Independence to Innovate Keeps This Swiss Watchmaker at the Forefront

Oris Co-CEO Rolf Studer highlights how the rare independent watchmaker is able to stay successful and innovate because of its lean operations.

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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.

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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.”

That sentiment is reflected in the Oris credo that its mechanical watches always stick to: “Things must make sense.”

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The Oris Diving Collection represents this to a tee. The Aquis Date’s bezel was raised by 2mm to improve the grip. It’s not a huge move, but a little can matter a lot underwater. Or the ProDiver GMT that is Oris’ most technical diver’s watch yet. Developed with professional divers, it features a patented RSS bezel lock safety system which holds the bezel in place during a dive — another crucial feature that might appear small, but when in-use can make a world of difference.

Being independent and ultra-nimble keeps the innovations coming while also keeping the price point low. And in Hölstein, that keeps the desire to keep raising the bar high. As Studer says, “We always have the ambition to go to the next level in what we do, to find that next complication or solution.”

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