This Oris Watch Has a Remarkable Tale to Tell

Johnny Davis
·2 min read
Photo credit: Oris
Photo credit: Oris

From Esquire

Oris, the Swiss brand known for its “affordable luxury” dive watches, has announced a new model celebrating the legacy of US Navy diver Carl Brashear.

Brashear was the son of Kentucky sharecroppers who overcame impossible odds to become the US Navy’s first black diver, rising to US Navy master diver, the profession's highest assignation, in 1970 – despite having his left leg amputated four years earlier, at his own request. The 2000 movie Men of Honour, starring Cuba Gooding Jr, was based on his life.

Despite rural poverty, illiteracy and the blanket racism that existed in the armed forces in the Forties, Brashear persevered. He later recounted that he wrote to the Navy more than 100 times before finally being accepted in 1954 – his letters kept getting “lost”.

Photo credit: Oris
Photo credit: Oris

In 1966, Brashear was overseeing a mission to recover a hydrogen bomb from the Mediterranean when the towing line on his salvage vessel snapped, causing a steel pipe to come crashing towards his crew. Brashear was able to push the men out of the way, taking the brunt of the object himself and almost shearing his leg off. He lost so much blood that he was initially pronounced dead.

After being transferred to a naval hospital he was told that his leg would be permanently damaged but that it could be repaired – a process that would take several years.

“Go ahead and amputate,” Brashear told the doctors. “I can’t be tied up that long. I’ve got to go back to diving.”

Oris partnered with the Carl Brashear Foundation in 2015, working with Carl’s son Phillip and his family. They have produced three collaborative watches since, which all use bronze to riff on the popular Oris Diver Sixty-Five model.

The bronze is a nod to the diving helmets Brashear wore during his career. It is also a material that will patinate over time, so each watch case will age in a unique way.

Photo credit: Oris
Photo credit: Oris

This new release, the Carl Brashear Calibre 401 Limited Edition, is a 40mm automatic with a multi-piece bronze case, a unidirectional rotating bronze bezel and a bronze crown. It uses the second version of Oris's new generation of in-house movements – the calibre 401 – and features a small running second at 6 o'clock instead of a central seconds hand.

The Carl Brashear Calibre 401 Limited Edition comes on an “aquatic” elastic nylon strap with a bronze buckle and is produced in a limited run of 2,000.

Photo credit: Oris
Photo credit: Oris

“Carl’s is an extraordinary legacy, and we’re incredibly proud to share in it and support the foundation,” says Rolf Studer, Oris co-CEO. “Together with the Carl Brashear Foundation, we hope that every time someone wearing this new watch looks at it, they will be reminded to never give up, and to press on, no matter how insurmountable the challenges ahead appear.”

£3,350; oris.ch

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