Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

There are few activities that excite me as much as diving. So when Oris proposed to send me their Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph reference 01 774 7708 4154-Set RS watch to accompany me on my annual diving trip (this year, in Key Largo, Florida) I could not wait to get in the water. What follows is a full review of this watch and my experience diving with it. I also include my thoughts using it as an everyday watch at the beach and during my vacation.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I've been diving now for just over five years, and during that time I have logged over 30 hours in the ocean, which includes class time to get my PADI advanced diver certification. So while the last few dives (four) in Key Largo were not the most time I've spent doing this activity, they have been the most memorable. Why? Well, read on.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

First - and perhaps a reason I enjoyed this time so much - is that it was the first time I dove with my own equipment. As a Christmas gift I finally decided to pull the trigger on a complete BCD set from Aqualung - yup, the same brand of Blancpain and Cousteau fame. In addition to the diving gear, I also decided to get my first dive computer. Yes, I know in the past a diving watch was the "diving computer," but today we are wise to rely on (mainly) electronics that take much of the necessary calculation out of diving, and allow us to enjoy more of the view.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

As a watch nerd, I had done a bit of research on this and concluded, based on online reviews and the feedback from the folks at the dive shop, that the Suunto d4i or d6i was the dive computer best suited for my needs. I opted for the d4i as the total bill was getting up there and the digital compass on the other model was not something I thought justified the difference.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

In any case, while my diving gear was all set and smelling new, I was also super excited to try out this analog depth gauge chronograph from Oris. Why would I be excited about an analog watch with 19th-century technology when I was being outfitted with the latest 21st-century diving gear? Well, besides the indescribable feeling that all watch geeks have when using these mechanical marvels, for me, it was also the added knowledge that I would be diving with a piece of kit that, while redundant, did not depend on any electronics, and that could very well save my life, but most importantly ensure peace of mind over the weekend in Key Largo. In a very real way, a mechanical watch serves as a useful backup for if your main dive computer goes out - it does happen to people.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph and my new Miami-stylish Fabrice Tardieu sneakers.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

On first look at the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph, one clearly sees that this is serious diving gear designed for professional divers. Its massive 48.5mm-diameter size with just over 18.5mm in height make its presence felt from the moment you strap the supple rubber over your wrist. This Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph comes with a deployant clasp that includes an easy-to-adjust 15mm play, meaning that it would be convenient to get a good fit while diving or if wearing the watch over a wetsuit. Luckily, the water temperature was an incredible 78 degrees Fahrenheit so I actually dove with a "shorty" wetsuit and had the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph on my naked left wrist, while I strapped the Sunnto d4i on the right wrist.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Another important point to make about the fit of the Oris is that, while not a small watch, it actually wears somewhat small on my 6.5-inch wrist. Similar to many Panerai watches, the primary reason for the easy fit is due to the short lugs, which means that while the case feels like a hockey puck on the wrist, the short lugs mean that the strap did not overpower my wrist but simply wrapped around it perfectly. Though I did need to use the last strap hole to make it fit tightly - allowing me to use the micro-adjust mechanism to give some relief during my time using the watch in sunny and hot South Beach.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph's strong presence made it a great companion during my days in South Beach enjoying the sun and the views of beautiful, fit girls, parading the beach in their bikinis, the watch really shines underwater. This is first and foremost a serious diving watch before it is a desk diver, in my opinion. The first time diving with it, I was blown away. Outside of the water, the dial appears a bit busy, not only due to the 12-hour chronograph subregister at 6 o'clock and the 30-minute counter at 12, but also because it includes at 9 o'clock a running seconds and at 6 also a date register. Legible, but yes, also busy.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

And if that palette of markers was not enough, around the periphery of the dial are additional markers for the patented depth gauge. You see, Oris has created a clever depth gauge mechanism using the physics principle of the Boyle-Mariotte law that dictates that the pressure and the volume of a gas will be inversely proportional. As pressure increases, the volume will decrease proportionately. This is achieved by placing air using a proprietary polymer that is placed in a cavity around the dial and creating a hole at 12 o'clock. As you dive, water enters the cavity which then puts pressure on the air the white polymer which shrinks and indicates the current depth. This was first done on the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge watch, and the brand later added to the collection this Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The whole depth gauge system works brilliantly from the moment you start going underwater with the watch. I have various pictures proving this and showing the current depth indication next to the Suunto. They never deviated more than half a meter. Most of the time, I found the difference was due to the fact that the Suunto digital depth gauge was somewhat instantaneous whereas the Oris depth gauge indication took a bit more time. Generally, I would say I never doubted the value the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph indicated as it was always dead on.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Perhaps the thing that most amazed me was how legible the watch was at all depths. The busy dial was actually much clearer than the Suunto at depths of 5 and 10 meters. I really did not expect this, as I have experienced various mechanical dive watches falling a bit short on visibility. However, the visibility here was, somehow, just outstanding. See the pictures and you can judge for yourself. I think the reason for this is the thick sapphire crystal that Oris uses for the watch. So again, high marks under the water that you might not be able to guess if you only saw the watch above water.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

My theory is that that the thick crystal creates a kind of magnifying effect underwater and the black dial with white markers are slightly accentuated so their visibility is increased to a point where I used it more than the Suunto to know my depth. I expected this to be the case for the dive time since it's usually easier to glance at the minutes hand and read the current dive time on the rotating bezel. That said, at depth, the total dive time from the running chronograph and current dive time were brilliantly usable underwater for me.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While the depth gauge and visibility of the dial blew me away, I have two small complaints that if addressed would make this the absolute best dive watch I've ever dived with. First, like all watches that use a plain sapphire crystal (including the Suunto), at certain angles, the dial becomes a mirror. This is due to the physics of being surrounded by sea water whose refractive index is different than air (in the dial) or of the crystal itself. Not sure how to fix that one unless the fundamentals of the watch itself are changed...

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

For example, I hear that the Sinn UX and a few other clever liquid-infused watches solve this common problem with dive watches given how they are constructed - but this currently doesn't work for mechanical watches. With that said, a simple solution for the mirror effect is just to rotate your wrist so that the dial is more parallel to your mask's glass and the clarity of the dial just shines. So it's really not that big of a deal even though I've been complaining about it.

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Chronograph Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The other issue with the watch, unlike the one above, is one I did not expect. Since, as I mentioned, the water temperature was actually warmer than the surface temperature, I did not dive with gloves or a long-sleeved wetsuit. That meant wrapping the watch around my naked wrist, and it also meant using my naked fingers to operate the bezel. When not diving, the ceramic bezel worked perfectly. The clicks for every half-minute felt great, and there was very little play. It was easy to set it to the minutes as I started diving or to return the 12 o'clock pearl to the top.

What do you think?
  • Thumbs up (45)
  • I want it! (21)
  • I love it! (19)
  • Interesting (13)
  • Classy (5)
  • IG

    Good review. The too smooth bezel can definitely be a functionality problem.

  • Aditya

    I like the depth gauge. I feel the 3 hander would be a better buy as opposed to the Chrono. However, it’s just way too big for me. I’m happy to see it in a shop or in the wild but not on my wrist.

    • dr.max

      It really wears well. If you get a chance try it in the metal… thanks for chiming in

      • Aditya

        I have, so far it has felt just too large and clunky for my wrist. I’ve found the MM300, Blackbays and Pelagos to wear better. However, I have also found that I am generally okay with lower end divers as my taste for higher end dress(ier) watches has been increasing and I’d rather spend on one of those than a diver!

  • Rupert Muller

    “This is achieved by using a proprietary polymer that is placed in a cavity around the dial and creating a hole at 12 o’clock. As you dive, water enters the cavity which then puts pressure on the white polymer which shrinks and indicates the current depth.”

    Really? I always thought that the cavity is “filled” with air, i.e. is empty and basically a channel in the sapphire glass. If you dive, the air will be compressed by the entering water. I have read several publications about the depth gauge system and none of them wrote about a polymer.

    • dr.max

      It looks to me to have a material in it. I can check with ORIS and let you know and correct if you are correct.

    • dr.max

      You are completely correct, I was wrong. Checked with Oris and indeed it is empty. Fooled me. Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate. Cheers

      • Rupert Muller

        Thanks for clarification!

  • SuperStrapper

    Meh.

  • Any comments on the pusher system? Can they be operated underwater? If not, then the chronograph feature is pretty useless for timing safety stops. Also, other reviews, as well as the tech data on sales sites list the bezel as “bidirectional’. Is this also the case? I haven’t seen bidirectional diving bezels since the early 80’s.

    Other than that, it’s great to see actual hands-on reviews with products being used as they were intended to be used. Nothing worse than reading about a 1000 meter dive watch with a helium release valve being reviewed by a guy working on spreedsheets in a cubicle.

    • dr.max

      Thanks for kind words.

      Pushers are as good as a one for a chrono using a Valjoux 7750 or the likes. It’s not a Lange but it’s still satisfying. I’d say close to Breitling B01 which is better than average but less than a Daytona. Also this is just an opinion about feel… so I’d say try it live and judge yourself.

      W.r.t. the value of chrono divers. First, few companies would admit that pushers are usable at depth, Breitling and Sinn are exception for couple models, e.g., U1000. Assuming you don’t take risk, IMO it’s still usable while diving, Here are my top 5 use cases:

      1. Surface time. Especially when doing multiple dives and trying to stay within no-deco and using PADI tables, i.e., no dive computer.
      2. No-fly time once done with dives.
      3. Total time of multiple dives.
      4. Time between dives.
      5. Rescue time in unfortunate case you have to do an emergency ascent and tow a buddy.

      I am sure others could think of more. But also, since the chrono seconds hand is running (assuming you started it before diving) that makes it easier to use for measuring safety stop(s) since you can just wait for seconds hand to pass 12 and start counting. Worst case you add 59 seconds to your count, a good thing.

      Hope this helps. Cheers.

      • I’m a chrono diver fan, my favorite being the TAG Aquagraph which, with its central minutes hand and underwater pushers, should be the standard by which all dive chronos should be measured against. Well, at least by me, anyway. I’ll have to track down an Oris boutique and strap one on for a bit.

        Those are good suggestions for chrono use, by the way; after 100 dives some of us tend to get a bit over-dependent on dive computers and forget how do do basic math. When I first got certified, I had copies of PADI tables with me no matter where I went. A decade later, I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to calculate pressure groups. So, again, thanks for the review and for a reminder for me to maybe take a dive math refresher course.

        • Shinytoys

          I’m a big Heuer fan, but personally I think you’d dig the Oris big time…especially for the “get in” price and reliability…just my 2 cents 🙂

      • Shinytoys

        interesting…

    • dr.max

      Interesting. So you think trying to swim against current at 7 meters doers not add any additional pressure on your watch?

  • Brent P.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your review, with one exception. The comment “Remember that moving your arm at a few atmospheres increases the actual pressure experienced by the watch significantly.” repeats one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, myths about watch water resistance there is. It’s a case of, if enough people who don’t know what they’re talking about keep repeating the same wrong information on the Internet, it eventually becomes considered fact.

    • TrevorXM

      You are right, it is a myth that moving your arm makes a significant difference in water pressure. The speed is too slow, and the depth is not enough except in the very deepest dives humanly possible.

      However, that Timex stunt was a con. Timex strapped a watch to the prop of a boat on the surface. with the prop just below the water level. Of course it withstood that test — that was just an advertising stunt. There was almost no pressure to begin with (16 psi at 1 metre) and then the prop spinning barely increased that by an atmosphere or two. The formula he uses in that link you provided: ?P = (1000 x V2)/2 will indeed apply at just below the surface. But nowhere in that formula does it take into account he pressure added to the situation by diving deeper. Once you go down, say, 100m, you are moving through space under much more pressure — 160 psi. The density of the water does not increase because liquids don’t compress, but the pressure is still there. That Timex would have been destroyed if you took it down to its rated depth and then strapped it to a deep sea submersible prop and spun it. Ironically, the pressure on a spinning submarine prop is so great a those depths that bubbles are eliminated and the prop can spin faster!

      • Brent P.

        Agreed… the Timex commercial was a stunt, but it was sure fun to watch. :).

  • Mike V

    Excellent review Max and great to see the watch tested in the environment for with it was designed. Given its size it seems more of strictly diver rather than everyday watch but that would depend on the wearer’s size. Another fine addition to the Oris line of divers!

    • dr.max

      ??

  • Yojimbo

    Awesome article. I 100% agree with this statement “Hence, while a watch with 500 meters water resistance could seem laughable, it actually is not at all. It simply indicates that the
    overall pressure the watch is tested under means it will survive any condition you might throw at it during professional or recreational dives.”

    • dr.max

      Many thanks

  • TrevorXM

    Excellent review. Very good read.

    Love this watch, but it is designed for serious diving and is indeed one big hockey puck. It seems sort of like Seiko’s big Tuna the 600m “emperor”. Neither is really all that suitable as an everyday watch. Their smaller closely related 300m versions are.

  • benjameshodges

    Great in-depth review. Beautiful words and pictures and a great watch. Oris are nailing it right now and I love them more and more everyday.

  • Shinytoys

    Excellent piece Maximilien, and you have excellent taste in shoes. I remember the last article you presented you were wearing kick-ass shoes. Let’s see, where was I…Oh right, the watch…
    I like it for a whole bunch of reasons and could be a heavy contender for primary watch in the water this season…Thanks

    • dr.max

      ??

  • Lincolnshire Poacher

    Looks amazingly like Seikos SSC015 Solar Dive Chronograph. Which is meant to be a compliment. Nice to see a dive watch being used for diving.

  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Excellent hands-on review and fantastic pics.
    Well done !

    • dr.max

      Many thanks

  • Simon_Hell

    Nothing analogue and automatic called a dive watch today is ACTUALLY intended for diving. The name refers to an old style of a watch used for diving before an actual diving computer was invented. The one worn on the other wrist or the same wrist in some of the photos. And yeah in case you’re wondering, wearing two watches doesnt look any less ridiculous under water than it does on land.

    So in other words, the author took this a little too literally. A porsche is a sports car, but they just call it that. You’re not REALLY supposed to do sports in it.

    • dr.max

      You are completely wrong, but entitled to your opinion

      • Guadzilla

        No, he is not. Dive computers are the proper tool for diving these days. If you are serious about a backup, get another dive computer. They are cheap these days.

        Dive watches for diving are an affectation these days (I *am* a dive professional – as in, not just an instructor, but i earn my living teaching diving).

  • cg

    Oris makes a great dive watch… I’ve been diving with mine for many many years and it holds up well. As with any dive watch please do a fresh water rinse when the dive is over. Even between dives. It is a bit oversize for me for casual wear at the after dive bar in Tortola or Cozumel. Nicely succinct review too.

  • Haurakid

    Great artikel and a very nice watch indeed. As a watch geek I always wear a watch whilst diving and like you I kid myself by thinking I would actually use it in case of an emergency. If your computer fails, how would you know how long you’ve been under at what depths? You could only really use it to time your safety stop and there is no way you could continue the rest of your dive.

    As a fellow diver I do have to remark on your diving. Please secure your secondary mouthpiece and console. They shouldn’t be floating behind you like that you’ll damage your fancy new equipment!

  • funNactive

    This would be a fun watch to try out diving but too large for my wrist for casual wear.

  • Guadzilla

    “Remember that moving your arm at a few atmospheres increases the actual pressure experienced by the watch significantly. ”

    No, it doesnt. Try a simple experiment next time you are diving – move your head as fast as you can in the water and see if you feel any squeeze in your ears. You wont feel any pressure differential. Neither does your watch.

    Also – please tuck in your octopus. Having it dangling means it can drag on sand or hit/damage coral.

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