Lukas Bühlmann discusses the process of reworking an 80-year-old design icon

“We’re fortunate to have this design. People know and love it. Updating it is a big challenge”

Oris Big Crown Pointer Date Calibre 403
Oris movement Calibre 403
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Lukas, introduce yourself…
Hi, I’m Lukas, I’m 35 years old, born and raised in Switzerland, and I’m Oris’s Senior Product Design Engineer. I’ve been working at Oris for six years, designing watches and packaging. It’s been quite a ride!

How many people are there in the team?
We’re around 10 people, depending on the project. That includes designers, material researchers and movement developers. We also bring in marketing and regional directors, because it’s so important to get a global perspective when we’re concepting watches.

Having lots of voices involved must make the process longer and harder?
Sure, but who said it should be easy? And better that than to go off on a tangent and create something esoteric that’s the product of one person’s imagination and that no one else likes. That’s not what we are as a company and it’s not what our watches should be. We’re making watches for today’s world citizens, so we need to be conscious of lots of viewpoints. Consensus is beautiful.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Pretty much everything: history, products, architecture, new materials and the whole issue of sustainability. And of course, Oris and its values and purpose. When you’re designing and creating new products, it’s important to have a wide range of interestsand influences so that you understand how  the world is thinking when you come to design a product that’s going to be used every day by people everywhere.

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400
Oris Calibre 400 Series mood yellow

Watch design carries so many tensions – how do you prioritise them?
That’s true, at least in the sense that we’re working with a few square centimetres and that our product has to be beautiful, ergonomic and reliable. But when it comes to detail, we don’t prioritise one part or function over another. It’s the opposite – everything is prioritised. In the end, all the details have to work together and become one.

To get to that point, are there rules that serve as a framework for your designs?
It depends what we mean by rules. There are no rigid design rules, because we make many different types of watches. We don’t design diver’s watches and pilot’s watches in the same way, if we’re thinking literally. But what all our watches have in common is that they have to make sense and the quality has to be right. The object has to be coherent.

How long is the process?
It depends. Sometimes it’s six months. But if we’re working on a new family or integrating a new movement, it can take two years. It’s hard to predict – we have to be patient.

Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400
Oris Calibre 400 Series mood blue

How do you know a design is ‘done’?
Honestly? From a designer’s point of view, a product may never be finished. You never want to be satisfied, but instead always asking questions and being curious. That way you reach a point where the vision becomes visible in the product. We’re fortunate that in being independent we have a strong identity and a clear purpose, so we rarely have to compromise. Basically, a design is finished when it makes us smile. At that point, we’re confident it’ll make our customers smile, too.

The Big Crown has been in the Oris collection for more than 80 years. What’s it like working on an icon?
We’re very fortunate to have this design. People know it and love it. But of course, updating it is a big challenge. You have to protect the codes that define it, while expressing them in a modern context. Here, that means starting with the oversized crown and the basic case shape, and then adapting the other elements as you go along.

What’s new about this Calibre 403 model?
The most striking change is in the bezel and case back, where we’ve removed the fluting so it now looks more like the original Big Crown of 1938. To match the bezel, the hands are now also straight. For the numerals, we invented a new, slightly more modern font. And we’ve reduced the size of the model to 38mm. It looks more timeless now. Integrating Calibre 403 also meant introducing a small seconds at 6 o’clock.

And finally, what does this watch say about Oris and Oris watch design?
This is a milestone product for Oris because it demonstrates how our design heritage and innovative Movement Creation Programme can come together in a contemporary watch design. There’s huge potential in it.

Oris movement Calibre 400

In detail: Calibre 400 Series

Anti-magnetic

Calibre 400 Series movements have more than 30 non-ferrous and antimagnetic components, including a silicon escape wheel and a silicon anchor. In testing, the impact of magnetic fields on accuracy was found to have been reduced by more than 90 per cent compared to standard mechanical movements.

Oris movement Calibre 400

Power for five days

Recognising people may not wear the same watch every day, all Calibre 400 Series movements have five-day, or 120-hour, power reserves. They deliver this longer period of use via twin barrels, both of which house an extended mainspring, each long enough to store two-and-a-half days of power.

Calibre 400 Series

Better reliability

So we could offer 10-year warranties and longer service intervals on Calibre 400 Series watches, Oris re-engineered the way the movement’s rotor spins, replacing ball bearings with a lowfriction slide-bearing system. The uni-directional winding system is also simpler and more reliable.

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