Why I Bought The Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 Dive Watch In Steel And Gold
The Oris Aquis is a modern reinterpretation of a dive watch. Unlike the lovable Divers Sixty-Five, the Aquis eschews all vintage design cues to focus on contemporary sensibilities. The case is angular and purposeful with integrated lugs, chunky crown guards, and an overall solid feel. Spawning from the 2013 Oris Aquis Depth Gauge, the Aquis range emerges as a unique mechanical diving watch with specific complications and practical applications. That, however, is not to say that this tool watch isn’t open to a bit of flair here and there. And today, I will be sharing the journey to acquiring my Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 Bicolor with its 41.5mm stainless steel case, blue dial, and 18K yellow gold bezel.
My journey to possessing this watch begins, curiously, with the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar. This Overseas in its rose gold case with lacquered blue dial is one of my grails. However, as a stopgap, the newly launched Oris Aquis with steel and gold case offers a similar vibrant blue dial with gold accents. While I certainly don’t consider it a serious alternative to the €100K Overseas, this Aquis shares a comparable radiance. You have to get the Aquis in the correct setting; as Gerard states in his article, “…the Oris did much better in a sunny, warm beach environment than in a shady, gray office.” It’s a striking watch, especially on the fluorescent blue rubber strap, although I opted for the steel bracelet. The combo of blue and gold is not the only reason I went for this Aquis, though, as powering the watch is the Oris Calibre 400.
Oris Calibre 400
My first experience with the Calibre 400 came via the burgeoning world of virtual reality. Outfitted with an Oris-branded Oculus Quest headset (now Meta Quest), I experienced the intricacies of the Calibre 400 mechanism in a super-sized 3D environment. It was an impressive presentation, but nothing quite beats the real deal in working form. And six months later, I went hands-on with the 43.5mm Aquis Date in stainless steel. While the Calibre 400 is an incredible milestone for the independent Oris, I thought the inaugural Aquis Calibre 400 was a little uninspiring. It’s an attractive watch, no doubt, but nothing groundbreaking to showcase the new movement. Perhaps that was the point so as not to take away from the new automatic caliber with its five-day power reserve and 2,250-gauss magnetism resistance.
Yet the Aquis Calibre 400 in 2020 left me longing for exuberance that is prolific at Oris. For instance, my Aquis Great Barrier Reef III has an offset surfboard seconds hand, radial date display, and coral reef emblem on the case back. However, since the movement’s introduction, I was set on getting a Calibre 400. In January 2022, we got more than we wished for with the avant-garde Oris Aquis Sun Wukong with cloisonné enamel dial. While the Sun Wukong unquestionably amps up the exuberance for the Calibre 400, I wasn’t willing to drop €20K on an Aquis. The following month, I went along to a press preview of what Oris had cooking up for 2022. Immediately, the Aquis Bicolor in blue stood out like a shining beacon, even among the impressive lineup. Pairing the yellow gold with a Caribbean-blue dial was that intoxicating.
Call me Bicolor
Even as a press example, the Bicolor was breathtaking, but it would be months before getting mine. Before we get to my ownership experience, though, I’d like to address something. Whenever I reference this particular Aquis model, I refer to it as the “Bicolor.” This is due to the stainless steel mid-case and case-back ring combined with an 18K gold upper case ring and outer bezel knurling — essentially, two metals in contrasting tones. However, each time I use Bicolor, our copy editor edits the term to “steel and gold.” Bicolor seems to be a very Central European description, whereas in the UK or US, “two-tone” is the more common terminology. However, Bicolor is the actual model name of this Aquis — or it was at launch. I am unsure why or when there was a name change, but Bicolor is no longer on the Oris website.
The site only says “Aquis Date Calibre 400” and “stainless steel.” Digging deeper, the specifications state the case is a “Multi-piece stainless steel case, 18K yellow gold turning top ring” — not exactly the snappiest nickname. For me, Bicolor describes the watch clearly and keeps the flow of conversation. Adding to this, the receipt and tag in my Oris watch box state “Bico,” so there you have it. While I won’t share the receipt for obvious reasons, you can take my word. I am getting hung up on the name because this is my first-ever watch with 18K gold. The description change to simply “stainless steel” diminishes my claim. I recognize that the bezel only represents a slither of gold in proportion to the case, but you must start somewhere.
Setting the time
After seeing the new Aquis in February 2022, it wasn’t until late July that I took delivery of mine. After experiencing an early Calibre 400’s propensity to jump a minute on either side when setting the time, I was glad that mine didn’t have this problem. Oris recommends setting the minute hand forward a few minutes and then turning back before pushing the crown in to prevent the irksome minute jump. Thankfully, with mine, I don’t even need to use this technique as the hands set precisely where I leave them when pushing in the crown. For some models, there are instructions to follow this method supplied in the Oris box, but mine included no additional instructions besides the typical owner’s manual. I appreciate not having to think about it with my watch, and I also appreciate the movement’s five-day dive power reserve.
Despite owning an Aquis for many years, I felt that the Oris 733’s 38-hour power reserve was a little unideal. The workhorse Sellita SW200-1, the base for the 733, is a decent caliber and suits the Divers Sixty-Five’s vintage vibes very well. But the more technical Aquis deserves the 120-hour double-barrel strength of the Calibre 400. The in-house-developed Calibre 400 sets it apart from the previous Aquis and marks a milestone for its future development. The movement’s finishing is quite industrial, and I do miss the iconic red Oris rotor from the sapphire case-back view. However, I appreciate the resemblance to the Oris bear mascot, with the twin barrels acting as ears, synthetic rubies as eyes, and positioning the rotor for its smile. Another bonus is that the movement allows the date window’s position to move toward the outer edge of the dial.
Ending on a sad note
I mentioned before about opting for the stainless steel bracelet over the rubber strap. While the shape of the integrated lugs limits aftermarket options, the new quick-release system makes it a cinch to swap between the options from Oris. An articulating flap on the underside allows you to switch the bracelet for the rubber strap and vice versa. That does not mean the traditional tri-wing locking screw/collar system is no more, and you can still swap the bracelet with custom-fitted straps. Oris offers various straps more readily in boutiques and online (depending on the region). But even with the new quick-release system, there’s no accounting for human error. When I was “fidget spinning” with the quick-release flap, the watch tumbled from my hands about 20cm onto my desk.
The watch head and bracelet were fine and showed no visible marks. The movement, however, had completely stopped. I tried winding it manually, but the seconds hand wouldn’t budge. Luckily, the 10-year warranty (available when registering with My.Oris.ch) is plenty to have the Aquis sent for checks and servicing. Still, it’s slightly disconcerting that a fall from a short distance should prove enough to stop the mechanism. I was only singing the praises of the Calibre 400, but depending on the service report, the shock resistance may be something to improve upon for later iterations. With a price tag of €4,000, the Oris Aquis Calibre 400 Bicolor is punching above its weight. But for me, it reinstates the fun, summer spirit I’m used to with the Aquis and injects excitement into the Calibre 400 platform.