The Goldilocks Watch

Oris Big Crown Pointer Date: If You Only Want to Have One Nice Watch, This Could Be It


July 3, 2018 Reviews By Photo by Hunter D. Kelley
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Oris has been making a pointer date watch, in one form or another, since 1938, and the timepiece you see here is its freshest iteration, launched at Baselworld earlier this year. The pointer date is a complication deeply associated with the Swiss watchmaker and also something of an oddball today. Save for the Mido Multifort Datometer, you won’t find any other mainstream manufacturer selling one today. Yet it’s a complication that makes a lot of sense.

You don’t have to look very far online to find enthusiasts complaining about the more ubiquitous date window disrupting the flow of the dial. However, watch companies defend the date complication as an essential and useful addition for buyers who likely don’t identify as hardcore enthusiasts. The pointer date — which uses a hand that, well, points to the day of the month around the outside of the dial — is the perfect middle ground, leaving the dial clean and retaining the practicality of the date complication.

This, however, is just scratching at the Big Crown’s “Goldilocks” quality – this is a watch that thrives in the middle ground. The Big Crown is full of wonderful contradictions and capable of making compromises that, well, don’t actually feel like compromises.

The Good: The Big Crown Pointer Date somehow feels convincingly vintage, yet distinctly modern – dressy when it wants to be, casual everywhere else. It both stands out, yet can blend in. This is because Oris stuffed the watch with tons of little details that play to the watch’s heritage and then paired them with others that subvert the idea of the super-accurate vintage reissue (albeit with pastel-like dial colors). And since the basic design takes inspiration from a pilot’s watch from the 1930s, it certainly has enough roguish charm to be considered casual, but there’s so much dignity and refinement present here that it’ll play nicely with a sweater or a suit. This is to say nothing of the fact that it’s packing an obscure mechanical complication and will cost you only $1,600.

Who They’re For: Any person looking to dip into luxury watches who doesn’t want to spend very much money. Spending $1,600 on a watch is undoubtedly a big step into watch ownership, but most of the finishing here is on par with similar watches that would cost hundreds or even thousands more. Further, given the Big Crown’s versatility, it could work for any occasion, precluding the need to spend more money to build up a more varied collection.

Watch Out For: For those who want to bellyache about the 40mm size being too big, the additional 36mm option is far more in line with vintage tastes, but it comes with a caveat: you can’t get the blue dial. The 36mm is only available in green or black; conversely, the 40mm is only available in blue or black. So, while Oris gives you decent choice for color and size, you can’t spec it exactly how you want. Giving consumers more flexibility in this regard would only be a boon to the Pointer Date’s already massive mass appeal.

Alternatives: If you want another pointer date watch, your only real alternative is the aforementioned Mido Datometer. Like the Oris, it’s available in 40mm (though only 40mm) but it runs a stock automatic pointer date movement from ETA. Given the Mido comes with a PVD rose gold-colored case, a faux alligator strap and a more austere dial design, it’s the decidedly more dressy option and thus lacks the Oris’s formal/casual duality.

Review: When I was in college, I would run the same five-mile route every other day, passing the home of a seemingly very well-to-do individual with a penchant not just for good cars, but interesting ones, parked right outside. Highlights included an early ’90s Alfa Romeo Spider and a pristine Subaru SVX, but the crème de la crème was an ’80s Porsche 911 done up in a fabulous slate blue. That car, and more importantly, its color, has remained seared in my gray matter ever since. Seeing that car on a regular basis never failed to induce a smile, its gorgeous hue a highlight amidst a sea of silver SUVs, white Priuses and rusty collegiate economy cars.

Looking at the dial of the Big Crown Pointer Date, I feel like it’s a slate blue Porsche in a town full of drab-colored cars. It’s not that watchmakers don’t play with color at all- it’s just that there seems to be an overall aversion to new hues. Blue dial watches have been a thing for some time, but there’s a freshness to the Oris’s reserved, Pantone-esque dial. It feels genuinely new, and I can’t tell you how much it does wonders for this watch. Oris could’ve given it just a plain black dial to try and echo the original, and we’d be sitting here talking about how it’s an inaccurate reproduction of a classic. (At this point I should reiterate that you can in fact get the watch with a black dial, but with its chocolate-brown undertones, it’s far from “plain.”)

But what this watch truly is, is a reinterpretation. There are other modernizing finishes to meld with the watch’s otherwise classic aesthetic. The crystal, for example, is domed like a vintage watch, but its lines are less boxy, and more smooth and sleek. Its lugs are chunkier, sportier and given an industrial-like satin finishing. The dial font is inspired by early mid-century typefaces, but it’s still very crisp and contemporary. The strap, oddly enough, feels very modern, too — it’s made from an all-natural vegetable tanning process (millennials love sustainability!) and seems like the kind of thing you’d pay $150 for on Mr. Porter or Hodinkee.

Then there’s the old-school stuff: the coin-edge bezel. The cathedral hands. And, well, the fact that the pointer date complication is old-timey as all hell. All these flagrantly 1930s elements somehow manage to blend so well with a modern aesthetic. That pointer date movement, by the way, is not some fully off-the-rack engine. It’s a Sellita SW 200-1 automatic, modified by Oris to accommodate the date complication.

The Big Crown wears well on the wrist. The 40mm version will probably be the most popular and doesn’t feel gratuitously large like many upsized throwback watches often do. Its lugs contour to the wrist, and though the watch is maybe a bit thicker than I like, most of the height comes from the domed crystal, which is to say the case doesn’t feel slab-sided. The sizing plays to the Big Crown’s “just-right” ethos, and the 40mm will probably suit a lot of people’s wrists. If it doesn’t, there’s always that 36mm version.

Verdict: The Big Crown Pointer Date is hard watch not to love, and sure enough, I had no fewer than three watch-obsessing colleagues express admiration for the Oris. It’s a handsome watch, but it also feels like a practical one, one you can wear it to the office, to the park, to fancy parties, and pretty much anywhere else. If you want to have one nice watch, and only one nice watch, the Big Crown is as good an option as any.

What Others Are Saying:

• “There are times when you can accurately judge the general appeal of a watch from images, and there are times when you really need to put it on your own wrist. For me and the new Oris Pointer Date models, it was definitely a case of the latter. Managing to blend both sporty and more traditional elements into one stylish design, the Pointer Date is simply excellent on wrist. While I think that the 40mm version is the best fit for my wrist, the 36mm packs a ton of charm and certainly the more vintage feel of the two.” — James Stacey, Hodinkee

Key Specs

Movment: Oris 754 (Sellita SW200-1 base)
Winding: Automatic
Case Diameter: 40mm (as tested); 36mm
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Notable Features: Pointer date, pastel dial colors, available bronze case (36mm)

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