In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9881 to begin desegregating the US military. That same year Carl Brashear, the African American son of Kentucky sharecroppers, joined the US Navy. He spent his early years encountering racism and savage animosity while serving food in the officers’ mess. In 1954, after repeated requests were ignored, he was finally admitted to the Navy’s diving school. He graduated the following year to become the Navy’s first black diver.
In the mid-1960s, while participating in the recovery of a thermonuclear bomb that the US Air Force had misplaced in the waters off Southern Spain, an accident resulted in Brashear having his left leg amputated. Remarkably, he re-qualified as a diver and returned to full active duty two years after the loss of his limb. He went on to reach the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver by the time of his retirement in 1979. Upon his death, in 2006, the US Navy released a statement affirming he was “as true an American hero as ever lived”.
It should come as little surprise, therefore, that Brashear’s remarkable life has been honoured and commemorated numerous times, including through the naming of the ship, USNS Carl Brashear; the 2000 film Men Of Honor; and now Oris’s new dive watch.
The Carl Brashear Limited Edition marks the brand’s first use of bronze in a watchcase. The alloy’s use is fitting, as the diving helmet worn in the 1950s by the watch’s namesake was made of the same material. The caseback is stainless-steel, essential as bronze can cause skin irritation, and exhibits an engraving depicting Brashear’s diving helmet and mantra “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down”.
Oris’s latest offering is a prime example of well-executed retro wristwatch design. Worthy of note are the curved crystal, subtly referencing dive watches of the mid-20th century, and the deep-blue dial, which sits harmoniously with the honey-coloured hue prevalent throughout the timepiece and, also echoes the watch’s maritime influences.
Some may question the 10-bar pressure rating for a contemporary diver’s watch, but remember, coveted early Submariners and Fifty Fathoms featured a water resistance of no more than 100m. The Oris was clearly never intended to compete with the likes of Rolex’s Deepsea or Omega’s Ploprof, instead it is the perfect holiday companion for the adventurous swimmer, snorkeller or fair-weathered SCUBA diver.
All About A Worthy Cause
The second grand tale from Oris this year is that which is intertwined with the newly announced Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II.
This is the second time Oris has created a watch in recognition of its partnership with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), with part of the sales of the special timepiece earmarked to support AMCS’ crucial purpose.