The painful evolution of luxury watches

Back to in the late 1960s, even the most discerning observer could not have predicted the chaos that quartz technology would inflict on the Swiss watch industry. The advent of the electronic wristwatch was so revolutionary and then devastating that the era in Switzerland is still called the quartz crisis.

Once bitten, twice shy. Today, after re-imagining the traditional mechanical watch as a luxury watch and building a huge industry on its background, Swiss brands are involved in a completely new arms race among themselves. Clock movements become more precise, reliable and long-lasting. Simply put, the mechanical watch is getting better on all fronts with marginal gains, rooting for practicality and sustainability in the real world.

Photo: Omega

It is an idea close to the heart of Rolf Studer, co-CEO of the indie brand Oris, a company with a pedigree of smart industrialization. Last November, Oris launched an automatic mechanism, caliber 400, which could be considered a poster for this third wave of watchmaking. By launching select diving and pilot watches for less than £ 3,000, it brings significant improvements in precision, power reserve, magnetic resistance and longevity compared to the industry standard “tractor” mechanisms that Oris has historically relied on.

“This is a movement with a purpose,” says Studer, who describes a five-year research and development process that improves everything from gear geometry to winding system efficiency. “By defining several elements and setting a new standard for all of them, the Caliber 400 directly addresses customer needs. It is suitable for every everyday situation. ”

It will work at full wind for five days (120 hours), where the norm used to be 40 to 42 hours. Most impressively, Oris says 400-caliber watches can be worn for a full decade before they need service, backed by a 10-year warranty — compared to a standard warranty of just two years and recommended service intervals of four or five. years.

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