Hands-On: Oris Hangang Limited Edition Aquis

The Skinny

  • 43.5mm
  • pointer date with small seconds and rotating timing bezel
  • $2800

International Efforts to Restore Waterways

When Oris began making limited editions that supported restoration of waterways and reef systems, it seemed as if they would – like so many other companies – kind of stick with one or two of these mission-based efforts. But with the Hangang model, we Westerners are brought all the way to South Korea’s Hangang River to witness Oris’ unrelenting commitment. The Hangnang River provides water to over 10-million people living in Seoul, but, sadly, like almost every major fresh water source, humans have heavily polluted the Hangnang. It’s beyond sad, beyond pathetic, beyond reproach; this behavior is literally devastating. Let’s be blunt: if you care about future generations of our global community, then you care about cleaning up the Hangang River.

One of the reasons we at BTD feel so strongly about Oris as a company is exactly these efforts to clean up waterways. I grew up at the mouth of the Niagara River, a waterway so devastated by industry that we couldn’t eat Lake Erie’s fish for decades (death of industry and invasive zebra mussels have made fish edible again). So let’s be clear that I am 100% biased to like this watch because of what it stands for and what it supports, but this bias doesn’t exclude my tripping out on the Hangnang LE purely as an aesthetic item.

Hands-On Phenomenoloogical Study

Taking the phenomenological perspective, we are interested not in the thing itself but in how it appears to us in our minds. Let’s give this approach a shot.

For me, spending a week with this watch has been an intriguing lesson in the Aquis itself, because I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated just how beautiful these watches are in a very classical sense of that word. That beauty is something unto itself – rather than emerging from functionality or purpose as is the case with many tool watches. This may seem a minor distinction, but it cleaves between thinking of the Aquis as a tool and thinking of it as decoration. Yes, this top-grade diver is a very capable tool, but in this colorway it appears to me as jewelry.

The green hues here had me thinking of the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz, which leads me to understand that this green dial carries an otherworldly jewel tone. Indeed, the lustrous green radial dial catches the eye from across the room and holds it.

The subdial markings, which – for me individually, and not as a rule – are reminiscent of those found on a Patek Philippe Calitrava. As such, this association with Patek combined with the jewel-toned dial gives rise to thoughts of classically elegant timepieces more than a Sub or some other diver.

From Tool to Jewel

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the way that the functionality of tool watches has long since shifted from utility to decoration. This green Aquis spells out this transition from tool to jewel, but it does so without offending me the way very expensive dive watches sometimes do. As a tool, the dive watch presents a shape and set of features that can be riffed on in order to create a decorative item. When that riffing veers into diamonds and gold and exclusive pricing, I grow a bit nauseous.

Oris has always represented luxury at realistic prices, but it’s more than that simple formula that has excited me about the brand for decades. I am drawn to Oris’ ethos of inclusivity rather than exclusivity, of celebration rather than ostentation. And this ethos holds even as I interpret the Hangang LE as decorative and jewel-like.

Add in the efforts to help clean up the Hangang River, and there’s a hell of a lot more to celebrate than the inclusiveness or the deft riffing on the dive watch format. And as much as I prefer brands don’t copy each other, I do hope Oris is setting an example for other companies in how to engage customers as intelligent actors in the world, rather than just people with money to burn.