It’s safe to say we’ve been in the midst of a retro-diver renaissance for a couple of years now, and the trend has produced some of the most stunning and attractive designs in recent memory. From the Tudor Black Bay and Longines Legend Diver all the way down to several of Helson and other microbrands’ offerings, we’ve seen a great variety of capable well-made divers with a vintage flair.
What we haven’t seen much of, however, is a manufacturer pulling a design from their archives and reissuing it almost verbatim. That’s where the Oris Divers Sixty-Five comes in, and absolutely nails it. With a few subtle changes, Oris has achieved what perhaps none of the other current crop of vintage-styled divers can claim- they’ve made something genuinely more desirable than the original. With an in-house modified Selitta SW200, a double AR-coated domed sapphire crystal, and a
$1650 $1,850 price tag, it’s more than an attractive design, it’s an attractive proposition. Let’s take a closer look.
Setting off the Divers Sixty-Five’s recurring theme of “classic design, cleaned up” is the case structure. If you’re used to modern, chunky diver cases this one comes as a surprise. It’s got quite a slim profile at only 12.8mm thick, and the tall dome crystal makes up for a sizable portion of that. The actual case itself then is even thinner, sitting very flat on the wrist. While the overall design is very simple the execution is superb. There’s no beveling, twisted lugs, or other unnecessary adornment here, just polished case sides and even brushing along the tops of the long, tapering lugs. Really, the only changes Oris made here was a materials swap from the original’s chrome-plated brass to stainless steel. The finishing, however, is impressive with crisp defined edges all around. The signed screw-down crown is unguarded, and hits a sweet spot size-wise at 7 x 3.5mm. Moving around back, the caseback is another part that’s been lifted right from the 1965 playbook, and while the etching isn’t the most detailed or ornate it’s handsome and fits the overall design well.
Looking at it front-on, however, you get a very different impression. The bezel is another feature with definite throwback appeal, with a DLC-coated main piece and black aluminum insert giving the case a two-tone look. It’s a very narrow bezel by modern standards, which coupled with the DLC coating, gives the Divers Sixty-Five an “all-dial” appearance, but it’s a look that suits the piece well here. The bezel mechanism itself is top-notch, ditching 1965’s bi-directional friction design for one of the best 120-click unidirectional bezels I’ve ever had a chance to use. It’s light and easy to turn thanks to its narrow teeth, but gives absolutely zero back play and stops accurately.
Overall, however, the case design leaves a sort of elephant in the room- the water resistance issue. The Oris Divers Sixty-Five, for better or worse, comes with a depth rating from 1965 as well- a meager 100 meters. In today’s world, that’s hardly a qualifier for a diver’s replica watch, with most true diver designs starting at 200m and up. Honestly, however, this is a point that I have to commend Oris on. 99 percent of dive replica watches will never see more strenuous action than the bottom of a swimming pool, and for that kind of recreational use 100 meters of resistance is plenty. If anything, the decision to build this as a 100 meter diver is a statement of dedication to keeping the heritage of this design at the forefront, and I can’t help but respect that dedication even if it does come at the cost of ultimate performance.
The dial of the Divers Sixty-Five definitely steals the show, and with good reason. The layout is funky, unique, and fantastically well-executed without feeling gimmicky. The big, silhouetted numerals at 12, 3, 6, and 9, surrounded by bold blocks of “Old Radium” Superluminova, are unmistakably mid-century, but are unusual enough to avoid seeming dated at all. The rest of the dial is muted in comparison, perhaps a wise choice to prevent the dial from becoming over-designed. There are only simple rectangles of lume for the other hour markers, with an inner minute track providing the finer measurements. The dial text is similarly minimal, with “ORIS/AUTOMATIC” at 12 and the 10 bar water resistance rating at 6.
The most drastic change from the original here, and by far the best update overall, is moving the date window from 3 to 6 and putting it on a black wheel instead of the original white. This new date window is far less intrusive, and while it still takes a small notch out of the 6 o’clock marker, the utility of a date complication makes it a compromise I’m more than willing to make. The handset is attractive but restrained, basic sword hour and minute hands with just a touch of personality given by the windowing of the hour hand, supplying the lume with a lowercase “i” shape in the dark. The second hand is stick-style with a well-proportioned circle of lume about halfway down its length. The lume itself performs well, with a lasting and reasonably bright glow. Interestingly enough, the dial matches the curve of the domed crystal above it, although with the distorting effect of the crystal this curvature can be difficult to spot.
Straps and Wearability
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five comes on a choice of two straps- a nylon mil-strap, and a very high-quality rubber tropic strap. Our tester came in on the tropic strap, and for my money there’s no better match for the replica watch. Tropic straps ooze 60s cool, and this particular example checked all the boxes. While faithfully representing the classic tropic strap aesthetic, much like the rest of the replica watch this one updates it just enough. Buttery soft, extremely comfortable, and smelling faintly of vanilla, this is everything a modern rubber strap should be. The signed buckle isn’t half bad, either. If, for some reason you are compelled to take it off the tropic strap, however, the Divers Sixty-Five would also work very well on a perlon.
In terms of wearability, the 40mm size works well, but the narrow PVD bezel makes it appear much larger on the wrist than it actually is. While this definitely modernizes the replica watch, it did make me wish there was an option for something a bit smaller for my 6.75 inch wrist, perhaps a 38mm version. That said, it’s a minor gripe and the thinness of the case does help to offset this.
To be honest, I really liked the Oris Divers Sixty-Five from the first time I saw the release from this year’s Baselworld, but once I had the chance to test it out in person a strange thing happened. I still loved it, but I struggled to quantify my feelings for it. It’s a terrific design, it’s beautifully executed, it’s undeniably cool, but the question still had to be answered- would I buy one? As it sits, the Divers Sixty-Five is in the middle of an interesting segment, one that puts it up against one of the coolest replica watches on the market today- the Longines Legend Diver. And while the Oris is undeniably great, it’s fundamentally different from the Longines in a way that, for a long time, I couldn’t put a finger on.
The Legend Diver, along with most of the current crop of vintage divers (in particular the Tudor Black Bay or to a lesser extent the Zodiac Seawolf) has a sort of Madison Avenue refinement underneath the faux patina. It’s a replica watch that would feel at home on the deck of a sailboat, or under a three piece suit in a boardroom, and in in some hard-to-pinpoint way the Oris isn’t that. It wasn’t until a spontaneous trip to Redondo Beach about halfway through my test that the Divers Sixty-Five finally clicked for me. There, while bodysurfing the waves that Brian Wilson and Mike Love had sung about 50 years before, the Oris finally found its place. This is vintage West Coast cool at its finest, less bourgeois and more relaxed than its competitors- not to mention nearly $700 cheaper than the Longines. It’s a Replica Watch of Summer, pure and simple, and in my opinion the replica watch of summer 2015. At
$1650 $1,850, it’s certainly a considerable price, but there’s nothing else out there that quite scratches that same itch.