Just over a century old, the Oris watch brand was founded in Hölstein, Switzerland, in 1904. The brand was known for its top-notch mechanical watches and, since the early part of the 20th century, for its pilot and aviation watches with signature oversized onion crowns. Today, Oris builds superb mechanical watches for diving, aviation, and motorsports, as well as classic contemporary pieces that have a cult-like following. The independently owned brand is all about thinking outside of the box with its marketing and communications efforts, as well.
Paul Cattin and Georges Christian founded Oris in 1904 in Hölstein, Switzerland. They bought the newly closed Lohner & Co watch factory and named their new watch company Oris, after a nearby brook.
With over 300 workers, Oris was the largest employer in Hölstein by 1911. To attract more watchmakers, it built houses and apartments for its staff. Oris’s success continued, and it expanded so that by 1929 it had six factories. In 1925 Oris began fitting bracelets to their pocket watches, transforming them into wristwatches.
In 1927 Oris’s co-founder Georges Christian died, and Jacques-David LeCoultre became President of the Board of Directors. In 1928, Oscar Herzog, Christian’s brother-in-law, took over as General Manager, a position he held for 43 years.
By the late 1960s, Oris was one of the ten largest watch companies globally. It employed 800 people in Hölstein and beyond and produced 1.2 million watches and clocks a year.
In 1970, Oris became part of ASUAG, which would later become the Swatch Group. The timing couldn’t be more unfortunate as the Quartz Crisis hits the Swiss Watch Industry. Oris, no longer independent, endures a challenging decade during which production drops drastically, and staff numbers fall from 900 to only a few dozen.
In 1982, Dr. Rolf Portmann and Ulrich W. Herzog led a management buyout. Soon after, the newly created Oris SA elects to abandon quartz movements and produce only mechanical timepieces. Mr. Herzog introduced a new business vision: Oris aims to become the global leader in mechanical watches with unique movements at competitive prices. In 2002, the Red Rotor became Oris’s registered trademark. It symbolizes Oris’s philosophy: to produce high-quality, Swiss Made mechanical watches with real-world functions at accessible prices. Today Oris divides its timepieces into four worlds: Diving, Aviation, Culture, and MotorSport.
In 1996 the Oris London Jazz Festival became the company’s first significant partnership and marked the start of a strong connection between Oris and jazz. The company celebrated with the launch of its first jazz watch, a piece named after British saxophonist Andy Sheppard. In 2001 Oris introduced a collection of watches named in Miles Davis’s honor.
In 2003, Oris signed a deal with the Williams Formula 1 team and launched its first Williams F1 Team watches, beginning a fruitful partnership that generates numerous timepieces and innovations. In 2015, the Oris Williams collection was launched, the first range of watches dedicated to the F1 icon.
Oris is an independent watch brand managed by the next generation, Joint Executive Officers Rolf Studer and Claudine Gertiser-Herzog.
The president of the board in 1927 was Jacques-David LeCoultre, who was Antoine LeCoultre’s grandson and the man who partnered with Edmond Jaeger to form Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1937.