Watch movements seem to be a tricky thing to wrangle these days. Watch manufacturers who used ETA movements only to have them strangled by the Swatch Group have turned to other movement manufacturer such as Sellita, Miyota, and STP. However, even these movements have come under their own set of constraints the last few years. This has led watch manufacturers to make the investment in their own movements. Brands such as Tudor, IWC, and even newcomers like Norqain have moved away from off-the-shelf movements.
Oris is the latest to do so with the release of their in-house movement, the Calibre 400. It’s a big step forward for the independent Swiss watch brand and certainly gives them some clout to push up-market if they wish to do so. The movement, which boasts some impressive specs like a 5-day power reserve and anti-magnetic properties, is making its debut in Oris’ flagship dive watch, the Aquis.
When I received the physical press kit for the Aquis Calibre 400 and the movement itself, I was excited to see what Oris had in store for me. Oris included a VR headset, which obviously left me rather curious. What do VR and watches have in common? Oris used the technology to let you literally step inside the new movement.
I wish I was able to show you what I experienced in the VR headset, but if you have the chance to try it out at a boutique or AD, definitely give it a shot. Oris also included a separate movement encased in a clear plastic shell. It could be wound up to see everything working without distraction. It’s a great way to show off the movement and I’ll say I had a ton of fun recording video footage for the review.
All the fancy stuff aside, what is the story with this movement? Why the big show if this is something other brands have done before? The obvious answer is that this is the first time Oris has done it for themselves and are rightfully proud of their achievements. What makes this movement different from what they are currently offering or even what other brands with in-house movements are offering?
The 5-day power reserve is something that caught my eye. I’ve given the Swatch Group plenty of criticism over their movements with 80-hour power reserves because most of what they did was slow the beat rate. Oris has given their movement 5-day power reserve and kept the beat rate at 28,800 vph. This also means you can take the watch off Friday night, take a 3-day weekend, and find it will still be ticking on Tuesday morning.
Oris has also incorporated significant anti-magnetic properties into the Calibre 400. I won’t go into the geeky tech-specs that Oris had in their press release but let’s just say they exposed the movement to a series of tests that no normal person would expose their watch to and the movement deviated less than 10 seconds after those tests. Impressive.
Perhaps the thing that stuck out to me the most is the warranty they are backing the Calibre 400 with. Oris will warranty the movement for 10 years. That’s a good way to show potential buyers that you are standing behind the movement you’ve created.
I’m going to cover a little more about the movement as I go through the review of the Aquis Calibre 400. The movement itself is impressive, but at the end of the day we’re not buying just a movement. We’re looking to buy a watch with that movement in it. The Aquis Calibre 400 is that watch; let’s see how it stacks up.
The Aquis on the Wrist
I own an Oris Aquis, the Sellita-based version from a few years ago. There is going to be a little bias in this review because of that ownership; I obviously like the watch. While I will be making a few comparisons of the Aquis Calibre 400 to my Aquis, it should be said that the cases of these watches are the same in terms of dimensions. With that said, there are some things I am critical about when it comes to the Aquis and I’ll address those as we go through. Let’s get started.
The Aquis is one of the best-fitting 43mm+ watches I’ve worn. The Aquis comes in at 43.5mm to be specific, but I’ve always felt it wears a touch smaller. The integrated bracelet helps with that effect; it makes the entirety of the watch and bracelet feel like one element. With that said, the Aquis is still a large watch but I never felt it was too big for my 6.75” wrists. Oris does make the Aquis in other sizes, but at the time of this review the Calibre 400 is only offered in the 43.5mm version.
While the Aquis commands some wrist presence, Oris has done a great job mitigating some of the problems that come with watches over 42mm. The Aquis isn’t thick and when viewed from the side, it appears relatively thin given its diameter. While my current work-from-home attire doesn’t consist of dress shirts, I know from my personal Aquis that this watch does not look out of place with a shirt and tie. Oris has done a great job squeezing this into the dress diver category.
My biggest complaint with the Aquis has always been the integrated bracelet. It drove me nuts that I needed a special screwdriver to change straps. Add to that the prices you pay for straps from Oris and it became a real headache. Oris has solved one of those problems. They’ve created a quick-release system that allows the bracelet to unfold around the lug bar and be taken off without any tools. It is honestly a selling point that makes me want to consider upgrading my Aquis. This will be offered on all the straps Oris offers for the Aquis Calibre 400, which will make swapping straps a breeze.
Oris Aquis Calibre 400 Video Review
The dial on the Aquis Calibre 400 is reminiscent of the Aquis Clipperton Edition, which had a sunburst blue gradient like the one seen here. It’s a beautiful gradient and pairs perfectly with the deep blue bezel. The appearance as a whole feels like you’re looking at tropical waters.
A keen eye will notice a few of the changes from the previous Aquis models to the Calibre 400. The most obvious changes are the date window and the text on the dial. Thankfully Oris reworked the date window to position it in a more suitable position. It is now lower on the dial and larger, making it easier to read at a glance. While I understand the additional text added at 6 o’clock, Oris is creeping into Pelagos territory with a paragraph of text. Simply dropping Pressure Resistant would have kept the balance similar to the previous Aquis.
The same great handset and markers of the previous version are present on the Calibre 400. The broad hands look fantastic and are easy to read. Applied markers with a nice lume application stand out from the dial and look fantastic when the light hits them just right. Because of the larger date window, a pip is located where the 6 o’clock marker was on the previous Aquis model.
There is only one place where I feel Oris truly went backwards with the Aquis Calibre 400. The bezel on the example I had was extremely difficult to turn. The first time I rotated it, I almost needed to use my palm. This was a bit of a bummer as I love the bezel action on my Aquis. I’m hopeful that production models will either be tensioned better or loosen up with use.
Case and Bracelet
The case on the Aquis Calibre 400 is about as contemporary of a design as you can get with a dive watch. The undeniably modern looks feature angular lugs and large crown guards. The Aquis looks like a pure tool watch that has been dressed up with some additional polishing and edges.
Because of the integrated bracelet, the lugs flow right into the bracelet. The polished lugs pair with the polished outer links of the bracelet. This is something I wish Oris would change to give the watch even more of a tool watch look. Entirely brushed lugs and links would look fantastic. With that said, the finishing on the Aquis flawless. The brushed and polished areas are immaculate.
I noticed Oris made a small change to the underside of the case where the first link of the bracelet articulates. On the previous Aquis models, there wasn’t a cutout like there is on the Calibre 400. This led to the centerlink of the bracelet getting a small nick in it over time. This has been corrected and I’m happy to see Oris recognized and remedied the design defect.
The bracelet itself is one of the best on the market. The fully articulating links drape around the wrist perfectly and because of the immediate falloff from the case, it conforms to the wrist without any bulging or hot spots. This is also what helps the Aquis wear a touch smaller than it is. The simple push-button clasp keeps the profile slim and the watch balanced. It has been and still is one of my favorite bracelets of any watch.
One of the small changes to the Aquis Calibre 400’s case is the caseback. The exhibition caseback opening is now slightly larger to show off the Calibre 400 movement. Oris has also ditched their signature red rotor on the Calibre 400. I always enjoyed the red rotor on their watches and will miss it dearly. However, it is nice to get a good look at the Calibre 400; it is a great looking movement.
Oris has pushed themselves up to the next price bracket with the Aquis Calibre 400. The new watch and movement will retail around US $3,300 which is approximately $1,000 more than the previous iterations of the Aquis. This gives the Aquis Calibre 400 some new competition.
Tudor Black Bay
Take any iteration of the Tudor Black Bay 3-hand models, be it the Fifty-Eight or the OG Black Bay and you have a solid competitor for the Aquis. The original 41mm models come in slightly higher with an MSRP of US$3,800 on a bracelet but deliver a similar feature set. An in-house movement with a solid power reserve and excellent build quality makes this good competition for the Aquis Calibre 400.
The Aquatimer is one of the world’s most-ignored dive watches. IWC seems to be known for their pilot watches but the Aquatimer is worth a mention here. Granted, it costs about $2,000 more than the Aquis Calibre 400, but like the Black Bay it features an in-house movement and purpose-built robustness.
Seiko Marine Master
If you’re looking for a beefy dive watch with an in-house movement and plenty of history, the Seiko Marine Master is another watch that can compete with both the Aquis Calibre 400 and standard Aquis. It might wear slightly larger than the Aquis, but it has plenty of actual use in the water. It also can match the Aquis’ dressy diver pedigree to a certain extent.
What makes me most excited about the Aquis Calibre 400 and the new movement is the innovation Oris is bringing. The in-house movement is one thing but I also love seeing Oris improve upon one of their best watches. Small tweaks like the quick release bracelet make a big difference for anyone familiar with the Aquis family.
The new movement and watch are signaling Oris’ push up-market, much like Seiko has been doing over the past several years. Oris has had a great value proposition for as long as I’ve been interested in watches and even with the $1,000 extra for the Calibre 400 model I still believe that to be the case. Take a look at some of the competition I stacked the Aquis up against; the Oris is cheaper than 2 of them and having handled all those watches, I can say it isn’t in the wrong weight class. I hope Oris continues this push for new tech and features in more watches; they’ll certainly have me taking a closer look at their catalog.
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Oris Aquis Calibre 400 Specs
Oris Calibre 400