Hands-On Review – 38mm Bronze Oris Divers 65 “Cotton Candy” Pink

The Skinny

38mm bronze with bronze bracelet
Oris 733 (base Selitta SW 200-1) with date
$2750 US

The Two Big Questions

Is the new Oris Divers 65 Cotton Candy 38mm in bronze going to stain your wrist, and is it a watch for men or women?

As an owner, I can attest that Oris’ bronze tarnishes gently. It really only turns subtly black, not bright turquoise like my bronze Aquadive or barnacle-encrusted green like a few Tudor Black Bays I’ve seen. If I wear my bronze Oris bracelet for a few sweaty days in the summer, I’ll get a little black residue on my wrist, but it wipes right off. So, as bronze goes, Oris’ remains pretty clean. Over time you’ll find it becomes a lovely warm black-gold shade at arm’s length, while revealing some complex patterns when seen up close – barnacles excluded.

Oris CEO Rolf Studer told me that he designed this watch after his wife swooned for the brand’s 2020 Holstein Edition 43mm all bronze dive chronograph. So, in some ways, it’s hard not to consider this watch as literally having been designed for a woman. However, this 38mm Divers 65 (the first in this size) was too big for my partner Shelley’s tiny wrist (she loves the 36mm version), and it was a perfect fit for my average-sized-dude wrist.

Normally we’d call this 38mm watch Unisex or whatever and get on with our lives, but the three dials on offer in pastel pink, green, and blue bring gender to the fore – none more so than the pink one I requested. Wikipedia has this to say about pink: “According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the color most associated with charm, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, sweetness, softness, childhood, the feminine, and the romantic.” For millions of American men, pink is an affront to their masculinity.

For a man like me, raised on 80s preppy style, pink was just another hue in the festival of pastel summer knits that men and women wore all summer long. Why preppy people have decided to ignore the gender codes of color that a majority of European and American people follow is beyond me, but they tend to be an eccentric group. I inherited that eccentricity, dragged it down into punk clubs, and now find wearing pink more deviously playful than upper-crusty eccentric. I also happen to like pastel pink a lot, so for me the Cotton Candy is especially sweet.

What does feel a bit masculine is the bronze itself, a metal I can only associate with the eponymous historical age, the heavy hardware on sailing ships, and old-school diving helmets. As the patina creeps in, the bronze only feels more masculine, much the way anything “weathered” in fashion tends to evoke a rugged masculinity. Bringing the pastel pink up against the tarnished bronze presents quite a complexly gendered watch, one that presents opportunities for subtle gender play. I totally dig it.

Goldilocks Slept In My 38mm Divers Sixty Five

My 40mm Divers 65 feels and looks great, don’t get me wrong, but the proportions and relative negative space of the dial on this 38mm version seem nearly perfect to me. When vintage designs are taken to modern sizes, sometimes it all falls apart (I tend to cite the Cartier Tank XL as an example). Oris got it right with its 42mm and 40mm versions of the retro-styled Divers 65, but with the 38mm version all the elements on the dial seem to fall naturally into an even more harmonious orbit around the central arbor. For those of us who believed that a 38mm Divers 65 would provide the perfect balance between vintage vibes and modern size, I’m happy to say that we were right.

The thickness of the 40mm and the 38mm are about the same, so the 40mm feels thinner because its wider. However, the 38mm Divers 65 is an equally svelte watch – literally – and wears very comfortably under a shirt cuff.

The other exciting news about this 38mm case is that Oris confirmed that their new Caliber 400 in-house movement will fit. In fact, this is the smallest case the Cal 400 will fit in. I’m sure many of you are thinking what I’m thinking: there’s going to be some seriously cool 38mm Divers 65s with an in-house movement before too long!

A Great Bracelet

Oris doesn’t charge much for their bracelets, which is not only refreshing but kind of remarkable because it’s a great unit for the Divers 65. The lugs taper down five steps in size, the links are screw-mounted, and the clasp is secure, svelte, and easy to operate. I love how the 38mm bracelet tapers, and having worn the 40mm bracelet a lot, I can attest to how well proportioned the whole package is.

My colleague Greg might complain that the end-links rock a tiny bit on the spring bar, but so do my Grand Seiko’s end-links; Rolex guys can be a little fussy about things like that (wink wink). I actually find the fit exceptional, the little rocking completely normal and, for those who care, not as pronounced as on my rather expensive and otherwise perfect Grand Seiko. That stuff just doesn’t bother me.

To Age or Not To Age Your Lume

That is the question, and my answer is age it. Age it because the warmth of the creamy manilla vanilla Oris uses really compliments the bronze. I’m a little less convinced on some of their stainless steel Divers 65s, but always convinced when there’s even a bronze accent, as on my 40mm Oris x Momotaro Divers 65. Because Oris tends to frame their aged lume in gold markers and hands, this color really works well to bring a bit of the warm bronze patina onto the dial, thus tying the aesthetic together into an aged, retro package that – I’ve realized after poking around a bit – is really quite unique.

Quibbles

I’d prefer a no-date version.

I think a blue glow on the lume, rather than the standard green, might have been a fun surprise against the pink dial. Green is great, too, and keeps things retro….I mean, green is the better choice, really. But blue….hmmmm….

If you care that Rolex also put out a series that contained a couple pastel dials recently, then you care. I do not. There’s no way Oris rushed this design as an answer to Rolex’s new OP 36mm, and I’ll chalk that coincidence up as two great brands thinking alike.

Oris Is Glorious

I’m a big fan of Oris, and have been for decades. My first real mechanical watch was an Oris, and I’ve owned at least one Oris for nearly 30 years straight. It used to be easy to slot Oris into a “entry level” category, or as a stepping stone toward a “big brand” Swiss watch, but in the past decade or so Oris has been uniquely positioned to become a leader in The New Luxury. That is roughly defined as a downplaying of ostentation in favor of value and quality, and Oris has been doing exactly that for as long as I can remember.

But what makes Oris truly glorious as of late is their willingness to take risks and to show the world that the avant garde is not occupied only by high end brands like Moser, MB&F, and Hublot, for example. No one has made an all bronze watch like the Holstein Edition in 2020 or this new model for 2021 we are looking at here. And no one has made such a playful and inventive in-house movement as the Cal 400, which we Oris fans are all hoping will soon show up in this 38mm case with it’s “Oris bear” ears formed by the dual barrels. Put that movement behind sapphire on an all bronze 38mm Divers 65, and you’ve got one funky watch – one ready to hold its own among some of the quirkier timepieces coming from Horology Inc. these days.

It’s both a unique and fun position to have been a fan of Oris for three decades, to watch them adapt and change and grow while, it seems to me, staying entirely true to the value-driven ethos the brand is known for. So, yes Oris went upmarket a bit in the last 10-years, but the relative value of their timepieces vis-a-vis the big Swiss brands has remained steady, if not improved in Oris’ favor as sports watches ascend in price more generally. And while I can see that this Cotton Candy series isn’t exactly a typical looking watch, it is typical of Oris’ recent commitment to taking bigger risks, asking more from their fans, and reaching out to a more diverse group of us watch aficionados. I’m going to hold out for a different colorway myself, and perhaps for the Cal 400 versions we anticipate, but I say Bravo! on this funky new release.