Bert Casal
August 24, 2020     |    

There’s No Place Like Home

The independent Swiss watch company celebrates its roots with the first of a series of limited edition pieces.

Oris was founded in 1904 when, on the first of June of that year, Paul Cattin and Georges Christian signed a contract in the Swiss village of Hölstein that allowed them to set up and run their own watch company. Hölstein, situated 25 kilometres away from Basel, was experiencing economic hardship at that time. The two saw this as an opportunity to set up shop and start their business. They decided to name their company Oris, after a nearby brook.

As Cattin and Christian set up shop, two questions troubled their minds: 1) Could a mechanical watch be made using industrial techniques that stayed true to the romantic values of traditional horology, and 2) Could man and machine combine to deliver beautiful watches at prices that hard-working citizens could afford? Looking at the Oris now, the answer is obvious, but back in 1904, such a move was… visionary.

After only six years, Oris was the biggest employer in the region, and in the coming decades, it would continue to grow at a quick pace. By the 1960s, it was one of the 10 biggest watch companies in the world, employing almost 1,000 people and producing more than one million watches a year.

Oris Hölstein Edition 2020
Oris Hölstein Edition 2020

In the 1970s, the world experienced a global financial crisis, affecting a lot of industries including watchmaking. That era also saw the evolution of the quartz watch, delivering brutal blows to the watch companies. Suffice it to say that Oris survived these adversities by the time the 1980s came around. At that same time, Oris secured its independence and continued to produce beautiful watches that celebrated mechanical watchmaking, industrial manufacturing, and hand-crafted watches that were affordably priced.

This year, to celebrate the roots of their history and their association with the Swiss village of Hölstien, Oris is proud to release the first of a series of limited edition timepieces: the Oris Hölstein Edition 2020.

The case of the Oris Hölstein Edition 2020 is cast in solid bronze. The links of the bracelet are also cast in solid bronze, a first for Oris and a first in Swiss watchmaking. The pins holding the links and the folding clasps, however, are made of high-grade stainless steel. The case back is embossed with the Oris Bear, a symbol of the Oris spirit of warmth and honesty. Plus, it makes you smile.

Oris Hölstein Edition 2020
Oris Hölstein Edition 2020

The 43 mm case houses the Oris 771 movement which features centre hands for hours, minutes, and chronograph quarter seconds. It has allotment for two subsidiary dials at 9 o’clock for the continuous seconds and at 3 o’clock for the chronograph 30-minute counter. This automatic winding movement has a power reserve of 48 hours. The dial is gold plated with black counters and rose gold plated indices. Super-LumiNova® is applied to the hands and indices.

Rolf Studer is Oris’s Co-CEO, and he explains a few things about the Oris Hölstein Edition 2020:

“It’s a celebration of Hölstein and this company’s values. It’s also a tribute to people who love the Oris brand and who love mechanical watches. We really wanted to put a smile on people’s faces with this watch. We make serious mechanical watches for people who work hard for their money, who play their part in building strong communities, and who appreciate quality and beauty. We want to bring people joy. That’s been Oris since day one.”

Oris Hölstein Edition 2020
Oris Hölstein Edition 2020

“Just as a person is defined by where they come from,” Studer continues, “it’s the same for a brand. We are from Hölstein, a remote place away from the centre of the watch industry. This part of Switzerland is more about rigour the romance. Being in Hölstein has defined us and made us the maverick that we are.”

Why put a bear on a watch? Rolf Studer simply said: “How can you be mad at a bear?” He’s a canvas for any kind of emotion. All of us had a teddy bear when we were kids and it was a mirror for our emotions. People buy watches because the cheer us up. Our job is to give people a happy moment in their hectic day. We thought about doing a special movement, or playing with new materials, or even doing something colourful. But in the end, we decided what connects us to this place and to watch enthusiasts around the world is joy. So we did something quirky, something unexpected – who else puts a bear on the back of a luxury watch made of solid bronze?”

The Oris manufacture has stood on the same site as it did when it was first founded in 1904. The Oris Hölstein Edition 2020 timepiece celebrates that, honouring their roots, paying tribute to the magical village they call home.