Which watch instantly comes to mind when you think of a chronograph? Perhaps the Omega Speedmaster, Zenith El-Primero, or Rolex Daytona? Regardless, you’re probably thinking of a watch with six hands and three subdials, positioned at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.
But that’s not the case with Oris’ first chronograph, the Oris Chronoris Star. Originally released in 1970, it marked Oris’ foray into the world of motorsports.
From the beginning, the Oris Chronoris featured a unique chronograph design that grew to become iconic. Most notably, it had no subdials and only three hands: running hours, running minutes, and chronograph seconds. An internal rotating bezel, controlled by a crown at 4 o’clock, was used for measuring chronograph minutes.
The original Chronoris used the Oris caliber 725, built in partnership with module specialist Dubois Dépraz. It was the first watch in Oris’s Motor Sport collection, a lineup that still exists today. Aside from the Chronoris, the collection consists of the Williams, Artix GT, and TT1 models.
The Chronoris’ unique arrangement of chronograph functionality, coupled with a cushion case and inner rotating bezel, gave it a more minimalist and unique design compared to conventional chronographs – both vintage and modern.
The same year Oris released the Chronoris Star, they also joined ASUAG, which would later become the Swatch group. This marked the beginning of a difficult decade for Oris, as the quartz crisis severely diminished both the company’s employee and production numbers.
In 1982, twelve years after joining the conglomerate, the company regained its independence as part of a management buyout. It has remained independent to this day.
In the modern era, Oris has maintained its focus on motorsports, signing a partnership deal with the Williams Formula 1 team in 2003. Two years later, on the 35th anniversary of the Chronoris Star, Oris relaunched the Chronoris line. As you might expect, the modern designs draw clear inspiration from the 1970 original.
Bringing together the Chronoris heritage and Williams F1 partnership, Oris released a limited edition Chronoris in collaboration with the racing team in 2017. The watch, pictured above, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the team’s formation in 1977. The blue accents on the dial are a tribute to the team’s colors. Flipping the watch over, you’ll the Williams logo embossed on the caseback.
Among modern Chronoris chronographs, one of my personal favorites is the Grand Prix limited edition, featuring a black dial with green accents. However, this model was released in 2009 and is no longer in production.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll immediately notice that the modern Chronoris chronographs have introduced additional hands and subdials compared to the original design. This is due to Oris’ use of a Valjoux 7750 based movement. But while the three-handed chronograph does not exist in the modern Chronoris lineup, there is something almost as good.
The Chronoris Date
Enter the Oris Chronoris Date. Announced at Baselworld 2017, it features three hands and a date complication, just like the original Chronoris. It also shares a similar cushion case shape, black dial with orange accents, and inner rotating bezel. Most notably however, it is not a chronograph. Inside is the Oris caliber 733, based on the ubiquitous Sellita SW-200.
If you can live without the chronograph, this watch is arguably even better than the original. The inner rotating bezel still allows for the measurement of elapsed time, though with lesser precision. Sans the chronograph complication, the dial is also cleaner with the tachymeter scale no longer needed.
The result is a design that is a clear tribute to the original, but with a more minimal aesthetic.
There’s also an optional grey dial, which retains a black ring on the dial as well as the orange accents. This configuration is personally my favorite in the modern Chronoris lineup. In fact it is a watch that I previously owned, as shown in the wrist shot above.
In terms of size, the modern Chronoris is wearable, with the Chronoris Date clocking in at 39mm in width and 12mm thick. The chronographs are slightly larger, with models in the current lineup being 40mm in width.
The Grand Prix Limited Edition is slightly larger at 42.5mm, though you can opt for the Williams Chronoris instead if you’re looking for a limited production model at a smaller case size, albeit with blue instead of green accents.
In fact, the main consideration in terms of wearability for the Chronoris chronograph is not the width, but rather the thickness. This is mainly due to Oris’ use of a Valjoux base caliber with automatic winding, with an additional chronograph module on top.
All told, the Chronoris chronograph has a thickness of 14.5mm. This makes it just a tad thicker than the modern Omega Moonwatch.
Regardless of whether you opt for the chronograph or date option, I would strongly suggest that you purchase this watch on a bracelet. The bracelet design is truly unique, with no less than 15 rows of links, brushed on the ends and polished in the center.
It fits perfectly in the vintage vibe of this watch, tightly hugging the short lugs of the cushion case. The build quality and comfort of the bracelet is also impressive at this price point, especially if you were to purchase the watch pre-owned.
Speaking of pre-owned, the Chronoris highlights some of the excellent value that Oris can provide on the secondary market. With solid quality produced by one of the few independent Swiss brands left with real heritage, the value proposition is quite compelling.
The Oris Chronoris Date on a bracelet retails for $1,950 USD, while the Chronoris chronograph on a bracelet retails for $3,750 USD. If you want the Wiliams F1 limited edition chronograph, expect to pay a $200 premium.
All in all, you can get a brand new Chronoris Date for under $2,000 USD and a brand new Chronoris chronograph for under $4,000 USD. While those are decent prices, the value proposition is incomparable with buying pre-owned.
In fact, just a few weeks ago, an Oris Chronoris Date on a bracelet with complete set sold on eBay for just $998 AUD, or the equivalent of $695 USD. That’s nearly two-thirds off the MSRP! Modern Chronoris chronographs can also be had in the $1000s.
The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Chronoris. While production has been hindered by COVID-19, it’ll be interesting to see if Oris has any new releases up their sleeve in the near future to celebrate this anniversary.
Meanwhile, the current Chronoris lineup offers fantastic value on the secondary market, as well as true heritage inspired by an iconic line from one of the last Swiss independents.