Oris is back with their third Carl Brashear Foundation limited-edition in what is almost certainly their best yet. The new watch combines the design elements that are associated with these popular limited editions, like a bronze case and dark blue dial, with Oris’ brand new movement, the Cal. 400. In an interesting twist, however, it also debuts the latest iteration of the movement, which has itself only been out a very short while.
Oris Carl Brashear models are most easily recognized by their nearly all-bronze case and dark blue dials, contrasted with bronze-colored hands and hour markers. It’s a great look, one that naturally invokes notions of nautical history, given the associations of bronze with maritime equipment.
Aesthetically, the third Brashear LE most resembles the first, but in my opinion anyway, is superior for a few reasons. The first is that they eliminated the date complication, which was superfluous in a dive watch, and the second is that the case is smaller, down from 42mm to 40mm, an ideal size for many people, myself included.
The third improvement is this, the seconds subdial where the date once lived. By using a seconds subdial, instead of central seconds, it helps complete the new LE’s vintage look, but it’s also hints at a bit more below the surface. Inside beats the new Caliber 401, the latest version of an already extremely recent, and interesting, movement from Oris. While the Aquis debuted the Cal. 400, your standard three-hander plus date, the early emergence of the 401, which replaces the date for a seconds subdial, hints at a more restrained, perhaps more vintage-inspired, future for in-house powered Orises. For more on that new movement, a huge leap forward for Oris, please check out my article on it here.
Bronze watch cases are desirable not just for their color, but for their unique quality of developing highly-individual patinas over time. While many watch collectors find this to be the material’s most endearing trait, few want it to be directly in contact with their skin. Oris, therefore, uses a steel case back, which sacrifices nothing of the all-bronze look when worn, but keeps that bronze oxidation off of our wrist.
The new Oris Carl Brasher Cal. 401 Limited Edition (let’s just call it the Brashear 401 in the future) is a limited edition of 2,000 watches, each priced $4,200. That’s quite a bit more than the first Carl Brashear LE, but for the money you’re getting not only a slightly better looking watch, but a much more interesting and unique movement with some pretty impressive performance and warranty advantages to match. If you’re into vintage divers or bronze watches, this is one to keep in mind.