Swiss watchmaking is traditionally right up there with the coroner’s office when it comes to embracing frivolity, exuberance, and humour. But the most flagrant exception to that rule comes with the Cotton Candy collection from Oris, featuring a colour palette that looks like it was stolen from a Cadillac dealership in the 1950s.
The basics of the Cotton Candy watches are not actually new: they were first released last year, and in turn are based on two key influences: the famous Oris Divers Sixty-Five – a staple of the line-up – and the 2020 bronze Holstein Edition. It’s worth taking a moment to talk about the Holstein Editions from Oris, as they are hugely important. Named after Oris’s home town, not far from Zurich, these embody some of the most significant and innovative watches from the manufacturer, showcasing the highlights of their unique design language and history.
The 2020 Holstein edition was in bronze; a metal that divides opinion but one that’s nonetheless somehow synonymous with diving. It conjures up mental images of early underwater explorers, descending to the sea bed with those enormous bronze goldfish bowls on their heads, complete with portholes. Such items – now prized by maritime antique collectors – were fed air just by a primitive hosepipe leading up to the distant surface: the only thing coming between those intrepid pioneers and a trip to the aforementioned coroners’ facility.
Last year’s Cotton Candy watches added some brightly coloured dials to the 2020 Holstein bronze case and bracelet, and they went down so well that this year Oris decided to up the colour ante and add some Perlon straps in the same colours as the dials. Those colours are called sky blue, wild green, and lipstick pink – and it’s fair to say that they’re not for shy and retiring types.
Perlon continues the marine theme, as it’s actually made of recycled plastic: a lot of which unfortunately ends up in our oceans. One of Oris’ main preoccupations is the environment, with the company placing a huge emphasis on sustainability. The Perlon strap fits in perfectly with that message, but most of all, it delivers a completely different look. Most watchmakers like to add what they call a ‘pop’ of colour to their designs. This, however, is a full-on explosion.
Yet somehow, the colour manages not to take over completely. You still think of it as a bronze watch rather than a green (or blue or pink, but I’m saying green as it’s my favourite colour) watch.
And that’s because the bronze is so distinctive and evocative, while the pastel shades are subtly uniform – which is technically much harder to achieve than a brash and glossy dial. So it’s obvious that Oris has done a great job with the finish.
Bronze diving watches provide an instant link to that pioneering era we talked about earlier, and the most atmospheric aspect is the patina that bronze takes on after a surprisingly short amount of time. Even the three watches I wore already had unique colourings that made them look like they had lead hard and interesting lives – creating a fascinating juxtaposition with the playful colours on the dial and straps. It’s probably this interplay that’s at the heart of the Cotton Candy’s appeal because it just feels very different. Like wearing ripped and stained jeans with bright red Church’s loafers – but I don’t want to give away all my fashion secrets in one go….
Speaking of ‘feel’, one thing that really stands out is just how comfortable this watch is to wear. The Perlon strap really manages to nestle itself around your wrist, and because there are no set holes – you just poke the prong through the material – you’re always guaranteed a perfect fit. This apparently doesn’t damage your strap as it’s meant to spring back into shape, and while that doesn’t happen instantly, it certainly seems to recover its form after a while.
The whole ensemble is extremely light as well and you genuinely forget that it’s there – at least until a bright swathe of colour slides into view around your wrist region. It’s a bold watch that won’t be for everyone of course, and you might want to think about what else you’re wearing before you stick it on, but it’s easy to change the strap around if you need a more subtle approach. The coloured Perlon straps also make it possible to pull off an extremely coordinated look if you are able to match them to the appropriate shirt, jumper, or tie.
Among all these fashion tips, let’s not forget the actual watch part, which is what most people will be here for. You get an Oris 733 movement within a 38mm case, which makes it nicely unisex. As mentioned earlier, the Perlon strap makes it quickly adaptable to different wrist sizes, so this a watch that you can genuinely buy as a couple and share. There’s everything else you would expect too: applied indices, Super-LumiNova lume, a date window, and a domed sapphire crystal, as well as an engraved case back. Water resistance is 100 metres, so it can be used as nature intended, with the Perlon strap drying out very quickly too.
Yet this is a watch that’s mainly all about how it makes you feel, rather than what it specifically does. Oris is keen to be seen as the fun side of the Swiss watch industry, with an unashamed mission to make people smile. Why else would they have an enormous teddy bear as their mascot?
And just as everyone loves the Oris Bear, the Cotton Candy collection was specifically designed to spread a little happiness too. Conceived during the Covid-19 pandemic, it aimed to lift the spirits with light and hope. Best of all, these watches offer great value, retailing at just under £2000.
Much as I enjoyed wearing them, there’s something else I’ve got my eye on though. I’m more keen than ever now to own an original Cotton Candy with a full bronze bracelet: the thinking man’s ‘gold’ watch.
If it’s all about going bold, then cloth won’t quite cut it...