Today, eleven days before the official opening of Baselworld, I can already present you the new Oris Calibre 110 and the new Oris 110 Years Limited Edition timepiece.
The official embargo for this story ends the 17th of March at 0:00. But guys where on the globe? Since for half of my readers March 17th meanwhile has already begun, I said to myself: Why letting them wait any longer? For you guys in Europe and the Americas the information so comes some hours earlier. I assume this is in all our interest… 🙂
This is the story about the new Calibre 110 in-house developed and manufactured by Oris.
Some of you might remember: I already announced the story February 13th this year alongside with the interview I taped with Oris President Ulrich Herzog. For those of you who missed it, please click on “here” here below to get to the interesting interview >>> HERE <<<
I divided the story into several pages, so please take some time to first discover the brands history, then to discover the new watch and calibre and then finally to discover my exclusive taken photos of the new timepiece and its technical data …
Before going into medias res, let me first present you in brief the saga of Oris:
Even though the year 1904 is part of the Oris-logo I am sure many of you are not aware of the eventful history of the brand. The story begins in the quiet Swiss town of Hölstein in the Jura Mountains, some 110 years ago. Two watchmakers, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian, arrived in the town looking to set up their own watch company. They purchased a recently closed watch factory and called it Oris, a name they took from a neighbouring stream. Their dream was to produce the best possible watches at the best possible price. They employed talented watchmakers and skilled craftsmen, and adopted industrial processes in order to deliver their vision. They wanted to pioneer and innovate, to create reliable timepieces that would bring many years of pleasure. The company grew fast, quickly establishing a reputation for producing watches that delivered good quality and value.
By 1910 Oris employed 300 people, and by 1936 it had factories in Holderbank, Como, Courgenay, Ziefen, Herbertswil and Bienne to accommodate its rapid expansion. Oris built houses for its employees and ran bus services into work to transport those who lived as far away as Basel, 25 km to the north.
From the outset, Cattin and Christian made it their mission to master the many complex manufacturing stages of the watchmaking process, and to make Oris a company capable of developing its own pocket watch movements. A new Chapter started in the late 1920s: the company was bought by a group of investors after the last of the two founders died. It was at that time led by Jacques-David LeCoultre, Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson and the man who merged with Edmond Jaeger to form Jaeger-LeCoultre later in 1937.
By the time war broke out in Europe, Oris had established itself as one of the leaders in quality Swiss timepieces. During the war, with its distribution network being stymied, Oris turned to produce clocks, which led to an eight-day power reserve model finally launched in 1949. At that stage, the company produced more than 200,000 watches and clocks a year.
After the war, the company continued on an upward curve. By 1970, it was one of the world’s 10 largest watch companies, employing more than 800 (!) people and producing 1.2 (!) million watches and clocks a year. The continuous development of new manufacture movements was key for the company’s development.
But the boom was not to last as the Quartz Crisis kicked in, almost killing off the traditional Swiss watch industry. The influx of cheap quartz watches from the Far East decimated the global mechanical watch market. As the crisis deepened during the 1970s, an estimated 900 Swiss watchmaking companies went bankrupt, and two thirds of the work force was laid off. In 1970 Oris was sold to the General Watch Company, a subsidiary of ASUAG Group. In 1982 ETA took over the leadership of ASUAG and in 1984 ASUAG merged with SSIH (founded 1930 by Omega and Tissot and later joined by other companies) to ASUAG-SSIH. One year later SMH was founded. SHM, as we all know, later became the Swatch Group.
Oris was greatly affected by the downturn, but continued to pursue its vision, despite the circumstances. In 1982, the company’s General Manager Dr. Rolf Portmann and Head of Marketing Ulrich W. Herzog staged a management buy-out and broke away from the ASUAG Group, and Oris Watch Co SA became Oris SA.
Although to the outside world nothing had changed, Oris was now an independent company again, free to plot its own course into the future. Portmann and Herzog were entrepreneurs and set about revitalising their company. Herzog started travelling the world observing emerging trends and discovered that in influential markets like Japan mechanical watches were resurgent. He step by step convinced his colleagues to drop the quartz strategy that had been forced upon the company by the ASUAG Group, and within a few years Oris made its last quartz watch, focussing instead on mechanical innovations.
Today, over 30 years since the buyout, Oris has no bank debts; all business operations are financed out of the cash-flow. Dr. Rolf Portmann remains as honorary chairman, but Ulrich Herzog now runs the company. Oris is fully independent and one of the few Swiss watch companies that only makes mechanical watches and that places such a strong emphasis on presenting the consumers a product that offers real genuine value.
Let me quote Ulrich Herzog: “Oris is recognised by the Red Rotor, which symbolises a passion for traditional watchmaking, and is universally acknowledged for its commitment to producing quality mechanical watches at sensible prices. The brand strapline is ‘real watches for real people’, which serves as a mantra to the designers and watchmakers who work in the same Hölstein factory where the company was first established 110 years ago.”
Happy Birthday Oris!