With so much to choose from as a GMT watch enthusiast in 2018, you have to wonder if today’s available models are all just starting to blend into one, forgettable stream of overhyped releases. First off, as a newer watch, you’d have to deal with the multiple comparisons to some of the top contenders, and watches like the Tudor Black Bay GMT and Rolex GMT Master II “Pepsi” edition in OysterSteel already cover a huge chunk of the mid- to high-end price spectrum. Other options include bottom-of-the-barrel homage offerings and more high-end out of the box stuff like the recent Hermes Slim d’Hermes GMT. But, like always, Oris stepped in to offer an interesting alternative with a new, reimagined version of the complication in a watch that’s modestly priced. That watch is the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer, a massive chunk of GMT goodness that was a blast to wear and interact with.
Originally, the earlier version of Oris’ Worldtimer allowed wearers to track a second time zone with the help of two case pushers. The party trick this time around centers around a pivoting 2-way bezel that allows the wearer to jump the local hour hand forward or backward in single hour increments while driving the date as well. This, in turn, provides an easy way to adjust to a new time zone without removing the watch from your wrist – something I’ve found increasingly valuable when considering ease of use in a pilot’s watch. Sure, traditional GMT movements are sexy, but I can’t help but feel something as basic as a graduated 12-hour bezel can sometimes be more practical. This Oris ProPilot Worldtimer, however, takes bezel functionality to an entirely new level.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer Case
One of the saddest parts of being a pilot’s watch enthusiast is realizing that most of the modern industry “icons” are hilariously oversized in the hopes of satisfying some strange, heritage worship ritual. At 44.7mm wide, it’s getting close to my personal max but Oris – much like Seiko – really knows how to get proportions and wearability right on larger cases. I wish I had a comparison wrist shot of the IWC Big Pilot on hand to show here but, alas, I’m not exactly the kind of guy that’s checking those out at the boutique every other day as a potential buyer. The main takeaway here is that the watch – with its substantial 13.10mm thick stainless steel case – wears comfortably and balanced even if it is on the larger side. Water resistance is also 100m thanks to the screw-down crown – another feature that is often absent in pilot watches overall.
Case finishing is bare bones but I don’t turn to Oris for anything fancy. You get your usual polished and brushed surfaces alternating throughout and the real visual interest is driven by the pronounced knurling along the bezel and grippy pattern on the crown. Unfortunately, while the bezel is incredibly easy to use I would have liked a slightly less slippery pattern to facilitate a better grip. In fact, it may be the biggest issue I have with the watch since everything else is on point for a nice sports watch under $4k. Finally, the domed sapphire crystal features double-sided AR coating, which is a big deal for us here at the ABTW team.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer Dial
A black dial pilot’s watch with massive Arabic numerals on the dial, giant broadsword hands, and a completely separate sub-dial providing you with a clearly tracked secondary time zone in 12-hour format. Yeah… this is about as legible as it gets. Oris made great use of dial space here and the fact that none of the numerals were cut off after implementing these functions is something I’m sure several enthusiasts will enjoy. Aside from the primary local time display, the sub-dial at 3 o’clock serves as your second time zone, which you can set before adjusting your local hour with the clever bezel system. Inside that same sub-dial, you’ll find apertures for both the date and an AM/PM indicator.
The only minor detour from a fully black and white color scheme is the small yellow hand allocated for the running seconds function at 9 o’clock. It’s playful and easy to see while keeping the watch sporty. There is an alternate version of this watch that’s a little more dressed up, but it omits this feature and in my opinion, detracts from the toolish charm the ProPilot Worldtimer has achieved. To me, everything here is as it should be and easy to use. To top it off, Oris also applies Super-LumiNova to the hands and markers for added legibility and again, this is something many “Flieger-style” watches skimp on as well.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer Movement
What can I say? No matter how bad my day is going, Oris’ signature red rotor is always going to put a smile on my face. The engine that’s powering it all is their caliber 690, which is built upon a considerably modified ETA 2836-2 base. Again, I’ll mention that the dual-time tracking in my experience was perfectly adequate. But – and I’m not sure if this had to do with that slippery bezel – I did find that there was a slight jitter to the local hour hand as it would advance on command. There was also, unfortunately, some real difficulty at times moving between settings at the crown.
Hopefully, I’d love to know if it was simply user error because I find this to be a fascinating part of the overall package. Aside from that, winding the watch was an absolute dream. The movement delivered smooth operation, accurate timekeeping (within COSC), and around 30 hours of power reserve. More than your average modified movement, the caliber 690 is the reason this watch is as useful as it is – I just wish the tactile experience was a little more pleasant.
Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer Strap
The textile strap is the way to go, but Oris offers leather and bracelet options for the ProPilot Worldtimer if your style demands it. At 22mm wide, it’s well-sized, attractive, and easy to adjust. There is a leather portion on the underside for added comfort but the black textile material was really something I was able to get down with. There’s no excessive contrast stitching, the clasp is easy to operate, and the design itself is borrowed from aviation seatbelts – a cool little nod to what should be this watch’s natural habitat.
The idea of what a “true GMT” can potentially offer wearers is something that has sparked real discussion among enthusiasts lately. In a way, this kind of easy local jumping hour functionality serves as a mark of real utility and is often found in expensive and honestly underwhelming packages. To see Oris reimagine what this can be in a watch that can actually serve its role within a relatively accessible price range is just one of the many reasons I’ll always be attracted to the brand. The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer is a formidable addition to their line of aviation-oriented pieces and one I hope they continue to refine over time. We all know that Oris is constantly killing it with their dive watches, but I’m still keeping a close eye on the Big Crown collection to see what’s next in this very exciting chapter of the brand’s story. Price for the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer on the textile strap as tested is $3,600. oris.ch
>Model: Big Crown ProPilot Worldtimer
>Price: $3,600 as tested
>Size: 44.7mm wide, 13.10mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone that actually works as a pilot jumping through time zones that is looking for something a little less common than a traditional GMT watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Legibility and the balance achieved thanks to the excellent case proportions.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Tactile experience when interacting with crown and bezel system could be refined.