Oris Artelier Hand Winding Small Second - Size matters, so get hand winding...
I had been on the lookout for an elegant hand-wound watch for some time. It had to be a looker, Swiss made and most importantly slim! Think of it as a kind of antidote to the bruiser masculine divers that are so popular.
After scouring the internet for weeks I managed to find a pre-owned Oris Artelier Hand Winding and placed a single bid on it via a well-known auction site. To my delight and surprise, there were no other bidders and I won it for an absolute steal.
All too often when buying a pre-owned watch unseen, the excitement of the unboxing is cut short, only to be replaced with frustration, dismay and anger when you find out that the watch in hand doesn’t match the somewhat rosy description given. To my surprise though the hand winder was literally like new, so much so that I actually felt a bit guilty that I’d won it for such a low price. How much you ask? A rather measly £350! Of course, luck was with me when I bought it and prices have certainly increased in line with the wider market since, but if you can find a minty example in the hundreds it’s still a great buy.
Those who know me will know I’m quite the Oris fan. I consider them to have one of the most considered and well designed range of watches of any brand. They have their own design language, a credible heritage and a good mix of vintage inspired pieces such as the pointer dates and thoroughly modern, design classics such as the Aquis.
What’s more, they only offer mechanical watches or automatics, so whichever watch you’re looking at and regardless of whether it’s in their mens or ladies range, you can rest assured it will not have a quartz movement!
Having now owned my Oris Artelier Hand Winding, Small Second for nearly a year, the honeymoon period is over and I’m in a good position to give a balanced long-term review of the watch.
So how does it measure up?
The Artelier Hand Winding (ref: 01 396 7580 4051-07 5 21 05) comes in at 40mm with a lug to lug measurement of approx 44mm and with an incredibly svelt-like 7mm thickness. This means it can slip under a dress cuff or jacket with ease. Most people, myself included, would consider it to be a dress watch due to its proportions and style, however traditionalists may argue that it’s not strictly a dress watch because of the small seconds complication.
With a retail price of £1220, it occupies a place in the market with little or no direct competition (read on for my shortlist of comparable watches from other brands).
The case is all polished, except for the lugs, which are very skilfully blended into the polished case using sensuous lines. Looking down at the watch from above, the bezel is relatively thin, and steps out to the mid case, forming the illusion of an elegant double bezel.
From the side profile, the bezel is the same thickness as the mid-case. The mid-case and bottom section of the case are one unit, cleverly blended following the line of the lugs. The rear of the case slopes inward quite dramatically, which probably helps the watch appear and wear even thinner than it is.
The bezel and mid-section together are the same thickness as the rear section, which makes for a very elegant balanced design. The whole package is topped off with a very slightly domed sapphire crystal and a gorgeous semi-onion style crown which is oversized to the watch, making it very easy to wind. The crown has a buttery smooth action, which is always appreciated in a manually wound watch.
Dial and Hands
The dial which I’d describe as a warm silver (somewhere between silver and a creamy white) and the high level of finishing can only be fully appreciated when looking at it through a loupe.
To the naked eye it appears as though it’s only the centre section of the dial and the outer minutes track that have any kind of texture; a wavy radial guilloche effect. However, on closer inspection it’s apparent that every section of the dial has its own uniquely textured finish.
The indices and arabic numerals section is made up of concentric circles, as is the sub-dial, but the spacing of the stamped pattern is different for each section. Likewise, these differ from the sunburst radial guilloche, which itself sits slightly raised from the rest of the dial. This level of detailing and variance makes for a truly stunning and scintillating dial to look at.
The indices are all applied with a mix of arabic numerals at the three, nine and 12 o’clock positions and triangular markers, faceted to three sides, in between. Skeletonised lance style/alpha hands complete the package.
The movement is the Oris 396, which has a 42hr power reserve and beats away at a leisurely 21,600 beats per hour. It’s a petite and pretty hand-wound movement based on the ETA 7001, which was introduced back in the 1970s. As far as I’m aware Oris hasn’t really made any other changes to it, minus a modest level of decoration including machined Geneva stripes and blued screws, which can be seen through the sapphire glass exhibition caseback.
The watch comes on a high quality reddish-brown, large rectangular alligator embossed calf skin leather, which is immediately soft and pliable. The thickness is appropriate for the watch and has subtle contrasting stitching with calfskin on the underside and a simple signed pin buckle.
Oris have always been ahead of the game when it comes to supplying good quality straps as standard, and this is no exception. Their latest offerings are better still – just try one of their textile straps on a Big Crown ProPilot or one of the adjustable rubber straps you’ll find on the Aquis if you don’t believe me.
Alternatives to the Oris Artelier Hand Winding
I had a tough time coming up with a shortlist of dress watches from established brands that have the same slim proportions as the Oris for a similar price. Here are the closest comparisons I can come up with:
Hamilton Intra-matic Auto
The much loved Hamilton Intra-matic is something of an icon in the affordable dress watch category. Coming in at a perfect 38mm the Intra-matic is nearly 10mm thick to account for the fabulous ETA 2892-2 automatic movement, although it does wear a lot slimmer due to the fact that much of the thickness is down to the domed sapphire. But if we’re to stick to the hard facts, it’s not really comparable, and of course it’s not a hand-wound movement.
Retail price: from £785 here.
Junghans Meister Handaufzug
This 37.7mm hand-winding small seconds watch is ideal for those who like a clean simple, classic Bauhaus aesthetic. It’s just 7.3mm thick, houses the Junghans calibre J815.1 (essentially the same movement as the Oris), giving a power reserve of 42 hours and has a highly domed acrylic, which can be upgraded to sapphire. Finishing seems to be on a par with Oris and it’s my closest match for price. It’s worth noting that although it’s smaller than the Oris it will wear similarly due to the fact it’s all dial and very little bezel.
Retail price: from £1,160
Nomos Orion 301 - 35mm
Undoubtedly in the next tier up from Oris, certainly in terms of their movements, Nomos has gained an enviable reputation in their relatively short history, having only been established in 1990, as opposed to Oris which was founded in 1904.
The Orion houses the respected hand-wound Nomos Alpha caliber, which is very well decorated and provides 43 hours power reserve. Sadly though, without paying a premium you won’t be able to see the movement as the watch in its standard form has a stainless steel caseback. The overall thickness is 7.4mm, and the dial whilst much simpler than the Oris is well executed with heat-treated blued hands and gold applied indices. Manual wound versions of the Orion are also available in 33mm and 38mm, with or without a date and with a choice of two movements. I’ve picked the 35mm no-date version due to its more competitive price and the fact that Nomos watch always wear larger due to their very long lugs. It’s somewhat unisex size also means that it’s a watch you can easily share with others in your household!
Retail price: from £1,600 here.
Overall, it’s safe to say that I’m in love with this watch and I won’t be selling it on. The fit and finish is superb at this price point, and the detailing on the dial and chosen handset are just perfect. The Artelier Hand Winding has the look of a JLC, albeit not with an in-house haute horology movement or same level of finishing.
Is it the perfect watch at this price point? Of course not, but it’s damn close. If I was being picky, I would like to see Oris bring it back in a more modest 38mm size to better suit its dress style aesthetics, and be more in proportion with it’s very thin profile. This would also result in the movement filling the case more.
In a similar vein, I would also like to see the crown shrunk a little as it dwarfs the case and does occasionally taint the otherwise amazing comfort of the watch. Ironically, the thinness of the case actually causes the crown to sit very low against the wrist, which can sometimes be uncomfortable when flexing the wrist upwards. If the case was a little thicker, the crown would be raised off from the wrist a little.
With a non-standard 21mm lug width (not unusual for Oris), getting aftermarket straps to fit is a challenge, unless you go down the custom strap route, which adds to the cost. However, the factory strap really is worth keeping. Unless you want to give the watch a different look, you probably couldn’t get a better quality embossed alligator print leather strap.
Timekeeping has been good, but with no hacking seconds it’s difficult to test accurately without a timegrapher. The lack of hacking seconds might be enough to put some people off buying the watch.
The hand winder has sadly now ceased production, which is a shame as it was undoubtedly a watch which flew under most peoples’ radars. Perhaps if the Oris marketing team had given it a bigger push upon launch, it would have garnered more attention from the industry press and become a popular choice among watch collectors.
I can only hope that the good folks at Oris will see sense and introduce another slim hand-wound dress watch again, especially given the trend for smaller watches and people looking for more modest proportions without the worry that owning a vintage watch brings.
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