Hands-On Review – Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400

The Skinny

  • 43.5mm x 13mm
  • 300m water resistance
  • In-house Calibre 400 automatic mechanical with date
  • $3300 US on rubber strap, $3600 US on steel bracelet
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It’s totally new…on the inside.

Oris’ CEO VJ Geronimo recently came on a recent episode of the podcast to talk about a new in-house movement, the Calibre 400. Designed from the ground up over five years, the Calibre 400 has a number of thoughtful features that add up to a 10-year service interval and warranty, robust a-magnetism and accuracy, and a 5-day power reserve. Typical of Oris, their approach to making an in-house movement was to offer better value and quality to their customers, not to up their brand’s profile as une manufacture. In fact, the Calibre 400 isn’t Oris’ first in-house movement in recent history, but it is the first one that appears destined to serve in a variety of Oris’ watch models.

This is confirmed by the fact that Oris put the Calibre 400 into their best selling watch, the Aquis, and not into a more esoteric and expensive watch like the Pro Pilot X which houses Oris’ previous in-house release. Indeed, the Calibre 400 is sized to sit in for the third-party movements that power many models. Oris will not eliminate those third-party movements, as that would prevent Oris from meeting their existing price points, but I think it’s reasonable to expect that they company will continue to release many pre-existing models with the in-house Calibre 400 movements installed.

The Holy Quaternity

Not long ago I stole my friend Gary Shteyngart’s notion that the original Horological Trinity of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet could be updated and made accessible if, instead, the trinity were made up of Grand Seiko, Nomos, and Tudor. Each of those brands offers watches with in-house movements at unexpectedly reasonable price-points. With the Oris Aquis Calibre 400, I think we will have to make the Trinity a Quaternity.

Why watch enthusiasts love in-house movements is often hard to understand, because one often pays a premium without gaining any meaningful mechanical upgrades. What watch enthusiasts do get from in-house movements is something like pride. I know I’ve felt pride when strapping on my Rolex, my Grand Seiko, or even my Cartiers with their dinky quartz movements which, were they not proprietary in-house units, would probably bum me out. With the Oris Calibre 400, hwoever, we can point to many significant upgrades. This puts the Oris Aquis Date 400 in a unique position among the other three brands in the quaternity – perhaps with the exception of Grand Seiko, who have been improving their movements as of late, but at nearly double the price of the Aquis we have in hand here.

Why Pay More for The Calibre 400?

The new Aquis Date Calibre 400 is the only watch I can think of that offers a tangible upgrade worthy of the price premium over its siblings with third-party movements. Of course you’ll get the boost to your pride, but you’ll also be getting a 10-year service interval, a 10-year-warranty, incredible a-magnetic performance, COSC-trouncing accuracy, a 5-day / 120-hour power reserve stored in twin barrels, and a rather attractive view through the rear window.

Up until very recently, typical service intervals for mechanical watches were around 5 years. A service can cost well over $500 these days. Doing the math, over 20-years of owning the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400, you’re going to save $1000 – which just about accounts for the premium over the same model with a third-party movement.

Beyond the service prices, however, the two big improvements in performance that the Calibre 400 provides are the impressive a-magnetism and the 5-day power reserve.

David Flett and I have been talking about how watches get magnetized, and we’ve decided to investigate it further because it’s more complex than just being around gadgets that can magnetize metals (stay tuned). Qualifications aside, there’s no question that a-magnetism preserves accuracy should one end up exposing their watch consistently to magnetic fields. We do spend a lot of time hanging out in magnetic fields these days, and the Cal. 400 can certainly take it.

The power reserve is 5-days, and what I love about a big power reserve is that I can take the watch off for the whole week and strap it on for the weekend and it’ll still be running. I don’t mind setting a watch if it doesn’t have a date, but having to set both the time and date when I pick up a time piece is often bothersome enough to see me move on to a watch that doesn’t need to be set.

I’ll also go on record and admit that I probably peer into my glass-topped watch boxes as much as I look at the watch on my wrist, and when I see a watch running it kind of lights me up. It’s one reason I like quartz movements. With the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400, you’ll have the better part of a week before you have to wind it up, and if you’re a watch-gazing geek like me that’ll delight you in more ways than one.

Oris Is Still Oris

Fans are often pissed off when whatever they’re fans of grows and changes too much. I’ve felt that. It can feel like like losing a friend.

Because Oris is an independent company, they’re free to go as far up and down in the watch market as they’d like. But Oris isn’t making an up-market move with its in-house movement. Instead, they’re doing what they’ve always done, which is finding innovative ways to offer their (often very passionate) customers better performance without resorting to ridiculous price increases in a bid for wider margins. For more on that, listen to Episode 46 of the podcast.

For the past five years or so we’ve seen a handful of rather reasonably priced in-house calibers hit the market. In 2016, Tudor introduced in-house calibers into their popular Black Bay models without major price hikes. At this time, those Black-Bays set a new low-price for in-house movements. In 2019, Frederique Constant put out a reasonably priced in-house calibre, and so on. Nomos has done it for a long while. I wouldn’t call this a trend, but the price threshold for getting into a new watch with an in-house movement has been creeping downward for a while. Oris can proudly offer their in-house Calibre 400 without going up-market. Oris is still Oris.

Is the Caliber 400 Setting a New Standard?

That’s the stated goal, to set a new standard. While the specs and price points definitely add up to an excellent standard, only time will reveal if Oris is kicking off a trend in which other companies will begin to offer the large power reserves, anti-magnetism, and long service-intervals that, until just recently, were really only available in rather expensive watches. If Oris is spurring other brands to follow their lead with better automatic mechanical movements at reasonable prices, then all of us watch nerds have good reason to rejoice.