Editor-in-Chief, Scarlett Baker divulges into her latest horological crush,the Oris Aquis Upcycle launched this year, uncovering the story behind the enigmatic timepiece.
If you’d asked me this time last year what I’d like to appear underneath my Christmas tree with my name scribed on it, a watch most certainly wouldn’t have been there. Not because I would have been unhappy with one in the slightest, but at that point in my life it was shoes > Rolex. There was something more arresting about sauntering around my family home on Christmas morning with a pair of painstakingly high heels that would, at best, have two outings a year. But, in 2021, I’ve seen the horological light and understand exactly why time is the wisest counselor of all, and arguably the chicest thing to wear on your wrist.
While I haven’t quite abandoned the shoe-ship, much to my credit cards dismay, my love has split evenly and I am in equal fervour to both luxury worlds. So while I’m still nurturing a relationship with shoes this Christmas, I’m sharing my love out, with appreciation for all things that tick.
Earlier in September this year, I made not only my first visit to a watch event, but my first ever trip to the epicentre of watchmaking: Geneva. Overwhelmed by its splendor; from the fountain, to the old town, to the sheer volume of clocks that were genuinely everywhere. During this trip, weaving through the streets meeting watchmakers and designers alike, and holding for the first time, the next wave of timepieces to flood the industry and shape the future of watchmaking, I met the Oris Aquis Upcycle.
Admittedly, Oris was a name I’d loosely heard of, but not one I’d be able to pinpoint with hawk-eyes should it be worn on a TV screen. But since my first meeting with Oris, their watches have been ingrained in my memory. You’ll quickly learn if you’re a newcomer to the watch industry that Swiss watch brands aren’t exactly few and far between. It’s the playground of all things watches. But Oris made itself known to me, leaving a lasting legacy by the brand’s credo: “things must make sense.” It might sound obvious, but in a world of complications – literally – that prioritises abstraction and extravagance, sometimes it’s hard to find simplicity.
Perhaps that’s why, particularly as a beginner, a watch brand that deals in simplicity but does it well spoke most to me. The brainchild of two minds, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Hölstein, in the canton of Basel-Country, Oris was conceived following the purchase of a recently closed factory in 1094, later named after a nearby brook.
By 1911, Oris had become the largest employer in Hölstein, with over 300 workers. To entice more watchmakers, it opened houses and apartments for its staff and by 1929, it had factories across Europe. Success throughout the 20th century came to a head though, as it did for many watch brands, with the influx of the quartz crisis. On the verge of closure, and preserving its breath, Oris, under new management in 1982, made the intrepid decision to no longer follow suit producing quartz watches.
Oris is one of a small handful of Swiss watch brands that makes only mechanical watches today, maintaining traditions of the past. While this is common for most watch brands today, searching to carve out new pathways into the future without erasing the past, Oris’ approach was upfront and steadfast. How? The Oris Aquis Upcycle.
Despite all of its magnitude, the watch world operates at a slower pace in two domains; one, gender and two, sustainability. Repetitive parlance about vegan straps is all well and good but it won’t save the planet alone. While small steps do of course contribute to a bigger picture, there’s no reason why we can’t take big steps in the first place.
For a novice grappling with jargon and history, what sets one watch brand apart from another today is their sustainable footprint. Are they buzzwords or valid efforts? Taking leaps and jumps, Oris have made conscious efforts in achieving carbon neutrality, announced earlier this year.”
“Becoming climate neutral is easy to say, but harder to measure – and prove. We’ve not reached this point alone,” offered We’re working with one of the world’s leading independent climate action experts ClimatePartner, which calculated the carbon footprint of our company and our products, taking into account carbon emissions from activities as diverse as heating our factory and commuting to work.”
“ClimatePartner has since issued Oris with a certificate confirming that we offset more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 through our support of the “Clean oceans” project, run by Plastic Bank, which has stopped one billion plastic bottles entering the ocean. For each compensated tonne of CO2, 10 kg of plastic waste is collected.”
Doing rather than saying, Oris has tasked itself by Spring 2022 to produce a full sustainability report, detailing their ecological input and output into the public domain. Aiming to reduce CO2 emission by 10% every year, the promises and dreams of this brand were totalled in evidence by the launch of the Aquis Date Upcycle. Released just this year, this novel model might derive from the brand’s core diving line, but its dial holds its own identity.
In an attempt to reduce the 13 million tons of plastic that makes its way into our oceans each year, Oris wants to put them into your watch instead. Quite literally. Compressing PET plastic, unique patterns are created to form a flecked mosaic of materials given a new life. Limited edition aesthetes fear not, the line might be continuous but every single dial is different.
It’s been 6 months since I’ve tried the watch on and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Between my unrelenting goals of owning a Cartier Crash and a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, Oris has etched a place into my horological heart. Retailing under $2,000, as a first timer, there’s something idiosyncratic about this watch that for its price is a comfortable entrance into the watch world. It’s got charisma, it straddles the language of both past and the future, and underneath the luxury regalia, it has an honest purpose.
For me, my first watch has to matter. It’s not just a financial challenge to myself (don’t forget there’s shoes to contend with too) but it’s an object that embodies a wider anthropological purpose; to change the outcome of what lies ahead of us. I remember reluctantly peeling the model from my wrist after trying it on, returning it to the table and aweing over the montage of images I’d snapped of it lying amongst the chains tangled on my wrist. I returned to my hotel across Lac du Geneve that evening and Googled “etymology of Oris.” The internet replied ‘Latin: mouth, opening, face, entrance.” How fitting, I thought. A watch brand truly carving open a space for change, throwing the doors wide open.