The Oris Aquis collection of sporty dive watches is one of the Swiss brand’s most popular — and notably hosted the first Oris watch outfitted with the in-house Caliber 400 — even though it traces its history back just over a decade, to 2011. Like many watch models that catch on strongly with both collectors and casual fans, however, it actually represents the successful evolution of several models that preceded it. Here’s everything you need to know about the Oris Aquis, from its history, to the most prominent models available now, to its central role in Oris’ environmental sustainability initiatives.
ORIS ORIGINS AND AQUIS EVOLUTION
Oris, one of the watch world’s few remaining major independent brands, traces its history back to 1904, when it was founded in Hölstein, in the German-speaking Swiss canton of Basel-Landschaft, by Paul Catlin and Georges Christian. The company, which the co-founders named after a brook near the factory, expanded throughout the early 1900s, at one point becoming the largest employer in Hölstein, with over 300 employees and factories throughout Switzerland. In 1925, Oris began making wrist watches, and in 1928, under the leadership of Christian’s brother-in-law Oscar Herzog, a new era of expansion and innovation began. Oris started making its own escapements in the watershed year of 1938, which also saw the release of the brand’s iconic Big Crown watch with pointer date function. The first automatic Oris watch was launched in 1952, and the company’s first watch custom-built for the growing masses of recreational diving enthusiasts was released in 1965 (below), kicking off the tradition of making robust underwater timepieces that would eventually give birth to the Aquis.
The first bricks in the foundation of the Aquis collection were laid in 1998, with the Oris Full Steel, a sports watch not specifically aimed at divers, as evidenced by its lack of a unidirectional rotating bezel, but one that established the overall silhouette and performance parameters that would define the Aquis. In 2001, Oris introduced the TT1 (below), a tough sports watch featuring a fusion of high-tech materials that sprang from the watch brand’s partnership with the Williams F1 racing team; the following year saw the the debut of the TT Divers, which adapted the road-racing DNA of the TT1 to the underwater depths, adding a unidirectional divers’ bezel and a generous helping of luminous material on the dial. In 2009, Oris took it to the next level with the introduction of the ProDiver, a massive, 51mm, titanium-cased chronograph with a 1,000-meter water resistance rating, a helium decompression valve, and a scratch-proof ceramic bezel with a patented Rotation Safety System that secured it against accidental repositioning underwater.
The ProDiver (below) was emphatically not positioned as an everyday watch or even an everyday dive watch, but many of its elements found their way into the first Aquis model, unveiled in 2011. That watch set the familiar, sporty template that still defines the collection today: a 300-meter water-resistant case, usually in steel, with a screw-down crown; a ratcheting unidirectional dive-scale bezel; a domed sapphire crystal over the broad, legible dial; and a set of distinctive lugs that screw securely into the rubber strap or steel bracelet. The first generation of Aquis models, which featured a date window at 6 o’clock, were and still are equipped with the Oris Caliber 733, an automatic movement based on the reliable Selllita SW 200, here enhanced with a signature red rotor, an element Oris introduced to its modified calibers in 2002.
Following up the original, time-and-date-only Aquis in 2013 was a technical world’s first: the Aquis Depth Gauge, the first divers’ watch that could measure its wearer’s submerged depth by allowing water to penetrate the case. Its patented system incorporated a channel milled into the extra-thick sapphire crystal, into which water could seep into via a tiny hole at 12 o’clock. With a rubber gasket sealing the joint between crystal and case, the incoming water pressure compresses the air inside the channel, activating a yellow scale on the edge of the dial that indicates how many meters a diver has descended or ascended. The Aquis Depth Gauge had an even bigger case (45.5mm) and an even more robust water resistance (500 meters) than its predecessor, though it used the same Sellita-based movement. With some modifications, the watch remains in the collection today.
Since the 1980s, Oris has prided itself on making only mechanical watches, in contrast to many of its competitors, which switched production to quartz watches during that period. It was only fairly recently, however, that Oris began devoting its resources to making its own movements in-house rather than sourcing them from specialists like ETA and Sellita. In 2014, on the occasion of the company’s 110th anniversary, Oris introduced the aptly named Caliber 110, its first in-house movement in 35 years. (Prior to that, Oris had actually developed more than 200 of its own movements over its long history.) The manually wound caliber, which notably held a 10-day power reserve, begat several offspring, ascending in both numerical names and complication (Caliber 111 added a date display and power reserve, Caliber 112 added a GMT and day/night indicator, et cetera), all of them manually wound, most of them finding their way into models in Oris’ dressy, elegant Artelier collection. The sporty, new-to-the-scene Aquis collection would continue to house outsourced calibers with red Oris rotors (as below) until the second decade of the 21st century.
For its first in-house movement with automatic winding, Caliber 400, introduced to great fanfare and substantial critical acclaim in 2020, Oris committed to going above and beyond the call in the area of technical innovation and user-friendliness. Its two mainspiring barrels hold a 120-hour (five-day) power reserve, its silicon parts contribute to an extreme magnetic resistance to 2,500 gauss (that’s more than the 1,000 gauss of the Rolex Milgauss, a watch noted for its antimagnetic properties), and its highly efficient gear train reduces energy consumption to help ensure a mainspring barrel torque of 85 percent, more than the 70 percent of most automatic movements. On top of all that, Caliber 400 is COSC-certified for chronometric performance and carries a 10-year warranty. Just months after the movement itself was announced to the watch media, it made its debut in the Aquis Date Calibre 400, which would open the floodgates to a new generation of Aquis watches containing the in-house mechanism.
SAVING THE OCEANS
In August 2021, Oris became one of only a handful of watch companies to be officially designated “climate neutral” by ClimatePartner, an independent climate-action organization that calculates companies’ carbon emissions. The milestone, in which Oris’ current leadership takes pardonable pride, is just the culmination of many environmental initiatives the firm has taken over the years, often in support of endangered marine life and threatened waterways. Many of these collaborations have yielded notable limited-edition timepieces, most of which have come from the Aquis family. The Hammerhead Edition of 2017, with a day-date display and a shark-gray sunburst dial, was developed with a nonprofit whose mission is to study and rescue endangered hammerhead sharks. In 2019, Oris introduced an “Ocean Trilogy” of Aquis models, which included the Clean Ocean Limited Edition, produced in partnership with Pacific Garbage Screening; the Great Barrier Reef Limited Edition, a collaboration between Oris and the Reef Restoration Foundation; and the Blue Whale Limited Edition, a blue-dialed chronograph made in support of Whale and Dolphin Conservation. All three watches were presented in a set, packaged in a special box made of recycled, ocean-recovered PET plastic.
The 50-piece Carysfort Reef Gold Limited Edition, a rare example of the Aquis GMT model in a gold case, was released in 2020 in support of the Reef Restoration Project, a Key Largo-based nonprofit devoted to rebuilding the damaged Carysfort coral reefs off the Florida Keys. That same year, Oris introduced the Hangang Limited Edition (above) in cooperation with South Korea’s largest NGO, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movements, whose mission is to clean and restore the Hangang River, the Asian country’s most important waterway that supplies drinking water to the 10,000 inhabitants of the capital city of Seoul; the gradient green dial and green ceramic bezel insert of the 2,000-piece limited edition are designed to reflect the waters at the Hangang’s source. To name one final example from 2021, Oris wowed the growing community of green-leaning watch aficionados with the Aquis Upcycle (below), whose colorful dials are made of PET plastic waste recovered from oceans, in a process that produces random patterns of color that make each dial unique. While most Aquis models are fairly masculine in their case dimensions, the Upcycle models speak to both men and women, offered in either a 41.5mm or 36.5mm size.
EXPLORING THE COLLECTION
In barely over a decade on the market, the Oris Aquis has established itself as a tentpole collection within the larger Oris portfolio, venturing at times into variations with small seconds displays, chronographs, and large dates. Below we spotlight the most important pillars of the Aquis family and also showcase some of the most notable limited editions, all currently in production as per Oris' website.
At the core of today’s Aquis collection lies the basic three-hand-date model upon which it was founded, still defined by the hallmark design elements of the 2011 original but now offering more variety in case sizes to appeal to a wider range of consumers. At the large end of the range are the 43.5mm models, with the 39.5mm versions at the smaller end and the versatile 41.5mm variants occupying the middle ground. Predominantly in stainless steel (but also offering some titanium options, as above), the cases feature scratch-proof ceramic inserts for the rotating bezel’s dive scale, and screw-down crowns, protected by shoulder-like crown guards, to help secure the impressive 300-meter water resistance. The gradient dial, with the eponymous date displayed at 6 o’clock, features luminous hands and indexes and a lollipop-style central seconds hand.
Price: $2,000 - $2,300, Case Size: 39.55mm/41.5mm/43.5mm, Lug Width: 21mm/22mm/24mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 733 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)
Aquis Date Calibre 400
Swiftly building up an enthusiastic following of its own is the relatively new version of the Aquis Date containing the in-house Oris Caliber 400. Outwardly, the Caliber 400 models are mostly indistinguishable from the Aquis Date models that use Oris-modified, outsourced Sellita movements, with baton-shaped hour and minute hands, lollipop seconds hand, and 6 o’clock date window. The differences are evident, however, in the extended power reserve offered by the self-winding Caliber 400 (five days rather than a relatively pedestrian 38 hours) and in the rotor of the movement, visible behind a sapphire caseback, which is skeletonized with a central Oris logo shield, rather than solid red. Thus far, Aquis Calibre 400 models are available in 41.5mm and 43.5mm cases, most in steel, a handful using 18k yellow gold for their bezels.
Price: $3,300 - $4,600, Case Size: 41.5mm/43.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm/24mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 400
Aquis Date Relief
The “Relief” in these models’ name refers to the 60-minute dive scale on their unidirectional rotating bezels, which, like the main case, are made of solid steel and eschew the ceramic inserts of the core Aquis Date models. Leaving out the ceramic allows Oris to offer the Relief models at an even more affordable price point than their siblings in the core collection. Aquis Date Relief watches feature cases in either 41.5mm or 43.5mm sizes and contain Sellita-based automatic movements.
Price: $1,930 - $2,200, Case Size: 41.5mm/43.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm/24mm,, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 733 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)
Aquis GMT Date
The most prominent differentiating element in the Aquis GMT Date model — the template for several of the environmentally focused limited editions, including the Carysfort Reef Gold and the recent Whale Shark Limited Edition (above) — is its bezel’s use of a 24-hour GMT scale to indicate a second time zone rather than the traditional 60-minute scale to record dive times. A center-mounted, arrow-tipped hand points to an additional time zone on the bezel’s scale, which rotates in both directions rather than one — which means that even though the GMT Date maintains the impressive 300 meters of water resistance common to the Aquis family, you probably shouldn’t wear one to go diving. The date window on this model is at 3 o’clock rather than 6, and the dial has an additional, inner 24-hour scale surrounding the center for a reading of a potential third time zone. The Oris 798 Caliber inside is based on the Sellita SW 330-1 and stores a 42-hour power reserve.
Price: $2,600 - $2,800, Case Size: 43.5mm Case Height: 13.06mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 798 (Sellita SW 330-1 base)
Aquis Depth Gauge
In 2021, Oris revamped its Aquis Depth Gauge timepiece with three technical developments that enhance its useability: a sapphire crystal with a water channel milled in a new process that increases the accuracy of the depth reading; a new easier-to-read meters-to-feet conversion table engraved on the caseback; and a patented Quick Change adjustment system for the bracelets and straps that allow for easy switching between one and the other (the latter is a feature increasingly common on other Oris models as well). Unchanged from the groundbreaking 2013 original model are the stately 45.8mm case diameter (and 13mm thickness), professional-grade 500-meter water resistance, and Sellita-based Oris 733 self-winding movement.
Price: $3,900 - $4,100, Case Size: 45.8mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 500 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 733 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)
AquisPro Date Calibre 400
Most directly descended from the hulking, high-performance ProDiver model of 2009 is the AquisPro Date, Oris’ most extreme” divers’ model in terms of water resistance (1,000 meters, double that of its closest runner-up, the Aquis Depth Gauge, at 500 meters), which as of 2021 became the latest Aquis model equipped with Caliber 400. Its 49.5mm case is made of DLC-coated titanium; its rubber-coated bezel, equipped with the Oris Rotation Safety System, has a lume-coated gray ceramic insert. In addition to its screw-down crown, the case features a helium-release valve at 9 o’clock and a special “safety-anchor” hook system in the bracelet’s clasp that ensures the watch stays attached to a diver’s wrist in the event of accidental disengagement of the clasp. Like the Aquis Depth Gauge, the other Aquis model most suitable for serious diving, the AquisPro’s solid caseback is engraved with a meters-to-feet conversion scale.
Price: $4,600, Case Size: 45mm, Case Thickness: 17.5mm, Lug Width: 25mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 1,000 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 400
Aquis Dat Watt Limited Edition
Something of an outlier among the Aquis models, which tend to feature “small” complications, the Dat Watt Limited Edition garners attention with its lunar tides complication, elegantly displayed on its gradient blue-gray dial. The watch is another product of a collaboration between Oris and a water-focused charitable organization, in this case the Common Wadden Sea Secratariat, whose mission is the preservation of Europe’s Wadden Sea (“Dat Watt” in the local dialect), the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world and, as of 2009, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The watch, accordingly limited to 2,009 pieces, uses the Oris-signature central pointer date function to display the lunar cycle and corresponding tidal ranges as well as well as the waxing and waning of the moon. Also distinguishing the Dat Watt edition from other 43.5mm steel Aquis models is its use of tungsten, rather than ceramic, for the dive-scale bezel.
Price: $2,750, Case Size: 43.5mm Case Height: 13.63mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 761 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)
Aquis Sun Wukong Artist Edition
At the very top tier of both artisanship and price in Oris’ mostly approachable portfolio is the Aquis Sun Wukong Artist Edition, introduced in 2022, which sports a breathtaking cloisonné enamel dial that pays tribute to a scene from a classic Chinese animé film. The intricately executed dial, with its varying shades of blue created by firing multicolored ceramic powders in a kiln before carefully placing them into small compartments, depicts the underwater castle scene from 1961’s “The Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven;” three hands sweep over the scene, which is interrupted by neither hour markers nor a date. Limited to just 72 pieces, the watch uses a 41.5mm case and a steel bezel with a minimalist relief scale. The in-house Caliber 400 beats inside. And while one would likely choose not to dive with this piece of horological art on one’s wrist, the 300-meter water resistance has you covered just in case.
Price: $27,500, Case Size: 41.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 400
Aquis Date New York Harbor Limited Edition
The most recent addition to Oris’s ocean-focused Aquis Limited Editions dropped this past June in New York City. The New York Harbor Limited Edition (of 2,000 pieces), in the 41.5mm version of the multipart Aquis Date case, features the all-steel bezel with relief dive scale of the Aquis Date Relief models. Its green mother-of-pearl dial and engraved caseback are a reference to the ambitious mission of the Billion Oyster Project, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to restoring and rebuilding the oyster reefs of New York Harbor with the assistance of more than 50 oyster-serving restaurants (who donate used oyster shells) as well as 11,000 volunteers and 8,000 students from 100 area schools. The caseback drives home the theme with its engraved images of oysters.
Price: $2,700, Case Size: 41.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Domed Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 733 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)Click here to shop our selection of Oris Aquis watches.