March 2016, the launch of the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition (40mm). A launch so successful for the Hölstein, Switzerland based brand that all 2000 pieces of the limited edition was spoke for while Baselworld 2016 was ongoing.
Today, it is timely that we take a moment to remind ourselves, exactly who Brashear was. 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”.
The Carl Brashear Limited Edition was the first instance of an Oris watch being issued in bronze. A material that was perfectly in line with the man it was made to honor. You see, the diving helmet that Brashear would’ve worn in the 1950s, while in service, would’ve been made of the same material. The caseback is stainless-steel 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”.
Since then, there have been several extrapolations of the use of bronze in Oris’ Divers Sixty-Five, namely in with bronze bezels and bi-metal bracelets that use bronze and steel. Our own Oris Divers Sixty-Five “Honey” was blessed to have this great bronze bezel, perfectly matching the honey dial. Later on, we were also able to offer the Honey on the bi-metal bracelets, once they were available.
Sometime ahead of our launch of Honey, Oris launched the Carl Brashear Chronograph Limited Edition. Which saw the Divers Sixty-Five in the form of a chronograph for the first time. The watch was issued, again, in a limited run of 2000 pieces. This, too, had an all bronze case (43mm) and the blue dial of the 2016 Carl Brashear Limited Edition.
Now, Oris takes a step further in their bronze ambition, with a watch that — quite literally — pushes the limits. This is the all bronze — case and bracelet — Oris Hölstein Edition 2020. Speaking in brief about the watch, Rolf Studer, Oris Co-CEO shared, “The Oris Hölstein Edition 2020 is a celebration of Oris’s roots and the values we carry through into today and tomorrow. But we also wanted to give Oris fans and all watch enthusiasts something to cheer, something to make them smile.”
The watch resembles the Carl Brashear Chronograph Limited Edition with its bronze case. Of course, that’s where it stops. The dial on the watch is gold-plated to match the bronze of the case and bracelet with black chronograph counters along with rose gold-plated indices. And yes, that bracelet, probably a first in the industry, is in complete bronze.
The question that may be asked here is: haven’t we been concerned all this while that direct skin contact with bronze might prove problematic? “We’ve been working with bronze for years and our customers know what bronze is and will be aware that if they have a watch with a bronze bracelet,” explains Mr Studer, “they may get oxidization on their skin. But then you have a shower and it’s gone again. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”
Beyond the glow factor of an all bronze watch, here’s another reason why Oris collectors are about to put down deposits for the Oris Hölstein Edition 2020, immediately. Says Mr Studer, “So we did something quirky, something unexpected – who else puts a bear [the Oris Bear] on the back of a luxury watch made of solid bronze?” Turning the watch over, you’ll find Oris Bear embossed on the caseback.
“How can you be mad at a bear,” asks Mr Studer. “He’s a canvas for any kind of emotion. All of us had a teddy bear when we were kids and it was a mirror for our emotions. People buy watches because they cheer us up. Our job is to give people a happy moment in their hectic day.” And goodness gracious, if ever there was a need for us to find something that would make us smile, that time is now.
Self-winding Oris 771 (based off the Sellita SW500-1); hours, minutes, small running seconds at 9 o’clock; chronograph with 30-minute totalizer at 3 o’clock; 48-hour power reserve
43mm multi-piece bronze case, uni-directional rotating bronze bezel with bronze insert; caseback in stainless steel, screwed, special engraving of the Oris Bear; bronze screw-in security crown and pushers; water-resistant to 100m
Multi-piece bronze bracelet with folding clasp
Price & availability
CHF 4,800; available June 2020
Limited edition 250 pieces, available through Oris boutiques, the Oris e-Shop,and retailers with access to the Oris e-shop. Online tool to choose your limited-edition number.