The Worlds First Automatic Watch With A Mechanical Altimeter
Hands-On Review: Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter 47mm [01 733 7705 4134-07 5 23 14FC]
This mountainous 47mm wide Oris is truly gigantic in size at a whopping 47mm wide and has a substantial 17.7mm case depth. It is not only Oris’s first watch of its kind; but, ‘the world’s first automatic watch with a mechanical altimeter’. (With the world’s first manual wind watch with a mechanical altimeter, being taken by the far more expensive Breva Genie 02 – with an eye-watering list price of $132,000).
The ProPilot Altimeter is an unsurprising watch coming from Oris – a brand that has made a name for itself by making mechanical watches, with useful complications, at an affordable price point. And this watch also acts as a spiritual sequel to the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge watch: but, instead of measuring depth diving under water – the altitude flying up and into the air.
It accomplishes two vital things that Pilots will need, packed into something that can be worn on the wrist in the form of a gargantuan watch – the time and altitude.
Who Is This Watch For?
While this watch is part of the ProPilot collection, bearing a great deal in common with its smaller siblings; with the highly legible dial, knurled bezel edge inspired by jet engines, and general design blueprint, I can see it being worn by more than just pilots.
The revolutionary mechanical altimeter is a complication that very few people will get to actually see in action. The altitude graduation on the bezel goes up to 15,000 feet in 100 feet increments (or 4,500m with markers every 25 meters) which I can see being of use for not just pilots of small planes (as commercial planes have pressurised cabins while flying at around 40,000 feet); but, for mountain climbers, skiers, explorers, or even research scientists who work at altitude.
As a guy who enjoys maintain climbing a great deal, and would love to get a pilots licence, I can see that having an altimeter function on a watch as not an expensive toy but a tool that I could really utilise. Using an altimeter in combination with an OS map would bring a whole new perspective to navigating a mountain range. The fact that it’s not electronic so has no batteries to run out of juice, with it having a mechanical barometer, is all to the Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter’s great advantage.
But it’s important to take into consideration the scale of mountains. That the altimeter will not be able to give a reliable reading past where the markings end. To put this into perspective the top 10 highest mountains in Europe range from 4,646m to 5,642m in height meaning the scale on the watch will be short of 1Km or so just in Europe on land alone – and that’s before we consider the vast magnitude of all the mountains in Asia, the Americas, and the rest of the world, with 14 mountains over 8000 meters!
At 47mm wide and with two crowns protruding from its casing, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter watch is by no means an insignificant watch. It possesses with it a good amount of heft thanks to its beefy brushed stainless steel construction, that assures the wearer of its tool watch identity.
Oris’s goal when making watches is not so much to make prestigious watches from exotic materials with complications that will never get used. But rather to build exceptionally good quality mechanical watches, with useful functions, at an affordable price point.
Case And Dial
This Oris ProPilot Altimeter resembles a Big Crown ProPilot Date that’s been engulfed by another monstrously large watch; whom has been subjected to nuclear irradiation – hence the additional crown growth by the 4 o’clock.
The general stylisation of the ProPilot Altimeter is consistent with the other watches in the ProPilot family – but is significantly larger. Its matt black dial with markings and Arabic numerals imbued with the white Superluminova variant BG W9 maintains excellent legibility. The red tipped seconds hand enables it to melt away when not required and helps to maintain a very clear dial design despite all the tasks it must accomplish. And the coin edge pattern on the bezel inspired by jet engines is also shared between these watches.
The reverse of the watch features a special engraved solid case back that converts meters into feet on a circular scale. A welcome addition, but I question how useful a conversion table is on the underside of a watch?
On this watch, we do not get to see Oris’s famed red rotor through an exhibition back. But as doing this would likely add an additional mill or two to the depth of the casing, it would push its thickness to nearly 20mm thick – making the watch just too gargantuan to realistically wear.
Where this watch is so utterly unique, is no doubtably the ability to calculate its altitude relative to sea level – which is one of the 6 most fundamental cockpit instruments that a pilot requires to fly a plane.
This function is controlled by the additional crown set by the 4 o’clock. When it’s screwed in the watch is rated as water-resistant to 100m; and, requires unscrewing in order to measure air pressure. Once out and activated, the red mark reminds the wearer that it shouldn’t be subjected to water that may get inside of the altimeter mechanism. But Oris has managed to add a PTFE vapour barrier to prevent ambient moisture from compromising its internals.
When handling this ProPilot Altimeter watch I was a little surprised by the amount of force required to push this venting crown back into the sealed position, which is something to consider when you get your hands on one.
A red marker indicates atmospheric air pressure and the yellow points (on the opposing side) to altitude. Pulling out this crown into its second position will allow it to be set to a known pressure (by getting the red hand to line up with the red triangle by the 6 marker), or a known altitude (by turning the crown until the yellow marker matches the current altitude around the outer bezel of the watch).
The barometer used in this ProPilot not only points to the current altitude around the outer bezel, with the yellow hand but also the air pressure of the surrounding environment: located in a recessed bezel around the central dial, pointed to with a red hand. It uses the metric measurement of pressure hPa (hectopascal), the standard for measuring atmospheric pressure.
Strap And Clasp
The Oris strap is of this sturdy green synthetic material with the unusual interhorn width of 23mm. The brushed stainless steel clasp takes inspiration from the seatbelt buckles in aircraft, with a single flap that is easily pulled up to undo the clasp.
The functional textile strap is relatively inconspicuous but maintains its ProPilot utilitarian look with its rouged feel and simple clasp. The strap does not require a loud eye-catching aesthetic as the Herculean scale of this watch is all that’s needed for grabbing people’s attention.
The movement used in this watch is the Oris 733, based on a SW 200-1. It has three central hands that tell the hours, minutes and seconds, and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. The date is instantaneously changing, and can be quickly adjusted with the crown. The seconds are also ‘hacking‘ so will stop when the crown is pulled out for accurate time setting.
The time and date are both controlled by a signed crown positioned on the edge of the casing at the 2 o’clock position.
Winding wise, the Oris ProPilot Altimeter’s movement is an automatic that will wind bidirectional (with a red Oris rotor hidden beneath the solid case back). Inside the movement are 26 jewels. The escapement oscillates at 28,800 v/h (4Hz). And it has an approximate power reserve of 38 hours.
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter of 47mm is not just a tool watch exclusively for pilots of private aircraft’s, but serious mountain climbers, skiers and explorers too. The innovative combination of an altimeter in an automatic watch is a feature made to be used by people who are very passionate about their hobby or job, but without costing the price of a small house.
Take the price of the Breva Genie 02 for example – about $132,000. An amount of money which I feel a pilot would far more likely spend putting towards a plane. In addition to this, the asking price for the Breva Genie 02 new is also about the same as ‘the world’s first commercial jetpack’ – I know which one I would rather have.
Yes, the Breva Genie 02 is the more horologically impressive watch between the two; and, is also marketed as an explores watch. But I question if this Breva watch would really be brought by explorers when there are so many tried and tested alternatives available (which would give far more accurate readings). I think that this is where these two watches differ from each other. The Oris Big Crown ProPiolot Altimeter has been made for explorers of the sky and mountains at an affordable price point. While the Breva Genie 02 has an altimeter function as a means to show off their horological ability. When buying an Oris watch, it’s not so much a prestigious badge of honour, but rather a watch made to be used and abused at a price that can be afforded.
Its mega size would look very out-of-place on anyone with skinny wrists, and really requires somebody with large wrists for it to aesthetically work. The ProPilot Altimeter is not only a very large watch but is the largest model available from the Big Crown ProPilot watch collection.
In conclusion, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter is an especially unique watch that is really very different to everything else out there with its functional mechanical altimeter. Oris have combined 75 years of experience in making watches for pilots that results in this distinctive watch at a remarkably affordable price.
This Altimeter watch is available with the altitude scale in feet or meters, and strap options between a metal bracelet, a leather strap, or a textile strap in green black or grey.
The RRP starts from £2350 with our shop selling them at a considerable discount.
Or buy this ProPilot Altimeter watch with a Meter scale here.