July 14, 2019
by Ariel Adams
At Baselworld 2014, Swiss Oris watches introduced the ProPilot Chronograph GMT as the newest member of its Big Crown ProPilot watch collection, My understanding is that, by 2015, the ProPilot Chronograph GMT 677 7699 was discontinued. Was the ProPilot Chronograph GMT a flop? Hardly. What happened, according to Oris, is that the movement inside the watch was simply too difficult and expensive to obtain, making it not commercially feasible to keep producing the watch — and it didn’t make sense for prices to jump. Oris does produce some of its own movements (which you can find in other ProPilot timepieces), but the brand’s reasonable pricing is still based on its ability to use movements from Swiss companies such as ETA.
Inside the Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT is a modified Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement that has been upgraded to include a 24 hour GMT hand. This process more or less revises the day-of-the-week indicator system and makes it a GMT hand instead — which is the most basic way of explaining it. The movement is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback on the rear of the watch and bears Oris’ signature red-colored automatic rotor (which amusingly, to me, says “high mech” on it). To this day, I believe this particular watch is the only Big Crown ProPilot model to combine a chronograph and GMT complication, meaning you can get either GMT watches or chronograph watches in the modern aviation-inspired ProPilot collection, but not both.
The 4Hz, two-day power reserve movement features the time, date, GMT hand, and 12 hour-chronograph, making the dial feel complete but not busy. Oris did an excellent job of making the ProPilot Chronograph GMT feel very much like a serious instrument/tool watch. Dial details are highly appreciated, such as the correct use of a black date disc and the ideal contrast between the white-colored (and lume painted) hour markers and hands, and the matte dial. Oris decided to go with a slightly domed sapphire crystal, which, compared to flat crystal, has some glare, but overall, the legibility experience is very good. The no-nonsense dial and focus on utility is what attracted me to the ProPilot Chronograph GMT in the first place, years ago. Such designs are highly recommended for watch collectors who have a real soft spot for “tool timepieces.”
At 44mm-wide and nearly 16mm-thick, the steel-cased ProPilot Chronograph GMT is a hefty timepiece with weight to match its size. Lug-to-lug distance is about 53mm, so the watch is wearable on most wrists. Oris originally produced the watch with a few strap options, but as a bracelet guy, I preferred the matching three-link steel metal bracelet on Oris’ own style of fold-over deployant clasp.
The big crown part of this Big Crown ProPilot watch is certainly there, but the crown doesn’t feel over-sized given the timepiece’s overall bulk. For the most part, the ProPilot case design is utilitarian but there are some subtle decorative touches that I like. These are, for example, the “turbine-” style bezel, as well as the small amount of polishing (such as near the caseback) to complement the mostly brushed steel surfacing over the case and bracelet.
Some watch-lover will complain about how elements of the dial design overlap on one another. From a strict “tool watch perspective,” it is correct that dial elements should not overlap — such as hour markers over chronograph subdials. I don’t mind this because I actually feel that, from an aesthetic perspective, it makes the watch feel a bit larger and more interesting. It also pushes focus on telling the time as opposed to the chronograph stopwatch — which certainly does reflect how most people today use watches like this. Nevertheless, if you look closely at the subdials, you can see how easily you can spot the various indicators and hands. All things considered, even from a chronograph standpoint, the Oris ProPilot Chronograph GMT is much more legible than most chronograph timepieces out there.
The Big Crown ProPilot collection is still very much produced by Oris today, with a series of interesting models depending on your taste. If anything, Oris potentially offers too many versions of its watches, making it a challenge (or a pleasure) to decide which model is right for you. The Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT is an excellent choice — if you can find one. Given the limited time during which it was produced, this is perhaps one of the rarest modern Oris watches around. Original retail price for this Oris ref. 01 677 7699 4164-07 8 22 19 (aka 67776994164/MB) was $4,300 USD. See more at the Oris website here.