Back In the late 60’s, even the most demanding observers could not have predicted the destruction of the Swiss watch industry by quartz technology. So revolutionary, then destructive, was the advent of the electronic watch that the era is still referred to as the Quartz Crisis in Switzerland.
Once bitten, twice shy. Today, after re-imagining the traditional mechanical watch as a luxury timepiece and building a huge industry behind it, Swiss brands are engaged in a whole new arms race among themselves. Clock movements are becoming more accurate, more reliable and more durable. Simply put, the mechanical watch enters real-world usability and durability, evolving on all fronts through marginal gains.
This is an idea close to the heart of Ralph Studer, co-CEO of indie brand Orissa, a company of clever industrialization. Last November, Oris launched an automated movement, the Caliber 400, which could be seen as a poster child for this third wave of watchmaking. Getting selected diving and pilot watches for less than 3,000, it offers significant improvements in accuracy, power reserve, magnetic resistance and longevity compared to industry standard “tractor” movements on which Oris has historically relied.
“It’s a movement with purpose,” says Studer, who describes a five-year R&D process that improves everything from gear wheel geometry to winding system efficiency. “By defining a few components and setting a new standard for all of them, Caliber 400 addresses the needs of its customers directly. It is suitable for any everyday situation. “
In a full wind it would last five days (120 hours), where 40 to 42 hours at a time was ideal. Most impressively, Oris says watches with a caliber 400 can be worn before a full decade of service, backing it up with a 10-year warranty – compared to just a two-year standard warranty and four proposed service intervals. Or five years.