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Oris Aquis Depth Gauge Review: By CitizenM for Timeless Luxury Watches

The market for diving watches is extremely crowded. Many companies make their bread and butter on dive watches. Some of those companies even make more than one. So how does a watch manufacturer differentiate itself from the sea of sameness? Oris does it with the new Oris Aquis Depth Gauge.

There are a variety of great features on the Aquis Depth Gauge: 500 meter water resistance, automatic movement, unidirectional ceramic bezel, blue lume, screwed links, just to name a few. But in this price range (and few above it), it does what no other purely mechanical watch can: measure how far underwater the wearer is.

The Depth Gauge
Let’s not beat around the bush here. The part you want to know is the actual depth gauge “complication.”

See those yellow numbers surrounding the dial? Those are the meter marks that show your depth. Also worth noting is the small semicircle just before 12:00. That’s no chip in the sapphire; that’s actually where the crystal allows water to enter the watch.

That’s not a typo, nor a flaw. The design is as simple as it is ingenious. The double anti-reflective coated sapphire is extra thick; 50% thicker than the normal crystal Oris would use in this application. This allowed Oris designers to create a groove around the perimeter of the crystal where water can flow. Rubber seals, of course, keep it safely away from the movement. Amazingly, the watch still manages a 500m water resistance rating.

As the wearer descends, the water pressure increases, compressing the trapped air according to what is described in Boyle’s law. As the air is increasingly compressed into the groove, water is allowed to enter behind it. Thus, what you read on the depth gauge is actually water.

Thus, that gray “border” around the yellow numerals is basically a tube. Where water and air meet creates a visible line that allows you to determine your depth against the meter numbers next to it. Note here that the depth gauge “only” reaches 100 meters despite a maximum rating of 500 meters. It is extraordinarily improbable that the wearer will need more than 100 meters depth and thus it is not useful to designate. Furthermore, this form of gauge is non-linear. The measurements become ever closer together the greater the depth. With their current design, it would be very difficult to make the gauge legible at greater depths (in the unlikely event a diver could ever need them).

The design is not without its drawbacks, however. Some divers like their watch to have a “memory” of greatest depth reached. This form of depth gauge is not capable of this feature. Thus, it’ll be up to his memory to remember the depth he reached. I don’t personally consider this a big issue. I can easily remember a two digit number, and more importantly, the depth gauge is still more than adequate for the relevant safety purposes of knowing how deep you are.

Case, Dial & Hands
The Oris Aquis Depth Gauge is not just a mediocre diver with a depth gauge added on; it’s got a lot of high quality features usually seen in much higher priced watches.

The first thing I really notice about this watch is its unidirectional ceramic bezel. The ceramic has a beautiful black brushed finish that glistens in the sun. It just has a unique look to it that only ceramics seem to achieve. The action of the bezel is great too. Everything lines up as it should and it has a very solid, discrete feel to each “click.”

I love the use of ceramics in watches. The bezel is probably the part of the watch most on the firing line in terms of every day scratches. Because ceramics are so hard, they are extraordinarily scratch resistant and thus greatly reduce wear on the watch. I wish they would escape from divers and be used in more watches.

The dial is an attractive matte black which maximizes visibility. It does have a bit of a texture to it; that’s difficult to describe, but it reminds me of the dial in the Omega Planet Ocean 8500 in that it’s not perfectly smooth.

At 46mm (compared to a nickel and dime here) the watch isn’t small. Although it’s a big watch, it’s very well proportioned. The thickness seems to be an ideal ratio to its diameter—it doesn’t feel nearly as big as the Planet Ocean 8500, for instance.

The crystal is a double curved sapphire, which helps to eliminate distortion at extreme angles like the one pictured here. A single curved sapphire, often used in cheaper watches, will completely obscure the dial underneath at angles like this.

It also has an anti-reflective coating on both sides. In some applications, I prefer the tougher single sided (inside only) approach, but when a watch is using a matte black dial, the double AR coating becomes far more useful. Dark dial watches tend to create much more reflection than their light dialed alternatives, and therefore stand to gain more from the double sided coating. Shown here is the watch in direct sunlight with virtually no glare. There is also little or no blue “glow” to the AR coating.

Like most great diving watches, Oris opted for the three hander approach. This allows much easier readability in low-light conditions. To be frank, I’m not in love with the oblong-esque hand shapes (although I don’t hate them either). I’d have preferred Oris use something more angular to better match the rest of the watch. But personal preferences aside, they are highly legible against the black dial. The fat, stubby shape of the hour hand also allows it to be somewhat visible when behind the minute hand.

The signed crown uses a very bold shape to increase grip. In fact, I’ve never had a crown that was so easy to unscrew, and more importantly, to find the thread and screw it back down. It’s far easier than my Omega Aqua Terra, for instance. The extreme shape and crown guard help complete the tool watch look.

If you were hoping to see the SW200 movement inside, you’ll have to use a case opener; this watch is solid caseback only. That said, it’s an attractive and functional caseback which fits very nicely against the wrist. Also worth mentioning is that it has a meters to feet conversion chart for when someone wants to brag about their diving trip to their American friends.

As I mentioned before, while the watch is by no means thin, it looks very well proportioned for the overall size. It uses a full brushed design which has a few advantages. For one, it helps contribute to the tool watch look. More importantly, however, it will help hide the inevitable scratches and make it very easy to touch up even for amateurs.

The lume, as you’d expect, is excellent. The Aquis Depth Gauge uses Superluminova BG W9, which comes out a brilliant blue. One thing I really appreciate about the lume on this watch is that the hands are all very distinguishable even in the dark. The hour hand is not only significantly thicker, but segmented—there’s just no way you could confuse it with the minute hand or second hand “dot.”

The bracelet of the Oris Aquis Depth Gauge is surprisingly nice. In fact, it’s one of the most impressive parts of the watch.

The links are massive and bulky. This works great on a tool watch like this. In intense sun light, the brushed finished, as compared to the mirror polished outer links, looks shinier than it really is.

This shot does a little bit better job of showing the contrast. The lugs are even more massive—on most watches I dare say too massive, but this hardcore design can pull it off quite easily.

The bracelet uses the far superior screw (as opposed to pin) design. I much prefer these because they’re a lot easier to work with and, in my experience, less likely to catastrophically fail.

The clasp is quite nice and deceptive in its simplicity.

Each button on the side of the clasp operates a separate safety. I have gently tested this method and it works; unless both sides of the button are engaged, the clasp will not open. This is a great way to increase the robustness of the mechanism without creating extra complication for the user.

All in all, I was quite pleased with the bracelet. It hits all the right notes for a hardcore diving watch.

Oris uses a calibre they call the “Oris 733.” Unlike most ETA/Sellita using watchmakers, Oris is very open about their movements and the base calibre is publicly viewable on their website. In this case, a quick glance revealed that the 733 is basically a Sellita SW200. Whether or not it is modified I cannot say, but the power reserve numbers remain unchanged at 38 hours. The SW200 is basically the Sellita version of the ultra-popular ETA 2824 movement used in many Swiss watches. Because data on this movement is so widely available, I decided not to perform movement testing. I declined to open the case of the watch for a photograph, but it ought to look pretty similar to this stock image:

The SW200/ETA 2824 is a time tested movement that, while not particularly exciting, finds a good use in a hardcore diver like the Aquis Depth Gauge and is more than adequate for the price and use.

Presentation and Extras
I’ve played with countless watches in my time, but never have I seen one with a presentation quite like the Aquis Depth Gauge. The case, and what was inside of it, was very surprising and impressive.

Within the massive and heavy cardboard box lies something much more interesting. A resin molded, shock resistant case that is even waterproof. That’s right. The Oris Aquis Depth Gauge is apparently so hardcore that even the box it comes in is water resistant.

While no doubt merely intended for show off purposes, it’s still undeniably cool.

Opening the large locks on either side and popping it open to see the variety of tools and straps gives the watch a very “James Bond” feel. In other words, it accomplishes its purpose: it makes the wearer feel like he’s opening something special. The actual contents of the box are at least as impressive as the box itself. Watch aside, it includes the tools needed to change out links and straps. More interestingly, the watch comes with rubber straps and deployant clasp right from the factory.

I think that goes beyond just a nice gesture; it just makes good sense. The owner of this watch can wear it every day and before he goes on vacation he just finds his box, swaps out the rubber straps, and heads to the beach. That’s really convenient. Most owners of diver watches get the option of one or the other from the factory, and if they’d like, they can buy the alternative later.

And most owners of these watches (the vast majority of which are likely not reading online watch articles) are normally not going to be inclined to change out the links in their own bracelet. But with this case, they’re going to try it, and succeed. Frankly, I think more manufacturers ought to do this, and not just for diver watches.

Wrap Up

I quite like this watch. I think Oris does enough unique with this piece that it’s worthy of the interest it has generated. In some ways, it’s a value proposition: it’s just difficult to find a diver with the features and quality of this watch in its price range, much less one with a depth gauge. But it’s more than that. Oris has taken the opportunity to make a complete package here. It looks unique enough to set yourself apart from the Submariner/Planet Ocean crowd while still retaining the all-important diver look. The yellow depth gauge accents give it a little flair, as well as the oversized lugs and links. When combined with the excellent watch case, tools and extra rubber straps, it becomes an undeniably attractive option for anyone in the market for a unique diver.


28,501 Posts
That looks like a fantastic tool diver! Oris makes great watches for the money, and this one is downright innovative!

209 Posts
I'd love to see the depth gauge in action. I'm curious as to how visible the "water line" is when the gauge is in use and if there is any lume to help, well, illuminate that part of the watch. I'm no diver, just curious and intrigued by the feature of this piece :)

10,228 Posts
I'd love to see the depth gauge in action. I'm curious as to how visible the "water line" is when the gauge is in use and if there is any lume to help, well, illuminate that part of the watch. I'm no diver, just curious and intrigued by the feature of this piece :)
Unfortunately I decided not to test this out because since this watch is going to get sold to someone down the road and I wanted it to be totally unused. I did, however, find someone else's photo:

you can see the divide near the 6:00 position on the watch, apparently accurately showing 12+ meters. So it could be easier to read (under water anyway) but it still looks reasonably clear to me given the muted effect of being submerged.

10,244 Posts
This is the first time I've seen this watch as I'm usually over on the Rolex & Omega forum.
I must admit I think it looks great. :-!
My only reservation is the apature that allow water in to measure the water depth.
Isn't there a risk of that getting full of crud over time with immersion in water. :think:
Other than that, I'd have one any day.
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