The larger-than-life reputation of Roberto Clemente as a Hall of Fame baseball player and humanitarian was forged long before his tragic death in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico on December 31, 1972. Today, Oris is paying respect to Clemente and his incredible legacy through the release of a 3,000-piece limited edition on the occasion of Major League Baseball’s annual celebration of Roberto Clemente Day.
Roberto Clemente was one of the greatest baseball players of all time, defying the odds and rising through the ranks in the Puerto Rican professional league and eventually signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where, despite the political and social challenges facing him, he would become one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. Dick Groat, a teammate on the Pirates, said of him, “Clemente was the greatest God-given talent I ever saw on a baseball diamond.”
The watch is based on the Big Crown Pointer Date and pays tribute to Clemente’s legacy through a number of visual cues, like the black and gold numerals inspired by Clemente’s uniform. Additionally, there’s a clever – and subtle – gold “21” date marker, while the rest are black. Twenty-one was Clemente’s number, which the Pittsburgh Pirates have since retired. A side profile of Clemente at-bat adorns the caseback.
Oris is an independent manufacturer that operates under the mantra “Change for the Better.” The firm uses watches as a way to create value for organizations aimed at changing the world in one way or another. Readers might be familiar with the company’s watch meant to revive the reefs of the Florida Keys or one that takes on the problems created by the 700 tons of plastic that find their way into the oceans every hour.
With the Roberto Clemente Limited Edition, Oris has its sights set on furthering the interests of the Roberto Clemente Foundation, which include disaster relief and introducing baseball to at-risk youth.
Roberto Clemente won two World Series with the Pirates, he won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award 12 times, and he had 3,000 hits. His achievements surely would have continued had it not been for his tragic accident. A shining star on the field, his efforts off the field were equally impressive. He arrived from Puerto Rico to the Major Leagues and became a symbol of the working class. His thick accent and Puerto Rican heritage often made him the subject of ridicule from reporters, who quoted him with phonetic spellings. In ’69, Clemente was quoted as saying, “The farther away you writers stay, the better I like it. You know why? Because you’re trying to create a bad image of me… You do it because I’m black and Puerto Rican, but I’m proud to be Puerto Rican.”
Clemente embraced his Latin heritage through actions. On December 23, 1972, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nicaragua and left the nation in a state of peril. It didn’t have the right resource distribution channels to help the recovery efforts. Clemente had visited the very area impacted just three weeks before. The earthquake left roughly 11,000 people dead and 300,000 more without a home. Clemente sent aid, but due to corrupt local officials, the aid wasn’t distributed properly.
So what did Clemente do on learning his shipments weren’t making it to the right people?
He took on the problem himself.
At the height of his baseball career, he boarded a plane with the relief packages to ensure that they reached the people that needed them most. It was a Douglas DC-7 cargo plane that was overloaded by 4,200 pounds and had a history of mechanical failures. Shortly after take-off, the plane plunged into the Atlantic off Puerto Rico. It took days for rescue workers to recover the wreck. Only the body of the pilot was found. Clemente’s body was never recovered.
On March 20, 1973, just over a year after the accident, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The waiting period to be inducted is typically much longer, but given the circumstances, he was voted in posthumously.
Following Clemente’s death, the Commissioner’s Award, a tradition started in 1971, was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award. The award is given every year to a baseball player that “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” The first award was given to Willie Mays, and in 2014, it was given to two players: Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins. Most recently, it was issued to Carlos Carrasco.
For the Roberto Clemente Limited Edition watch, Oris has blocked off serial numbers 1971-2020 and will issue one watch to each living player who has received the award, corresponding to the year they received it. If the player is no longer alive, the watch will be given to the family. Today, the nominees of this year’s award will be officially recognized, and the winner will be announced at the World Series, when Oris will issue serial number 2020 to them. The nominees can be found here.
The watch is a joint project between the Roberto Clemente Foundation, run by Clemente’s son, Luis Roberto Clemente Zabala, and Oris. A portion of the profits generated from the sale of the watch will be used by the foundation, which is currently fundraising for a new Sports City, a place for at-risk youth to play baseball, as part of a vision that Roberto Clemente had in 1971.
Roberto Clemente famously said, “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” With the release of this watch, Oris is practicing what Clemente preached.
Model: Roberto Clemente Limited Edition
Reference Number: 754 7741 4081
Case Material: Bronze
Dial Color: Exclusive motif designed after Clemente’s jersey using off-white, black, and gilt
Lume: Yes, indices and numerals printed with Super-LumiNova
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Light brown leather strap with double stitching inspired by a baseball glove, stainless steel buckle
Caliber: Oris 754 (Sellita SW 200-1 base)
Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, pointer date
Power Reserve: 38 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Pricing & Availability
Price: $ 1,950
Limited Edition: Limited to 3,000 pieces
Editor’s note: Watch companies sometimes announce new products to the HODINKEE editorial team and the HODINKEE Shop at the same time. Please note that the editorial team and the Shop team produce their content independently of each other.