Oris Aquis Caliber 400 Review
In a previous article, I wrote about the relevance of watches during a global crisis. And we are still right in the middle of it- how can I evaluate a luxury wristwatch while confined to my basement? I am not going to the office, or on vacation, or to cocktail parties where I can show off a watch. I am not seeing anyone except for my own family. What role can a “diving watch” play in such an environment? How will I be able to enjoy this luxury piece in the eventual new normal? These are the questions I asked myself as I came home with the Oris Aquis Caliber 400 (and a pile of promotional goodies). How did the Oris address my queries? Let’s find out…
Even before COVID hit the world, I had really slowed down my watch review activity. WatchPaper has done some great reviews. And I have reviewed some of my own watches. But it has been a long time since I actually obtained a watch for the sole purpose of testing it. I have actually declined offers to review a few different watches in the past year. I just did not feel the motivation to do it. Well, this time was different!
I first heard of the Caliber 400 about two days before the story hit the news! In my mind, the Caliber 400 was one of the most exciting and noteworthy nuggets of news from the watch world of 2020. A new movement from a top brand is always big news. And the Caliber 400 seemed like a big step forward for Oris.
The essence of the Oris Aquis Caliber 400 is its blend of simplicity and complexity. At the heart of the watch is a brand new engine with advanced anti-magnetic properties. It contains over 30 anti-magnetic components that allow resistance up to 2,250 gauss! In a world surrounded by speakers, monitors and smart devices, this is a comforting level of protection- probably more significant than the 300m water resistance. Dual barrels offer 5 days of power reserve, while some new silicon components help the movement to achieve an accuracy of -3 seconds to +5 seconds per day. And my favourite aspect of Caliber 400 is the whopping 10 years of warranty. The Aquis takes this sophisticated engine and packages it within a beautiful and simple watch.
Through the wondrous Oris virtual reality kit, I have seen the Caliber 400 from the inside! I am not a technical guy, but I loved seeing the escapement and the barrels as well as all the tiny screws. I also had a stand-alone Caliber 400 movement to examine. There is no signature red rotor as on other Oris (Sellita) movements. The look is all compact, monotone, industrial, sleek and modern. It looks fantastic and you can see it through the exhibition case back, which you don’t have on most diving watches. As you wind the movement, you can see the big gears turning, which is really cool. The Caliber 400 hits all the right notes for me. And the accuracy on this test watch is good- running at +2 to +3 seconds per day. I was not able to test the power reserve, as I wanted to wear and experience the watch rather than letting it sit for 5 days. But I certainly love this aspect of the Caliber 400.
Before trying the Oris, I was reminded that a double-barrel movement can act and feel differently to a typical movement. Setting the movement is very awkward at first. After setting the time, you push in the crown and the minute hand jumps off its position. It is incredibly frustrating! I played around with it for a couple of days and I refined my technique. I set the minute hand to half a minute behind the time I want and, when I snap in the crown, it almost always hits the minute marker dead-on. Sometimes, the minute hand does not actually jump, in which case, I repeat the process and succeed the second time. Right now, I have the seconds hand perfectly synced so that it hits 60 exactly as the minute hand lines up with its marker.
The word that comes to mind when describing the Oris on the wrist is “elegant.” It felt surprisingly light when I first tried it on. And then I was really impressed by the tapered bracelet- elegant. The double-folding clasp is smooth and secured by two little buttons or pushers for opening it. The whole package is refined. The style of the watch is classy and understated. It has everything- minute markers, a date and a sweeping seconds hand. But is so simple, subtle and understated. The stunning-yet-subtle blue dial adds just enough spice to the flavour of the watch.
It is popular to label the Aquis as a diving watch. But my experience wearing the Oris for a few weeks is that of wearing an elegant, sophisticated, all-purpose utility watch. You can insert the term “daily driver” here! I adjusted the bracelet myself to fit my wrist perfectly by simply using the micro-adjustment. I got an excellent fit and I can wear the watch for hours without ever feeling it. The size is absolutely ideal for my large wrist.
I have tried a new Aquis in the 41.5mm case size to compare. On paper, this looks like a better fit for a daily driver. But it feels small and less balanced on the wrist when compared to the 43.5mm Caliber 400 model. Size alone means nothing, of course. You have to try a watch on your wrist before judging the size because the ideal size depends on the watch style and design. I once thought that the 39.5mm Aquis would be the right one, but I tried it last year and found it to be the wrong size for me after all.
The Aquis has accompanied me during one month of a difficult and odd time. I wake up and have coffee, breakfast and read the news while wearing the Oris. When my daughter heads off to school, I remove the Oris and start my workout. I shower, dress, then put the Oris back on as I submerge into my basement home office. I come up for lunch, then go for a power walk through the parks along the water. This is a great time to enjoy the Oris. Then I go back down into my bunker until my daughter comes home from school. And then I do our family stuff. I do wear a shirt and a blazer for some video meetings. But I am wearing sweatsuits a lot of the time. And, apart from video calls, I am alone most of the day. All of this context is important in evaluating my enjoyment of the Aquis Caliber 400.
The overall effect of the Aquis on the wrist, after several weeks, is that of quiet sophistication. As I go through my new lockdown routine each day, the Oris reminds me of its world-class contemporary movement. The rugged-yet-elegant and subtle style of the watch blends in with my hoodies as well as the occasional blazer and shirt. In this new and odd environment, the Aquis has become a solid, reliable and comforting companion. It also gives me that sense of luxury that feels like a reward for a hard day’s work.
In a more normal world, the Oris Aquis Caliber 400 will be one helluva serious contender for the role of daily driver in your collection. It feels great with my dress shirts. It is a bonafide diving watch and, therefore, a real vacation piece. The movement is high end and the case and finishing are superb. The numerals etched into the ceramic-insert bezel are a good example of the nice details. At $3,500 USD, the Oris is less than half the price of many diver icons. It offers performance and versatility to rival those watches and will suit any type of activity at all. And if you put it down for a few days to enjoy some other watches in your collection, it will still be ticking when you need it again.
I am excited to see what other Oris watches will eventually be powered by the Caliber 400. I have really enjoyed this Aquis. When you consider the price of the Oris and its direct competition, the whole prospect just becomes more compelling. Thanks to the great folks at Oris for providing us with their latest masterpiece. If the Aquis is not for you, then take a look at the Oris catalogue. As always, the fun is in the search.