May 20, 2023
by Ariel Adams
You can still visit Oris’ website and view a selection of available watches under the Big Crown ProPilot model range, but it’s not quite what it used to be. The brand has been focused squarely on the Aquis, the ProPilot X, and a few vintage reissues of late, and its regular ProPilot line has suffered for it. None of the available models, for instance, include both a Chronograph and GMT complication. Once upon a time, though, such a watch was on offer. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT was produced for only about a year (as far as I understand), around 2014 when it was first introduced by aBlogtoWatch at Baselworld. Well-priced at the time and nicely made, the watch (reference 01 677 7699 4164-07 8 22 19 as seen here on the matching steel bracelet) was discontinued, apparently due to the cost of the movements from ETA. A few years after my initial hands-on debut, I took an opportunity to revisit this short-lived model.
Inside the ProPilot Chronograph GMT is what Oris referred to as its caliber 677. That is just a re-named Swiss ETA Valjoux 7754, which outside the Swatch Group is now probably really hard to get. It is a Valjoux 7750 with the added element of a GMT hand; combined, these make for a nicely complicated movement for the money. You can see the modestly decorated movement through the mineral crystal window on the rear of the case with Oris’ signature red-colored automatic rotor. The movement operates at 4Hz and has a power reserve of about two days.
The combination of chronograph and GMT in the 7754 movement is a sweet spot for a lot of tool watch lovers who are already naturally drawn to a timepiece brand like Oris. Chronograph GMT watches are rare, as it is. Fancier GMT watches allow you to move the hour hand in both directions, this system has you adjust the GMT hand in just one direction. With a little getting used to, it is easy to set GMT hand, but it usually requires you to totally reset the main time, as well. The 7754 basically repurposes the setting to adjust what would be the day of the week indicator on the 7750. Oris leaves the date window in there but moves it to between 4 and 5 o’clock on the dial so that the Oris logo can sit at the 3 o’clock position.
Among Oris’ many pilot-themed watches, the Big Crown ProPilot collection is inspired by more modern aircraft design and cockpits. This is in contrast to the many vintage aviation-themed watches produced by the Swiss brand. While not particularly decorative, the ProPilot is a serious-look watch that means business and is very effective at what it does. My own gripe would have been a sapphire crystal with more AR coating on it. The domed sapphire crystal does get its share of glare even if legibility is overall very good. The white-on-black hands and hour markers contrast well with the matte-black dial, making for excellent readability. Colors are kept to a minimum, but the chronograph hands are all color-coded in red, and the sole yellow color on the dial is the GMT hand, which follows a close track around a 24-hour scale on the periphery of the dial. One of the nice things about the overall design of the Chronograph GMT that made it distinct from some other ProPilot watches was the sloped 24-hour scale that made the dial feel wider and thus gives the ProPilot a distinct look.
At 44mm wide and just over 15mm thick, this is a heavy and big steel metal watch. The brushed case is handsome and the “turbine knurling” on the bezel is an attractive touch. Because this is a 100-meter water-resistant sports, watch the size is acceptable, but I do recommend wearing it snugly. In addition to this matching three-link brushed steel bracelet, Oris also offered the Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT as the reference 01 677 7699 4164-07 5 22 15FC on a black textile strap with Oris’ nice seatbelt-style deployant buckle.
Now, close to five years after the initial debut of the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT and the watch still feels modern and fresh in my opinion. Oris opted to go with an almost spartan homage to contemporary airplane cockpits, and while the ProPilot isn’t at all flashy, it continues to exude confidence and an assured personality that Oris fans seem to like. As an alternative to many more expensive lifestyle pilot watches, Oris will often beat others in value for the money, even though brands like IWC, Breitling, Longines, and lots of others put more marketing weight behind their range. A few Oris models easily fit into most well-rounded watch collections, and if you like finding models not produced for very long, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT is a great choice. Retail price for this reference 01 677 7699 4164-07 8 22 19 Oris Big Crown ProPilot Chronograph GMT watch on bracelet was $4,300 USD. Learn about this specific model at Oris watches here.