When it comes to watch styles, there's something enduring about a pilot's watch. And while Oris might be slightly better known in the modern day for its Aquis and Divers Sixty-Five lines of dive watches, the Big Crown series of aviation watches has long been a favourite of collectors and enthusiasts alike. It's one that sets the Holstein-based watchmaker apart from the competition, especially given its price point and wide-ranging availability.
That's especially true of the Big Crown ProPilot. Although to take things back a step, the Big Crown and ProPilot collections include a huge number of references of varying styles.
For example, the Big Crown Pointer Date, which recently celebrated its 80th anniversary, has long been a favourite for enthusiasts looking for distinctive style in the £1,000-£2,000 ballpark, while the Big Crown ProPilot collection (launched in 2014) also includes GMT and chronograph versions. And the similar-looking ProPilot 'Big Day Date' adds in a day window and ups the case size to a beefy 44mm.
There's also the ProPilot X, which trades the aviation-style legibility of the collection for a skeleton dial that shows off its movement – a watch that shares the same DNA as this, but is worlds apart in execution.
But the Big Crown ProPilot Big Date is, in my opinion, a show-stopper. With its beautifully minimal and clean dial – one that pushes that legibility to the fore, and available in grey, black and a few other limited-edition colourways – it's a masterclass in restraint and elegant simplicity.
While this is definitely rooted in a pilot's watch aesthetic, its eponymous big crown – present in most aviation watches, and essentially so a pilot can adjust the time in the cockpit without taking their bulky gloves off – is not as chunky as, say, the IWC Big Pilot's Watch.
With its beautifully minimal dial, the Big Crown ProPilot is a masterclass in restraint and elegant simplicity
Instead, this is a pilot's watch with some field-watch legibility – and one whose elegance means it could definitely be dressed up, too, even if it isn't a dress watch.
And there's a lot to like outside of the dial, too: especially that beautifully machined, fluted bezel, and – my favourite feature – the aeroplane seatbelt-referencing 'Lift' deployant clasp on the leather and fabric strap options. The movement is an Oris 751, based on Selitta's SW 220-1 movement, which offers 38 hours of power reserve, shown off with its exhibition caseback.
All in all, the watch made for a beautiful and great-value addition to Oris's core range. But in case you hadn't noticed, bronze is the metal of the moment, with more and more watchmakers not simply experimenting with the material for limited releases, but adding bronze watches to their core ranges, from Oris's own Big Crown Pointer Date Bronze to the Tudor Black Bay 58 Bronze Boutique and Hamilton's Khaki Field Mechanical Bronze. The time was right for Oris to recast the Big Crown ProPilot in this ever-popular material, and the brand duly obliged.
The Oris Big Crown ProPilot Big Date Bronze
So with all that said, what's changed on the bronze model? Well, first off, the case, obviously: it keeps the same aesthetics (including that machined bezel), but trades its matte stainless steel for a rich bronze that should work beautifully with its subtly industrial machined finish.
While the steel model works best in its grey-dial variant, in my opinion, the luscious dark black dial here offsets the bronze beautifully, and bronze-coloured accents in the form of the Oris logo at 12 o'clock and the indices around the edge of the dial provide beautiful contrast.
Hands and numerals are cast in Super LumiNova, meaning the legibility of the dial is enhanced by genuine readability in pitch black, too. And with a price point only marginally above the £1,250 RRP of the steel model, this is yet more proof were it needed that, across a huge range of styles and price points, bronze watches are no flash in the pan.