For 2022, Swiss Oris has released a rare higher-end watch that makes use of the traditional watchmaking decoration technique of cloisonne enamel. The watch is the second from the brand to celebrate the Chinese tale of the Monkey King (Sun Wukong), which is a theme the brand previously explored in the 2021-released Oris Sun Wukong watch (on aBlogtoWatch here). The idea was to incorporate a pop culture and art reference in a way that Oris felt tied in well with the brand.
Oris normally produces watches in the sub-$5,000 price point, but this special Sun Wukong Artist Edition is a limited edition with a retail price near $30,000. Higher-end Oris watches are not without precedent. Exactly two years prior to Oris’ debut of the Sun Wukong Artist Edition, it released the 18k gold-cased Aquis Carrysfort Reef watch (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). In a steel case and priced more than Oris’ gold diver’s watch, the goal of this Sun Wukong Artist Edition watch is to incorporate value from the artisanship available to Oris as a function of being located at the edge of Switzerland’s watchmaking region.
Oddly enough, regarding the two Sun Wukong watches so far — neither of them incorporates much imagery of the Monkey King himself. The first watch has an artistic rendition of the character’s special quarterstaff weapon in the form of the seconds hand on the dial. In this new watch, there is finally an engraved rendition of the Monkey King on the rear of the steel case, but the dial doesn’t directly allude to the story or the Havoc in Heaven films from the 1960s upon which these watches are themed. This might be due to intellectual property rights issues or perhaps because Oris is setting itself up to do a series of Sun Wukong watches and creating an assortment of timepieces that will help complete the theme.
This is also probably the first Oris watch I know of that is completely devoid of branding and text on the dial. The brand that prides itself on producing “watches that make sense” would normally not produce something as artistic (versus utilitarian). The case watch is the distinctive Aquis diver, here at 41.5mm-wide in steel and water-resistant to 300 meters. The steel-on-steel rotating diver’s style bezel has a new minimalist look. For those who know watches, the shape of the case will indicate that this Sun Wukong Artist Edition is an Oris watch, but for everyone else, the branding is highly discreet.
Cloisonne enamel is an artistic technique that is comprised of three main phases. The first phase has the artist use small wires to create the outline of a composition. These wires are often made from gold and create little chambers (which is what the term “cloisonne” translates to). Once the chambers are produced by hand, they are then filled in with particular colors of enamel paint. This is another challenging procedure to do in miniature on a watch dial. The final phase is a baking process that permanently sets the colors.
What exactly is the blue and green dial made of? To many, the dial will simply look artistic and abstract. It is, however, supposed to represent a scene from the movie in which Sun Wukong enters the underwater palace of the Dragon King. This is where the Monkey King eventually acquires his magical staff weapon. Thus, the dial is an artistic representation of an underwater gateway and why Oris felt it made sense for a diver’s-style watch.
The watch has an exclusive caliber 400 automatic movement (that has an applicable 10-year warranty) and a long five-day power reserve (120 hours) . Operating at 4Hz in this form, the movement offers just the time and seconds over the hand-painted enamel dial. Attached to the watch is the standard Aquis steel bracelet, which comes with a diver’s extension in the clasp.
In all, we have a functional steel tool watch with a desirable movement and a “classic luxury” handmade artistic dial inspired by a story famous in many parts of the Chinese community. Oris has clearly identified a consumer group and created an interesting product more akin to those produced by higher-end Swiss brands. In some ways, it’s an experiment, but at the same time, I think Oris has legitimacy including some exceptional pieces like the Sun Wukong Artist Edition into its standard catalog of $2,000 – $4,000 USD watches. It helps lift the brand perception for all consumers and allows for novel areas of creative expression. Oris will make 72 pieces of this limited-edition set and price for the reference 400 7769 4185 set is $27,500 USD. Learn more at the Oris watches website here.