Founded in 1904 by Paul Cattin and Georges Christian in the Swiss town of Hölstein, Oris takes its name from a brook close to the town. Setting up shop in the Lohner & Co watch factory, the two men enter into a contract with the mayor of the town and by June they are up and running. From here on in, the journey of Oris watches would be one rooted in tradition yet which had both eyes firmly fixed on the future of Swiss watchmaking.
Within two years the friends had opened a second factory and within seven years Oris had become the largest employer in the town, with over 300 working in the company’s myriad roles. Oris executives made a decision to attract for skilled workers to the town by building apartment for their workers, which proved to be a smart decision indeed. Over the next decade the company would expand and continue expanding until, by 1929, there were more than six Oris factories throughout Switzerland.
In 1928, Oscar Herzog takes over as Oris chief and begins a new journey for the company, staying as he would for almost fifty years in charge of the brand. Herzog would go on to guide Oris through times of both success and struggle in the 20th century.
Oris Pilot Watches
Ten years later in 1938, Oris introduced its first watch for pilots, which has a striking big crown and a Pointer Calendar feature. The collection is so named due to the model’s oversized crown, used to help pilots adjust their watches while equipped with leather gloves. Over the years, aviation develops into one of the four ‘Oris Worlds’.
By the end of the sixties, Oris is one of the 10 largest watch companies on earth. Producing 1.2 million watches and clocks per year, the company employs over 800 people and even begins to develop its own tools and machinery. Over the next ten years Oris would remain at the forefront of mechanical watch production yet the quartz crisis deeply affected production. By 1982, Oris has definitely committed to producing only mechanical watches, a tradition which it keeps to this day. This decision is informed by the findings of company chairman Ulrich Herzog during a trip to Japan, where he found a new passion for mechanical watches developing in the wake of the quartz revolution. From then on Oris only became stronger, recapturing the trailblazing spirit of its earlier years of success to reinvent itself as a major player in the global watch industry, all using only mechanical movements.
Throughout the late 80’s and 90’s the brand would go on to release a slew of highly esteemed watches including models inspired by aviation, jazz music and motoring. The company even signed a deal with the Williams F1 team, becoming a sponsor of then up and coming driver Nico Rosberg, a future world champion and global face of the sport. Making moves into sport inspired watches captured the spirit of earlier Oris years, when accuracy and function was valued above all else. By producing models designed for aviation, motoring, diving and more, Oris managed to create its own niche in the luxury Swiss watch industry after coming to the brink of extinction in the 1970’s and 80’s.