any kind of failure or performance degradation and a life time aesthetical sheen. To put it simply, the watch you have in many years to come should be identical to the one you fell in love with originally. This is where the Oris Aquis Calibre 400 sets the bar incredibly high.

Going back to “Desirability”, I do need to clarify that the Oris Aquis 400 has this pinned too, because that dial is sublime.

I love the discrete nature of the Aquis 400. Too many brands have a tendency to shout about their horological achievements with oversized cases and loud dial designs, instantly discriminating most of the watch buying fraternity. The 43.5mm case and soft blue tones of the Aquis 400 are tastefully considered elements that should appeal to everyone.

Only a nominal text of the dial indicates that something truly special lies beneath.

My only grumble with the Calibre 400 is the omission of COSC certification. Oris state a regulation of a deeply impressive -3 to +5 seconds a day. Why not confirm this by having it tested by a third-party testing facility that is highly revered in the horological community? I appreciate there is additional cost and logistics involved but I would happily pay the extra for this independent verification. The Aquis Calibre 400 would still be a bargain and that final constituent of psychological edification would be granted.

Also, not qualifying as a grumble but more an observational disappointment, it would have been nice to be able to buy the Aquis Calibre 400 at point of sale on one of Oris’ nice blue straps to tie in with that exquisite dial. Black is all good and well, and does offer an instant change of appearance to the bracelet, but is too ubiquitous in my opinion. Hopefully, the new quick release system will find itself incorporated into some of the other synthetic rubber straps in the near future. Imagine it on the orange of the Aquis Carysfort Limited Edition. This can, of course be achieved retrospectively, just not utilising the clever quick-change system.

If a brand like Rolex had announced a new movement with the specifications of the Calibre 400 in their flagship diver’s watch the world would have gone mad, the waiting list would have instantly been multiple years, the retail price would be five times as expensive and the grey market price would have been double that. Likewise if one of the high end independents had released a brand new calibre with the ridiculously impressive spec sheet of the Calibre 400 the price would be tens of thousands and no-one would bat an eyelid.  This is why I feel sorry for Oris. Finishing aside, the Calibre 400 is as well thought out and executed as any of these brands could conceive, and yet they seem to have to constantly prove themselves. As a fan of the brand I hope that the time of recognition is finally here following the introduction of the Calibre 400, arguably the finest spec’d 3 hand movement of all time. An ebauche that is borne out of sincere passion for watchmaking. You can’t just rock up to work one day and announce “We’re going to make the most incredible 3 hand movement ever” without realising what an enormous undertaking that is. If it were easy, we would have seen something similar in the last 250 years of horological breakthroughs.

With all attributes considered, including price (especially price), the Oris Aquis 400 has just leapt to the top of the pile of the most aspirational category of timepieces.

Only a truly stubborn and completely biased pedant could fail to be impressed by the all new game-changing manufacture Calibre 400 married to the most striking blue dial.

The Calibre 400 isn’t just the zenith of what Oris is capable of, it is the pinnacle of watchmaking at this price point by some margin.


All words by Richard Atkins. All images by the author and Oris. This article may not be reproduced in part or whole without strict permission.

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