There is something undeniably fun about a bronze dive watch, and over the past few years, Oris has applied the alloy in the creation of a range of special models, many of which fall within its Divers Sixty-Five range of vintage-inspired dive watches. Recently, all of that warmly-toned timekeeping came to its zenith with a watch announced in June. Complete with what might be the friendliest caseback ever fitted to a watch, this is the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph Holstein Edition 2020. Essentially, it’s a small, bronze, wrist-borne statue created in celebration of the brand’s roots in the small agricultural Swiss village of Holstein. While Oris has done bronze before, here we get the full monty – case, bezel, and bracelet.
The Holstein 2020 limited edition follows in the footsteps of 2016’s Carl Brashear Limited Edition – the brand’s first bronze watch – and the 2018 Oris Carl Brashear Chronograph, which was also a limited edition piece and featured a gorgeous blue dial and a leather strap. Both of those models were limited to 2,000 pieces. This latest bronze limited edition? Just 250. So you may be wondering, why even bother reviewing such a watch, when so few are being made and it was released months ago? Well… curiosity, mostly.
I asked Oris to loan me an example with the hopes of getting a better understanding of what the full bronze package felt like in person, and I wanted to see what it would look like with some patina. Thankfully, Oris had a loaner, and it had not been cleaned up, so what you see here is an example of the early patina that develops as the watch interacts with the atmosphere around it.
Before I go much further, let’s talk bronze (I promise I will be brief). To keep this at a Wikipedia education level, bronze is an alloy that is mostly copper along with some tin and any combination of other metals, which could include aluminum, nickel, or otherwise. The specific alloy composition would depend on the application for the metal. Like many watchmakers, when Oris uses bronze they opt for CuSn6, which is a strong and corrosion-resistant bronze alloy with copper making up the third component. CuSn6 is used for all of the brand’s bronze applications.
Aside from its warm and often red gold-adjacent coloring, bronze is typically heavier and a bit harder than stainless steel. When it comes to watches, the main fun of a bronze watch is that the alloy will form surface oxidation, which often forms a sort of semi-permanent patina. The patina will vary based on several conditions, including the properties of the base alloy and the specifics of the environment in which the watch is worn. The look is always unique, and some environments will produce much more dramatic results than others (if you’re interested, check out this fascinating post from Fratello Watches in which Bert uses artificial processes to achieve various outcomes in minutes).
Outside of a home-brew scenario such as Bert’s, the oxidization process takes time and requires exposure to the elements. That said, the results span from what you see here to expressions with added color and even more texture, like this wrist shot from Oris’ co-CEO Rolf Studer (shown left).
When you take the eventual patina, the added weight, and how bronze has an entirely different character than steel, you get a watch that feels entirely distinct from watches that are otherwise vastly similar. With the Oris Holstein Edition 2020, the added bronze of the bracelet ups the ante.
Measuring 43mm wide with a lug-to-lug of 51mm and a thickness of 16mm (including its very domed sapphire crystal), the Holstein Edition 2020 is not svelte, or thin, or small. It’s actually pretty big. But the size is nicely matched by the added heft of the bronze and, once sized for my 7-inch wrist, the whole package weighs in at 163 grams. For a guy that commonly wears smaller dive watches on NATOs, it’s a big jump in size and weight. For me, while I prefer a smaller case most of the time, the charm of the bronze and the early development of the patina more than sells the larger sizing. Some watches are big watches, others are too big. This Oris is the former.
While the initial press images, which you can see here in Cole’s original Introducing post, show a watch that is smooth and golden-toned with a bright finish, time and the elements have created a considerable contrast between the surface of the exposed bronze and the Holstein Edition 2020’s bright gold dial. After just a few hours on wrist, this contrast between the slowly darkening bronze and the untouched brightness of the dial became the core appeal of the Holstein Edition 2020.
With the patina growing darker without losing any of the alloy’s warmth, the Holstein Edition 2020 feels nautical, and the bubble domed crystal coving its airtight core is a fitting amalgam for a watch meant to capture the material legacy of something like early bronze helmet diving (like that of the US Navy’s Mark V diving helmet, which can be seen in 2000’s Men Of Honor, a film based on the life and Navy diving career of one Carl Brashear).
Compared to past bronze Oris watches, and indeed almost any other bronze dive watch on the market, it’s hard to overstate the effect of the full bronze bracelet (well, mostly full, the hinge elements in the folding clasp are steel and can be seen above). Much like the difference between a gold watch on a bracelet and a gold watch on a strap, the bracelet adds a special gravitas. It’s the completion of the desired effect; it comes together with the bracelet. With solid end links, screwed construction, a pushbutton clasp, and five micro-adjust points, the bracelet is typical Oris quality, though with the noteworthy omission of the studs common to the Divers Sixty-Five bracelets.
It’s nicely made, not too thick, and suits the watch to a point that makes other bronze watches without bronze bracelets feel almost incomplete. This is of extra consideration as the Holstein Edition 2020 has 21mm lug widths, so your choice of secondary straps is a bit more complicated than it might be with a 20 or 22mm lug size.
Despite being bronze, the bezel action is light, clicky, and accurate, just like that of my own Divers Sixty-Five HODINKEE LE. The crown is screw-down, but the chronograph pushers are passive, and the water resistance is a totally acceptable 100 meters. The caseback is solid steel and, where you might expect to find the visage of a vintage diving helmet, we find a smiling portrait of the Oris Bear. A much-loved mascot within the brand’s collector community, seeing the bear on the caseback of such a limited and specific sort of creation certainly suggests who Oris felt this model was meant for – Oris devotees.
With applied markers, a fine vertical brushing, limited text, and strong legibility, the Holstein Edition 2020’s dial glows a bright tone of gold while housing a pair of dark grey sub-dials. Thankfully free of a date display, this is one of the more balanced takes on a dive chronograph dial layout, and, with a 30-minute max register and central seconds, legibility is excellent, even for the chronograph measure. The minutes hand is long, easy to read, and impossible to lose among the other displays.
Similarly, while the blue-effect lume is not massively bright, the contrast of the hands and the markers against the warmth of the dial ensures strong legibility in all but the darkest of scenarios, and I really like how they opted for sub-dial hands that are also lumed (see above).
Ticking beneath that dial we find an Oris-decorated version of Sellita’s SW510 automatic chronograph movement, which ticks at 4 Hz while offering a 48-hour power reserve. As you would expect, the action is crisp and snappy, and the Sellita is a fitting choice for a watch like the Holstein Edition 2020.
All of the above comes together in what I believe is a very good example of a big and heavy watch that doesn’t feel overstated or needlessly bulked up. The bronze feels special, almost extra romantic, especially when matched with the uncommon bracelet. On wrist, especially with fall colors in the air, I think it’s a great looking watch with a unique wrist presence.
With production limited to just 250 pieces, pricing for the Holstein Edition 2020 sits at $ 5,200 which, for reference, is just $ 250 more than the list price of the Carl Brashear Chronograph – which doesn’t feature a bracelet and is limited to 2,000 units. As much as I love the blue dial of the Brashear LE, the full bronze look of the Holstein Edition 2020 is definitely where I’d put my money.
Given the popularity of bronze in sports watches over the past five years, the Holstein Edition 2020 is not without competition. Those looking to cross-shop should be aware of bronze options like IWC’s Spitfire chronograph in bronze ($ 6,500), Montblanc’s 1858 Monopusher Chrono ($ 5,600), and even Tudor’s Black Bay Bronze ($ 4,150). While those strong options are just a sample around the price point, they all have something in common, which is the lack of a matching bronze bracelet (though, to be fair, all three offer a more exclusive movement than you’ll find in the Oris).
Big, distinctive, and matched by a fun and uncommon bronze bracelet option, the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Holstein Edition 2020 is yet another example of the design flexibility that Oris has found in its vintage-effect Divers Sixty-Five line and a reminder that bronze has a charm of its own and isn’t always a third-place option.
The Oris Divers Sixty-Five Holstein Edition 2020 is a bronze dive chronograph with a case that measures 43 x 51 x 16mm. Using a Sellita SW510, the Holstein Edition 2020 is an automatic chronograph with a 30-minute total register, small seconds, and no date. Water-resistance is 100m and the case back is made of stainless steel. Price: $ 5,200. Find out more Oris.ch.