When it comes to modern pilot watches, your first thought may not be the Oris Big Crown ProPilot. References by the likes of Stowa, Hamilton, Laco, and IWC may be the first that come to mind. However, the line has been a staple in Oris’ collection for a number of years. During this time, they have been a solid example of how modern design can mesh with the classic design of an easy-to-read pilot watch.
Oris recently revamped the Big Crown ProPilot line in its entirety. The ProPilots have always been a great example of an affordable pilot watch and the refresh brings some welcome upgrades while keeping with this theme.
On the Wrist
Pilot watches can easily stretch into the above-44mm case width realm easily due to the nature of a pilot watch. They are designed to be readable at a quick glance with large numerals and mostly sterile dials. The Big Crown ProPilot accomplishes this with a modest 41mm case. On wrist, the ProPilot commands some wrist presence without becoming a hockey puck. The numerals are large enough to be readable while maintaining enough spacing to not clutter the dial.
The ProPilot is still a large watch at 49mm lug-to-lug. However, Oris mitigated some of the length by curving the lugs down as they extend out from the case. This curvature helps the ProPilot wear truer to its size of 41mm.
The ProPilot fits into a variety of scenarios as a modern pilot watch. There is a mixture of brushing and polishing throughout the watch, including the bracelet which lends itself well to being dressed up or down. The sunburst blue dial also helps, parting from the sterile black dials of traditional pilot watches. The dial of the ProPilot takes up most of the real estate of the case width. The knurled fixed bezel is narrow, allowing the dial to be the star of the show.
Blue dials are becoming more popular and Oris makes some of my personal favorites. The sunburst blue on the ProPilot resembles that of the Oris Aquis with the ProPilot being a slightly lighter shade of blue. It still shares the same characteristic of fading to black in certain lighting conditions. Given the size of the dial, the sunburst effect is an absolute joy to stare at. If the blue dial isn’t your thing, Oris also offers it in black and sunburst gray.
The numerals are the best update to the ProPilot from previous iterations of the watch. They have been upgraded to what Oris calls molded lume markers. The applied markers add depth to the dial and pop out at the wearer when the light hits them just right. Not only do they look great in the day, but the lume is vastly improved and glows brightly.
Lumed hash marks flank each numeral with a double hash mark at the 12 o’clock position. Additional hash marks for each minute are also present, but they are not lumed.
This specific variant in the Big Crown ProPilot line is called the Big Date. The date window at 3 o’clock lives up to its namesake and is easily readable. The black date wheel with white numerals also helps it fade into the dial of the watch when not needed.
The handset on the ProPilot is one of my favorite handsets of any watch. The tapering hour and minute hands are filled generously with lume. The minute hand extends far enough past the hour hand that there is no mistaking the time when read at a quick glance. The seconds hand is tipped with white, adding a nice accent to the numeral color.
Oris kept the dial text to a minimum with only a small amount of branding on the dial. The text for the branding is also not very large so it does not distract from readability.
Case & Bracelet
As much as I enjoy the dial of the ProPilot, the case also deserves some attention. The ProPilot features one of the more unique bezel designs, especially among pilot watches. The bezel is completely polished with one half being knurled. The knurling resembles the turbine of a jet engine and is a great callback to the aviation roots of the watch.
The rest of the case is entirely brushed. The beefy lugs fit the tool watch vibes of the ProPilot as they are straight with no bevels or polishing. As the lugs meet the case, the bezel extends slightly over the sides of the watch. It is a similar design to that of the Big Crown Pointer Date which also featured this cut-out on the sides of the case.
As its name suggests, the Big Crown ProPilot has a big crown. The screw-down crown is nearly as tall as the entire case and crystal and features similar knurling as the bezel. As one would expect with a crown of this size, it is easy to operate and a pleasure to wind the watch. Oris also carried this knurling pattern to the display caseback which shows off Oris’ signature red rotor.
While wearing this watch for review, I had a love/hate (mostly love) relationship with the bracelet. The bracelet is extremely comfortable, almost as much so as the bracelet on my Oris Aquis, which is one of the most comfortable bracelets I’ve ever worn. The links articulate freely so that it drapes around your wrist effortlessly. The center links are polished, which complements the polished bezel, but I wonder if it would look better being completely brushed. It tapers beautifully from 20 to 16mm, adding to the comfort.
There is a downside to this bracelet that may or may not be a problem for others. Let me say that I love the clasp design aesthetically. It resembles the seatbelt of a cockpit seat and it is small, unobtrusive and it looks cool. The downside is that there are no micro adjustments. If adding or removing a link makes it too big or too small, you’re out of luck. I wish Oris would have made the clasp slightly larger to accommodate micro adjustments. While I don’t mind the word LIFT on the clasp and understand its reason for being there, I wouldn’t mind if just ORIS were stamped on the clasp.
This is a hard watch not to like. It is well-designed with some welcome upgrades from previous iterations of the Big Crown ProPilot. I love the new molded lume applied markers as they add a depth to the watch that was missing before. Despite my quibbles with the bracelet, I still found it comfortable enough that if I were to buy this watch, I would get it with the bracelet.
Oris have done a fantastic job in creating a modern pilot watch that could easily go from the boardroom to the sky to the pool thanks to 100 meters of water resistance. If you’re in the market for a pilot watch, I see no reason to skip over the Big Crown ProPilot.
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|Lug-to-lug Height||49mm||Lug Width||20mm|
|Water Resistance||100 meters||Lume||Molded Lume Markers|
|Movement||Oris 751 - Sellita SW-200||Price||$1,900|