An Owner’s Review: Oris Divers Sixty-Five 12H Calibre 400
I recently purchased the Oris Divers Sixty-Five 12H Calibre 400 for myself. It was a much-anticipated purchase as I’ve wanted an Oris with a Calibre 400 for some time now. After a month of wearing and getting to know the watch, I have to say I’m more pleased than ever with my choice. And that is a good thing, considering the 12H was not the original Calibre 400 that I was looking at.
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five 12H is the first unlimited-production watch in the Divers Sixty-Five line with a Calibre 400 inside. As some of you know, the Aquis was the first line to get this movement with the eponymously named Aquis Date Calibre 400. It has since percolated into most of the other lines that Oris offers in increasingly exciting orientations and designs. The Divers Sixty-Five 12H is arguably the tamest of the Calibre 400 watches of any line. And that, my friends, is exactly why I like it.
Divers Sixty-Five 12H Calibre 400 — Elegantly understated
I wrote the initial release article for the Divers Sixty-Five 12H. In it, I touched on the fact that this Divers Sixty-Five forgoes any warm colors, metal tones, or fauxtina. I made the claim then that the clean and cool black, white, and steel of this iteration brings its classic design into the present. That was based solely on the press photography that accompanied the release. Now that I’ve seen it in the metal (and own it), I can unequivocally state that this is a truly timeless watch.
The design of the case, dial architecture, and hands are grounded in the skin diver aesthetic that accompanies so many of the first dedicated dive watches from the last century. This includes the pencil minute and hour hands, the lollipop seconds hand, and the lumed circular hour indices punctuated by rectangles or the shield at 12 o’clock. For the case, it’s the simple, clean lines, unprotected and unpretentious crown, domed crystal (sapphire in this case), and, of course, the rotating bezel.
Simple is hard to get right
The above list is a formula for recreating a standard skin diver. It seems simple enough, yet there are enough uniquely recognizable examples in production today to indicate that following these “rules” does not result in the same watch every time. Consequently, there are ways to get it wrong, and it’s very difficult to get perfectly right. Enter the Diver’s Sixty-Five 12H.
The best skin diver that is not quite a diver
Along with wanting a Calibre 400-equipped Oris, at about the same time, I was actively hunting for a classic dive watch. I looked at a lot of dive watches. My requirements were simple — the telltale characteristics of a skin diver as listed above, a black dial, and a steel case. When the Divers Sixty-Five 12H came out, I realized I had found the skin diver I was looking for. The dial is sparse, highly legible, and well spaced. The case lines are simple and elegant. And there is also the black and steel I was looking for. The trouble is, it’s not a diver.
The rotating bezel on the Divers Sixty-Five 12H is a 12-hour bezel for tracking another time zone. It’s a 120-click bidirectional bezel, so this watch isn’t going to be timing any dives. But Oris’s Divers Sixty-Five models have 100m water resistance ratings anyway. Am I a diver? Nope. Do I have any need for a graduated dive bezel? As long as the rotating bezel on my watch can measure elapsed time, however simply, I’m good. With a lumed pip and pointer at the top position on the bezel, I can easily use it to time something.
So for me, the 12-hour bezel is really like two bezels in one, just without extra printing. Yes, I do use the bezel as Oris intended as well. The watch world is an international industry and community. I have the occasional need to track the time in the Netherlands, Japan, Singapore, and London. It’s funny how our dedication to horology in a sense fuels the “need” for watches with multiple time zones. What a vicious yet enjoyable cycle. The Divers Sixty-Five 12H is up to the task and handles it elegantly. And the alignment and action on the bezel are divine.
The Divers Sixty-Five 12H exists in a gray area
So the Divers Sixty-Five 12H isn’t quite a diver, though, aesthetically, it bests many other “true” skin divers. It’s also, as my photography hopefully portrays, not exactly black. Oris described the dial as “black” or “matte black.” Well, it can be black. But it can also be a shimmering gray under direct sunlight or smoky charcoal in bright indirect light. As I write this article under diffused interior lighting at night, my 12H is black. One thing the dial certainly is, though, is matte, which only adds to its overall reserved nature and ability to be many different colors throughout a day but consistently one color at any given moment across the dial. The gray-to-black matte chameleon effect is framed nicely by the glossy black printed aluminum bezel insert.
…the 12H slips effortlessly into various decades up to the present and probably into the future alongside much more chronologically pronounced watches.
Additionally, for all of its historic design cues, the Divers Sixty-Five 12H doesn’t feel like a retro watch. Abandoning knowledge of the history of dive watches or watch design over the decades, the 12H slips effortlessly into various decades up to the present and probably into the future alongside much more chronologically pronounced watches. This is due in part to the nature of skin diver design. In its initial goal to achieve the clearest legibility, all superfluity was stripped, and only the simplest shapes were used.
Details are important
But Oris takes the tenets of skin divers and refines them to a science. Take the lollipop seconds hand, for example. It’s a simple steel stick with a lumed ball midway out. But as I’ve watched it sweep around the dial, I realized that the ball of the lollipop sweeps just over the top of the “O” and “S” in the brand logo just under 12 o’clock without obscuring them in the least. Likewise, the ball tightly hugs the stacked text above 6 o’clock. When it crosses the hour hand, the pointed tip of the hour hand terminates in the center of the ball.
Best of all, when it sweeps to the top of the dial, it just kisses the pointed bottom tip of the shield of the 12 o’clock index. And though a shield shape appears in many different dive watches and brand logos, the shield in the 12H is actually an outline of the retro shield emblem used that Oris uses for the brand.
That sort of attention to detail speaks to the quality of the Divers Sixty-Five 12H, and it’s pervasive. It also works to keep the watch design as clean as possible, contributing to its agelessness. The only “quirk” in the 12H is the unique bezel, which I’ve established I’m 100% here for.
Modern watch, modern movement
Such a clean and refined tool watch would be remiss to exclude an equally impressive movement. Oris’s Calibre 400 does not disappoint. According to Oris, Calibre 400 is an in-house movement produced entirely by the brand. It features a five-day power reserve, a 10-year warranty and service interval, high accuracy, and strong magnetism resistance. My watch runs at about +3.5 seconds per day and is by far the most accurate of my mechanical watches. The 120-hour power reserve is achieved with twin barrels, which are visible through the sapphire exhibition case back. At the right angle, the barrels and rotor align to form the smiling face of the Oris bear mascot. People at Oris have assured me that wasn’t intentional but, it’s a neat detail.
Through the case back, the movement appears cleanly industrial, not unlike the watch it’s housed in. It’s a joy to look at, providing a clear view of the escapement. With some patience, I was able to see the gear that winds one of the mainsprings slowly turn as I rotated the watch, driving the rotor. The rotor winds unidirectionally, a necessary limitation of an overall excellent machine. The sleeve and pinion of the rotor mount, which contributes to the long service interval, only allows for unidirectional winding. It hasn’t bothered me, though, as my 12H hasn’t stopped ticking since I received it.
This watch enthusiast’s trusty companion
And it’s not like I’ve been wearing it constantly. I do own other watches. But it’s not a watch I’m quite ready to knock around when I’m doing some of the tougher work I get into. That said, I’m proud to say it has already earned quite a few hairline scratches along the polished case sides and brushed steel bracelet. The beauty of the extended power reserve is that I can lay the 12H down for a few days and when I pick it up again, it’s still ticking.
On the wrist, the Divers Sixty-Five 12H on its steel bracelet is incredibly comfortable. It took some playing around with the combination of full links, half links, and various attachment points on the clasp, but now that I’ve got it dialed in, it feels like an extension of me. The reserved design of the watch and bracelet keeps it relatively light on the wrist, even though it’s a steel tool watch. The case is 40mm in diameter with a lug-to-lug measurement of approximately 48mm. It measures 13mm tall, which includes the domed crystal. On my 16.5cm (6.5″) wrist, it’s perfect.
I had the chance to try a 12H on not too long after it was released. I called my shot back then with a quick wrist pic and an Instagram story. “This is going to be my next watch,” I said. Here we are, many months later, and it indeed turned out to be my next watch. To say I’m happy with it is an understatement. The Divers Sixty-Five 12H is more than I hoped it would be. Other watches may come and go, but the 12H is here to stay.