We covered the launch event of the Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II in Port Douglas with our event report recently. And got to spend considerable time with the watch, and came away quite impressed. Here is why.
Essential pre-reading: Announcement of the Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II.
Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II
This is the second collaboration between Oris and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, the first being in 2010, when Oris brought out the Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition I. This was sold out in double quick time, and the success of the original provided the confidence to launch the second 6 years later.
Case, dial and hands
The case is a massive stainless steel multi piece contraption which inspires confidence with its heft and build quality as one handles the watch.
The watch is a full fledged diving watch, capable to depths of 500m. At those depths, Oris found that it is not essential to incorporate a helium escape valve, but rather decided to make the watch extra heavy duty, with a sapphire glass some 5mm thick and the case sidewalls which are very robust. The yellow minute 5 minute markers is painted on the under side of the sapphire glass, and it appears as if to float above the dial.
The dial itself has a beautiful blue iridescence hue, which catches the light and appears to turn from bright electric blue to deep blue and to turquoise. The crystal has anti-reflective coatings on both sides.
A bit unusual in a serious dive watch is the day and date indicator. Many divers prefer only to see the time, and not have any additional clutter and information being displayed on the dial to totally avoid confusion. In the Oris GBR II, the design address this quite well, and the dial remains clean, clear and legible. The date is shown through a small aperture at 6 o’clock, and to relieve the dial from clutter, the day is a subdial placed coaxial to the main dial, and central to it, with a slot where a bright yellow marker shows the correct day of the week. The design is very clean and allows the watch to remain very legible. This is very important in a dive watch, as the dive timings can be a matter of life and death. And in our field testing in the waters of the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, we found that the watch remains easy to read and understand both in the water and above the water.
The bezel is uni-directional, as is mandatory for diving watches, and has a black ceramic inlay with white markings. The bezel moves in precise clicks. This not only assures that the precision, but also gives the diver the assurance and also an indication of good build quality.
The hands are large and legibility is excellent with the minute and hour hands and the lollipop of the seconds hand filled with SuperLuminova.
The movement Oris caliber 735 (Selita SW220)
Oris does not shy away from communicating that the Oris Caliber 735 used in the GBR II is sourced from Selita’s robust and proven SW220. We were not able to see the movement inside the review sample, although Oris Australia provided a movement sample, which we show below.
Finishing on the moveme sample is in accordance to good engineering practice, and we note the absence of any form of decorative finish common in haute horogerie movements.
The competitive landscape of serious diving watches is quite vast. While many of the popular models are rated to a depth of 100m, many are rated deeper, and as the Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II is rated to 500m. As the genre of dive watches is immense, we only do an non-exhaustive survey.
We begin with Rolex, who through their work with the Comex Diving Company (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) created the Submariner and the Sea Dweller. The Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610 (S$11,120) as it is rated to 300m, Cerachrom (Rolex speak for ceramic) bezel. An icon. Also the Sea Dweller Ref. 116600 (S$13,560 incl GST with bracelet) which is rated to a depth of 1220m (4000 ft). The price differences are big, but here we are comparing the Oris to the biggest gun, and there are some similarities but also some major differences. The Rolex cases are 40mm for Submariner and 41mm for Sea Dweller compared to the Oris’ 46mm and is probably more comfortable for the most people. The 11610 and 116600 is also equipped with a uni-directional bezel with a ceramic insert. The depth rating of one is shallower and the other deeper. The Sea Dweller is equipped with a helium escape valve to prevent the watch from imploding during ascents from the deep. The Rolex dials, bezels and hands are the epitome of diving watch design. Clear, legible, and quite beautiful. It sports a date, but no day of week indication. The Submariner and Sea Dweller also sports a superbly designed and constructed in-house movement in the form of the 3010 and 3135 movement respectively, both certified to the Rolex Chronometer Certification of +2/-2 seconds a day. The Selita SW220 is not certified to any chronometer standard.
From Japan we might consider the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Diver SBGA029 (¥648,000 converted to about S$7,800) It too is certified to 200m, but is equipped with the magnificent Spring Drive 9R65 movement rated to +1/-1 second a day. The case is slightly smaller at a diameter 44.2mm. The Grand Seiko has a date, but no day indication. In addition, it has a power reserve indicator, which can be useful before a dive, as it is perhaps unwise to dive when the power reserve is low. Interestingly, this is the only watch in our small survey which sports this feature. Seiko also have several workhorse dive watches which are very inexpensive, typically circa S$200 whih probably meet the utility spec but lacks the prestige of the Oris or Grand Seiko.
We may also compare with the Rolex owned Tudor. Their latest Black Bay Bronze (CHF3,800 before taxes converted to about S$5,300) is one candidate. Depth rating is 200m, so is less than the Oris. Case is smaller, at 43mm, but made of a special bronze alloy, although a regular stainless steel Black Bay is available at 41 mm. An even smaller 36mm version exists in the Black Bay 36 (CHF2,500 before taxes). The bezel has no ceramic insert, but in thestel versions are available in 3 color options. And the movements in the Black Bays are in-house MT5601 for the Bronze and MT5602 for the other Black Bays, which is COSC certified.
Another comparison might be to the Blancpain Bathyscaphe (US$12,800 or converted to about S$17,400). Our full review is now online . Very similar specifications. The case is a bit smaller at 43.6mm but is made completely of a satin-brushed grey ceramic Blancpain calls plasma grey. The bezel insert is blue ceramic and Liquidmetal hour-markers. The in-house caliber 1315 with 120 hours power reserve equips the Bathyscaphe. Interestingly, although the depth rating is 300 meters, Blancpain has the case back with a sapphire crystal, so the movement can be seen. Our examination reveals a beautifully finished movement, done haute horogerie style.
We may also compare with the Omega Seamaster Diver 300 (S$5.700 incl GST). The depth rating is also 300m, and it is a Limited Edition. The case is 41mm, and in stainless steel. It is equipped with a helium escape valve and a manufactured movement Omega Caliber 2500, with a co-axial escapement and 48 hour power reserve. The watch measures 41mm in diameter and is appropriately hefty.
Sinn has a model with a 500m depth rating: The Sinn EZM3 (S$2,993 incl GST) has a stainless steel case equipped with their unique air dehumidifying technology, with an Argon filled case with a CuSo4 capsule to absorb moisture in the case and turning blue to indicate saturation. The case is 41mm in diameter, and uses the ETA 2824-2 movement and shows the date but no day display.
Oris’s 500m depth rating is perhaps unusual. Most diving watches are rated at 150m, 300m or way deeper. And if the selection of a diving watch is based on its depth application, only watches with a deeper rating than required can be considered. Although for almost all purposes 100m is sufficient, even for professional divers. The added depth rating provides a margin for error (especially as seals degrade over time) and to provide confidence and peace of mind of the diver. Most in our little survey above (we repeat non-exhaustive) are more expensive than the Oris. Perhaps the closest is the Sinn EZM3 which is rated to 500m and within the same price range. The Sinn has a special dehumidifying technology, while the Oris has a ceramic bezel and additional day of week. Movements are similar. Both highly legible and capable to the task. But the aesthetics of the watches are totally dis-similar. Horses for courses. And we can imagine one owning both, as they look so unlike.
None of the competitors offer assistance to protect the Great Barrier Reef, or any charitable causes. And none of them are limited editions.
The Oris Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition II is a remarkable watch. It ticks all the diving specifications in all the right places. 300 meters depth rating. Robust case. Workhorse movement. Legible dial layout and hands design. And added the association to the Great Barrier Reef and to its preservation with financial contributions from Oris for every piece sold. We liked it. We liked the spirit behind the creation. We liked how the watch looked. We liked how it felt during the dives off Port Douglas, and how it felt on land. We simply liked the watch.