ORIS Carl Brashear Chronograph – review

By 2016. almost everyone had a bronze watch. That year Oris has introduced their first bronze model from the Sixty Five collection called Carl Brashear. That model was a sensation within the collectors and lovers of the brand which is supported by the fact that almost all of the 2000 limited pieces were instantly sold out.

One of the reasons for such high popularity, especially in the west is the fact the watch was representing the legacy of American hero Carl Brashear.

Carl Brashear

Who was Carl Brashear?

Born in 1931 in the town called Tonieville , Kentucky, Carl Brashear enlisted in U.S. Navy in 1948. Often facing hostility and racism, he graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, becoming the first African-American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School and the first African-American U.S. Navy Diver.

During the hydrogen bomb recovery operation in 1966, there was an accident where he lost his left leg. Above all expectations, fighting racism, bureaucracy, and politics in 1968, he became the first diver in history with an amputated leg and he returned to full service. Two years later in 1970, he became the first African-American U.S. Navy Master Diver and served nine more years beyond that, achieving the rating of Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate in 1971. After almost 30 years, he retired in 1979. His extraordinary story served as an ispiration for the movie Men of Honor where his was potrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Two years after the introduction of the first model, trendy bronze disappeared from the horological radar. But as usual, those who hit a home run in the first wave (Oris, you’re one of those) decided to reactivate this trend in 2018. New Carl Brashear is 1mm bigger in diameter. Perhaps on paper does not sound much, but when the larger diameter is used with more thickness and weight, the difference in the hand is noticeable. But Carl Brashear from 2016 was ideal proportions, why increase the size of the watch for no reason?

Well of course there is a reason, you just need to look at the dial through the curved “bubble” sapphire glass and everything becomes clear. The new Carl Brashear model from 2018 has a chronograph complication.

This is the first time that the Sixty-Five collection has been added to the chronograph model and I have to admit that execution is top-notch. The vintage charm was achieved by the symmetry of the bi-compax subdials on the dial (left for current seconds, right as a 30-minute chronograph totalizer) and even the date was removed from the watch so it would not disturb the symmetry of the dial.

Speaking of the dial, according to Oris, an identical blue tone was used as in the first Carl Brashear model. In person, it is a different impression where it looks like blue has more saturation, so it is even better in contrast to gold-colored hands and hour indicators. The vintage story continues with an illumination paint that is fake patinated (beige). But that detail comfortably fits into the whole concept and backstory of this model.

A recognizable detail of the Carl Brashear model is the use of bronze that is fully appropriate because it honors the American hero who literally lived underwater carrying a helmet and a suit made of identical material. Bronze as a material, though heavier and softer than steel, is actually the ultimate diving metal. In contact with the air it almost immediately oxidizes, but this oxide layer actually serves as material protection against further corrosion.

As mentioned initially, bronze is not a novelty in watches and is used by various manufacturers from cheaper micro brands to rather expensive manufactures such as Panerai. But while some combine bronze with various materials, including modern materials such as ceramics, Oris does so much better – in the old school way. For example, a diving unidirectional lunette made of a single piece of bronze with embossed relief markets for a minute. Although it may not be immediately visible, however, the best-patented details will be developed because the difference in the height of the indicator on the lunettes will cause an uneven layer of oxide that will give a special charm to the watch.

The 43mm case has slender and long lugs, and a traditional “mushroom” shape is used for the crown, which further emphasizes on vintage charm. Inside the new Carl Brashear model is the Oris caliber 771, the modified version of the Sellita SW510 with two sub-dials and a power reserve of 48 hours. Although this mechanism was used for the first time in Oris’s line of watches, it is based mostly on the popular and well-known “working horse” of the watch industry – the ETA 7750 mechanism.

Interestingly but the greatest feature of this watch is not related to its technical or mechanical capabilities, the ability to reach a depth of 100 meters or the timing of time intervals. The most amazing thing about this model is (or “will”) be observed day after day as the oxide layer on the bronze develops depending on what you do with the watch and how you enjoy it.

Sweat, moisture in the air, exposure to seawater … all those details will be the source of a patina on the case and because of that you will practically have a unique watch. And given that it is declared as a dive watch, you do not have to be afraid to take it to that underwater adventure (up to 100m). The only part of the clock that is not made of bronze is a steel cover (steel is hypoallergenic compared to bronze) that carries a highly embossed embroidery emblem of the US Navy Master Diver, as well as a personal slogan of Carl Brashear: “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down “.

On the hand, the new Oris Carl Brashear Chronograph works great. From an ideal size to a very readable dial and even an original leather belt that seems as if it had been closed in the hermetic case for the past fifty years. It has all the details you would like on the last model and all the details you missed. And if you get tired of it, you can always restore it to the original condition (you need some lemon and baking soda).

This review would not be possible without my good friend at portalsatova.com and I would like to thank him for letting me use his work.

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