Why is the racing chronograph so important to me?
The motor racing chronograph and this particular Oris is what watches were all about for me ever since the beginning. I was an F1 fanatic since the age of 12 and this led me to luxury watches. A racing chronograph is like a little piece of motorsports on your wrist. Oris, in particular, plays a special role. As a sponsor to the Williams F1 team since the early 2000’s, I used to see Williams Oris watches at the Authorized Dealer at my favourite shopping mall. Wearing an Oris racing-styled chronograph is like coming full circle- it’s like the end of a quest. Or, knowing me, it’s like the beginning of a new quest!
This is my full review of the 44mm Oris Artix GT Chronograph. Spoiler alert — the watch you see here is my own. I ordered it without ever trying one in real life. I knew the specs and I was confident in the brand. So I just went for it. Let me tell you all about how I chose this timepiece and what it represents for my collection. Grab a cup of tea, get comfortable and enjoy. This is going to be my most enjoyable review yet.
So I have given you a brief idea of why I am so into motor racing watches. Over the past 10 years, I have had 3 proper racing chronos, but I traded them all for various reasons. It was mainly because I was focused on having watches for my 9 to 5 life. Many oversized racing pieces will not fit under shirt cuffs and I felt that I needed watches for office use. But no matter what I collected, there was always something missing. As my 40th birthday came nearer, I began to crave my dream weekend racer. With a watch box full of dressy pieces for business use, I felt it was time to have a true racer whose sole purpose was to have fun. I was at a point where I could have an expensive watch, that would only see action during casual outings because my other bases were covered. I decided to mark my 40th birthday with the piece I had really desired since the very beginning — a watch that expressed my love for high-level motor racing. This would be a pure passion play.
So how did Oris fit into the equation? The partnership between Oris and Williams is the longest running watch-team relationship in Formula 1 today. So Oris has major racing credibility. And I have a personal relationship with Oris. A couple of brands have really supported WatchPaper and Oris has encouraged us since the very beginning. Oris have attended every single WatchPaper event since I have been here and they feed us news, products to try, and marketing blurbs. I have been to every Grand Prix in Montreal since 1991. And the first time I was invited to attend the Grand Prix as a guest was last year, courtesy of Oris. The only Canadian driver in F1 drives for the team sponsored by Oris. Oh, and the first mechanical watch I ever bought for myself was… an Oris! I obviously feel a connection to the Oris brand and this certainly swayed me toward their products.
But it goes deeper than that. Over the past year, I have gotten to learn Oris’ values and company mission. It fits perfectly with where I am in life right now. And where is that? I like to spend lots of money on watches, but I have to earn that money and I like to find value in watches. The Oris slogan is “real watches for real people.” According to Oris, “real watches” have mechanical movements and functions that make sense, are intended to be used daily and not hidden in a safe, and offer value for money. “Real people” are self-confident and looking for genuine values, use their tools in their daily life, and are willing to spend lots of money on luxury goods but need value for their money. I certainly identify with “real watches” and I consider myself a “real person.” Wearing an Oris is like telling the world, “I love mechanical timekeeping, and I will spend lots of money a cool watch, but I live in the real world.”
Their value proposition is not for everyone. But it is very clear. And for me, at this stage of my life, it makes perfect sense. Oris’ CEO was asked about his brand’s identity recently. He replied,
A lot of the industry has focused on the very top part of the population, and the whole industry has moved towards that segment or wanted to be there. But they have left out the person who likes a good mechanical product — likes to spend money on it, but has to work for that money — they’ve left that person behind. But we never did. We’ve always made products for that person, with a good mechanical watch with complications that make sense, with prices that make sense. And as we move forward we are definitely going to further strengthen our product line within our brand mantra.
So, getting back to the Artix, you can see why I chose this piece to celebrate a milestone in my life. I have a history with Oris. I have a relationship with the brand. The Artix is a mechanical expression of my first and most enduring passion in life — Formula 1 racing. And the Oris values match perfectly with my own life right now. Buying a watch is never rational, so there can never be a rationale behind such a purchase. Nevertheless, the Oris Artix GT Chronograph made a pretty compelling case as my 40BDP (40th birthday piece)!
In reviewing the Artix, I must point out some features that make no sense on a racing watch. The first is a rotating bezel. I hate rotating bezels! Why would I accept one on my 40BDP? Well, this one is gorgeous with its ceramic insert. It is black on black with a red triangle at the top. It’s modern and slick and just looks great. Fortunately, it stays in place very securely and hasn’t bothered me by getting knocked off centre. An odd consequence of this bezel is that the tachymetre (typical on racing watches) is INSIDE the case and not on the bezel. This adds more complexity to the dial. In theory, having a rotating bezel on a chrono allows more timing possibilities. I still don’t like rotating bezels, although this one is really pretty. The black, grooved bezel is a beautiful contrast to the polished steel case.
Another strange feature is the running seconds’ dial. It has no hand! You read the seconds by a red marker that moves around the outside of the sub-dial at 9 o’clock. It is impossible to read. It is too small. There is also a vertical line on the sub-dial that goes from black to red in 5-second intervals. The whole thing renders the running seconds completely useless. Does this matter in practice? Not really. A mechanical watch can never be totally practical. The seconds layout is unusual and adds a bit of originality to the watch. But it’s not useful and contradicts Oris’ own values somewhat. I don’t mind it too much, but I would have preferred a traditional seconds hand.
A third feature that is odd for a racing piece is a screw-down crown. Normally, this is a desirable feature. But you’re never going to take your racer into the pool, so who needs a screw-down crown? I much prefer a regular crown because it is much easier to wind whenever you start back the watch after resting for a few days. On the other hand, the Oris screw-down crown allows for 100 metres of water resistance and adds ruggedness to the piece. I advise that you never take a chrono into the water, but the water resistance adds some safety in case you get wet by accident. The crown itself, like on any Oris, is a strong point. It is large, easy to operate and really utilitarian.
When I ordered the Artix, I was warned that is a very dark watch and that proved to be true. In my opinion, all of the red accents are far too dark and don’t add enough impact to the watch. However, I began to appreciate the subtle and modern look of this watch to the point where it has become one of my favourite watches ever (and I have owned over 50 watches). With the red being so subtle, you get more of a black-on-black look which is very handsome. It is a racer, but somewhat low key.
One of my favourite features on this watch is the rubber rally strap. The buckle is a steel folding clasp and I was sceptical about it since it has fixed holes as opposed to “infinite” adjustment. It has proven to be rock solid and secure. The fit on my wrist is superb and the soft rubber is super comfortable. This strap should be great in the summer, more durable than leather, and it looks sportier than steel. I have been extremely pleased with the strap and its fit.
The 44mm case will probably be too large for many of you. It certainly won’t fit under many of my shirt cuffs. It is, however, really great on my gargantuan wrist. I wear 38mm and 39mm cases on a daily basis, but having a substantial 44mm case for my weekend racer is just great. It sits square and comfortably on my wrist and looks really awesome. The pushers can be described as a bit too classic, but their overall look is fantastic. This watch is definitely most at home with t-shirts, sweaters and casual shirts with wide cuffs. This is the piece you want for watching a Grand Prix or going out for drinks in a pair of jeans.
The Artix is powered by the Sellita SW00, which is really a clone of the legendary ETA 7750. If you’re going to have an issue with the Artix, this might be it. You see, this Oris is not powered by an exclusive movement and Oris didn’t even design this movement themselves. This is a clone, or an off-shoot, of a movement that is, itself, used in countless watches from countless different brands. That’s not very appealing, is it? Well, let’s look at it another way. Let’s use a Formula 1 analogy. How many Grand Prix have been won by a Ford-Cosworth engine? Did those teams build the engines themselves? Did other teams use those engines as well? Michael Schumacher won his first world championship in a Benetton that was powered by…a Ford engine. Then he won the following year’s world championship with a Renault engine. Even today, can the dominant Mercedes team claim to do everything themselves? As I recall, their first F1 engines in the 1990’s were built by Ilmor before Ilmor was taken over by Mercedes. Even in the glamorous, ultra high tech world of F1, supplied engines, outsourcing and sharing equipment have been the norm for decades. Considering all of this, I have no issue wearing a racer whose movement is a clone of a truly outstanding movement. Is it the most modern? Sophisticated? Maybe not. But it is Swiss, tried, tested and solid. And keep in mind that this watch retails for under $4500 CAD…not $10,000.
I have found the Artix to be extremely comfortable on the wrist. Mine is gaining about 6 seconds per day and I can easily get 48 hours of power reserve when I leave it in my watch box. It’s too big to be a daily wearer for me, but being an auto chrono with date makes it superb for REGULAR wear. And I can keep it on my winder. The overall feel of this watch is that of a sophisticated, low-key racing machine. It doesn’t scream for attention, but it feels ready for racing action. The Artix is a beautiful design that makes me look forward to wearing it on the weekend. In fact, I find myself picking out those shirts with wider cuffs so that I can squeeze the Artix into my weekday rotation once in a while. What we have here is a contemporary-yet-classic, modern, mature racer for the modern gentleman.
Does your collection have a racing chronograph? Oris has some amazing options for under $5,000 CAD. And for barely $2,000, there is a three-hander Artix, as well as the retro Chronoris. If you are looking for a proper, mechanical, racing-inspired timepiece, then check out the Oris catalogue. As always, the fun is in the search…