Oris launched their in-house movement, the Calibre 400, in fall of 2020 and have been steadily adding new models and variations since then. The latest addition to the Caliber 400 family is the Calibre 403 (Cal 403) in an updated, contemporary-looking Big Crown Pointer Date.
The previous iteration of the Pointer Date (review here) is one of my favorite models from Oris, so I was interested to see if they could improve upon an already great design. There are a few notable and obvious changes from the previous Pointer Date which we will discuss in this review, so let’s dive into it.
On the Wrist
The Pointer Date Cal 403 fits into what Oris has been trying to accomplish with the Caliber 400 watches in making them look and feel more upscale. I have no doubt that Oris listens to the watch community on social media and forums. The Pointer Date Cal 403 is a prime example of that. The Pointer Date Cal 403 has been scaled down from 40mm wide and 48mm lug-to-lug to 38mm and 45.7mm, respectively. It did gain a little thickness, going from 11.2mm to 12.2mm, likely to accommodate the slightly larger movement. I didn’t notice the extra thickness but I did notice the reductions in the other case dimensions. It feels more like a dress watch, something I always thought the Pointer Date leaned towards (as opposed to a sports watch).
The Pointer Date Cal 403 is built to blend into your wrist without completely fading away. The 38mm case doesn’t feel as small as the diameter would suggest because of the thin and sharply angled bezel. The heavily domed crystal adds an almost unnoticeable magnification effect to the dial, further enhancing its wrist presence. If you’re looking for a 38mm watch that feels like a 38mm watch, the Pointer Date Cal 403 might wear larger than you expect. With that said, it certainly wears smaller than the previous Pointer Date models.
I was worried about the change to a small seconds complication for the Pointer Date Cal 403 as the nature of the Pointer Date can make the dial a little busy. With large Arabic numerals, the outer date ring, and (previously) 4 hands, the Pointer has a lot of potential for a messy dial. Contrary to what I thought, the Pointer Date 403 with the small seconds feels less busy and more exacting in its execution, almost like this is the way it should have been from the start. The small seconds subdial breaks up the numerals at the bottom of the dial and gives the date hand more room to breathe. It also feels less like a GMT, which is a symptom of the previous Pointer Date models with 4 hands rotating around the dial.
You can say that a lot of watch dials are unique but this is especially true of the Pointer Date Cal 403. It walks a perfect line between dress and sport while giving fans of those watches something they will love.
The inner part of the dial contains the Arabic numerals, Oris branding, and the small seconds subdial. Flanking the Arabic numerals is a minute track with hashmarks for every minute with the date ring outside of that. This all creates a look that reminds me of complicated chronographs without all the…complication. It is easy to read and I never had to question what time or date it was. However, you may have to squint sometimes to read the date as it can be distorted by the crystal.
The hands are one of the largest changes from the previous iterations of the Pointer Date. The cathedral hands and half-moon date hand are gone and replaced with contemporary-styled hands. I can honestly say that I don’t know which hands I prefer. I will say that each handset is perfectly suited for the dial they are attached to. The cathedral hands wouldn’t look right with this dial and vice versa. The half-moon date hand should have been carried over as it always looked awesome encircling the current date and would still work well on this dial.
I was surprised at the lume on the Pointer Date Cal 403 and not in a good way. The previous iterations of the Pointer Date looked awesome when the lume was glowing. The Arabic numerals stood out prominently whereas the lume application on the Cal 403 looks fuzzy. For $3,400 I would have expected a much better lume application. It isn’t bad, it’s just not great which is a bit of a letdown.
Case, Movement, & Strap
The case of the Pointer Date Cal 403 is nothing extraordinary, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great case. The lines are clean and simple, lending themselves to a design that fits extremely well on the wrist. The ever-so-gentle turndown in the lugs keeps the case from presenting too flat, which may cause those with larger wrists to be turned off from this watch.
The finishing of the case, as I’ve expected (and seen from Oris for some time), is exceptional. The brushing on the top of the lugs is flawless and the polishing on the sides of the case and bezel is like a mirror.
The bezel is especially well done and gives the Pointer Date a touch of refinement. Those familiar with the previous Pointer Date will notice the glaring omission of the coin-edge bezel. This seemed to be something that was love-it-or-hate-it with would-be buyers of the Pointer Date and Oris chose the conservative approach and smoothed it out. As with the handset, the smooth bezel works perfectly with this dial configuration and the coin edge would have thrown off the balance of the design. One thing that is carried over is the namesake of the watch, the big crown. The unprotected crown is 7.3mm wide and an absolute pleasure to operate. I hope Oris never removes the Pointer from the Big Crown family and if they do, that they keep the crown size the same.
The Caliber 403 is, you guessed it, the small seconds and pointer date complication version of the Caliber 400. I covered the Caliber 400 extensively in my review of it and the Aquis (read it here), but I’ll give you the skinny on what makes this movement both impressive and worth the price of admission. The Caliber 403 is Oris’ in-house movement with a 5-day power reserve, regulated to within COSC specs, and anti-magnetic. The icing on the cake is that Oris warranties the movement for 10 years and recommends a service only once every 10 years. Not too shabby in the world of in-house movements available today from any manufacturer.
I wish I could say the same about the strap. I’m not quite sure why Oris decided to move away from offering a bracelet on the Pointer Date Cal 403, but not only is it a shame, but the strap they do include did not light any of my fires. Oris has some great deployant clasps in their arsenal (including the Big Crown series) and a simple pin buckle on a plain black leather strap just feels like phoning it in on a $3,400 flagship watch. As with the lume, it isn’t bad by any means, I just expected more. A full-stitch leather strap with a deployant would elevate the package ever so slightly and probably not cost Oris much more to manufacture it. I should also mention that the lugs are a somewhat annoying, but not deal-breaking 19mm.
I’ve been a fan of Oris for a long time. They were the first brand of Swiss watch I ever owned and for good reason. They’re relatively affordable, do beautiful case and dial work, and present unique designs to the market. Although they are pushing up the market slightly with the Caliber 400 variations, those respective watches are still a great value in their price bracket. A hill I will still die on is that the Oris Aquis Cal 400 is the best dive watch with an in-house movement above $1,500.
The Pointer Date Cal 403 doesn’t have the same competition as the Aquis Cal 400, but one can argue it is competing against sports watches like the Rolex Explorer. The Pointer Date Cal 403 is a watch for someone looking for Oris’ best. It is one of their best dials, cases, and of course, movements.
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Oris Pointer Date Caliber 403 Specs
Oris Caliber 403
*Height of the watch from the wrist to the top of the crystal