Founded in 1904, in the Swiss town of Hölstein, Oris is still independently making watches from the same headquarters to this day. In a world full of conglomerates, Oris stakes its success in being a small entity. From the price point to its ability to act creatively, the watchmaker has been pushing out quality products for more than 110 years.
And for Oris’ Co-CEO Rolf Studer, independence is everything. “It’s not just being financially independent; it also means you can think independently and come up with your own solutions to problems,” he says.
When Studer first came to Oris 12 years ago, he was astounded by how lean the team was — a mere 70 people work in the Hölstein HQ. But today, Studer touts the merits of working with so few people — everyone has to be nimble, creative and tuned in to the success of the business. “It means people do a lot of things,” he says. “Wearing many hats is also broadening your horizons.” With staff involved in many different aspects of the making of mechanical watches, it lends a sense of comradery. “We do have a family feel,” Studer adds.
And wearing a lot of hats also opens up the possibilities in terms of creativity. Its independence and small size is the key that’s behind the development of Oris’ most notable product developments. “When it comes to products, it means we also think a little bit out of the box. It means that we are not only looking for solutions within the movements but also in the watch as a whole.”
For example, Studer notes the achievements of its Aquis Depth Gauge and Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter. With Oris’ Aquis Depth Gauge, the team worked specifically with the sapphire crystal to show accurate depth without levers that could be delayed. “In our Altimeter, we did the same thing,” he says. “We didn’t work with the movement.” Rather, the team worked with a barometer. “[We] worked through different gears, through a hand made of carbon fiber to show your current pressure and pressure in a fixed point means altitude.”
Its latest movement, Caliber 114, combines a 10-day power reserve, a non-linear power reserve indicator, a date indication and, for the first time, a 24-hour second time zone with half-hour indication — something no other Swiss mechanical watch currently combines in one timepiece. “We always have the ambition to go to the next level in what we do, to find that next complication or solution,” says Studer.
Being independent and ultra-nimble keeps the innovations coming while also keeping the price point low. And in Hölstein, that keeps spirits pretty high too. “All around the world we have the same spirit,” says Studer. “The spirit of fighting against the big boys, making it happen — fighting for your space.”