Hands-On Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition Aquis in Steel

The Skinny

  • 43.5mm
  • GMT complication with rotating 24-hour bezel
  • $2800

Objectively Speaking by Allen Farmelo

A friend and editor at Fortune Magazine, Daniel Bentley, frequently asks me a rather helpful question when it comes to evaluating products: Does the thing do what it set out to do, and, if so, how well? You’d be amazed at how easily that simple question becomes obscured as I navigate marketing and street-level hype, brand reputation, aesthetics, the ideas of other watch journalists. But let’s start with Daniels’ question, because I am a three-decade fanboy of Oris who could use a little objectivity.

The Oris Aquis Carysfort Reef Limited Edition has a couple stated goals, both of which Oris seems to have abundantly exceeded.

  1. Support the efforts of the Coral Restoration Foundation.
  2. Offer luxury Swiss watches at accessible price points.

The first goal is well met by the watch’s own thematic inscriptions and engravings, but more importantly by financially supporting the Coral Restoration Foundation.

The second goal – offering luxury Swiss watches at accessible price points – begs us to compare this watch to others like it. The comps here must be robust steel tool watches with 3-way GMT functionality via a GMT complication and a rotating 24-hour bezel. From Switzerland, the following represent some typical comparisons.

  • Rolex GMT Master II – $9700
  • Omega Planet Ocean GMT – $7800
  • Breitling Avenger II GMT – $4325
  • The Tudor Black Bay GMT – $4050
  • Alpina Alpiner 4 GMT – $1995
  • Tag Heuer Aqua Racer GMT – $3050
  • Bell & Ross BR-V293 GMT – $3500
  • Zodiac Aerospace GMT – $1695

The average price of the above watches is $4515. The Oris costs $2800, putting it solidly below the average for this group.

There is no question that Oris has created an incredibly well made and very beautiful watch for the price. I will hand off my evaluation to David Flett and Greg Bedrosian in short order, but will first say that the dial, the bracelet, and case finishing meet or exceed the quality and beauty of the higher priced competitors, including the Rolex GMT Master II. Speaking entirely subjectively, the Aquis GMT seems like the best deal of these watches to me – provided you like the it, of course.

Hands-On Evaluation by David Flett

There is no denying the Oris Aquis Carysfort Reef Limited Edition is an arresting watch. The metallic sunburst dial punctuated by the bright white markers and bezel numerals grab the attention of the wearer and bystander in equal measure. Indoors, the dial is often subdued and dark, revealing with a roll of the wrist, a hint of the brilliant azure that is apparent in full sun. It absolutely brings to my mind bright healthy coral seas and the shadows lurking within the reef.

And this of course is this whole point: an aide memoire for the current state of our oceans and the work the Coral Restoration Foundation does to keep them healthy. The Carysfort Reef edition is a point of conscience for a world where it is all too easy to ignore the peril our environment faces.

The dial color is shared with both the Aquis Great Barrier Reef edition and the Aquis Clean Ocean edition but with the small pop of orange highlighting the GMT, I find it more appealing than either of those. Full sun reveals a subtle blue-black transition on the ceramic GMT bezel. With the jump hour hand already tracking a second time zone on the inner track of the dial I find the GMT bezel unnecessary and would have much preferred a dive bezel to efficiently deal with simple daily timing task.s But the Carysfort Reef edition is consistent with other Aquis GMT models so clearly Oris prefers their GMT watches to be capable of tracking a third time zone instead.

At 43.5mm this is definitely not a small watch but with short lugs it suits a narrower wrist better than you may think from the numbers alone. What is not in question is this watch’s heft however. It’s a substantial beast, sitting high on its vertical cylindrical sides, perhaps to a fault, feeling a little unbalanced unless tight. This is a watch for someone who likes to be aware they are wearing the watch. Again, I think this plays to the watch’s raison d’etre to be a constant reminder of its environmental cause.

Build quality is excellent with no flaws visible under the loupe. My only gripe with the bracelet is that the flat brushed clasp will show signs of use almost immediately. Time-keeping was adequate with accuracy measured on the timegrapher between +6 and +12 seconds per day. What was a little surprising was the significant beat error and more than a little noise on the signal, indicating to me that a little manual regulation is needed to really tighten down the time-keeping performance to where it could be. The signal and mainspring power were consistent over two days on the machine indicating the watch should be a reliable performer.

If you are someone looking for an affordable Swiss timepiece that can act as your only everyday watch, then this is definitely one to consider. This Oris is smart enough on the bracelet to work in a business environment and yet casual enough on the rubber to handle summer activities. The GMT complication provides real value and while many watches can offer a similar package, not many can provide such a significant and constant environmental touchpoint as the Carysfort Reef limited edition.

Hands-On Evaluation by Greg Bedrosian

It’s mid-2020. I haven’t traveled in a while. I’ve stopped thinking about it. The Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition offered a refreshing glimpse of what the ideal trip would be like. I’m envisioning far away sandy beaches and warm blue water. The Carysfort Reef Limited Edition is a great option for one-watch to bring on that experience. It’s a little bit “diver” and a little bit “flyer”. 

The GMT function would be great for keeping track of your home time zone. I could check in with the office to feel important and pretend that I cared about what was going on in my absence. The 24-hour bezel insert is a subtle blue/black that does the Batman thing without being overly obvious. The insert is two pieces. I was shocked at how easy the seam was to spot with the unaided eye. I would suggest that Oris move to a one-piece insert in the future.

The overall fit was much better than I expected for the large case size (43.6mm). I have a 6.75″ wrist and was able to wear that watch comfortably thanks to the stubby sloped lugs. The watch-tan would be epic. PSA: It’s totally OK to wear a larger watch on vacation or during the summer. It’s also advised to splash a little color just for fun. In this case, Oris gives you a wonderful blue dial and the option of a brightly colored strap. The Carysfort GMT is functional enough for an aquatic adventure and still nice enough to wear out to dinner.

The bracelet on the Aquis series of Oris watches are higher quality than their “65” line. They’re sturdier and have a much more solid feel. The steel bracelet does “bulk” up the watch. My preference would be the Oris proprietary rubber. I don’t like the color orange, and by “don’t like” I really mean that I loathe it. I’d buy the Carysfort on a bracelet and swap it out for an Oris proprietary black rubber bracelet. That combo is very “Me”.

By far the most rewarding part of the Oris Carysfort Reef Limited Edition is the partnership and donation to Coral Restoration Foundation. You can buy a new watch and be part of that positive environmental initiative for $3,000 in steel instead of the $19,000 gold version. That’s a win-win.