Up Close: The Oris Aquis Regulator, a dive watch with a difference

Oris has topped its family of extremely no-nonsense dive watches with a regulator complication. It’s an unusual – but potentially inspired – idea

The Oris Aquis Regulator
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Let's recap what we know about Oris. A sensible brand making sensible watches at sensible prices - decades ago, one of the industry's biggest producers of watches and recently, a brand which has found its cool with the Diver's Sixty-Five. If any of that sounds like news to you, read our in-depth profile of the brand from earlier in the year here.

One of the foundations that Oris's current range of watches is built on is the ever so solid 43.5mm Aquis dive watch. Yes, the name is a little bit effete but that's where it ends: this is a very burly dive watch. In fact, it's so solid - so angular in its design and chunky on the wrist - that you could literally build actual foundations from it.

The Oris Aquis Regulator
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The Aquis is from top to bottom, a no-nonsense dive watch. There are some nicely coloured dial variations, some linked to Oris's various environmental projects, and of course further back in the catalogue there is still the Depth Gauge, but mostly it's an unremarkable set of timepieces.

And now this. A dive watch with a regulator dial. That's an odd sentence to say - dive watches are hardy tools, and regulators tend to be the kind of ultra-classical piece offered by Patek Philippe, Arnold & Son or Meistersinger. Putting the two together does not sound like a natural idea.

The Oris Aquis Regulator
Courtesy

But, if you've read our previous coverage of Oris, you'll know it has a track record of ideas that don't sound quite right until you see them and realise that they are in fact inspired. This might be another one. The logic from Oris goes like this: diving, at least on the level that anyone wearing one of these is likely to undertake, is a matter of timing how many minutes you have spent underwater. And what does a regulator-style layout give top priority to? The minute hand.

And what a minute hand. This is a cartoonishly big thing, with a thick red outline surrounding a large luminova arrow. It dominates the watch, so there's no chance you're going to mis-read this thing.

The hour markers are clear and legible. The bezel feels well-built, although the critical 15-minutes section is actually harder to read than the rest of it, as it's picked out in red on black rather than white. Without taking it down to the depths, I would tentatively say that the Aquis Regulator succeeds in its stated aim of making an ultra-legible diver.

The Oris Aquis Regulator
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But this success is also its downfall. Yes, the odd mash-up of regulator dial and dive watch style works for this specific purpose. But what about the thousands of us who buy dive watches for the look of it? Us desk divers are going to have a hard time with the Aquis Regulator because telling the time at a glance is not particularly natural.

Most classical regulators have the hours and seconds dials at 12 and 6, which isn't too difficult to read. Here, Oris has put them at 3 and 9 and for me, that's not so obvious. To let that minute hand stand out, everything else has to be in the background, which is to the detriment of reading the time. You might say that if that's the way you feel, buy a standard Aquis, but I can't believe Oris is going to be content to think that this is a dive watch that's only useful when you're underwater.

The Oris Aquis Regulator
Courtesy

On the wrist, the Aquis is a bit big for my tastes, but that's the kind of watch it is. The case and bracelet are titanium so there's not so much weight as there could be. Some of the edges are too sharp, making the watch dig in uncomfortably at times - this can largely be avoided with the red rubber strap (included), but that might not be to all tastes.

The Oris Aquis Regulator
Courtesy

It's well-made, of that there is no doubt. And like everything from Oris it's reasonably priced (CHF 3,100). And against expectations, it makes sense of a strange premise. But I have trouble with the fact that - unusually for Oris - in being clever, it has slightly messed up the basics.

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