There’s wisdom in the old adages that tell us to be wary of first impressions, to not judge books by their covers, and to give things time, because only time will tell. Second Looks are opportunities to revisit watches that have been available for a while – many years, even – and give them fresh consideration after the novelty and marketing hype have passed.
Diameter: 44 mm
Thickness: 12.5 mm
Movement: Oris Calibre 115
Water Resistance: 10 Bar
Case Material: Titanium
Price: $7,600 (Bracelet)
Full disclosure time. My first public review of the Oris ProPilot X was a few choice words on a rooftop livestream from midtown Manhattan. It was fall of 2019 and the ProPilot X had just dropped. I was fresh off the floor of 2019 Wind-Up Watch Fair in New York where Oris’ new release had attracted a lot of attention – and caused some confusion – in a sea of microbrands that cost a fraction of the Pro Pilot X’s $7,600 price.
The presentation of the Oris ProPilot X felt very “upmarket”. Oris even had VR goggles onsite for an immersive digital experience inside their new movement. Something seemed off. I didn’t get it. Is this watch a big deal or not? A year after the initial launch, Oris graciously lent me a Big Crown ProPilot X for review.
The ProPilot X lives up to its “Big” namesake. This is not one of those 44mm cases that wears smaller. It wears a true 44mm and doesn’t apologize. Amazing I was barely able to pull it off for a couple of reasons, but mostly the 12.5mm case thickness.
I was worried about practical use of the ProPilot X in my daily life. Oris was kind enough to loan me the watch and I wanted to make sure that I returned it the way that I had received it.
Another continuing factor to the wearability was that it didn’t feel like a large watch thanks to the titanium case and bracelet. Titanium doesn’t look like steel to the eye. The transitional metal is usually more of a grayish tone that looks more muted from the media blasted surfaces.
Titanium is lighter weight than stainless steel. It was an unfamiliar feeling to have such a large watch disappear as my arm swung. Sometimes “light” can be confused with cheap. Heavy is not always synonymous with expensive. If you have ever read a car magazine, you know that “superleggera” means extra zeros on the sticker price.
I loved the synergy of the bezel and chapter ring that is continued into the bracelet. The design inspiration clearly came from a turbine engine. Cole Pennington said it best at the initial launch of the ProPilot X in September of 2019 when compared the watch to a F-35 fighter. He was spot on.
When we think of “Pilot Watches”, usually GMTs and Navitimers come to mind calling back to a more nostalgic era of graceful aviation. With the Big Crown ProPilot X the message is loud and clear: firewall the throttle.
Oh yes, there is a dial. It’s not “skeletonized”. Many watches simply remove part of the dial to show the balance wheel oscillating back and forth. With Oris’ in-house caliber 115 you get the “full-monty” with dial architecture designed from the ground up to highlight parts of the movement.
The handset is appropriately sized and easy to read for what could be considered a “phantom” dial. I would like to see the hour markers a little larger in a future generation of the ProPilot X. Currently the hour markers are too close in size to the minute markers. I can see why Oris made that decision. This watch is about showing off the movement. No negative space on this dial. Some might feel that the dial is too busy. The more that I wore the watch, the less distracting it was until it became an afterthought.
That hands are well lummed and have the bluish Super-luminova look that I preferred and are easy to read in low-light. The same treatment is used on the seconds hand (located in the subdial) and on the hour markers. Those are not easy to read due to their small size.
All of this is a second tought because the movement is the dial and the dial is the movement.
Many people, including myself, assumed that the caliber 115 was Oris’ first in-house movement. I incorrectly assumed it and I could have easily figured out my error by doing a little research. Never the less, perceptions are real. Even if they are inaccurate. I did feel at the time of launch that Oris was positioning themselves to be a serious player by showing the latest evolution of the 11X series of movements. I appreciated Oris not being content casing up Sellita based movements.
You can’t ignore the caliber 115 in the ProPilot X. To the upper left of the Oris logo lies and single (and enormous) mainspring barrel. This is a manual winding movement. It was a real treat to fully power-up the ProPilot X for the first time with a completely depleted power reserve.
It felt like I was using a heavy-duty ratchet strap to secure cargo. The sound was distinctly audible and unique as the ratchet wheel. It was no itty-bitty clicky. I appreciated watching the ratchet wheel spin through the display case back. I lost count of how many times I rotated the crown to buildup the power reserve back up to a full ten days. It was a workout! Luckily, I wouldn’t have to worry about it for another.. ten days.
At full power the mainspring was tightly wound like a little cylinder in the barrel. I hacked the watch to stop it by pulling the crown pulled all the way out. Next used an app on my phone to set the watch precisely. I’ll be dammed if eight days later it had only lost 2 seconds. I waited for the power reserve to completed run out that took another three days for a total of twelve days between needed to wind it back up again.
There is a lot of inaccurate misconceptions about manual wind sports watches being less than purebred. Especially ones that are both manual wind and have a screw-down crown. The Hodinkee x Oris Divers Sixty-five also come to mind. These are enthusiast watches and are both almost always in a rotation within a larger collection. Those that choose to rotate through their collection of watches know all about constantly unscrewing the crown and powering a watch back up after letting it sit for a few days.
As an enthusiast, the caliber 115 movement is a pleasure to look at through both the case back and the crystal. I’d be totally fine with the hypothetical Oris “PPX v2.0” only displaying the calibre 115 through the case back only.
There are plenty of links for larger wrists. But no half links and no opportunity for mic-adjustments on the clasp. I get the minimalist design. Getting a comfortable fit could be all for nothing. Luckily, I was able to get it just right on my 6.75” wrist. I did take a little while to get used to the lack of weight from the titanium. This played into the weight adjustment mentioned earlier. Don’t expect to experience the same feel of a hefty milled dive-watch clasp. This isn’t it. It’s a real head trip.
“Lift” on the clasp reminds me of the “NO STEP” on the flap of an airplane wing. Oris missed an opportunity to brand the clasp. Something that surely will be updated in the future. The unique clasp never popped-off unexpectedly and felt secure.
Oris also offers a version of the ProPilot X on a leather strap. I’d like to see an optional rubber strap offered in the future to put the ProPilot X. The customer would then have the same strap options that are available for the Aquis and the Driver’s Sixty-five. Aaron Boone, manager of the New York Yankees, frequently wears the ProPilot X on leather. It’s easy to spot when he’s on the railing of the dugout or arguing with an umpire.
This price point is a doozie. $7,600 on a bracelet, $7,200 on leather. That’s a really big number for your normal Oris client that might already own a Divers Sixity-five or an Aquis. I don’t believe that was their intention. I like to think of watches in sets. Where does the ProPilot X fit in? I think the sweet spot is the enthusiast that still likes to conform, but in way that is a few steps left of center. Imagine this three-watch collection: Doxa 300 Carbon, Zenith El Primero, and the Oris ProPilot X. Now do you get it?
The Oris ProPilot X also made an uncredited appearance as my watch for the duration of Beyond The Dial: Mission Lake George. I didn’t exactly ask, but Oris didn’t say that I couldn’t. I lugged around scuba gear, got it wet, and engaged in other general boating activities including freeing stubborn anchors. The titanium watch was no worse for wear and handled nicely in an unpredictable environment. I also did plenty of running and cycling with the ProPilot X. There was no timing bezel for exercising, but I never felt like the watch held me back.
A staggering MSRP of $7,600 on a titanium bracelet (Ref. 01 115 7759 7153-Set7 22 01TLC) will put the Oris Big Crown ProPilot X in direct competition with some more traditional juggernauts of Swiss watchmaking. Even if this watch is out of your price range, I’d recommend at the very least going out of your way to handle a ProPilot X in person.
Oris is continuing to go their own way with more in-house calibres and bold moves like bronze bracelets. The trend of late has been for watch manufacturers to continue to look backward. The ProPilot X is a leading indicator of Oris’ future, not their past.